a major milestone for the Royal Australian Navy, the first of the new Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels, Arafura, has been officially launched in Osborne, South Australia. The event was attended by the Governor of South Australia, Premier of South Australia, Minister for Defence and the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.


Chief Executive Officer of Luerssen Australia, Jens Nielsen, said it is a proud day for the company after starting construction of the vessel in 2018. “This launch is an important moment in the life of Arafura and it is an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the hard work and commitment of hundreds of people,” said Nielsen. “Everyone who has worked on Arafura has a unique place in the Royal Australian Navy’s history and you should be proud of your achievements, thank you. Together we have built a formidable vessel for the Navy.”

Luerssen Australia has an extensive Australian supply chain involved in multiple aspects of the shipbuilding Program. “I am proud of the high level of Australian Industry Content and the large number of close relationships we have forged with our partners, the Program Office and the broader Defence community over the years,” Nielsen said.

The AIC percentage for the program is 63 percent and Luerssen Australia’s next target is to reach 65 percent. The ship’s sponsor who named Arafura upon launch was Nova Peris, the first Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal, a descendant from West Arnhem Land and a representative of Northern Australia, where the ship will largely operate. Peris was also the first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament.

Traditionally ships have sponsors to bestow good luck and protection over the vessel and all who sail on her, and they maintain an ongoing relationship with the vessel. In a unique twist at the ceremony, instead of champagne, a bottle of water from the Arafura Sea was smashed on the bow to mark the launch of the vessel.

Luerssen Australia became the prime contractor on the SEA1180 Program to build 12 Arafura Class OPVs after winning the contract at the end of 2017, with two to be built in Osborne and 10 in Henderson, Western Australia. Luerssen Australia has a long-term strategy for building and sustaining minor warships and large vessels in Australia, in line with the federal government’s continuous naval shipbuilding strategy, and is committed to delivering the Arafura Class OPVs on time and on budget.

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  1. Great to see NUSHIP Arafura on the water.
    I certainly hope the remaining fit out goes well to enable her prompt commissioning next year.

    Two questions

    Any feed back re what will substitute the Leonardo 40 mm gun long term.
    I trust the 25 mm bushmaster is only a temporary fix.

    Also is there any confirmation re the flight deck and it’s ability to cope with a medium sized helicopter.

    Regards CRS

    • I have no info regarding the gun – but I’ll have a look because originally the Bofors 40mm was preferred on performance grounds but then Leonardo came up with an unbelievably low price for their equivalent product. I wonder if on closer inspection it turned out not to be such a good deal after all.

      I have to update earlier comments that the rear deck had been down-designed so that helicopters could not land on them. I’m told by RAN that this is incorrect. The deck is still strong enough to support the weight of a helicopter, but apparently some handling things have been removed because the RAN plans never to operate helicopters from them – which still seems weird.

  2. Far too slow and appallingly under gunned
    It is a sitting target given our unsettling political situation. Typical of the DoD head in the sand.

    • I agree. The parent Darussalam class carry 4 Exocet surface strike missiles and a much more formidable 57mm Bofors main gun. Why the RAN down-designed them is anyone’s guess – along with the decision that helicopters will never be operated from them, only UAVs.

  3. A formidable vessel?
    One that is armed with 2 * 12.5mm HMG’s and now that the 40mm gun has bee removed what else?
    One that has had the ability to land a helicopter removed.
    It’s less capable than the Armidales it’s replacing

  4. Thanks for the reply

    I trust Navy will culturally evolve and recognize the small Patrol era has passed.
    In the decades ahead the Arafura Class will need to do both the constabulary stuff and much more within the limits of it’s weight and size.
    The flight deck is an asset that should accommodate more than just a small UAV.
    If helicopter handling systems are deficient then this should be a priority fix.

    As to weapons, I’d speculate the weight and geography of the pair of ships cranes and 8.5 m RHIB’s would restrict the use of an ASM behind the bridge………….others could advise

    A larger 57 mm main gun similar to the Darussalam Class would certainly be a prudent addition in conjunction with some passive defence measures.

    I guess time will tell as to what we get and equally what we expect of this class of ship.

    Cheers CRS

  5. TOTALLY outclassed by the Taiwan ‘Tuo River’ missile boats, with 8x 400km/Mach 3 anti ship and 8x 200km/Mach7 anti air missiles. In this new world I see no benefit of its 75mm main gun.

    I know, we should call them “Carrier Killers”.

    All that for about AUD 100 million a copy!

    • The situation regarding the Arafura main gun is simply bizarre. Defence/RAN cancelled the original contract with Leonardo 2 years ago and since that time – on the very rare occasions when they are exposed to questioning – say a solution will be announced “soon”. How difficult can it be???? The parent ship for Brunei has the extremely effective BAE Systems / Bofors 57mm gun.

  6. This project has so many problems it’s not funny. Schedule pressures, weapons fit selection (lack of & indecision), de-rated flight-deck and structural problems to name a few. Added to that the issues (and that is putting it mildly) with the WA Civmec contribution that has seen them effectively demoted to ‘landlord’ status. Luerssen having had a guts full of their lack of performance.
    Hence the general concensus that the number of Hulls will be slashed to just six in the upcoming DSR, watch this space.

    • Many of these things are still a mystery because of the refusal of Defence to answer even basic questions about the project. As far as I am aware, the relationship between Luerssen and Civmec is good and the Henderson site is a beehive of activity. I’m not aware that there are any structural problems and I tracked down that rumour. It seems to relate to the keel where Civmec have not achieved the same precision as ASC Shipbuilding but it is still well within the design margin and will not affect the performance of the ship. The gun is being supplied as GFE, so that problem is 100% on Defence. Even the interim solution of 25mm Typhoons is not particularly encouraging since Defence will not spend a cent refurbishing them prior to installation, presumably using the logic that they will be replaced at some point, so why bother.

      The entire Naval Shipbuilding Plan is going to have to be re-written after the DSR – and who knows how long that will take.

  7. Unfortunately Kym, Luerssen and Civmec are virtually divorced, such were the problems. As a result, Luerssen took over the Project Management aspect 100% over a year ago and they are now subcontracting almost every aspect of the fit-out activities to Companies other than Civmec. Of course their absolutely brilliant ‘new shed’ is still being utilised, as are the blast and paint, stores and general yard staff for logistics., for which they are suitably paid. Yes they are still welding steel together, but they no longer have any Project Management involvement at all.
    The structural issues are real, and include, apparently, inadequate plate thickness used in the design for watertight bulkheads.
    I’ll mention that I have worked, and am still working on the Henderson ‘strip’ as we call it after nearly nineteen years. Despite the several Shipyards on the same relatively short strip of coast being separate Companies, they are unavoidably linked by staff who have bounced from yard to yard, many of whom know each other and of course friendships formed at work regularly continue outside of work.
    So we all tend to know generally what is going on ‘down the road’ as it were.

    • Many thanks for that additional detail. It’s very useful to have input about the real situation because – as I have mentioned repeatedly – Defence clams up about all of this (along with fairly much everything else) and serious money is being spent with what looks like very little accountability. Or Ministerial oversight, for that matter.

  8. I should add Kym that the apparent issues with plate thickness in some areas of the Arafura design are not necessarily the fault of Luerssen. Despite the fact that the Royal Brunei Navy version were pretty much the baseline, their construction regulations may not of been as strict then as those imposed by the CoA now. Also, different Classification Societies have different standards. The RAN Arafuras are being built to DNV.GL rules, which are regularly changed, the current trend leans towards stricter/more demanding. So it may be simply a case of ‘one that got past the keeper’. It happens. I don’t know which Society did the Brunei Boats.
    Despite that, if one winds back the clock to the original schedule, HMAS Arafura was planned to be delivered Q4 2021……….

    • Thanks. Interesting. The ships for Brunei were built in Germany and were probably to BWB standards, but I will need to check. This was an issue early in the piece for the Australian ANZAC frigates but a quick investigation showed that those were almost identical to NATO STANAGs.


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