Dimdex Web Ads Asian Press Group banner 728x90The Australian government has listed the Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) program as a Defence Project of Concern. The project has experienced delays in delivery of both the vessels and the associated support system with schedule delays first emerging in 2021.

The vessels are being built for the Royal Australian Navy to replace and improve upon the capability delivered by the Armidale-class patrol boats. The OPVs are under construction at Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia and the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia.

The primary role of the OPV will be to undertake constabulary missions and the vessels will perform maritime patrol and response duties for the Australian Defence Force.

Defence and Luerssen Australia will work together to develop a remediation plan to help address delays to the OPV schedule. Defence and Luerssen Australia remain committed to providing the Royal Australian Navy with this capability.

The Projects of Concern process brings senior stakeholders from Government and industry together to set out an agreed pathway to remediate listed projects.


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Editor Kym Bergmann at kym.bergmann@venturamedia.net

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    • Yes, I had the same thought. They should start with why Defence hasn’t been able to select a replacement for the 400mm main gun that they cancelled two years ago.

  1. So in a nutshell, the contractor forgot about certification and ILS.

    Why does that sound familiar, mmm…. perhaps because it happens every single time government tries to do projects on the cheap by not scheduling all required work.

    It also didn’t help that the few people the contractor did hire to work in these areas were big on qualifications and not so much on experience.

    End result, complete and near complete ships, sitting alongside instead of doing hat the tax payer needs them to do.

    • Paul – thanks for that. It’s been bloody difficult to get any reliable information about this project – Defence won’t talk and as usual have also contractually muzzled Luerssen. I had heard vaguely that certification was an issue. Isn’t that usually done by a third party? Luerssen should have a wealth of experience in that department – they have been building ships for 150 years! I’m also aware of a myriad of engineering change proposals continuing to come from RAN/CASG.

    • AFAIK no ILS was spec in the original tender. The RAN was quite keen on not operating helicopters from the OPV as a concept, only small unmanned drones. Like the Schiebel camcopter project, which was then rapidly cancelled for reasons unknown.


      Now that platform is cancelled, project continues, they appear to want to operate a larger platform that does need ILS. (MQ-8C?) It may even need a hangar.

      Not sure if we can clearly blame industry for this. CAMcopter, the 40mm, building at Osborne and Henderson, these are government/RAN decisions. In fact many of these were made against what industry was saying and indicating they may be a problem.

      Australia specifically wanted the least capable opv design, and neutered it further with modifications to restrict the fitment of ASM, and a gun that can’t be used. Further restricted the use of the flight deck by not including ILS. There may have been good reasons for this, but I don’t think contractors are the cause and blame.

      I am sure NVL would have loved to have tendered their OPV90 design, with room for weapons, a hangar, better sea keeping, more flexibility, more endurance etc. Which they have offered recently if the government was interested.

      • Thank you – that’s a good summary and I agree with everything that you have written. The situation with the gun is truly weird – the contract with Leonardo was cancelled 2 years ago. Initially, Defence hinted that the problem was with Luerssen – but since the gun is being provided GFE that obviously cannot be the case.

  2. Didn’t see that coming. The whole project has been kept very quiet – bare minimum of information being distributed. From the start the vessel has been grossly under armed and as you said Kym they seem to have been unable to find a suitable replacement for the 40mm “main gun” in two years? There seems to be all the markers of an A grade cluster if not cover up.

    Maybe time to be looking at alternate uses for these ships. Would they be suitable for MCM use?

    Yet another example of a failed major project and the question has to be asked as to how and why it keeps happening! RAAF generally has it’s procurement sorted – Army also except for decisions on the number of vehicles to be procured (including the Huntsman system). Why is it that the RAN keeps missing the mark?

    • I’ve thought about this a lot regarding the RAN and I can’t think of a single reason, other than to observe that they have the most conservative, backward looking culture of the three services. They are the ones who most frequently say when presented with a good idea “….but we don’t do it like that!”

  3. It seems like every time I make comment on this website it is to be utterly incredulous on the issues raised. The OPV project went MIA almost 12 months ago, the fact that none of the ship(s) built have been commissioned and they have been so degraded that they are basically a fisheries patrol boat painted grey.
    The tragedy is that the OPV project has become a microcosm of Labor’s entire strategic defence decisions. All we hear are announcement after announcement on the manufacture of missiles (still nothing), whether to take up Navantias option on building three additional destroyers for 3 billion (still nothing) the reduction of the AFV for the army from 450 to a paltry 100 plus and the lists go on and on and on. You don’t need to be a military strategist to realise that this current government (and the previous) have been totally inept when it comes to defence. The whole nuclear sub deal seems to be constantly on the brink of collapsing and if it ever does get up, most of the contributors to this article will be pushing up daisies well before we get a nuclear sub. The lack of any critical criticism of the current state of defence by the mainstream media seriously questions the future of the country and it’s ability to defend itself in the not too distant future. It is almost as if it is a deliberate attempt by players to make Australia’s defence as ineffectual as possible. The most disappointing aspect personally is that I honestly believed Richard Marles would be an effective Defence Minister. He is (currently) one of the most pathetic Defence Ministers this country has ever produced, nothing more than a comrade in a suit.

    • That is a very bleak assessment – and unfortunately I’m in agreement with most of it. However for the record, it was the Coalition that gave us the ridiculously down-designed OPVs; AUKUS and the Hunter class selection of the UK bid. Both sides of politics seem as bad as each other. I suspect there’s more to come – the government must be sitting on the Hilarides review of the RAN’s surface fleet until mid-January because it’s a shocker.

  4. Like all R.A.N. projects the OPV was doomed at conception. Far too many high ranking Naval Officers are stuck in the mind set of the Nineteen Hundreds. Big Ships with Big Guns is what they see as the Navy, something akin to the Great British Battle Fleets of the past. The Arafuras should be up gunned to at least a 25mm Vulcan, equipped with Camcopters and transferred to the ABF. Alternately converted to MW ships and the Cape Class transferred to the ABF. Either switch to the Type 31 Frigate or scrap the Hunter project completely and replace the Anzacs with new Meko designs that we have experience in building. Select an interim Submarine Design ( my choice would be the KSS II) and get all of the infer structure for the Nuclear Boats in place while we work with the Brits on the AUKUS Class. Assess the feasibility of a corvette size ship to support the main Fleet ( before dismissing the concept,read up on the Bathurst Class and its contribution to the War effort) and finally when issuing any RFI/RFT for any project state exactly what you want , select the design that meets the capability required, Fix a price and delivery date, then leave the contractor to get on with it and stop changing the design because someone saw something they thought would be nifty to have…


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