A model of ST Marine's Fearless 75 design on display at Pacific 2015 in Sydney. ST Marine has already built smaller Fearless 55's for the Singaporean Navy. (Model photo and caption courtesy IHS Jane’s 360 /Ridzwan Rahmat)
River class OPV. Several in service with UK RN, one with Royal Thai Navy (Artwork courtesy IHS Jane's 360)
A Venezuelan Navy Coast Guard Guaicamacuto class patrol boat which is based on Navantia's Avante 1400 design. Avante variants are also serving in the Spanish Navy (Armada) (Photo courtesy Navantia via IHS Jane's 360)
While Submarine Matters has been focussing on the, at times, vitriolic Future Submarine CEP debate other Australian non-sub acquisition processes are intrain.
This includes the current SEA 1180 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Competitive Evaluation Process.
The OPV CEP has the more specific name “Analysis of OPV Alternatives” and is seeking to assess existing off the shelf vessels with minimum changes.
Compiling a shortlist of (ideally) three or more was outsourced (?) to UK based BMT Defence Services in September 2015, BTW here is a BMT PDF Paper which seems to be on the OPV. The short list, with indicative costs, is due mid-2016. Australia's Defence Department is due to present a recommendation to Prime Minister Turnbull (if he’s there after the 2016 Election) and then to the broader National Security Committee of Cabinet to make decisions.
The construction of OPVs has been brought forward by two years, with a continuous onshore build projected to commence in 2018 [see 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP) paragraph 4.118].
Twelve OPVs are being built to progressively replace Armidale Class Patrol Boats (which are rapidly wearing out in part due to searching for refugee vessels). See 2016 DWP paragraph 4.117.
The new OPVs will be:
- much larger and more capable ships than the 300 ton Armidales
- will have a helicopter
- probably will be UAV, UUV and surface SUV capable
- have a longer range and endurance than the Armidales
- no SEA 1180 OPV capability requirements have been publicly released(?) but it could be a vessel of around 80m and 1,500 tonnes
- large enough to accommodate a reasonably sized gun (30 - 56mm?)
- and to safely operate the helicopter.
SEA 1180 is now squarely about patrol boat replacement with much less emphasis on multi-mission (eg, survey vessel) replacement. Mine-hunting maybe a future modular capability.
The new OPVs will be a substantial purchase - see the 2016 Defence Integrated Investment Program (DIIP), page 89, Table 6, which contains the following mentions:
- “Offshore Patrol Vessel – Evaluation, Scheduled for approval, Less than $100 million”, then
- “Offshore Patrol Vessel – Design and Construction, 2016-2033, $3 billion - $4 billion”.
- BAE River class OPV with one already constructed in Thailand for the Royal Thai Navy. Several already built in UK for UK Royal Navy. (various sizes, eg. "Clyde" is 81.5m and 1,850 tonnes)
- Navantia’s Avante 1400 (80m, 1,500 tonnes full load)
- ST Marine’s Fearless 75 (75m, 1,100 tons)
DCNS, Fincantieri and Damen may also be possibles for the shortlist of three or more.
The OPVs may be assembled in many shipyards around Australia but I’d say probably in Perth, WA and/or Williamstown, VIC.
Mile Yeo writing in the Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR), March 2016, "WHITE PAPER GIVES THE GO-AHEAD", pages 23-25, (subscription) http://www.asiapacificdefencereporter.com/
Trevor Thomas http://navalinstitute.com.au/uk-boosts-defence-implications-for-australia/ March 13, 2016