February 20, 2017

Update on Australia’s SEA1180 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) selection process

Damen's OPV 1800 (Artwork courtesy Damen) is a possibility for Australia's Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) competition. Damen also offers the OPV 1800 Sea Axe and the 90m Sigma class. Damen has been shortlisted by Australia  - as have Fassmer and also Lurssen.

Australia’s SEA1180 future Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) selection process continues to steam ahead.  It was first announced April 18, 2016A 30 November 2016 Media Release announced a Request for Tender (RFT). Government requirements have been stressing:

-  the three shortlisted designers should devise Australian Industry Capability Plans to team up with
   Australian shipbuilders. Hence the designers are teaming:
   =  the Netherlands' Damen with Civmec
   =  Germany's Fassmer, with Austal, and
   =  Germany's Lurssen (a report February 18, 2017 that Lurssen) may team up with BAE Systems)
-  use of Australian made steel for the hull is important
-  probable displacement may be up to 2,000 tonnes
-  main gun might be 57mm or 76mm.
-  probably no missiles initially, but they could be retrofitted.

The order is for 12 vessels, which will begin with two built in Adelaide from 2018 and ten in   Western Australia from 2020 (this looks messy!).

The OPVs will be used for border protection and other missions of greater range/endurance than the existing, smaller 300 tonne Armidale class patrol boats. The Armidales have suffered from aluminium hull cracking around the engine spaces, partly due to much greater use on illegal immigrant search than anticipated. Hence the new OPVs will have steel hulls.

Glorious photo (courtesy Cotecmar) of a Fassmer 80 OPV . Also a 90m OPV is a possibility.

A Lurssen (or Luerssen) OPV-80. Some are already in our region in the Royal Brunei Navy (Darussalam class). There are also Lurssen OPV 85s and OPV 90s (Photo courtesy pinterest).

The ambitiously tight selection and production deadlines may slip. Production in Adelaide (just two) and Western Australia (ten) also looks uneconomic and problematic.

New OPVs of up to 2,000 tonnes, replacing the old ones of 300 tonnes, will represent a major increase in RAN border protection capabilities. The emphasis will likely be on carrying illegal immigrants, over long ranges and a helicopter for reconnaissance/search and rescue, rather than carrying missiles for combat. 



Ztev Konrad said...

The helicopter ? The Seasprites were designed around this sort boat but they all were sold to NZ. Does this mean Australia will have to buy another naval helicopter class as the S-2G were a 6 t class while the RAN SH60R are in the 10-11tonne range.
Oh dear

Peter Coates said...

Good question Ztev

Likely copter for the OPVs might be the 10 tonne (all up) MRH-90 Taipan or a new smaller size purchase.

Regarding helicoptors Australia has been unfortunate but this has created more jobs to fix. Australia has been a poor:

- modifier, $1 Billion lost on Seasprites, and

Unfortunate chooser - $1 Billion lost on Tiger ARH attack helicopters (may have gone on Canberra class LHDs But) they have major reliability problems, to be cancelled after 10 years of none use, including no service in logical battlefields like Afghanistan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurocopter_Tiger#Exports

Unfortunate chooser - MRH-90 Taipan can't flare for special ops, must land flat like civilian helicopters, rotors gears wear out quickly at sea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NHIndustries_NH90#Australia

But Federal money to fix has flowed freely to Australian states, which is the premier political consideration.

Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
You should take a look at the US Coast Guard and see what their Future OPC will look like. In fact the future USCG OPC will take Lesson's from the New Zealand Navy's OPV.


Maybe what the RAN needs is to look at the US Coast Guard and see how they use OPC's/ WMEC's

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

The Royal New Zealand Navy's two OPVs were actually built in Australia by Tenix Defence (later BAE Systems) in Melbourne - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protector-class_offshore_patrol_vessel#Key_dates . So the USCG is wise enough to be taking lessons from Australian shipbuilders :)

I would say Australia values a diversity of suppliers for OPC competition hence US https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium_endurance_cutter style not chosen. We buy so much from the US eg. including some items under US pressure!



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
If you look at the USCG, their cutters are expected to last 30 to 50 years. So that's why they build cutters that are expected to ride hard and work hard. Look how long the Hamilton class cutters are built and they are still being used.

Peter Coates said...

Oh OK Nicky

Put me down for 3, built in Melbourne, Australia.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Nicky and Pete,

according to the USCG Cutter and the Australian OPV I can see several design differences:
- OPV has a stern ramp to deploy a dinghy in harsh sea states or mines.
- dinghies are within a protected area while the USCG are on top.

All ships look like traditional builds rather than some type of Armidale-class ship.

Will the OPV just that or also an Offshore Combatant Vessel?

Like the missile launcher seen here between the bridge and the funnels.
Lürssen also builds the K130 corvette.

What exactly Australia is looking for?


Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
I think for the RAN, they should look at a OPV and something on the level of the River class OPV batch 2 would be something the RAN can look at. The Holland class OPV is another one but I think that would be too big for the RAN's needs. Which boils down to they can look to the USCG and see Eastern's OPC design.

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

Thanks for your comments on the USCG Cutter vs Australian built, New Zealand (NZ) operated OPV differences.

Projected new Aus OPV's roles have undergone some change reflected in them no longer being called "combatant vessels" or "corvettes" just OPVs. They are unlikely to carry missiles to start with but they could be retrofitted. Guns might only be up to 57mm + a few machineguns.

So roles are less combat and more search and rescue illegal immigrant boats. These immigrant boats usually sail from Java, Indonesia. A minority of immigrants may come from Sri Lanka.

Once detected by Aus OPVs and other platforms these wouldbe immigrant boats are boarded or rescued so the OPVs need to have facilities to take the immigrants aboard and take them to:

- Christmas Island (Indian Ocean) before immigrants are placed in camps on islands for years (never entering Australia)

- or placed on ships or planes and taken back to their homes countries.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I think the idea to use Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) and Offshore Combat Vessels (OCV) based on the same design is right on.

My favorite OCV or Corvette is the Israeli Sa'ar 6 (2,000 t) based on the smaller K130/Braunschweig-class (1,800 t).

The armament for Braunschweig-class is impressive compared to an US littoral combat boat (LCS):
1 × Oto Melara 76 mm gun
2 × Mauser BK-27 autocannons
4 × RBS-15 Mk.3 anti-ship missiles
2 × 21-cell RAM CIWS missile launchers
Mine laying capability; 2 mine racks of 34 naval mines Mk 12

The Sa'ar 6 will bring even more to the fight
1 × Oto Melara 76 mm gun
2 × Typhoon Weapon Stations (similar to BK-27)
32 x vertical launch cells for Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles
1 x C-Dome point defense system
16 x anti-ship missiles
2 x 324 mm torpedo launchers.

For an OPV I would keep the basic ship with same engine sets. So in case of an emergency the OPV could be used as spare parts for OCV.
No fancy radar systems.
I would also keep the guns. - Don't go to a gunfight with a sword! - The 57 mm is a sword compared to the 76 mm.
Check the long list of users and the range: 40 km! - 17 km for a 57 mm gun.
(A shoot over the bow is still impressive performance.)
DART ammunition is also a nice to have.

OPV and OCV together would make a nice fleet to clear a beach or engage a hostile fleet. With a fleet consisting half OPV and OCV there is a 50 % better chance that more valuable OCV will survive.

Take a look at some pictures of the envisioned Sa'ar 6:
(Just the CGIs the real photos are K130.)
No funnel as K130. The exhaust is midship close above the waterline.
There is a vaste of space between the two island where some refuges might find shelter instead of anti-ship missiles.

I finally conclude the idea of the US Littoral Combat Ship is dead. Even Israel chose a conventional corvette over only fast LCS. Aluminium fire is very hard to extinguish ask RN.
("$478 million apiece" vs. K130 €300 million, order for 5 ships in 2016)

German Navy's main OPV will be the Baden-Württemberg-class.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 24/2/17 8:25 PM]

Yes its possible Australia may want a 76mm gun, but still no missiles. So no OCV. Long range and lots of space with good air conditioning to accommodate illegal immigrants remain likely OPV requirements.

The modular trimaran Littoral Combat Ship concept may be less popular in the West but China seems to like the concept. So China is building such ships http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/navy-ships/a25375/chian-three-hull-frigate/ with a good missile armament.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

Australia's OPV aquisition process is down to a shortlist of Damen, Fassmer and Lurssen - no others being considered. http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2017/02/update-on-australias-sea1180-offshore.html

And only 2,000 tons maximum.



Anonymous said...


What about the 76mm from the Adelaide class that are being retired as the Hobarts come online (several already retired). I understand upgrade kits are available from the manufacturer to bring them up to date. Could they be used or would they be too heavy(I notice Lurssen mention the 76mm compact for their design but ours are definately not those). The Fassmer picture shows something like the version we have. A lot of new gear use titanium parts to reduce weight.

I believe there will be 6 avaliable from the Adelaides plus 1 currently used for training (7 in total). It would enable us to arm half the OPC's with a decent gun for not much & use the 25mm from the Armidales & LHDs (being replaced by CIWS on LHD) as secondary.

Also the current mine sweepers are armed with 30mm (same gun as used on UK River class?) rather than 25mm. Would swapping these with 25mm & using the 30mm on the remain 6 opvs be worthwhile? (bigger shell, longer range & again we already have them).

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 27/3/17 12:44 PM]

The Adelaide's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelaide-class_frigate 76mm gun - the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OTO_Melara_76_mm are quite comfortabley used by 2,000 ton (or less) corvettes in the region. So shfting OTOs to the OPVs makes sense. This would be preferable to retroftting them which would likely be complicated and take time.

Maybe preferable to have the 76mm as the one standard main gun for all the OPVs. Different main guns would complicate mission and availability planning.

If 76mm were considered too much gun then the Bofors 57Mk3 may be a goer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMfSDLYP0aQ

Every home should have one :)