November 24, 2017

Lürssen wins Australia's Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Competition

A Lurssen, Lürssen or Luerssen OPV-80 that Australia is likely to build. The "80" indicates its 80 metre length  Some are already in our region in the Royal Brunei Navy (Darussalam class). (Photo courtesy pinterest).

On November 24, 2017 Australia's (current) Prime Minister Turnbull and two headed Pyne/Payne Defence Ministry announced that Germany's Lürssen had won the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) competition. 

A RAN News Release revealed the specific Lurssen design to be built is the: 

"...PV80 variant. It will be 80 metres in length with a displacement of 1700 tonnes and a draught of 4 metres.

The vessels will be fitted with a 40mm gun for self-protection, three 8.4m sea boats, state of the art sensors as well as command and communication systems. This will allow the OPVs to operate alongside Australian Border Force vessels, other Australian Defence Force units and our regional partners.

The vessels will accommodate up to 60 personnel, including a crew of around 40 Navy personnel and have the ability to accept modular mission packs such as unmanned aerial systems."

This competition is designated SEA 1180 and concerns the building of :

-  the first 2 OPVs from late 2018 in Osborne, Adelaide, South Australia. Just 2 to encourage
   continuous building and avoid the no shipbuilding scenario called the "Valley of Death". Then

-  the remaining 10 OPVs to be built at Henderson, part of Perth, Western Australia.


At 80 metres the OPV 80 displacement averages 1,700 tonnes. A manned helicopter (or autonomous unmanned helicopter) is likely to be able to land and take-off from this OPV 80 but not be hangered/maintained on it. As well as a 40mm gun the OPV is likely to be armed with at least two 7.62mm or 0.50 calibre machine but have no missiles. 

As well as the inefficiencies of a two location build the mix of shipbuilders in the consortium may cause early problems as Lürssen is partnered with and/or reliant on three companies (!) in Australia including ASC, Civmec and Austal for the build.



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
What the Royal Australian Navy is getting is Similar to what the USCG is getting in their OPC and they are calling it the Heritage class OPC.

I wonder what version of the OPV are they getting.

Anonymous said...


It appears we will be getting the opv80 version with a 40mm main gun. The only positive I can see is they do have space reserved for missile box launchers (though I doubt we will be getting any but it is an easy add if they keep the wiring intact). However the Lurssen OPV80 lacks a hanger (limits use of manned helos or large UAVs), is relativly short ranged (compared to Fassmer), can only take a max of 57mm gun, is relativly light weight & doesn't appear to have an ice option. Could possibly add a telescopic hangar down the track but its a poor substitute in comparison. Rather short sighted decision from my point of view.

As to exports (something the govt keeps on about), unlikely to be of any interest to NZ. Might be able to sell a few in SE Asia. If Austal & Fassmer keep their joint venture going, they may well be able to export more despite the govt. Fassmer looks feasable for NZ requirements & I believe Austal-Fassmer has approached Malta re bidding for their 2 OPV requirement using the Fassmer OPV80 (I believe Austal has supplied smaller vessels to Malta before so has some traction & Fassmer itself has limited build capacity - unlike Lurssen).

Picked the subs, missed the OPVs, see how I go for the frigates.


ONeil Padilla said...

I wanted Damen to win this one ☹️

Ztev Konrad said...

The NZ OPV class at 82m has a helicopter hangar which can carry NZ missile armed Karman Seasprites, the same helicopters which were inoperable with an Australian designed mission system. It would seem making the Lurssen vessels helicopter capable would bring back all the problems of the Seasprite for Australia. It wouldnt be capable of carrying the larger Seahawks

SpookyOne said...

Hello Pete,

I wrote the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence Industry. I've reproduced the correspondence below (the letter to Pyne includes what I wrote to the PM):

Dear Minister Pyne,

I draw your attention to what I consider is an urgent matter concerning the Lurssen OPV80.

My issue is that the ADF has chosen a large sized vessel, to replace the Armidale Class Patrol boats, but that they have not gone far enough.

My question/concern, a matter of logic, is to ask; why spend the money to buy a 1500-1700 ton vessel when you could purchase a slightly larger hull, the OPV85, at 1,900 tons, that can be upgraded extensively? You don’t have to fully fit out the OPV85, but the larger hull allows more options in the future.

I wrote the Prime Minister about the issue where I go into more detail:

Prime Minister,

I urge you to have the ADF choose the Lürssen OPV85 over the OPV80. Although the crew size is larger, it offers much more in terms of capability and upgradability. I wrote the following comment on the Defence Australia Facbook page:

I would prefer OPV90s or 85s with the enclosed hangar that would be better for UAV/helo operations. If we are getting 80s what sort of fit outs will they have? I would like to see them fitted to take an anti-missile RAM system. You can compare the OPV designs here:

With other countries ramping up their navies it would be good to see at least 16 OPV85/90s in the water with them set up so they can be fielded as warfighting vessels if needed (with anti-ship and anti-air missiles + ASW helo?). Why go for a one dimensional vessel when you can go slightly bigger?

What sort of gun option is being chosen? 57mm or 76mm ? The OPV80 info graphic shows only a 57mm option. If you went with the OPV85 you could have a 76mm gun that you could use with your onboard UAVs, to support a shore party. [ie indirect fire support]
End clipped comment.

Dear reader (PM), please check the Lurssen link I have provided and compare the OPV80 to the 85. We must have the 85 at the very least. For close to shore patrolling we already have the Cape Class patrol boats of the Australian Border Force. The Government should also consider building more of these.

My concern is with the sort of capability the country will require in a hostile Indo Pacific environment in 10 years time. Please note: I was a contributor to the 2015 Defence White Paper (number 90 in the Public Submissions) where I outlined the importance of a more robust ADF.

Thanks for your attention,

(Future ADF Page Editor)

Minister Pyne,

The biggest issue with the OPV85 is its increased crew size and the initial cost for the larger main gun. Surely this can be covered within the context of an expanded RAN?

Please discuss my concerns with knowledgeable people. There is already a degree of online chatter that the OPV80, especially without an aircraft hangar, is an underdone choice.

Thanks for your attention,

Peter Coates said...

Another essential, but officially unmentioned requirement for the Lurssen OPV is the ability to accommodate around 50 "illegal" refugees for 2-3 days. The "8.4m sea boats" mentioned at would be useful for picking up refugees and drug interdiction.

It is possible there will be Australian Navy pushed mission/SIZE creep for the 1,700 ton OPV with a larger gun and provision for but not with Hellfire or Spike anti-ship missiles .

Should the OPVs become fully armed corvettes like those of:
- Germany or
- Israel


Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete
You may want to check out what we are talking about on what Australia is getting in an OPV

Australia Selects OPV Design

What we are saying is that, what Australia is getting is a more modernized version of the US Coast Guard's 210 Reliance class Cutters. Which is why many in the USCG think Australia should look more towards the Lurssen OPV85 or Damen's Holland class OPV.

I totally agree with you that the OPV80 is weak for the needs of the RAN. They should look more towards the OPV85 or OPV90 or even the OPC that the USCG is building.

Anonymous said...


I perfered the Fassmer for its range, hangar, bigger gun option (we have a few from the Adelaides) & ice option (at some point we will be forced below 40 deg south). Perhaps they will build a different class just for that purpose down the track, but it reduces commonality unless Lurssen have ice options on their 85 & 90 meter versions. It looks like the boxed missile launcher space has been taken up by the reconfig to add the additional boat. While it will do what the navy said it wanted them to do (all 3 would) & a definate step up in capability, its going to mean our soon to be built heavy frigates of 7,000t will still be chasing pirates & low laitude illegal fish fleets. Perhaps a light frigate / heavy OPV class will need to be built to fill that gap.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

Quite a few calls online for upgunned OPV's. I'm not sure it's necessary. It sounds like the RAN only wants a patrol ship, something which can do the same things the Armidale Class could, but with longer range, more capacity for illegal immigrants, and less sea sickness. Most commenters want the OPV to become a corvette or light frigate, which greatly increases the cost through larger frame, more complicated sensors and weapons and defensive systems. In this case, the RAN could have simply gone for a Sigma class ship.

Low end tasks aren't glamourous but are still necessary. If you want a more fully featured ship, go for a proper frigate or destroyer. Ask the RAN in , say, double the number of Hobart and future frigates. Even then, the frigates Australia is choosing from are not the most heavily armed available. Arleigh Bourke carries 96VLS cells. Korea's Sejong the Great destroyer carries 128 VLS missile cells. For true upgunning, I think a better question is why the RAN didn't choose one of these ships for its fleet.

Just my 2 cents as an armchair commenter.

Again thanks for your excellent blog.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Adrian

I'm inclined to agree with you. The OPVs are not supposed to go to higher intensity environments where they would meet state-based opposition. No OPVs in the South China Sea so nothing like the militarised Baltic-of-Corvettes.

Larger guns and missiles might escalate tensions where the OPVs are merely meant to pick-up refugees, chase smugglers or terrorists/pirates.

Those 9 large frigates can strut their stuff, justifying the tens of $Billions spent on them.



Anonymous said...


A senior officer once said you can turn any opv into a corvette, its just a case of how much money you want to throw at it. There are quite a few opv's & corvettes in the SE Asia region. In many ways the defining difference is purely armament, sensor & combat system. It takes considerable time to build a ship, much less time to change armament & sensors etc. If things go drastically pear shaped, many nations will be attempting to convert opv's to some form of corvette as quickly as possible (if there is even time for that). Some opv's have a head start.

In Australia's case, the combat system will be fitted. The gun is sub-optimal but at least usable. However upgrading it has its limits as the ship was designed with a 57mm max. It did have space for box launchers (the Brunei ships carry Exocet missiles), but sacrificed for an additional boat. It cannot substitute with missile carrying helo like NZ can. If you are seriously going to be chasing pirates & terrorists, then a manned helo is a good idea, preferably an armed one. Opv's & corvettes are vulnerable to handheld anti-armour weapons if the ship gets too close.

Saying that these ships will never operate in a warzone is one thing. Reality & history says another. In a major war, anything that even looks like it can do a job will be used for that job, no matter how marginal. Australia's 1,000t Bathurst class built during WWII were less than marginal but fought not only in the Pacific & Indian Oceans, but the Mediterranean as well. These ships will be 1,700t & 80m long. The more you limit your options by design, the harder it is to expand your options later. I am not generally a fan of 'fitted for but not with', but its better than 'can't be fitted'.