Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR April 2015 Contents from remote islands.
The final design has not yet been specified but they
will be up to 40 metres length overall (LOA), compared
with the current PPB 31.5 metre LOA, which may
require some modification to existing wharf facilities,
and with a more advanced hull design than present
craft. This is because small Pacific Island countries
have experienced funding difficulties with the excessive
fuel consumption of current vessels, especially when
compared with more modern hulls and fuel-efficient
With the Australian naval shipbuilding industry facing
a shortage of orders and consequent staff layoffs,
the “Valley of Death”, does this new build program
represent a reprieve?
Not really. Although orders for PPB-R will be very
helpful, the project management, design, supply chain,
production, capability testing, spares supply and crew
training for a small patrol boat do not require the full skill
sets and sophisticated systems needed for building
and supporting larger naval vessels.
With the AWD project improving its way to a
conclusion at ASC in Adelaide, the LHD construction
virtually complete at Williamstown, two new large
supply ships to be built overseas, and the future
submarine project some way off, it isn’t looking good.
A SHORT HISTORY
In the late 1970s a party of Australian and New Zealand
defence officials visited South Pacific island nations
to discuss the implications of the forthcoming 200
nautical mile Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) and the
assets required by these countries to patrol and police
their new EEZs. After considerable staff work, in 1983
then Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, announced
to the South Pacific Forum meeting in Canberra that
Australia would provide a number of patrol boats to a
The initial number was ten ships to five countries,
but this grew to twenty two ships supplied to twelve
countries. Deliveries commenced in 1987 and were
complete by 1997, with vessels supplied to Papua New
Guinea (1987x2, 1988), Vanuatu (1987), Western
Samoa (1988), Solomon Islands (1988, 1991), Tonga
(1989, 1990, 1991), Cook Islands (1989), Federated
States of Micronesia (1990x2, 1997), Marshall Islands
(1991), Fiji (1994, 1995x2 ), Kiribati (1994), Tuvalu
(1994) and Palau (1996).
The 162 tonne patrol boats, built to commercial
standards, are 31.5 metres long, have an 8.1 metre
beam and draw 1.8 metres. They have a range of 2500
nautical miles at 12 knots, while their twin Caterpillar
diesel engines can drive the craft at up to 20 knots.
Each ship carries a Furuno 1011 I-band surface search
radar and a range of light weapons. A full complement
is 14-18 sailors, depending on the country. Patrol
endurance is typically ten days.
The class were originally planned to have a fifteen
year service life, with refits in their seventh or eighth
year, but in 2000 the Australian Cabinet agreed to
extend the patrol boats’ life to 30 years in an $A350
million program with refits at fifteen and twenty two
Islander crews train at the Australian Maritime
College in Launceston, Tasmania. Regular intakes
ensure new personnel are trained in all aspects of
navigation, communications and seamanship before
returning to their home countries to join existing crews.
REQUEST FOR TENDER RELEASED
On 5 March 2015 Defence Minister Kevin Andrews
announced replacement Pacific Patrol Boats under the
Pacific Maritime Security Program, Project SEA3036
“The current Pacific Patrol Boat Program is
the centrepiece of the Australian Government’s
engagement in the South Pacific.
“This project represents a significant investment in
Australian defence industry with the Australian-made
patrol boats worth $594 million in addition to through
life sustainment and personnel costs estimated at
$1.38 billion over 30 years.
“The support component will also cover sustainment
of the current PPB and the new Tongan Sealift Landing
Craft (SLC). The PPB-R will be designed and built to
commercial standards and be largely non- military.”
“The replacement vessels will be larger and more
capable than the current fleet. They will also have
greater seakeeping ability, habitability and endurance,
and will be updated for the contemporary operating
“These vessels will also continue to be complemented
by a comprehensive program of training, maintenance
and operational support for our regional partners.”
From the RFT key design constraints include
provision for a crew of up to 19 mixed gender (3
officers and 16 other ranks) with 23 berths; speed
20+ knots; 20 days endurance; range of at least
2500nm at 12 kts, desirably over 3000nm, with 20%
burnable fuel remaining; steel hull to allow for local
repair and heavy use, including possible groundings;
availability to support 120 patrol days per year (10
days per month); size of vessel constrained by regional
infrastructure; able to conduct operations (including
seaboat operations) up to and including the top of Sea
State 4 and survive to at least the top of Sea State
7; contemporary standard for habitability as far as
practicable; a modern range of communications and
computer equipment; and an embarked seaboat to be
capable of speed of greater than 20 knots, operating
to top of Sea State Four, and with a crew of 6 (8 crew
‘desirable’). The vessels are to be fitted for but not with
permanently mounted military standard weapons.
The PPB-R requires space on the upper deck to
accommodate 20 people for up to seven days. Space
for transferred personnel will need to be protected from
harsh environmental conditions, including sun exposure
and heavy rain. Transferred personnel will need water
and access to ablution facilities, separate from PPB-R
The PPB-R will be under 40 metres LOA, which might
still require modification to existing wharf and slip
facilities in some of their host countries.
The trend in “blue water” navies is to go for a
LOA greater than 40 metres to obtain better range,
sea handling and crew comfort. The most recent
patrol boats built for our Australian waters were RAN
Armidale Class (56.8 metres LOA) and Customs
Cape Class (58.1 metres LOA). New Zealand has its
Protector Class IPVs (55 metres LOA).
One naval shipyard insider told APDR that the new
patrol boat hull design will need to offer a significant
improvement over the current vessel’s flat bow. He said
a modern 40 metre LOA patrol boat bow and the latest
diesel engines would give better fuel economy than the
present 31.5 metre PPB.
Australia-designed choices are between BAE
Systems with its 32 metre patrol vessel developed
for the NSW Police, capable of operating out to the
EEZ limit, and Austal with its six 30 metre patrol boats
for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, to provide
sustained surveillance of its exclusive economic zone.
Both these craft designs were built in aluminium, but
independently BAE Systems Australia and Austal
spokespersons confirmed to APDR they could also be
built in steel.
IMPLICATIONS FOR AUSTRALIAN
The main naval shipyards available for new construction
include Forgacs, BAE Systems, ASC and Austal.
These shipyards are all currently engaged in projects
which will finish at varying times in the near future,
without a significant forward order book, leading to the
so-called “Valley of Death.” The PPB-R project offers
some respite but no reprieve.
A bid by hi-tech Tasmanian maritime businesses
to win a patrol boat contract would bring hundreds
of millions of dollars to the state and create 1000
jobs, the state’s industry says. They have initiated a
campaign to have all the PPB-R built there.
The Navy’s existing Australian-made Anzac frigates
will be replaced by Future Frigates next decade,
Pacific Patrol Boat
Asia Pacific Defence Reporter APRIL 2015 23
2/04/2015 3:19 pm
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