Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Oct 2013 Contents 64 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter oct 2013
not directly observable from the mother ship. Larger
UAVs could carry radar repeaters for scanning a
wider area than is visible from sea level, although
recovery has its challenges.
Minimum crewing ideally means keeping to the
current personnel numbers for the Armidales -
assuming the same number of replacement vessels
are acquired. The Armidales have rotations of three
divisions made up from 21 crews, each of 21
officers and sailors, making a total of 441 personnel
altogether. Each RHIB sent out to board another
vessel has two sailors to run the boat and a boarding
party of six sailors. With two RHIBs deployed, this
means the mother ship has to be able to be run by
the remaining five officers and sailors.
Intercepts of asylum seeker vessels or moving
numbers of civilians during humanitarian aid or
disaster response, can mean taking aboard quite
large numbers of extra adults and children for transit
to shore. Below decks accommodation in several
separate securable areas could be required for at
least fifty or more people.
If the Government confirms only constabulary patrol
boat roles and limits its vision to totally known low
costs and delivery schedules, it has only one choice.
That will be to extend the production run of Cape
Class vessels at Austal to provide for all the Armidale
Austal certainly has the marine architecture and
production skills to develop the Cape Class into a
larger patrol boat of around 70 metres length overall.
This would still have hull vulnerability to collisions and
This option means there will only be work for Austal
and its group of sub-contractors, with no substantial
work available to other naval shipyards facing the
‘Valley of Death.’
As already mentioned, if the Government wants
more flexible and warlike vessels to equip the Navy
for the range of roles previously described - yet a
proven design - it will be very hard to find one that
is even close.
The RNZN has 55 metre inshore patrol vessels
(IPVs), which is just too small in its present form but
the design could be evolved to something larger and
more capable. The RNZN have 85 metre offshore
patrol vessels (OPVs), too large and heavy for usual
Navy wharfs and slipways at Darwin and Cairns,
where Armidale replacements will be based. Both
these designs were built locally by Tenix (now BAE
Systems) and are in service. Therefore Defence will
have to look at locally evolved designs or further afield
As an example, the RNZN OPVs were designed
by Kavaerner (now STX) and built at Williamstown.
STX is ultimately a South Korean company, with a
large domestic shipyard, but also has shipbuilding
subsidiaries in Finland and Canada. STX Canada
has a 75 metre patrol vessel which they say is
“Designed to a moderate level of shock, radiated
noise and damage survivability; achieves a practical
degree of stealth capability; engineered to greater
seaworthiness at higher speeds in a slightly larger,
but easier to build vessel; uses commercially available
equipment; designed with high internal volume, easy
to outfit spaces; can have weapons systems installed
to meet the requirements of the navy in question” and
they are willing to “Provide shipyards with a design
and build package, including detail design, material
data and complete equipment packages.”
Looking back to Europe, the Damen Shipyards
Group has a 72 metre offshore patrol vessel. CMN
in France has its Vigilante 1400 CL79 offshore patrol
vessel. The latter is slightly over configured with a
helicopter deck and hangar, but these need not be
occupied for this purpose.
The Vigilante has a steel hull and aluminium
superstructure. This could offer an interesting choice
for Australia where BAE Systems could be the prime
contractor and integrator, with Forgacs supplying
steel blocks, forgacs and/or Austal supplying
aluminium superstructure blocks. In this way national
shipbuilding skills and capacity could be maintained.
When ASC finish their AWD program, they could also
be a supplier of blocks.
To avoid the ‘Valley of Death’, Defence needs to make
good progress with this project. The Armidale Class
Patrol Boat replacement is provisionally called SEA
1179 (official confirmation will come on release of the
2013 Defence Capability Plan).
No doubt Defence already has considerable
information in readiness for possible Request for
Proposals (RFP) late 2013 or early 2014. Responses
will help Defence’s CS personnel prepare for First
Pass Approval (FPA) in 2014. This involves formal
documents for FPA, supported by business cases for
the options considered; cost estimates; initial capability
definition and an acquisition strategy. Because of
the urgency of the replacement requirement, is it
conceivable that the First Pass to Second Pass
Project Management Plan could become the overall
project management plan, with Second Pass Approval
given at the same time as FPA?
Of course the normal tendering processes would
still be required, but action has to be taken swiftly for
the selected contractor(s) to begin work in FY 2015-
16, to get the first hull in the water for trials by 2018.
After any initial problems are sorted out, the full build
program could commence. Taking a year for the first
ship trials and introduction into service, at three hulls
per year thereafter this would be a five year program.
CMDR Colin Brightling, Commander Aviation
Operations, is winched from the boat deck of HMAS
Launceston and into an 816 Squadron Seahawk
helicopter. Credit: CoA
CALL TO ACTION
There is an imperative to start replacing the
Armidales before 2020. The Government must
choose between one-for-one replacements with
the focus on constabulary roles, or commit to
patrol boats with greater capability and better
suited to naval service.
There are proven designs out there which can
be adapted for Australian requirements. There
are shipyards with the skills, work force, and
resources to start construction and are wishing to
avoid the ‘Valley of Death.’
Can a financial commitment to this project
be the first major defence decision of the newly
elected Australian Government?
19/09/13 9:56 AM
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