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Australia lays keel for 5th Arafura-class OPV Illawarra

HMAS Illawarra keel laying ceremony
Photo: Australian defense ministry

Australia has held a keel laying ceremony for its fifth offshore patrol vessel (OPV) at the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia.

During the ceremony, the coin was positioned under the keel of OPV 5 (future HMAS Illawarra) – the first of many traditions for a Navy ship.

Luerssen Australia is the prime contractor on the project to deliver 12 offshore patrol vessels to the Royal Australian Navy.

“A keel laying is an important naval tradition that brings good luck to the build of the ship and the life of the vessel,” Deputy Secretary of National Naval Shipbuilding, Tony Dalton said.

“We welcome this major milestone in the delivery of Australia’s future Arafura class offshore patrol vessels.”

The first two vessels were constructed at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. The first ship was launched in December 2021, and the second ship is currently undergoing outfitting.

The remaining 10 vessels will be constructed at Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia, with the build of four ships already underway. Luerssen began work on the sixth ship in August this year.

“The progress on this program has been fantastic and I’m very happy to see it has opened up new opportunities for local businesses,” said chairman of Luerssen Australia, Tim Wagner.

“Luerssen Australia is creating local jobs, and investing in the shipbuilding industry in Australia. We strongly believe there is a bright future with a lot of opportunities nationally and for exports from Henderson.”

Arafura-class OPV
Photo: Luerssen Australia

The Arafura-class is a custom Australian variant of German shipbuilder Luerssen’s PV80 design and is 80 meters long with a displacement of around 1,700 tons. The OPV design will support specialist mission packages, such as a maritime tactical unmanned aerial systems, and into the future, rapid environmental assessment and deployable mine counter measure capabilities. The ships will field a 40 mm gun and will be capable of deploying three boats.