The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has placed a follow-up order for two additional Guardian-class patrol boats worth A$39m ($26m) with the indigenous shipbuilder Austal on 24 June 2024.

Austal has already delivered 30 Guardian vessels to 13 other Pacific island nations between 2018 and 2022; while 19 of them were delivered to Australia. The company also provides in-service support to its customers through their service hub in Cairns, Queensland.

Operators include the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuata.

Australia’s prime shipbuilder develops the Guardian-class under the Pacific Patrol Boats Replacement project – construction is collectively worth $267m – and it aims to replace the existing Pacific Patrol Boat fleet. The vessels will be donated to the island nations to help improve maritime security in their extensive exclusive economic zones across the South Pacific region.

Lieutenant Commander Semisi Tapueluelu stands on the deck of the Tongan Patrol Boat Voea Neiafu in Mala Wharf, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Under the Defence Cooperation Programme, Australia provided 22 Pacific Patrol Boats to 12 Pacific Island countries in the 1980s and 1990s. Credit: Australian Defence Force.

These new boats are suitable for fisheries protection, search-and-rescue, patrol and prevention of transnational crime.

Replacement patrol boats are larger than the existing Pacific patrol fleet. The steel monohull design of the Guardian fleet provides improved seakeeping ability and long endurance. Each vessel will have an overall length of 39.5 metres (m), overall beam of 8m, loaded draught of 2.5m and cargo deck area of 16m². It can accommodate up to 23 personnel.

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Operation and control of the vessel is performed from the raised wheelhouse, located amidships. The wheelhouse is provided with windows, which offer an unobstructed view of the sea’s surface. The newbuilds will be equipped with a number of commercial off-the-shelf  navigation and communications equipment to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Austal will build RAN’s two new Guardian boats at Henderson in Western Australia, and scheduled for delivery in 2026- bringing the Guardian Pacific patrol fleet up to 24 boats.