Australian defence shipbuilding organisation ASC has constructed the keel of Arafura, the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) first Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV).

Luerssen Australia is the prime contractor for the A$3.6bn ($2.56bn) SEA1180 Phase I programme, which seeks to build the next-generation of OPVs for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The company will build 12 OPVs under the contract to replace the existing Armidale-class and Cape-class patrol boats, Huon-class coastal minehunters, and Leeuwin-class survey ships.

Luerssen selected shipbuilder ASC to construct the first two OPVs at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia.

The remaining vessels under the contract will be built at Civmec’s Henderson shipyard in Western Australia. Civmec and Luerssen will begin work on the construction of the remaining ships in 2020.

“This represents the ongoing success story of the Government’s $90bn continuous shipbuilding endeavour in Australia.”

ASC has assembled more than 50t of steel at the Osborne shipyard for keel construction of the lead ship in the Arafura-class.

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Australia Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said: “This represents the ongoing success story of the Government’s $90bn continuous shipbuilding endeavour in Australia.

“ASC is working very well with Luerssen Australia to build the first two OPVs.”

The Arafura-class OPVs construction project is projected to create around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Australian Department of Defence (DoD).

The keel laying ceremony of the first ship is set to take place after the blocks are structurally completed and moved to the fitting out facility, the DoD release added.

ASC and Luerssen started construction of the first OPV in November last year. The steel for the vessel was cut by Civmec in Western Australia.

The Arafura-class vessels will be used to perform constabulary missions and maritime patrol and response duties.

The ship is based on the Lürssen OPV80 platform and will be able to accommodate three rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB).