The keel has been laid for the Royal Australian Navy ’s third Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), which is being constructed in Western Australia.

The development is a major milestone for the National Shipbuilding Program.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “This milestone marks the start of the consolidation phase for the third Arafura-class ship to be built in Australia, named Pilbara by the Chief of Navy.

“It demonstrates the success of this government’s Naval Shipbuilding plan, with eight vessels already built and another ten vessels currently under construction at Henderson and Osborne.

“Western Australia is playing a key role in the development of our national naval shipbuilding enterprise, and the government’s A$4.7bn OPV programme is spearheading the implementation of this plan and connecting with Australian industry.”

Luerssen Australia is serving as the prime contractor and is working with ASC in South Australia and Civmec in Western Australia to deliver the OPVs capability for the Australian Defence.

The OPV programme consists of 12 vessels, which will replace the Armidale-class and Cape Class Patrol Boats.

The first two vessels are being constructed at South Australia’s Osborne Naval Shipyard, while the other ten vessels will be constructed at Henderson shipyard.

Since March, the teams of Luerssen and Civmec in WA have been working on the building the blocks for the 80m-long 1,600t OPV.

In May, the two halves of the first Arafura-class OPV was brought together to make a complete hull.

In April, the keel was laid for the second Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) in Adelaide.