The Commonwealth has announced it will acquire six more Cape class patrol boats from Austal for the RAN as it seeks to support Australian industry during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
The six vessels will be built at Austal’s Henderson yard in Western Australia, and will add to the two Cape class vessels the RAN currently leases from Australian Border Force and eight Armidale class patrol boats. They will be joined in service by 10 larger Arafura class offshore patrol vessels from 2023.
“These vessels will not only enhance national security, but will provide important economic stimulus and employment continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds said in a May 1 statement. “The ability to build more of these vessels in Australia will deliver Australian Industry Content of more than 65 per cent, providing significant opportunities for Australian industry and Defence, as well as more than 1,200 workers in the broader Australian supply chain.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price MP added, “This will help to ensure continued employment opportunities for 400 of Austal’s commercial shipbuilders in WA, with flow down benefits to Austal’s supply chain. Austal is an Australian industry success story with the company already building variants of the Cape Class Patrol Boat for international customers including the government of Trinidad and Tobago, …(and the) Guardian Class patrol boats in support of the…Pacific Patrol Boat program.”
The Armidale class has suffered in recent years with poor availability and greater maintenance requirements, reportedly due to overuse in the border security mission. While no timeframe for the Cape class to enter service was announced, its likely some of the Armidales will be decommissioned early as the Cape class vessels enter service.