Cairns based Armidale class patrol boat HMAS Wollongong (ACPB 92) recently berthed alongside Auckland Point Wharf in Gladstone for a few days of R&R, and while visiting the port city, not only did the ships crew participate in local ANZAC Day 2018 commemorations, but held a Public Open Day on the vessel.
Despite a boat that has been worked extremely hard in recent years, infact, we were informed the vessel spent ten months of 2017 alone on patrol duties, the presentation of HMAS Wollongong was nothing shy of immaculate, a credit to all sailors and officers who serve aboard her. We will also not forget to mention how professional and inviting the ships crew were which clearly demonstrated great pride in themselves and the navy boat they serve on.
The Armidale class is a class of fourteen patrol boats (now thirteen) built by Austal Ships at Henderson south of Perth as a successor to the Fremantle class patrol boats. The first vessel, HMAS Armidale (ACPB 83), was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in June 2005, while the last, HMAS Glenelg (ACPB 96), was welcomed to the fleet in February 2008.
Based out of Cairns and Darwin, Armidale class patrol boats are operated by the Australian Patrol Boat Group and are primarily tasked with Australia's fisheries protection, immigration, customs and drug law enforcement operations, and frequently work hand-in-hand with other Government agencies.
While enjoying our tour aboard HMAS Wollongong, we were informed RAN patrol boats with a marlin logo fitted to each side of the funnel represent a Cairns based vessel, while those operating out of Darwin are fitted with a buffalo logo.
The Armidales have a standard load displacement of 300 tonnes, can reach a maximum speed of about 28 knots, and achieve an approximate range of 3,000 nm / 5,556 km at 12 knots.
Main propulsion machinery comprise of two MTU 4000 series 16V diesel engines which supply 6,225 horsepower (4,642 kW) to two propeller shafts.
Each patrol boat is armed with a single remote (bridge) operated Rafael Typhoon 25mm autocannon as main armament, supplemented by two 12.7 mm / .50 cal Browning machine guns and a variety of light arms for the protection of personnel undertaking boarding duties. A pair of 7.2-metre (24 ft) waterjet propelled rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) are carried astern behind the main superstructure.
Technology includes (but not limited to) a Bridgemaster E-surface search and navigation radar, a Rafael Toplite electro-optical detection system, a Warrlock direction finding system, and a BAE Prism III radar warning system.
Disappointingly, HMAS Bundaberg (ACPB 91) suffered extensive fire damage while undergoing a refit in Brisbane in August 2014, and upon completion of examinations to assess whether the boat could be salvaged, a decision was made to decommission the vessel in December that year.
It is anticipated a fleet of twelve larger and more capable Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) will begin replacing the Armidale class patrol boats in the earlier 2020s. German shipbuilder Lurssen Werft will build the 1700 tonne vessels in Australia which will be capable of accommodating a helicopter.