Interest from Government agencies and the shipbuilding industry is driving development of regional variants of a 60 metre offshore patrol vessel (OPV) design already in-service with a Middle East Navy.
Potential clients have approached Australian naval architecture firm International Maritime Consultants (IMC) for variants of its Al Basra class 60 metre OPV design, two of which the United States Navy procured under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and delivered to the Iraqi Navy in 2012.
“We designed the Al Basra class OPV to a specific, multi-role requirement of the Iraqi Navy,” said Justin McPherson, IMC’s Managing Director.
“This demonstrated the versatility our platform. Now that it is well and truly proven in service we are starting to see interest for variants tailored to other user requirements.”
While unable to provide details of specific projects, McPherson revealed that much of the interest emanated from the Asia-Pacific region and was driving a change of emphasis on the capabilities to be included on the platform.
“A key shift in focus for the modifications to the existing proven design is greater emphasis on operational flexibility while supporting a wider range of operations utilising offboard systems,” he said.
Leveraging the platform’s large deck space, and carrying capacity, in addition to the two 11 metre RHIBs with heave compensated davits, the modified Al Basra class OPV can accommodate two 20 foot TEU mission modules, two additional 11 metre RHIBs, unmanned surface vehicles, swimmer delivery units or similar, all serviced by a 20 tonne crane.
IMC is also configuring the new variants for enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities through integration of the Insitu ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). With its endurance of up to 24 hours; ability to operate out to a range of around 100 kilometres from the vessel; compact and reliable launch and recovery system; diesel propulsion system; and proven record in the maritime domain, the system is considered an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) multiplier.
McPherson says the Al Basra class design’s lineage generates additional benefits when applied to patrol boat tasks.
“The original design draws heavily from the offshore support vessel sector, where IMC has extensive experience,” he said. “This was natural for the Iraq project, since the boats were designed to conduct both maritime security operations and offshore service tasks.”
To that end the two 60 metre OPVs in service, ‘Al Basra’ and ‘Al Fayhaa’, are both equipped with comprehensive armament and fast attack boats to defend both themselves and offshore platforms, as well as being able to transport crew and cargoes to resupply the platforms. They also provide a command and control function associated with the security of platforms and other afloat forces. Weapons fitted include a 30mm remotely operated gun mount and up to 10 machine guns.
“Given the offshore duties, and need for an extremely robust and reliable platform, we opted for a steel hull with aluminium superstructure, very strongly influenced by our experience in commercial work boat sector,” McPherson said.
In addition to a true go-anywhere platform – the design is suitable for Southern Ocean conditions and can provide a range in excess of 6,000 nautical miles – the structure and hull design is very heavy duty. Being built from steel and designed with commercial shipyard capabilities in mind, it is also easy to construct and repair efficiently and effectively.
“This aligns well with what we are seeing in the marketplace, which is a demand for multi-purpose patrol boats that can be relied upon to perform their duties across all conditions while also being affordable to acquire and maintain,” McPherson concluded.