The Royal Australian Navy has decommissioned its Armidale-class patrol boat HMAS Pirie after 15 years of service. It marks the beginning of a navy transition to a new class of offshore patrol vessels.
Ultimately 12 of the new vessels, known as the Arafura Class, will be supplied, with the first two vessels to be built at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia, before production moves to the Henderson shipyard in Western Australia.
Policing, patrol and response duties for new OPVs
The primary role of the Arafura OPVs (for ‘offshore patrol vessel’) will be to undertake policing missions, maritime patrol and response duties. They will also operate maritime aerial drones, undertake rapid environmental assessment and have mine counter-measure capabilities.
The lead vessel in the new class, HMAS Arafura is planned to enter service next year. The boats have a crew of 40, a length of 80 metres and a range of 4,000 nautical miles.
Speaking at the ceremony to decommission HMAS Pirie, which took place at the HMAS Coonawarra shore facility in Darwin, the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, said that while there was a nostalgia in farewelling one of the RAN’s workhorses, it was an exciting time to serve as the navy undertook a significant modernisation of its fleet.
“The new Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels will provide a significant increase in capability and enhance our capacity to patrol our maritime territory and near region,” he stated.
HMAS Pirie notched up 426,000 nautical miles
HMAS Pirie Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Sean Dalton, said it had been a privilege bringing Pirie and her crew home for the last time.
“Pirie has sailed more than 426,000 nautical miles in her lifetime – travelling from as far east as Samoa, west to the Cocos Keeling Islands, south to the Bass Strait, and as far north as Qingdao, China,” Dalton said.
Throughout her commission, Pirie conducted intercept and control of both foreign fishing vessels and suspected irregular entry vessels, along with regularly providing support to the civil community.
She has also taken part in diplomatic, ceremonial and commemorative events with Australia’s regional partners.