26 February 2024

Henderson-based Austal to build two more Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats for Navy

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Patrol boats being built

Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats under construction by Austal at Henderson, Western Australia. Photo: Austal.

It’s been a busy week for naval shipbuilding in Australia since the release of the Federal Government’s Enhanced Lethality Surface Combatant Fleet plan last week.

One of the announcements that almost slipped under the radar was that the government has awarded a contract to Austal, based in Henderson in Western Australia, to build two more Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats (ECCPB) for the Royal Australian Navy.

One of the key elements of the government’s new plan is to grow its fleet of patrol vessels to 25 to conduct border security and constabulary missions around Australia’s vast maritime territory.

Although it reduced the planned number of Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) – also being built at Henderson by Luerssen and Civmec – it has undertaken to grow the fleet with additional smaller vessels.

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This new $157 million order under Project SEA 1445 Phase 1 takes the total number of ECCPBs for the Navy or Border Force to 10.

The ECCPB is an evolution of the Cape-class patrol boat, 12 of which were built for the Navy and Border Force, while the Cape class was itself an advanced development of the Navy’s Armidale-class boats, 14 of which were built in the early 2000s, and all but four of which have now been decommissioned.

Austal CEO Paddy Gregg reiterated the ECCPB’s importance to the Australian defence industry and the Royal Australian Navy.

“These additional Evolved Capes, designed and constructed by Austal in Henderson, Western Australia, are helping us to retain and build our sovereign naval shipbuilding workforce and continue to engage supply chain partners from across Australia,” Mr Gregg said.

“The Evolved Capes are also enhancing the Navy’s operations throughout Northern Australia, adding greater capability for maritime surveillance and border patrols, as part of the ongoing Operation Sovereign Borders mission.”

navy patrol boat

The fifth ECCPB in the water prepares for testing. Photo: ADF.

Project SEA1445 Phase 1 initially saw six ECCPBs ordered in May 2020 and has since had two additional orders, each for two more vessels. Six boats have been delivered, and two are currently being built.

The ECCPB has a complement of up to 32, and features improved quality-of-life systems and advanced sustainment intelligence systems over the earlier vessels.

Austal Australia has also delivered 18 of a contracted 22 steel-hulled Guardian-class patrol boats to the Commonwealth for donation to Pacific nations under the Project SEA 3036 Phase 1 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project.

The company has also been tasked to build 18 new medium landing craft for the Australian Army under Project LAND 8710 Phase 1A Littoral Manoeuvre Vessel – Medium (LMV-M) and the follow-on Phase 2 LMV-H (Heavy).

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Austal also has an Austal USA subsidiary that builds trimaran-hulled Independence-class Littoral combat ships and fast catamaran-hulled expeditionary transport and medical vessels in Alabama for the US Navy.

Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles recognised Austal’s contribution to Australia’s shipbuilding industry.

”Last year, the government announced that it would establish in a pilot program Austal as the strategic shipbuilding partner for the government,” he told media at Henderson on 22 February.

“I want to acknowledge the presence of Austal here today and thank them for their extraordinary work both in terms of contributing to Australia’s Navy, but navies in the region, and of course the American Navy.


Austal USA’s Alabama shipyard, with an Independence-class LCS and two fast expeditionary vessels. Photo: Austal USA.

“The Arafura-class vessels will have an important role to play. But as we look forward, we do see that the Evolved Cape-Class Patrol [Boat] vessels will be at the heart of our constabulary work across both the Navy and Australian Border Force.”

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy added: “The announcement we made this week is a good announcement for the Australian Defence Force and the Royal Australian Navy, but it’s a great announcement for the Australian defence industry, particularly in WA.

“As the Deputy Prime Minister said, 1200 high-skilled, well-paid jobs will be supported through our announcement [and] 30 years of naval construction work locked in in the Henderson strip.”

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