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SEA 1180 DECISION GIVES RISE TO A NEW FACTOR IN
AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE PROCUREMENT.
THE SOURCE SELECTION announcement for Sea 1180 was ex-
pected to follow the established process whereby a prime contractor
and its carefully formed local industry team ticks more boxes than
the competition and gets the nod to proceed through to contract
negotiations and then contract signature.
But the announcement to extract a preferred offshore patrol ves-
sel (OPV) design from one bid, then tack-weld it to Australian ship-
builders that had pledged allegiance with the opposition ambushed
everyone. Lürssen had teamed with ASC and Civmec while Austal
had formed a joint venture with Fassmer, also of Germany.
As Australia’s only naval vessel exporter and principle patrol boat
builder with a long and solid track record, Austal was always going to
be hard to leave out of the construction phase at Henderson, West-
ern Australia. It will now build 10 of the 12 OPVs with input from
Instead of being the steadying hand overseeing it all, the Govern-
ment is now an unknown. It is, itself, a new factor.
This out-of-character behaviour does have recent precedent:
Sea 1000 Future Submarine; no one rated the French much of a
chance to win but the choice nevertheless surprised all.
Land 19 Phase 7B Ground-Based Air Defence: the sole source selec-
tion of a Raytheon-led partly developmental solution seemingly
came from nowhere and cut the legs out from under industry who
had been preparing for an open tender competition.
Land 400 Phase 2: After receiving a hammering in the press for its
decision to have Navantia build in Spain the two new underway re-
plenishment ships for Sea 1654 Phase 3 Maritime Operational Sup-
port Capability, Defence suddenly decided that Australian industry
capability for Land 400 Phase 2 was critical to the outcome despite
barely giving it a cursory glance in the RFT.
And now Sea 1180 continues the trend. None of this inconsisten-
cy and unpredictability has escaped industry. There are now serious
concerns about how genuine the defence procurement process actu-
ally is in Australia.
For defence industry, it is yet another hurdle to navigate in an
already excruciatingly demanding procurement environment.
RIGHT: A Royal Brunei Navy
navigates shallow waters
close to shore.
Civmec once ASC completes the first two in Adelaide.
No doubt the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Defence knew
what they were doing when they selected Lürssen as the prime con-
tractor to lead the final design and manage local OPV construction.
There must also be high confidence in the Lürssen PV 80 design to
meet the RAN’s requirements, but nobody knows in what areas the
design was deemed superior to the 67m Damen 6711 design or the
Not being able to analyse the contents of the Sea 1180 request for
tender (RFT) behind the irrationally secretive Competitive Evalu-
ation Process in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of
the requirement and what functionality and performance the RAN
sought from the OPV, makes it very difficult to determine how the
Lürssen boat meets those requirements and in what areas it might
be weak or strong.
Therefore, one can only surmise that there must be something in
the PV 80 design that the RAN could not do without.
Rumour has it that the Lürssen design was not the lowest price op-
tion of the three vessels. DTR has no idea whether this is actually so,
but if that were the case then it is encouraging that the Government
has not simply selected the lowest cost option.
The Lürssen PV 80 for Australia will be 80m long, have a draught
of 4m and displace 1,700 tonnes. The primary weapon will comprise
a 40mm naval gun and as many as three 8.4m rigid hull inflatable
boats can be carried.
Each vessel will accommodate up to 60 personnel, including a
crew of around 40. The mission bay area under the stern flight deck
will have the ability to accept modular mission packs such as that for
operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
Clearly though, the hangar-less PV 80 is a good pointer that the
RAN has no future intention of introducing an organic helicopter
capability for the OPVs or even supporting cross-decking of MH-
60R naval combat or MRH90 maritime support helicopters on an-
ything more than an ad-hoc basis. And that makes sense when the
OPV’s predominant constabulary, patrol, response and maritime
surveillance roles are taken into account and the increasing capa-
bilities of vertical take-off and landing UAVs are taken into account.
The design of the selected OPV and the capability of Lürssen to
deliver what’s promised are not in question. However, the predicta-
bility of the Government and its out of left field decision making is.
The government of the day undoubtedly must reserve the right
to make decisions in the best interests of the ADF, industry and the
nation as a whole as it sees fit. But if recent big ticket acquisitions
are any indicator, the long-held foundation stones of tendering and
tender response evaluation – capability, cost, risk, schedule, industry
involvement – must now make room for another: government.
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 38 | DEC/JAN 2018
ABOVE: One of four OPVs built for the Royal Brunei Navy based
closely on the Lürssen PV 80 – known as the Darussalam-class –
is seen here. The first RAN vessel will enter service in 2021.
INSTEAD OF BEING THE
STEADYING HAND OVERSEEING
IT ALL, THE GOVERNMENT
IS NOW AN UNKNOWN. IT IS,
ITSELF, A NEW FACTOR
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