Austal, the Good PR from SecDef and the Philippine OPV Program

The Department of National Defense through its Secretary discloses through reports the desire of the Philippine Navy to obtain ships that come where the process about the program isn't getting traction given that the group assigned is still doing its job. This calls to re-composition of the fleet to obtain newer hulls which will further enhance the patrol capabilities than the ones available at present of the fleet as part of its Sail Plan.

A Cape-class patrol vessel of the Australian Border Force. From Austal Website.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and its Modernization Drive is now on the Second Horizon in which multiple projects are either being planned or on the process of materialization. One of those things belongs to the Philippine Navy in which it desires to obtain a platform capable enough to be a deterrent such as submarines and vessels that will replace a portion of old, World War 2-era vessels such as the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) in which its program calls for at least six (6) units.

Now, such plans for Offshore Patrol Vessels recently became more known in mainstream media as Secretary of National Defense Mr. Delfin Lorenzana surprisingly discloses that the Philippine Navy will acquire such number of OPVs, as he said, from an Australian-based shipbuilding company Austal in which it obtains a shipbuilding facility in Balamban, Cebu City. From that point of view alone, this announcement a first comes with both enthusiasm and doubt in the sense that while this may mean more pride for the Filipino workers of the shipyard where they will build OPVs for the country and its national interest, it may also mean that the thoughts of the Technical Working Group of the Navy at that moment was seen to get set aside in which it may get problematic unless resolved. Nevertheless, the desire of the Defense Department to have this project on the roll is still a good thing considering that this is one of the plans that the naval force is ought to prioritize so as this will define the future patrol capabilities of the Naval fleet. And with the announcement with regards to the deal, things remain to be seen given that the works made by the Technical Working Group about it are still on-going, all in which they still assess supplier proposals as well as determining the specifications in which they see fit for the Navy to have in its Offshore Patrol Vessel Program.

With the hype such an announcement brought in the defense community, it is of no doubt that the interest with regards to the company itself, its products, and other details will be increased in the sense that these things may complement the needs of the Naval fleet if it proceeds, as it will get composed of newer hulls as the time passes by.

From the producers of U.S. Independence-class LCS
(In partnership with General Dynamics). 
Photo Source.
See website:

On its website, Austal describes itself as an Australian-based shipbuilder, defense contractor, and a partner of choice with regards to maritime technology. Given its Global Footprint, it serves its product to a wide range of customers which are both military and civilian in nature. Its main base is in Henderson, Western Australia with shipyards situated in Mobile, Alabama USA, and Balamban, Cebu City Philippines. Both the Australian and U.S. shipyards are specialized in defense-related vessels while civilian-ones are presently produced in the Philippine Queen City of the South (ref).

The shipbuilding company is notable with regards to the vessels it produced where several of it comes as revolutionary with regards to the design. Such ships definitely include the U.S. Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships where it was produced with the partnership of the U.S. shipbuilding company General Dynamics. It also produced numerous products in which it used aluminum as its primary material in which they consider as "high performance" where it is considered their expertise in terms of shipbuilding and construction. With regards to the Philippine Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Program, the shipbuilding company submits its tender along with its competitors which a bit provides some significance to the statements made by the National Defense Secretary. This shows that the Australian shipbuilding company, alongside its competitors, is keen to bag the award for this project wherein they can penetrate the Philippine military market in a way that these vessels serve as a foundation with potentials rising up to be a prospective supplier given if these things go in this way.

With this shipbuilding company submitting its design to the Navy, it is worth discussing the tender itself, given that specifications in-detail aren't available as for the moment, with the technical working group perhaps still taking its time to form the criteria that they are looking for especially in an Offshore Patrol Vessel in which the Naval fleet being the end-user.


In this project, Austal submits its design in which it is derived from the Cape-class Patrol Boats of the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Border Force where it complemented with the Armidale-class patrol boats on patrol roles in which several of such vessels participated in joint maritime patrols in areas like the waters of Zamboanga City.

Although it is derived from the Cape-class Patrol Boats, these vessels offered by Austal will be larger with 80 meters in length, the steel used in building the hull of the vessel, and obtains a helicopter deck as well as Austal’s MarineLink ship control system and ride control technology. To take note, the Cape-class Patrol Boats in service with the Royal Australian Navy is at 57.8m in length and produced in aluminum that Austal usually uses in its ships.

With little details regarding the specifications in which the Technical Working Group may still working on, perhaps a little idea may be provided with inputs coming from the members of this defense forum. To surmise the notes there, the considerations will definitely include the features that the Cape-class vessels presently obtain plus features added in their submitted design such as having RHIB davits and funnel on the midsection portion of the vessel, giving space for the helicopter landing pad on the stern of the ship. Add also that the Navy with its technical group considers that such OPV shall be armed with a 76mm cannon, two 30mm secondary guns with spaces provided for short air defenses, and anti-ship missiles. These weapons will definitely make these vessels more armed than a usual OPV provided that if these systems push through along the program with the hull. Other than the design features that Austal disclosed, the aspirations of the technical team might as well be hopeful that such weapons will be fitted given if the ships are found to be within their criteria. Otherwise, their assessments may consider other vessels in which, results may not much as clear until things are getting clear and settled. 

On the tender given by Austal as well as numerous others in this project, it comes with hopes and aspirations that a right choice shall be made in part of the technical team where, if all push through, will definitely end the problems to the fleet especially with regards to its operations to the old hulls that badly needs rest. From there, the naval fleet may become more efficient in its operations given that newer hulls have lesser maintenance demands to keep it operational compared to the ones that it will replace. 

Not only that, but these replacements also come with a better fleet wherein it will these things get armed more to the teeth, will help the organization deliver its mandate better in a sense that territorial seas that as better secured as what it is today.


Now, here is the gist to the words given by the Defense Secretary as well as the works of the technical working group at the moment. As discussed once again with the folks in the main Philippine Defense Forces Forum thread regarding the OPV project, it seems to be that the whole Offshore Patrol Vessel Program is still on its inception phase which explains the reason to the unavailability of the specifications on the project as of the moment.

While the Defense Secretary may have himself mistakenly provided those details the media and the people especially the defense community at the moment, the thoughts in this manner are that this is not really seen as "bad news at all." 

In fact, the statements made by a Government Official may be considered as a good Public Relations (PR) stunt favoring a shipbuilding company like Austal in the sense that the news outlets cover the story, with them on the picture in a way that their image gets better as well as their exposure amongst the people. Still, with the fact that this company submits its bid proposal to the technical group provides that chances are there for them to bag a deal in the same way that other shipbuilders participated also having such chances to bag the program and eventually penetrating the local Philippine military market. 

While the Technical Working Group is taking its time evaluating proposals in line to the prospective project provided and determine the ideal specifications for the OPV project, things may definitely wait until the first stage of bidding takes place where participating suppliers may have a chance whether to proceed or not, depending on the capacity they obtain to keep up to the specifications on a given budget or not. 

Now, given that the SecDef's announcement about a project that is not yet a done deal and still on its first step, this may serve as a chance for other suppliers to stand by their product proposals and prove their worth for Philippine Navy, in the same way as Austal submitted their tender only having a nicer PR on their side.

Damen OPV 1400 - A usual design for an Offshore Patrol Vessel. Photo Source
With messages that are mistakenly getting across and coming from an official, it definitely caught the people that are witnessing it, unaware of what is really going on where it arises more interest with regards to what would it be if such shipbuilder was chosen and if such product was offered.

These things simply make the project for Offshore Patrol Vessels much interesting wherein at its primary stage it gets covered by news sources to a wider audience in a sense that, like any Horizon 2 projects like the Corvette Project (which apparently is ahead than this one) is being materialized as the efforts of the Armed Forces are on its greatest in the sense that, in all of the works made by every military personnel within the organization, the primary goal is for them to deliver their respective mandate effectively and efficiently in the same way as businesses deliver their products and services for the satisfaction of the end-user which makes lives more significant as it ever be. From there, the role of a technical working group is always and definitely be that essential given that their job, as well as their qualifications on various technical fields, will make or break the capabilities of the Armed Forces as a whole where military systems that operate effectively and efficiently is something that influences the course of combat alongside the skills exhibited by assigned personnel.

Hence, with these Offshore Patrol Vessels, along with others comes with the hopes, dreams, and aspirations where, a minimum credible force is with the nation that guarantees the security and integrity of the Philippine Republic in a sense that the fleet composition will no longer have consisted of old vessels of today but rather, it will consist of better, more capable vessels of tomorrow. As for Austal, it might be nice for them to keep on competing and conform with the specifications provided in the best offer they can give in the sense that the Navy aims for an ideal OPV which is worth tax money spend on protecting territorial waters of this archipelagic nation.


As of September 26, 2018 -- 12:15pm PHT (GMT +8)

In its website, Austal presented its design which it will offer for the Philippine Navy for the Offshore Patrol Vessel Program. The specifications of the ship as provided on this website are as follows:

Length, Overall: 81.7 meters
Beam (molded): 13.3 meters
Maximum Hull Draft: 4 meters

This is what it looks like (especially the helideck is shown) in this photo below:
The Austal Offshore Patrol Vessel derived from Cape-class as offered
to the Philippine Navy.
As discussed in this article, this ship will be made with steel and to be produced in the country through their shipyard in Balamban, Cebu should this proceed. Its intended role as what the supplier discloses in its website will not only be limited to maritime patrol roles such as anti-piracy and anti-smuggling operations in areas like the Sulu Sea or open sea interdiction in areas like the Philippine Rise and the West Philippine Sea but it is also helpful for Search and Rescue and Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response matters if a calamity takes place. 

Nevertheless, if the shipbuilding commenced from that time comes, it will join ships like the BRP Tagbanua and the BFAR Multipurpose Patrol Vessels (MPPVs) made in Josefa Slipways as these aforementioned ships were made in the Philippines, catering jobs to the employees of these companies and are worthy to be called as "Vessels that are proudly built in the Philippines".

Hence, it might be nice to witness more of this development wherein these ships will define the capabilities of the Navy to patrol its waters as well as to provide the presence of such vessels in areas that need such a thing wherein it enhances maritime security and domain awareness.

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