The Australian Financial Review reports that the second Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) being built by Luerssen Australia and ASC for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) will enter service in March 2023, or six months after the originally scheduled date.
The delay in the construction and eventual delivery and commissioning of the future HMAS Eyre was confirmed by officials of the Department of Defence (DOD) during a recent Senate hearing.
No reasons for the delay have been disclosed, though DOD officials have denied that reported problems with weapons integration were a contributing factor.
Opposition assistant defence spokesman Pat Conroy blamed the delay on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “serial mismanagement of major defence projects,” which the Australian Labor Party said had also led to problems in the construction of the RAN’s other future surface combatant ships and submarines.
Mr Conroy added that there is a risk that the delays in the delivery of the first two Arafura-class ships will affect the rest of the OPV program, which will in turn adversely affect Australia’s border security operations.
Austal is currently building six Cape-class patrol boats at its facilities in Perth to serve as interim vessels for the RAN until the Arafura-class ships enter service.
The Cape-class program has itself come under scrutiny after investigations revealed that rust-prone, Chinese-made aluminium was used extensively in the construction of the first two boats, which now require rectification according to defence auditors.
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