Surface Forces: November 27, 2000


The Australian Navy's plan to lease 15 new patrol boats is in serious budget trouble. The date for bids to be received was recently delayed (again) and the bidders are strongly suggesting that the $216 million ceiling is not adequate for what Australia wants (a craft about 55m long carrying a medium cannon and a pair of 12.7mm machineguns.) Options include raising the budget, buying fewer ships and hoping that they are more reliable and thus could maintain the same number of at-sea days, or replacing the favored (but frightfully expensive) DS30B naval 30mm autocannon with a weapon in broader production and therefore cheaper, such as the German 27/30mm Mauser, French 25/30mm Typhoon, or US Mk96. Australia has upgraded three of its 500-ton Balikpapan-class 45m heavy landing craft and expects to complete the other three by 2002. The ships were first bought in the 1970s and had not previously been upgraded. The program is designed to extend their service lives to 2008, provide improved hydraulics, replace hull sections that show corrosion, provide water purification units, and improved sewage control.--Stephen V Cole


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