With the expansive coastline maintained by Australia and the critical nature of trade and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, it is imperative that the Australian naval force be able to respond quickly to a variety of threats. The Attack-class patrol boat group was established in 1964 for coastal defense purposes and ultimately yielded twenty of the powered boats for serving. These vessels became replacements for the outgoing Bathurst-class corvettes which had operated since World War 2. One of the class Attack-class, HMAS Advance (P83), saw her keel laid down in March 1967 by Walkers Limited of Queensland. She was launched on August 16th, 1967 and officially commissioned on January 24th, 1968. After a career spanning two decades, the vessel was finally decommissioned on February 6th, 1988 and, today, finds herself an operational, preserved museum ship making up part of the collection at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
During her active service days, HMAS Advance fought under the motto of "Never Look Back". Within the twenty Attack-class vessels built, Advance numbered three in the line and was granted pennant number "83". The Attack-class was constructed from 1967 into 1969.
As built, Advance displaced at 100 tons under standard load and up to 150 tons when full. Her length measured 107.5 feet with a beam of 20 feet and draught of 7 feet. The hull was constructed out of steel to promote robustness in the heavy seas of the Pacific. Power was served through 2 x Paxman YJCM Ventura 16-cylinder, turbo-charged, diesel-fueled engines developing 3,500 horsepower while driving twin shafts. Couple with its streamlined hull, the boat could reach speeds of 24 knots and a range out to 1,400 miles. All told, she was crewed by 19 personnel made up of three officers and sixteen sailors. Advance was lightly armed for her given role, fielding 1 x 40mm Bofors cannon (in a turret over the bow) and 2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 heavy machine guns. Additionally, any small arms carried by the crew could be brought into play. Advance's profile included an elevated bow, a stepped centralized aluminum superstructure and nearly unobstructed stern area. Hand rails ran the length of her sides. A single smoke funnel could be identified at midships just aft of the superstructure. The bridge was clearly identifiable due to its section of windows.
One of the key design qualities of Advance was her equipment stock which utilized "off-the-shelf" components where possible. This was brought about through general necessity considering the vast Australian coastline and remoteness of certain regions, restricting access to any full-service naval stations for needed maintenance or repair. Advance, and her class, would be charged with operating well away from any such comforts and access to ready components at any established location along the Australian coast was a primary component of her basic operational existence.
From 1968 into 1980, Advance found her home port in Darwin and was charged with operations in northwest waters of Australia. During this time, she was used for surveillance, anti-smuggling operations, survey platform and for search and rescue sorties. In 1968 - at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union being the primary enemy - Advance monitored the suspicious Soviet trawler "Van Gogh" under the cause of spying and acted as a deterrent to such future actions. From 1975 into 1976, Advance made up the Australian naval force charged with ending illegal foreign fishing activities in the north. Advance managed to survive Cyclone Tracy during 1974 and undertook active patrols off of the east coast thereafter. In 1979, the boat starred as "HMAS Ambush" on the television series "Patrol Boat" and then served as a deterrent to terrorist actions again oil platforms in the region.
By this point, the Australian Navy was looking to its future and committed to the Fremantle-class patrol boat series. Fifteen of this class were eventually procured and their arrival signaled the end for Advance as an active frontline vessel. She was therefore relegated to training and eventually found a new home in Sydney with the Navy reserve component in early 1982. Decommissioned in February of 1988, the Australian National Maritime Museum took on ownership of the boat where she continues to be looked after today (2014). She remains in operational condition and actively takes part in some notable events while guided tours are made available.
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