Australia's long-running coastline necessitates a large offshore patrol force. This fleet is embodied by the fourteen Armidale-class boats constructed by Australian-based Austal Ships from 2004 to 2007. The force began commissioned service in 2005 and HMAS Albany (ACPB-86) (the focus of this article) makes up one of her class (thirteen remain in active service with a sole boat retired as of April 2020). The class was used to succeed the aging Fremantle-class boats of the late-Cold War period. These were given up in 2007.
HMAS Albany (ACPB-86) was commissioned on July 15th, 2006 and homeports out of HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin. Her fighting motto is "Stand Tall". The boat is a collaborative effort incorporating European drive systems, American weapons, and local construction. The end-result is a multi-mission boat capable of undertaking several maritime roles as part of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) or in service with national agencies.
As built, the patrol boat has a rated displacement of 300 tons under standard load and dimensions that include a running length of 186 feet, a beam of 32 feet, and a draught of 8.9 feet. The shallow draught value is of note, allowing the boat to operate relatively close to shore / shorelines. The profile of the ship includes a trainable gun mounting at the forecastle, a streamlined housing direct aft, the bridge section at midships (complete with twin mast works), and a cut-down stern section seating two inflatable boarding boats.
HMAS Albany is powered by 2 x (German) MTU 4000 series 16V marine diesel engines developing 6,225 horsepower and used to drive twin shafts under stern. With her sleek hull design, the vessel makes headway at 25 knots, in ideal conditions, and can range out to 3,000 nautical miles when cruising at 12 knots.
Aboard is a typical operating crew of twenty-one personnel though this can be increased to twenty-nine as needed and an absolute maximum of 150 persons can be ferried if pressed. The boat can stay at-sea for the period of up to 42 days though a twenty-one day stint is more typical of the series. The vessel carries 2 x Zodiac Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) for boarding of target ships/boats and comes equipped with the "Prism III" series Radar Warning System (RWS) as well as the "Toplife" Electro-Optical (EO) detection system. The "Warrlock" serves as the direction-finding unit. The "Bridgemaster E" provides the surface-search / navigation capabilities needed.
Armament-wise, the boat showcases an American-originated 25mm M242 "Bushmaster" series chain gun on a trainable mounting over the forecastle and this is stabilized through the Israeli Rafael "Typhoon" system.
HMAS Albany is currently assigned to Attack Division joining sisters HMAS Armidale, HMAS Larrakia, and HMAS Bathurst. The boat is charged with peacetime operations that include immigration control, customs enforcement, fisheries protective services, and drug interception. General patrolling is also undertaken and would become the boat's primary directive in the event of Total War in the region.
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