The first of four Guardian-class patrol boats for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force's (PNGDF's) Maritime Element has been commissioned, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) announced on 12 February.
HMPNGS Ted Diro (with pennant number 401) entered service in a ceremony held on 1 February in Port Moresby that was also attended by Chief of the Australian Defence Force General Angus Campbell.
The vessel, which had been handed over to the PNGDF by Australian shipbuilder Austal in November 2018, is the first of 21 boats of the class to be gifted to 12 Pacific Island Nations and Timor-Leste as part of Australia's Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (Sea 3036) programme, which is aimed at enhancing maritime security co-operation across the South Pacific region.
Ted Diro had been launched by Austal in May 2018 and commenced sea trials in August.
The vessel has an overall length of 39.5 m, a beam of 8 m, and can accommodate a crew complement of 23. It is powered by two Caterpillar 3516C engines and can attain a top speed of 20 kt.
The steel-hulled boat was built with space and weight considerations for a 30 mm naval gun as a primary weapon, as well as port and starboard mounts for 12.7 mm general-purpose machine guns.
The Sea 3036 programme, which seeks to enhance the security of Australia's maritime region by augmenting the maritime capabilities of its immediate neighbours, will replace a current fleet of 22 patrol boats gifted to Pacific Island states between 1987 and 1997.
The 13 countries set to receive these boats are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The next vessel will be gifted to Tuvalu in April 2019, and the last will go to Timor-Leste in October 2023, according to the Australian Department of Defence (DoD).
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