On the 25th June, the Australian Department of Defence announced in a release that it had agreed to arm Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) new, Australian supplied patrol boats through the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
Australia has so far delivered two Guardian Class Patrol Boats to PNG, with a total of four currently planned. These vessels are intended as one to one replacements for PNG’s current fleet of four Pacific class patrol boats, all of which are currently armed with a single 20mm Oerlikon GAM-BO1 cannon as well as two 7.62×51mm machine guns.
What Australia intends to arm the new Guardian class vessels with is, at the time of reporting, unclear. An Australian Defence spokesperson told Overt Defense that this has not yet been agreed upon by Defence and PNG.
“The precise package to be provided, and the dates of installation, are still being agreed with Papua New Guinea.“
This leaves us to speculate as to what Australia will arm the four vessels with. According to Austal, the builder of the Guardian Class, the ships are capable of mounting a single 30mm main gun, with mounts also included for two 50 calibre machine guns on each side.
If PNG’s boats were to be armed in this manner, it would represent a substantial increase in capability and firepower. However, it would reduce commonality with the existing 20mm and 7.62×51mm weapons systems installed on the Pacific class vessels. Another option would be for Australia to simply carry over the systems currently installed on PNG’s Pacific class vessels, or install newer models of them. This would ensure more commonality in both training and logistics.
Australia’s announcement comes after an Australian company was awarded a $175 million contract to upgrade Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island for joint use. Australia is also ramping up its security engagement in the region more broadly, with ground recently being broken in the Solomon Islands for a new patrol boat base, funded by Australia.