Australia’s Pacific Support Vessel Unveiled

Details have finally emerged about the Royal Australian Navy’s Pacific Support Vessel during a Senate Estimates hearing. Under questioning by Opposition Labor Senator Tim Ayres, Defence Department officials confirmed that a commercial Offshore Support Vessel had been bought in February. Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Reliant was formerly operated as MV Horizon Star by Horizon Maritime, before being purchased by Australia for US$67 million.

The Government first committed to building a ‘large hulled’ Pacific Support Vessel in 2018. However, last year it was revealed that the requirement for domestic construction had been dropped in favour of faster delivery, angering the opposition Labor party. 

A Royal Australian Navy landing craft from HMAS Canberra arrives at Nomuka Island, Tonga, to deliver humanitarian assistance stores during Operation Tonga Assist 2022. (Commonwealth of Australia)

The vessel is intended to supplement Australia’s larger amphibious warfare ships which are often deployed to the region in the aftermath of disasters. Unlike the Canberra class LHDs and HMAS Choules, ADV Reliant is expected to ‘operate semi-permanently’ in the South-West Pacific. This will allow the vessel to support resilience building and preparation activities before a disaster hits, while also staying on station during and after the event to provide a first-response capability. 

A Sikorsky S-92 landing aboard the then Horizon Star. (Horizon Maritime)

Whereas Australia’s amphibious fleet is based in Sydney, ADV Reliant will be based in Brisbane, where Australia maintains a massive stockpile of relief supplies. Australian warships deploying to the Pacific for disaster response missions first deploy to Brisbane to load supplies, slowing down their response time by days. Being based in Brisbane, ADV Reliant will be able to deploy faster with the needed supplies onboard.  

HMAS Adelaide prepares to depart the Port of Brisbane and sail for Tonga to provide humanitarian supplies and assistance. (Commonwealth of Australia)

ADV Reliant is well equipped for the humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) mission. Measuring in at 103 metres long, she has an overall displacement of 5600 tonnes as well as berthing for 60 crewmembers. Her aft deck, as well as featuring 1060m^2 of cargo space, has a high-capacity 150-tonne crane and moon pool. Forward of the bridge, Reliant is fitted with a helipad, which can support helicopters as large as the S-92

Defence has not provided a timeline for ADV Reliant entering active service and she is currently undergoing maintenance in the Canary Islands. When Reliant does enter service she’ll provide a unique capability for Australia’s Pacific Step-up. The procurement of Reliant will also free up other assets to practice for and perform their higher end missions.