HMAS Melville hydrographic ship of Australian Navy returns at sea after critical maintenance

According to information published on December 11, 2020, the HMAS Melville, a Leeuwin-class hydrographic ship of the Australian navy returns at sea after a number of weeks of critical maintenance. The was launched midway through 1998. The ships were built by NQEA in Cairns, North Queensland.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 HMAS Melville Leeuwin-class hydrographic ship of Australian Navy. (Picture source BAE Systems)

The Leeuwin-class hydrographic ship has been in service for 20 years and during this time has spent many hours at sea enabling safe navigation, supporting maritime trade and supporting ongoing protection of Australian borders. BAE Systems Australia has provided front line maritime sustainment for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at the Tropical Reef Shipyard for more than two decades.

The HMAS Melville (HS 02/A 246) is the second ship of the Leeuwin class of hydrographic survey vessels in service with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). HMA Melville enables the Australian Hydrographic Service to gather high-quality hydrographic information at a much greater rate than the ships they replace. The ship is 71 meters in length, with a beam of 15 meters, and a draught of 4.3 meters. The ship displaces 2,550 tonnes and is manned by a crew of 46 officers and sailors.

A state of the art Hydrographic Survey System (HSS) developed by STN Atlas will integrate accurate position information with data from a multi-beam echo sounder, towed side-scan sonar, single beam echo sounder and a forward-looking sonar. The ships will also carry three fully-equipped 9-meter Survey Motor Boats for surveys in waters not suitable for the ships themselves. Both ships are capable of carrying a helicopter to assist in survey operations.

The HMAS Melville is powered by four GEC Alsthom 6RK 215 diesel generators, which supply two Alsthom electric motors, each driving a propeller shaft. A Schottel bow thruster is fitted for additional maneuverability. The ship can reach a maximum speed of 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph), with a range of 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 km; 21,000 mi) at 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph).

The sensor suite consists of the HMAs Melville of an STN Atlas 9600 APRA I-band navigational radar, a C-Tech CMAS 36/39 hull-mounted sonar, an Atlas Fansweep-20 multibeam echo sounder, an Atlas Hydrographic Deso single-beam echo sounder, and a Klein 2000 towed sonar. The sonars and echo sounders allow the vessels to chart waters up to 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) deep. There are three sets of davits fitted to carry Fantome-class survey boats. The ship is fitted with a helicopter deck for an AS 350B Squirrel helicopter (detached from 723 Squadron), although there are no long-term hosting facilities. She is armed with two single 12.7 mm machine guns. The ship's crew consists of 10 officers and 46 sailors, plus up to 5 trainees.