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Paluma-class motor launch
HMAS Benalla (A 04) at IFR.jpg
HMAS Benalla on Sydney Harbour in October 2013
Class overview
Name: Paluma
Builders: Eglo Engineering, Adelaide
Operators: Royal Australian Navy
Succeeded by: Planned Australian offshore combatant vessel
In service: March 1988 – March 1990
In commission: February 1989 – present
Completed: 4
Active: 4
General characteristics
Type: Motor launch
Displacement: 320 tonnes
Length: 36.6 m (120 ft) length overall
Beam: 13.7 m (45 ft)
Draught: 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in)
Propulsion: 2 Detroit V12 diesel engines
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Range: 1,800 nautical miles (3,300 km; 2,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Endurance: 14 days
Complement: 3 officers, 11 sailors (plus accommodation for 4 additional)
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • Radar:
  • JRC JMA-3710-6 navigational radar
  • Sonars:
  • ELAC LAZ 72 side-scan mapping sonar
  • Skipper 113 hull-mounted scanning sonar
Armament: None fitted

The Paluma-class motor launch is a class of four hydrographic survey motor launches operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Built in Port Adelaide between 1988 and 1990, the four catamarans are primarily based at HMAS Cairns in Cairns, Queensland, and operate in pairs to survey the waters of northern Australia.

Design and constructionEdit

The Paluma-class vessels are based off the design of the Prince-class roll-on/roll-off ferry.[1] They have a full load displacement of 320 tonnes, are 36.6 metres (120 ft) long overall and 36 metres (118 ft) long between perpendiculars, have a beam of 13.7 metres (45 ft), and a draught of 1.9 metres (6 ft 3 in).[2] Propulsion machinery consists of two General Motors Detroit Diesel 12V-92T engines, which supply 1,290 brake horsepower (960 kW) to the two propeller shafts.[2] Each vessel has a top speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), a maximum sustainable speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) for a range of 1,800 nautical miles (3,300 km; 2,100 mi), and an endurance of 14 days.[2]

The sensor suite of a Paluma-class launch consists of a JRC JMA-3710-6 navigational radar, an ELAC LAZ 72 side-scan mapping sonar, and a Skipper 113 hull-mounted scanning sonar.[2] The vessels are unarmed.[2] The standard ship's company consists of three officers and eleven sailors, although another four personnel can be accommodated.[2] The catamarans were originally painted white, but were repainted naval grey in 2002.[2]

The four ships were built by Eglo Engineering, at their shipyard in Port Adelaide, South Australia.[2] The first, HMAS Paluma, was laid down in March 1988, and commissioned into the RAN in February 1989.[2] All four ships were under construction by November 1988, and the last, HMAS Benalla, commissioned in March 1990.[2]


All four vessels are homeported at HMAS Cairns in Cairns, Queensland.[2] They are used for hydrographic surveys of the shallow waters around northern Australia, primarily in the Great Barrier Reef.[2] The vessels generally operate in pairs.[2]


Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, the 2009 Department of Defence white paper, proposed replacing the Palumas, along with the RAN's patrol and mine warfare vessels, with a single class of multi-role offshore combatant vessels (OCVs).[3][4] The new vessels, which could displace up to 2,000 tonnes and be equipped for helicopter or unmanned aerial vehicle operations, will use a modular mission payload system to change between roles as required.[3][4][5][6]

Although the 2013 White Paper committed to the OCV as a long-term plan, it announced that life-extending upgrades to the Palumas would be sought as a short-term solution.[7]


  1. Saunders (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 2008–2009, p. 33
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Wertheim (ed.), The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, p. 28
  3. 3.0 3.1 Department of Defence (2 May 2009). Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. Commonwealth of Australia. pp. 72–3. ISBN 978-0-642-29702-0. OCLC 426475923. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Australian Offshore Combatant Vessels". Sea Power Centre – Australia. May 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  5. Thornton, Sean (January 2010). "The Rationale for the RAN Offshore Combatant Vessel". Navy League of Australia. pp. 6–10. ISSN 1322-6231. 
  6. Boettger, Daniel (December 2009). "The Offshore Combatant Vessel: Future Flexibility". Australian Naval Institute. p. 31. ISSN 1833-6531. 
  7. Department of Defence (3 May 2013). Defence White Paper 2013. Commonwealth of Australia. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-9874958-0-8. 


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