The Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium, composed of Naval Group and ECA Group, were, on May 22, awarded the contract to supply twelve mine-hunting vessels to the Belgian and Dutch navies.
Equipped with a total of approximately 100 drones, constituting approximately ten drone (toolbox) systems, six ships are destined for the Belgian Navy, while the other six will be delivered to the Dutch Navy.
“The Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium as well as the Naval Group and ECA Group teams are honored by the confidence of the Belgian and Dutch navies and look forward to this upcoming partnership”, said a statement announcing the contract award.
Belgium Naval & Robotics offers a 2800-ton militarized ship specialized in mine warfare with military characteristics (acoustic and electromagnetic discretion, shock resistance) perfectly adapted to the operational use targeted by the Belgian and Dutch navies. In particular, this vessel incorporates a launch and recovery system for ECA Group’s INSPECTOR 125 unmanned surface vehicles (USV). This system ensures the safety of operators and maneuvers to protect the ship, the USV and its payloads, while offering a high level of mission availability.
The drone systems on board these vessels are the latest generation of drones developed by ECA Group over the past four years. They are integrated into the C2 MCM UMISOFTTM system connected to the Naval Group’s I4drones system to form the mine-warfare mission system integrated into the ship’s combat system.
The solution includes among others A18-M autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), T18-M towed sonars and Mine Identification & Destruction Systems (MIDS) composed of SEASCAN and K-STER C remotely operated vehicles (ROV). All these drones can be operated autonomously from the USV Inspector 125. The drone system also includes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and influence sweeps.
The program provides for the supply of drone systems that can also be projected. Containerized and equipped with handling and communication systems, mine-hunting drone systems can be airlifted and deployed directly from the coast without a ship.
ECA Group’s share of this program represents approximately 450 million euros. The 10-year program will start with a design phase that will last approximately 3 years before the production and delivery phases of the drone systems. The turnover recorded by ECA Group should be above 5 million euros by 2019, reach between 15 and 20 million euros in 2020, be around 40 million euros in 2021 and eventually reach between 50 and 100 million euros per year over the following 5 years. This contract is the largest ever won by ECA Group. However, it does not include any maintenance services that the customer may subsequently entrust to ECA Robotics Belgium, nor any sales of consumables. ECA Group’s order book is currently at a historic level of well over half a billion euros. ECA Group has sufficient equity and financial resources to deliver it. The objective of a turnover growth of 5% in 2019 should thus be significantly exceeded.
As the Belgian Navy is a reference in underwater mine clearance within NATO, this contract is a major asset for export. As with the tripartite mine-hunter program 40 years ago which generated sales of self-propelled PAP robots in several dozen navies in 20 years, this success in Belgium should generate many commercial export benefits in the coming years. ECA Group is already in discussions with several navies for the supply of robotic mine-hunting systems.