Belgium and the Netherlands have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the purchase of new frigates and mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels on June 8, the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced.
The MoU was signed by the Dutch Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld-Schouten and her Belgian counterpart Steven Vandeput on the margins of the two-day NATO meeting held in Brussels.
The Dutch and Belgian governments recently announced their intention to replace the multipurpose frigates and mine countermeasures vessels currently in service with the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) and the Belgian Navy.
Belgium is taking the lead regarding the purchase of 12 mine countermeasures vessels, six of which will be for the Netherlands, and the accompanying unmanned systems. The Netherlands is taking the lead with respect to the purchase of the multipurpose frigates. As the leading party, it will enter into a contract for four frigates, two of which will be for Belgium. This was agreed as per an MoU for the Common Procurement of Vessels, signed between defence Ministers from Belgium & the Netherlands, on Dec. 2016.
For the frigates, the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) requested a bid from local shipyard Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding and Thales Netherlands. Regarding the MCM vessels, several European designs are competing including Saab MCMV 80, BMT Group Venari 85 and Sea Naval Solutions Deviceseas.
The new frigates will replace the Karel Doorman-class (M-class) multi-purpose frigates in service with the RNLN and the Belgian Navy. The new frigates are planned to fulfill a general purpose role with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as its specialty.
The first frigate will be delivered to the Royal Netherlands Navy in 2024, while the first frigate for the Belgian Navy will be delivered in 2027.
The new MCM vessels will replace RNLN’s six Tripartite-class mine warfare vessels known in its service as Alkmaar-class minehunters. In case of the Belgian Navy, the newly acquired vessels will not only replace the six Tripartite-class minehunters but also the command and logistical support ship, Godetia (A960).
The New MCM ships will include a range of unmanned systems including unmanned surface (USV), aerial (UAV) and underwater vehicles (UUV) alongside towed sonars and remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) for faster and safer mine identification and neutralization. The vessels will have to protect the shipping lanes and are deployed within the framework of NATO.
The Belgian Navy expects delivery of its first vessel in 2023 while the RNLN is scheduled to receive its new MCM vessel no earlier than 2025.