Belgium has notified the selection of the Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium, bringing together Naval Group and ECA Robotics, for the supply of 12 mine-hunting vessels and their toolbox (payloads).
The tender for the contract was launched in the summer of 2018.
Six ships are for the Belgian navy, the other six will be delivered to the Dutch/Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN). The contract, for which a budget of nearly two billion euros is planned, will last 10 years. The final notification of the contract should take place in the coming weeks.
Naval Group and ECA Group has been collaborating since the 1970s on naval mine clearing and on the minehunter programmes including the Belgian-Dutch-French Tripartite minehunter programme.
Belgian-Dutch Minehunter/Frigate Acquisition Programme
In June last year, Belgium and the Netherlands have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the purchase of new frigates and mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels for the navies of two countries.
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.
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.
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.