A new mine countermeasures solution to replace the Tripartite minehunters in the navies of both Belgium and the Netherlands has been selected. A contract for the production and maintenance of 12 new-build mine countermeasures vessels has been awarded to a consortium involving Naval Group and ECA Robotics following an agreement by both governments on the selection on March 15. While the tender was managed by Belgium, both countries participated in an evaluation of bids.
Belgium and the Netherlands agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2018 regarding a jointly acquired minehunting capability. The two countries operate closely together through the Benelux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg) mechanism, and in November 2016 announced that they would align their naval procurement approaches for joint acquisitions of multimission frigates (four) and minehunters (12).
Le contrat pour la construction et la maintenance de 12 nouveaux navires de lutte contre les mines a été attribué au consortium Naval Group / ECA Robotics. Ces bâtiments destinés aux Marines 🇧🇪et 🇳🇱 seront équipés de drones à déploiement modulaire https://t.co/E4RtXHqeUi pic.twitter.com/Yo2oZILDjs
— Belgian Defence (@BelgiumDefence) March 15, 2019
The Netherlands headed the frigate tendering process, with Belgium assigned the minehunting capability.
The Tripartite minehunters are over 30 years old and will come to the end of their useful service lives in 2023.
Under the new contract, the first new vessel will be delivered to Belgium in 2023, with the Dutch receiving their first ship in 2024 or 2025.
The total cost will run to EUR1.853 billion ($2.1 billion), with Belgium shouldering EUR887 million ($1.004 billion) and the Netherlands EUR966 million ($1.093 billion).
The mine countermeasures solution offered up by the Naval Group/ECA consortium involves the 12 aforementioned vessels acting as motherships and supported by unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and unmanned underwater vessels (UUVs).
The USV and UUV support elements will be used to detect and neutralize mines, which due to their low cost and easy accessibility threaten to block ports and waterways in conflict scenarios, thus necessitating a new approach that will allow the more cost-intensive capital ship to remain beyond the minefield.