The contract for the construction and maintenance of twelve new mine countermeasures vessels has been awarded to the Naval Group/ECA Robotics consortium. These vessels, for both the Belgian and Dutch Navies, will be equipped with modular deployment drones. The two governments gave their agreement on March 15th. The European tender was managed by the Belgian Defense but both countries were part of the bid evaluation team.
In early 2018, the Belgian Minister of Defense and his Dutch counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly acquire a new minehunting capability so as to reduce the purchase and maintenance price per ship. The current ships are over thirty years old and will reach the end of their service life in 2023.
The future capability will use unmanned systems on the surface, above water level and under water to detect and neutralize mines. Thanks to this new method of work, the mothership and her crew will be able to stay out of the minefield because only drones will be active there.
Naval mines are relatively inexpensive and widely available weapons. They can easily prevent access to ports and waterways. An incident on the Scheldt or in the North Sea can represent a daily economic loss of fifty million euros. Ensuring the safety of waterways and ports is therefore crucial for our economy. Each week, our ships are engaged as they participate in international missions.
The Belgian Navy has been recognized for over 50 years for its expertise in the field of mine countermeasures. This modernization program will strengthen its position within NATO as an expert and pioneer in the field.
The new system will cost more than two billion euros. Our Navy is waiting for the first of its six ships in 2023. The first Dutch ship will be delivered a year later.