PARIS --- The Dutch Navy is on the verge of receiving a multi-billion euro investment, the Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported Thursday. In addition to the two M-Frigates, six minehunters are also being replaced by partly unmanned systems. There will also be new missiles, torpedoes and cannons, while the four air-defense and command frigates will undergo a thorough upgrade.
Secretary of State for Defense Barbara Visser officially announced this to Parliament’s Lower House on Thursday. In total, this involves an investment of 6.7 billion euros beyond the replacement of the submarines, for which an additional 2.5 billion euros has been earmarked.
According to a bilateral agreement on joint naval procurement signed in November 2016, the Netherlands is the lead nation for the procurement of frigates for both countries’ navies, while Belgium is to lead procurement of new minehunters for both.
In the State Secretary’s memorandum, naval forces seem to benefit most from the extra funds that this government is spending on the armed forces. By the end this cabinet period, it will eventually receive a structural 1.5 billion euros.
Frigates are the backbone of the navy, and their replacement is therefore essential. Because of their power, they ensure safety at sea, defense of their national territory and that of allies, and unrestricted sea transport. Where the air defense and command frigates specialize in air defense, the M-frigates are designed for anti-submarine warfare, which is a capability that NATO has a great need for. In addition to combat operations, frigates are also suitable for, for example, anti-terrorism, drugs and piracy control and the provision of emergency aid.
The construction of a complex ship like a frigate takes more than 7 years. The first new frigate is expected to be operational from 2025 onwards.
The current multipurpose frigates, the HNLMS Van Speijk and the HNLMS Van Amstel were commissioned into Navy service in 1991 and 1995, with a planned lifespan of 25 years. By 2024, new frigates must enter service to replace them.
The replacement of the M-frigates is estimated to cost 1 to 2.5 billion euros, Visser estimates, and the ministry would like to stay close to home, preferring a tender in which Damen Shipyards in Gorinchem would be the biggest contender, according to RTL Nieuws. Defense procurement is not subject to European procurement rules.
Another major purchase is that of a second supply ship. The Netherlands now has one supply ship, the joint logistic support ship (JSS) Karel Doorman after one - the Zr. Ms. Amsterdam - was retired in 2014 and sold to Peru. For a new ship, 250 million to 1 billion euros will be allocated.
A second Combat Support Ship (CSS) should increase the effectiveness of naval vessels, as they would have to leave the area of operations less frequently for a port visit. With a second support vessel, the Dutch Defense organization can permanently have supply capacity at sea and also make it available to NATO.
The CSS must be launched relatively quickly from 2023 onwards. For this purpose, the Defense organization will take the existing design of the JSS. Buying “off-the-shelf” has several advantages: use can be made of existing knowledge and experience, and the maintenance and training and training of the crew can be pooled.
The CSS is smaller than the JSS, but still the same as much as possible. Think of architecture and design, the command system, the armament and the use of (sub) systems as radar.
For a new ship, 250 million to 1 billion euros will be allocated.
New mine hunters
The Dutch Navy operates six Alkmaar-class minehunters. Developed and built in the 1980s in a joint program together with Belgium and France, and have now reached the end of their lifespan.
The deteriorated security situation increases the chances that naval mines could be deployed, and there are also many explosives on the coat left over from the First and Second World War.
The future of maritime mine control lies in unmanned and partly autonomous systems. These are deployed at a safe distance from a manned mine-control vessel. In addition, the minehunters are designed in such a way that they can operate worldwide and under high threat. The Netherlands will receive the new units, both manned and unmanned, between 2025 and 2030.
The cost of the replacement of the six Dutch mine hunters will fall in the same order of magnitude and the CSS, or less than 1 billion euros.
According to the memorandum to Parliament, a selection of other acquisitions planned by the defense ministry in the coming years for the Royal Netherlands Navy includes:
-- New generation of anti-aircraft missiles for M-frigates: 250 million - 1 billion euros;
-- Softkill defense system against torpedoes: 100-250 million euros;
-- Replacement 127 mm gun LC frigates; 100-250 million euros;
-- Replacement Harpoon system (surface-to-surface missile): 100-250 million euros; and
-- Replacement Goalkeeper system for self-defense against short-range air threat: 100-250 million euros.