Damen Naval has signed a contract with the first Dutch supplier for the new anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates, following the recent official contract signing with the Dutch Ministry of Defence for the design, construction, and delivery of the new frigates.

Netherlands-based RH Marine will supply the integrated mission management system, the integrated navigation bridge system, and the integrated platform management system for each of the four frigates being built for the Dutch and Belgian navies.

The systems provided by RH Marine will allow the frigates to operate with a smaller crew, with a higher degree of automation supporting them, according to a 4 July release from Damen.

The Dutch-Belgian ASW frigates are replacements for the current Karel Doorman-class of multipurpose frigates built between 1985 and 1991 by Damen Naval (then the Koninklijke Maatschappij de Schelde).

A total of eight M-class frigates were delivered, of which six were eventually sold to other countries, including two to Belgium. With the end of the service life of these ships in sight, the Netherlands and Belgium decided to jointly replace the ships with these ASW frigates with the first ship scheduled to be delivered by Damen Naval in 2028, and operational by 2029.

In June, European defence provider Thales signed a contract to deliver the above water warfare system (AWWS) fire control cluster and sensor suite for Dutch and Belgian frigate programme.

The AWWS will be based on the APAR Block 2 X-band and the SM400 Block 2 S-band radars, allowing the reconfiguration of tasks within a one-radar system.

In addition to the AWWS, Thales will supply the Mirador Mk2 electro-optical fire control sensor, the Gatekeeper Mk2 electro-optic observation sensor, and the Scout Mk3 low detectability naval surveillance radar.

Increased defence spending power

According to GlobalData’s Defense Market 2023-2028 report on the Netherlands, the country has committed to increasing defence spending in recent months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prior to this, the Netherlands had committed to meeting the 2% of GDP target required to meet NATO goals. This increase will see the country spend $22.0bn (€20.2bn) on defence by 2027, climbing from its current level of $20.7bn in 2023.

Meanwhile, Belgium’s defence budget is forecast to grow to $7.9bn by 2027, according to GlobalData’s Belgium Defense Market 2022-2027 report, increasing significantly from its $5bn level in 2022.

The increase in expenditure will allow Belgium to pursue modernisation projects including those in the naval domain, with the country committing an extra $10.8bn by 2030.