French shipbuilder Naval Group has conducted a keel laying ceremony for the Belgian Navy’s new mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV).

The vessel is the first of the twelve MCM vessels that will be built under the Belgian-Dutch rMCM programme. It is intended for Belgium.

Awarded in 2019, the rMCM programme is being led by Belgium Naval & Robotics, a consortium comprising Naval Group and ECA Group.

This consortium is responsible for the construction of the new MCM vessels and a toolbox comprising nearly 100 drones to equip the vessels.

Naval Group CEO Pierre Eric Pommellet said: “This programme is the result of European cooperation between Belgium and the Netherlands, in which Naval Group is proud to participate.

“It is also the result of a solid industrial partnership and of a commitment to competitiveness between Naval Group and ECA Group.

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“Our teams will continue their hard work to deliver these latest generation ships, specialised in mine warfare and perfectly adapted to the operational use targeted by the Belgian and Dutch navies.”

Kership, a Naval Group and Piriou joint venture (JV), is taking the production responsibility of the 12 MCM vessels that will be assembled in Concarneau.

Naval Group is serving as an overall architect and prime contractor. It will be responsible for the ships’ design, overall integration, testing and commissioning.

ECA Group serves as co-contractor and is taking the responsibility of the uncrewed drones’ system.

The drones will be produced at ECA’s workshop in Ostend, Belgium.

First delivery of the vessel under the rMCM programme is scheduled for the end of 2024 in Belgium. Deliveries will continue until 2030.

Last month, Naval Group Belgium launched the MCM research and development (R&D) centre of excellence (CoE).