A Naval Group-led consortium has been awarded a contract worth €2bn to supply 12 mine-hunting vessels and their payloads for the Belgian and Dutch navies.
The Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium will build the minehunters and their drone systems.
The construction and maintenance contract is valid for ten years. It was awarded following a tender managed by the Belgian Defence Ministry. The bid evaluation team included members from both countries.
The new vessels will replace the existing Tripartite-class minehunters that are more than 30 years old and will reach the end of their life in 2023.
Last year, the defence ministries of Belgium and the Netherlands entered into a memorandum of understanding to jointly acquire the vessels in a bid to reduce acquisition and maintenance costs.
The Naval Group-led consortium noted that the final notification of the contract is expected in the coming weeks.
Of the 12 minehunters, six will be used by the Belgian Navy and the remaining six are meant for the Dutch Navy.
The use of unmanned systems on the surface, above water level and underwater will allow the navies to detect and neutralise mines. The drones will ensure the vessel and crew stay out of the minefield.
Belgium’s defence ministry also noted that the mine-hunting vessels will safeguard waterways and ports.
The procurement of the ships will strengthen Belgium’s position within NATO, the ministry added.
While the Belgian Navy is expected to receive the first vessel in 2023, the Dutch Navy will get its first in 2024.
According to the Brussels Times, the minesweepers will measure 80m in length.