French shipbuilding company Naval Group has laid the keel for the Royal Netherlands Navy’s second of 12 mine countermeasure (MCM) platforms, HNLMS Vlissingen.

A keel-laying ceremony was held in Lanester, France.

It was attended by the Royal Netherlands Navy’s commander vice-admiral René Tas, Netherlands Defence Material Organisation’s director of projects commodore Harold Boekholt and Belgian officials.

The 12 vessels are being built under the Belgian-Dutch rMCM programme.

Apart from 12 vessels, this programme includes the integration of around 100 drones inside a toolbox to equip the MCM platforms.

The programme was awarded to Belgium Naval & Robotics, a consortium of Naval Group and ECA Group, after an international competition in 2019.

The keel for the first MCM vessel was laid in December last year.

Naval Group and Piriou joint venture, Kership has undertaken the production of all the MCM vessels that will be assembled in Lanester and Concarneau in France.

Once assembled, the vessels will be armed afloat by Piriou in Concarneau.

As the prime contractor, Naval Group is responsible for the vessels’ design, integration, testing and commissioning of the mission system, including combat and mine countermeasures systems.

Meanwhile, co-contractor ECA Group is working on the production of uncrewed drone systems at its factory in Ostend, Belgium.

Naval Group CEO Pierre Eric Pommellet said: “Together, we are preparing the future of mine countermeasures by sharing a common game-changing defence solution.”

The vessels’ maintenance will be conducted in Belgium by Naval Group Belgium in close coordination with the Belgian Navy, with Flanders Ship Repair providing assistance.

The 12m-long, 20t MCM vessels can embark and launch a combination of surface, underwater and aerial drones.

It can use an autonomous system for the detection, classification and neutralisation of mines.