The mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) are the next-generation minehunters being offered by Belgium Naval & Robotics to enhance the MCM capabilities of both the Belgian Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy.
In May 2019, the Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium, comprising Naval Group and ECA Group, was awarded a €2bn ($2.4bn) contract to deliver 12 MCMVs, six each for the Belgian and Netherlands navies as part of the naval mine countermeasure capability replacement programme.
The new vessels will replace the Tripartite class minehunters operated by both countries for the past 30 years.
Construction of the first ship is expected to commence in the first half of 2021 and is scheduled to be delivered in September 2024.
The MCMVs are suitable for a range of missions, including identification and destruction of naval mines, anti-piracy, anti-terrorism, maritime traffic interception, as well as territorial waters surveillance.
Mine countermeasure vessel development
Naval Group and ECA Group exhibited the MCMV prototype during the PACIFIC 2019 held in Australia in October 2019.
In November 2019, Naval Group completed the testing of the MCM mothership launch and recovery system (LARS) at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) in Wageningen, Netherlands.
Belgium Naval & Robotics passed the systems functional review for the MCMV programme in May 2020, validating the functional and architectural studies of all the systems.
The vessels will be built by Kership, a joint venture between Piriou and Naval Group, and assembled at the Concarneau and Lorient shipyards in Brittany.
MCMV design and features
The new generation Dutch Belgian MCMVs will have an overall length of 81.4m, a beam of 17m, and a displacement of 2,800t. The vessel will be integrated with a launch and recovery system (LARS) for the on-board INSPECTOR 125 unmanned surface vehicles (USVs).
The ships can carry up to 100 drones, which will be managed in a pool called Toolbox that can be configured based on the mission-specific requirements. The Toolbox comprises surface and underwater drones such as USV INSPECTOR125 and A18M autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) respectively and T18-M towed sonars for mine detection.
The system will also include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and a mine identification and disposal system (MIDS), comprising SEASCAN and KSTER-C remotely operated vehicles (ROV) for mine identification and neutralisation. All the drones will be operated from the USV NSPECTOR 125-M in a specific zone.
The toolbox will also be installed with UMISOFT software used for mission management and data analysis.
The vessel will also carry USV INSPECTOR 125-S with magnetic and acoustic modules to perform mine clearance missions.
The new generation Dutch and Belgian mine countermeasure vessel will be equipped with two Sea deFNder remote weapon stations mounted with manned 12.7mm FN M2HB-QCB machine guns.
NS50 radar on board mine countermeasure vessels
The NS50 radar will offer self-protection capability to the vessels against airborne and surface threats. The fully software-defined sensor helps in providing dual functions between air and surface surveillance, along with fire control capability.
The radar will also enable the crew to evaluate the threat and deploy countermeasures to safeguard the ship.
It is the world’s most compact, affordable 4D multi-function naval radar with high-performance air and surface detection, tracking, and classification capabilities.
Propulsion and performance
The MCMV minehunter will be powered by two 6DZC motors and a 12VDZC generator set. It will have a cruise speed of 15k.
Thales was awarded a contract for delivering its new NS50 radar for the MCMVs in January 2021.
Naval Group and Kership selected Baliño for new lines of tail shafts and main propellers for MCMVs. Brusselle Carral is responsible for supplying the deck equipment for the ships.
ECA Group will deliver the Toolbox elements, which will be produced at a new plant in Ostend, Belgium. It awarded a procurement contract to UMS SKELDAR for supplying the SKELDAR V-200 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) in July 2020. The serial deliveries of the UAVs are expected to begin in 2023.
Naval Group and Kership selected ABC and FN Herstal for propulsion and combat systems respectively.
ENGIE Solutions was selected to install the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and cold rooms for 12 MCMV minehunters.
Flanders Ship Repair shipyards will manufacture the majority of mechanical parts and sub-assemblies, and will also provide maintenance services for the minehunters.