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On 23 May, a new contractual milestone was crossed by the Belgium Naval & Robotics teams. Exactly one year after the notification of the contract, this programme reaches a new milestone. The overall programme calls for the delivery of twelve minehunters fitted with modern drone systems (Toolbox) to the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNlN) and the Belgian Naval Component.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the Belgium Naval & Robotics teams reached the new milestone within the framework of the two services’ mine warfare project, which validates the functional and architectural studies of all the systems relevant for the new minehunters designed by Naval Group, including computer networks, electrical installations, propulsion or combat systems, as well as those of all drones developed by ECA Group, all of which are key elements of the vessels. This review also focused on the systems of systems that provide mission management, communication and cybersecurity, as well as on the fitment of drone systems.

This milestone represents an important step because it demonstrates that the systems’ architecture of the armed ship meets the functional requirements of our Belgian and Dutch customers,” said Naval Group’s programme director Eric Perrot.

The twelve minehunters will be equipped with a total of a hundred drones managed in a pool called Toolbox, shared by the two navies and supplied by ECA Group. The configuration of the Toolbox, used on board each vessel or deployed from the shore, will vary depending on the typology of the missions, consisting of INSPECTOR125 unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), AUV A18M underwater drones and T18 towed sonars for mine detection, in addition to the Mine Identification and Disposal System (MIDS) for mine identification and neutralization.

“The requirement and the rigor of the client when passing these milestones are essential; we can thus approach the following phases of the program under sound conditions. Furthermore, the mobilization of our teams during the confinement period made it possible to ensure an efficient telework organization and thus meet the deadlines,” said ECA Groups programme director Jean-Louis Sambarino.

In charge of the preliminary design of the vessels, Naval Group works in close collaboration with Kership, which will carry out the detailed design of the platforms and their construction. Kership’s activities will start after crossing the Preliminary Design Review milestone, which is scheduled for December 2020.

The COVID-19 challenge was resolutely taken up and mastered by Belgium Naval & Robotics and our binational project team,” noted Commander Claude Bultot, programme director for the Belgian and Dutch navies. He added, “The flexibility, diligence and professionalism of both parties were the ingredients necessary for the success of this important step in the contractual deadlines. The constructive atmosphere and expertise of Belgium Naval & Robotics inspires confidence in the prospect of the next milestone this fall.

The contract for the twelve minehunters will span over ten years. After a design period of three years, Belgium Naval & Robotics will move on to the production phase of these vessels and drone systems, with an initial delivery scheduled for 2024.

Stefan Nitschke

 

Six modern minehunters will be delivered to the Belgian Naval Component and six to the RNlN, each fitted with the complete drone system consisting a total of more than a hundred underwater, surface and aerial drones entirely dedicated to mine warfare missions. (Artist impression: Naval Group/Belgium Naval & Robotics)

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