Dutch reveal dates for BEL/NL frigate deliveries

An artist’s impression of the four ships to be delivered under the Belgium/Netherlands anti-submarine warfare frigate (ASW-F) programme. Starting in 2029 with the Netherlands, the navies will receive a ship each in alternate years. (Credit: Defence Materiel Organisation, Netherlands)

The Netherlands Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed the delivery dates for the four new surface ships being procured under the collaborative Belgium/Netherlands anti-submarine warfare frigate (ASW-F) programme.

For the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN), its two frigates that are arriving as part of the programme will replace the two in-service, multi-purpose but ASW-focused, M-class frigates.

In a statement released on 3 April, the MoD said the RNLN’s new ASW frigates will be “in service from 2029”. Setting out the full schedule for delivering the two ships planned for each navy under the programme, the statement continued: “The first frigate is for the RNLN and should be ready for use in 2029. The second ship goes to Belgium a year later. The two remaining frigates will [be delivered] in the following years for the Netherlands and Belgium, respectively.”

The statement added that Belgium’s Council of Ministers had approved the purchase. This will enable the customer (the Netherlands Defence Materiel Organisation, acting on behalf of both countries) and supplier (Damen, as lead contractor and shipbuilder, and Thales Nederland, as radar and fire control system provider) to progress with programme planning.

Netherlands State Secretary for Defence Christophe van der Maat said “The new ASW frigates provide an important reinforcement of the RNLN’s striking power.”

This striking power is multi-role, despite the ASW focus. ASW capability will be provided by what the statement referred to as an underwater warfare suite bringing modern capability designed to “[give] the crew timely insight into the submarine threat”. The Dutch frigates will embark the NH-90 helicopter to generate organic air capability, including ASW. Strike capability will be provided by the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile. Raytheon’s ESSM Block 2 surface-to-air missile delivers the air-defence output.

The statement added that several contracts for ship sensors and weapons can be expected in mid-2023, with any remaining contracts set to follow later in 2023 or in 2024.

Within the ASW-F programme, the two navies are working together on ship design, acquisition, operation, and maintenance. “Belgium and the Netherlands are taking the next step in the field of international defence co-operation,” said van der Maat.

Construction costs for the RNLN’s two frigates “involve an investment of approximately EUR1.9 billion [USD2.1 billion]”, the statement said.

by Dr. Lee Willett