The Royal Netherlands Navy’s multi-purpose frigates (M-frigates) are deployed and maintained together with their sister ships of the Belgian Navy. The current four M-frigates of both navies are approaching the end of their lifetime. The replacement programme has started and is managed by the Dutch Ministry of Defence, in close consultation with Belgium. The new ship class will be called Anti-Submarine Warfare Frigate (ASWF).

Roles and capabilities

The main task of the new frigates will be to detect and fight submarines. This will be performed by way of a new torpedo, to be deployed from the ship or by the NH90 helicopter onboard. The so-called information warfare plays a prominent role, such as cyber and intelligence. In addition to the latest techniques in the field of submarine control, the ships will be equipped with a robust self-defence system against surface threat. They must be deployable worldwide for maritime combat and safety operations and assistance. This requires means of defence against threats from the air and enemy ships on and underwater. There is also extensive automation in order to be able to perform the tasks with a limited basic crew.

Programme details

The replacement process goes through the so-called A, B and D phases. In 2018, the A-letter with the requirement was submitted to the Dutch Lower House. The B-letter followed in June 2020, marking the completion of the research phase, with a design that meets the requirements of Defence and NATO. The partners Belgium and the Netherlands carried out the design process together with shipbuilder Damen and Thales, the supplier of the integrated radar and fire control system. In the meantime, there is formal permission to proceed with the acquisition preparation (the D-phase). The result is expected by the end of 2021. The Royal Netherlands Navy is expected to receive the first frigate in 2028 and the second one a year later. The Belgian frigates will be delivered no later than 2030.

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