Den Helder, 29 June 2023 – The Dutch Ministry of Defence, Damen and Thales have signed the contract for the design, construction, and delivery of four Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Frigates; two for the Netherlands and two for Belgium. The agreement was signed on HNLMS Karel Doorman by Defence State Secretary Christophe van der Maat, Damen Shipyards Group CEO Arnout Damen, Damen Naval Managing Director Roland Briene, and Thales Netherlands CEO Gerben Edelijn during the first day of the Sail Den Helder maritime festival.
The ASW frigates are the replacements for the current Karel Doorman Class multipurpose frigates. They can be deployed for multiple tasks; however, the emphasis will be on anti-submarine warfare. The ships will have hybrid diesel-electric propulsion and will be designed to sail as quietly as possible, to avoid detection by submarines as much as possible. On board will be a comprehensive suite of sensors to detect submarines.
Dutch State Secretary Christophe van der Maat: “The acquisition of the ASW frigates is taking place in the way I prefer: through intensive cooperation, between countries, armed forces, and industry. In time, the result will be an innovative and powerful weapon system. This will benefit us as direct users, but also Europe and NATO.”
“This is a wonderful project and a special new chapter for our Damen Naval division,” said Damen Shipyards Group CEO Arnout Damen. “We are proud to be building these beautiful frigates and look forward to working with the many, mostly Dutch, partners and suppliers on this project. With these launching customer projects, we retain vital knowledge in our own country and thus maintain our place in the world's top tier of complex naval construction. More importantly, the crews of the Dutch and Belgian navies get state-of-the-art frigates to carry out their crucial tasks.”
From left to right: Roland Briene (Damen Naval Managing Director), Arnout Damen (Damen Shipyards Group CEO), Christophe van der Maat (Defence State Secretary), Gerben Edelijn (Thales Netherlands CEO)
“We are delighted that Thales has again been selected to supply sensor and fire control systems for a new class of ships for the Royal Netherlands Navy,” said Gerben Edelijn, CEO of Thales Netherlands. “The crew of the ASW frigates will be able to rely on our ultramodern Above Water Warfare System that provides effective defence against current and future threats. Together with the German F126 ships, the Belgian and Dutch ASW frigates will use identical, advanced technology for their defence and protection of high-value objects.”
The frigates will measure 145 metres in length, with an 18-metre beam. They will have a draught of 5.5 metres at a displacement of 6,400 tonnes. On board, there will be room for a 117-strong crew and capacity for additional personnel to sail with them. Among other things, the ASW frigates will be equipped with an Under Water Warfare Suite (UWWS), an Above Water Warfare System (AWWS) and underwater decoys. The ships will be armed with a 76mm gun, MK54 torpedoes, Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) and the Naval Strike Missile. The frigate can also accommodate other weapons, such as more powerful missiles and High Energy Lasers. There are also unmanned craft and aircraft on board for use on and under water as well as in the air.
The entire project is a joint operation with the Dutch Ministry of Defence, with some of the work to be carried out by the Ministry itself. Arnout Damen continues: “We have almost 150 years of knowledge, skill, and technology to coordinate and execute the design and construction of complex naval vessels. This is done not only in the Netherlands, but also at our yard in Romania, where the hulls will partly be constructed.” These hulls then come to Vlissingen for further completion, the installation and integration of weapon systems and, ultimately, commissioning of the frigates for deployment to the Belgian and Dutch navies.
The current Multipurpose frigates of the Karel Doorman Class were built from 1985 by Damen Naval (then called Koninklijke Maatschappij de Schelde). Between 1991 and 1995, eight M-class frigates were delivered, six of which were eventually sold to other countries, including two to Belgium. With the end of the service life of these ships in sight, the Netherlands and Belgium decided to jointly replace the ships with these ASW frigates. The first ship is expected to be delivered in 2029.