The Ministry of Defence no longer plays a leading role in naval innovation, claims guest contributor Jeroen de Jonge, Business Director Naval Programs at TNO, in SWZ|Maritime’s June navy special. Disruption, however, lies not so much in inventing something entirely new, but in cleverly applying existing technology that disrupts the opponent’s paradigm. 

That is why the Royal Netherlands Navy must not only strive for the most innovative design of naval vessels possible, but also to respond adaptively to technological developments throughout their lifespan. De Jonge adds that innovating is also a way of investing in the future. 

The article appeared in Dutch in SWZ|Maritime’s June 2020 issue, but was later translated for our website. Read the full article below.

This article is about the importance of innovation in the Dutch naval cluster. In that context, I cannot ignore the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. As former Commander Royal Netherlands Navy, now Chairman of Nederland Maritiem Land, Rob Verkerk recently wrote in his letter to the Dutch Cabinet, the shipbuilding sector is late-cyclical. This means that the drop in demand will not translate into a shrinking order book until 2021. How does this drop in demand occur?

On top of the corona crisis, there is first of all a global energy crisis, with negative oil and electricity prices. This means that the oceans are filled with ultra large crude carriers full of oil that have no customers and that wind and solar farms have overproduction because energy demand has reduced. The cruise market has come to a standstill, goods flows have halved and therefore the demand for new ships on the market is reserved for parties with a war chest. 

Secondly, the corona crisis is costing governments tens of billions of support money that cannot be spent on investments. Thirdly, Gross Domestic Product is down 7.5 per cent, creating a deeper hole in government finances as tax revenue is lost. The budget deficit increases and the Dutch national debt rises to 65 per cent. This is an unfavourable scenario for the naval construction cluster and, without a well thought-out plan, will lead to a perfect storm.

Security environment

Relations between global powers are dynamic by nature, but are kept in equilibrium by either a balance, such as during the Cold War, or a clear global hegemony, as in the last two decades of the last century. This balance is now disturbed as the world moves towards a new equilibrium – familiar structures lose meaning and this offers opportunities to those in power with ambition.

Because of globalisation in trade, data and social relations, interests are interwoven and it is not alluring to start a war. Moreover, structures such as NATO are still strong enough to close ranks in the event of an act of war. So a challenger like Putin pushes the limits with provocations, disinformation and alliances with other despots, while China expands its influence through the New Silk Road and plays the card of dependence on cheap consumer goods and raw materials. Both, in my view, are forms of hybrid warfare without a single shot being fired.

The information domain is vulnerable to cyber attacks

The complexity of inter-state dependencies is increasing and so is our vulnerability. The information domain is vulnerable to cyber attacks and our society has become completely dependent on information. For the time being, the energy transition increases our dependence on Russian gas. Huawei is the cheapest provider of 5G technology. The Internet of Things results in there being eyes and ears in our own living rooms. There are many technological vulnerabilities, and more on that later. What do all these developments mean for the Navy?

The future maritime conflict

Since the Second World War, the United States of America have held supremacy on the world’s oceans. That Pax Americana enabled the undisturbed supply of goods to and from Europe via the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), allowing the EU to flourish. These same supply lines are now under pressure from China’s increasing Sea Power and, to a lesser extent, Russia. If Washington’s policy remains unchanged, adjusted for prices, the Chinese navy will overtake the US navy in terms of capacity over the next decade. This will not lead to a Pax Sinica, but rather to regional supremacy, for example in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

Russia can easily shut down its Arctic and Baltic Sea Bastion for unwanted naval activities – Anti Access & Area Denial. This is a form of asymmetrical warfare in which the enemy is expected to avoid losses; think for example about ballistic and fast cruise missiles from land and submarines against aircraft carriers, but also the deployment of drones on the surface or underwater against smaller naval vessels.

According to the UN, by 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population will live in mega-cities, most of which will be within 100 kilometres of the sea. There are exceptions such as Delhi, but logistically it is more convenient and cheaper to supply tens of millions of people with goods by sea than by land. And since conflicts always take place between people, controlling them from the sea is obvious.

The sea is not just a military domain, our raw materials, food and energy are also increasingly coming from the sea. Wind farms, oil and gas platforms, fish farms, floating solar farms and tidal power stations increasingly provide for the hunger of our growing world population. Nearly all our data traffic runs through submarine cables that offer thousands of miles of highly vulnerable infrastructure to opponents who want to take advantage of this.

The classic maritime tasks of the Navy will not change all that much in the future, except for the way in which they are executed

Our dependence on space is another such vulnerability. Naval vessels, unmanned systems and merchant vessels are, now and in the future, completely dependent on satellite connections. Not just for sharing information for the armed forces at sea, but also for all logistical processes, business operations and maritime safety. Positioning, weapons guidance, but also time measurement runs via the American GPS or the European Galileo. Who can still use celestial navigation or keep track of stocks manually?

The classic maritime tasks of the Royal Netherlands Navy will not change all that much in the future, except for the way in which they are executed. That may seem remarkable, but despite all the technology and changing relations, it is still about security at sea and from the sea. With a maritime presence, preferably in all areas where the Netherlands has interests, in support of our diplomacy; with the capacity to control sea areas and deny others their use with escalation dominance across the entire spectrum of violence; with the ability to exert influence on land and, finally, to maintain safe passage worldwide. All this, oftentimes, as part of a coalition.

Despite the great importance of the sea, constant attention to multi-domain capabilities across all of the armed forces is required. Sometimes the navy supports land operations, sometimes the other way around and above or close to land, the air force provides indispensable superiority, because air superiority is the precondition for effective and safe operations. But we must also fully integrate the two new domains, cyber and space, into the classic domains. Let’s first look at which technologies influence maritime operations.

Technology and adaptation

TNO, with its laboratory that is home to naval innovation, carries out technology foresight studies for the Ministry of Defence and the national police, which are presented annually in an overview, the technology radar. It goes too far to cover all technology developments relevant to Defence here, but in a general sense, attention should be paid to innovations in the civil domain. After all, the leading role that the Ministry of Defence played in innovation in the past (for instance Teflon, GPS, transistors, nuclear energy) has now been overtaken by the Silicon Valleys and Shenzens of this world.

Disruption therefore does not lie in inventing something new, but in cleverly applying existing technology in order to disrupt the opponent’s paradigm. The best example is Apple versus Nokia. In order to prevent the Royal Netherlands Navy from becoming the new Nokia and no longer being able to participate in the full spectrum of violence, it must not only strive for the most innovative design of naval vessels possible, but also to respond adaptively to technological developments during the full life cycle of these valuable capabilities. Nevertheless, it is good to point out a number of developments for the maritime domain.

The leading role that the Ministry of Defence played in innovation in the past has now been overtaken by the Silicon Valleys and Shenzens of this world

Unmanned and autonomous operation

Unmanned and autonomous are often used interchangeably. True autonomy does not require human intervention to accomplish a capacity’s mission. Auto = self and nomos = law, that is, governed by its own laws (Wikipedia). Unmanned systems are preferred to perform the three D’s: dull, dangerous, dirty. This does not mean that no people are involved. Above the surface, real-time communication with the system is possible, allowing large amounts of data to be exchanged. This allows operators to eliminate a target in Afghanistan with high precision from Fort Meade.

Underwater is a different story: water absorbs radio signals and sound has a limited bandwidth. Nevertheless, innovation is moving at a rapid pace: TNO and international partners have developed a modem that allows digital communication (voice and text) between submarines and special forces under water.

The crux lies in learning the difference between an oil drum and a mine

However, the most interesting step is autonomy. In the future, naval mine countermeasures can be carried out quickly and efficiently with autonomous underwater vessels, without the need for any human being in the mine danger area. To do so with a high degree of accuracy, the chances of mines not being detected and destroyed must be minimised. The crux lies in learning the difference between an oil drum and a mine. This requires large datasets, just like a self-propelled car. Artificial intelligence offers a solution here, but for now the experienced operator still has to watch.


Drones can already replace fireworks shows. These are swarms that can display pre-programmed patterns completely autonomously. However beautiful, the technology causes concern because the same drones, especially in coastal areas, can be used to carry out asymmetrical attacks on ships against which there is as yet no defence. At least, not kinetically.

The numbers, size and unpredictable behaviour create a formidable threat. The only solution is an energy weapon that either destroys the electronics or performs a hack. The design of naval ships must allow for that.

Laser weapons

Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) and laser weapons are in an advanced stage of development. The Ministry of Defence is currently investigating several alternatives that are available military-off-the-shelf. The usability of lasers at sea is debated due to meteorological conditions (salt spray, moisture, fog, etc.).

TNO has also set up a laboratory in Ypenburg for research into lasers

However, it is not a replacement for existing systems such as guns and guided weapons, but a very useful addition. After all, in large parts of the world the conditions are suitable for the use of lasers and the advantages are numerous: low operating costs, no ammunition, high reaction speeds and it is very difficult to escape the beam.

In order to be able to understand this technology properly, TNO has also set up a laboratory in Ypenburg for research into lasers. This is to help the Ministry of Defence gain knowledge about the use of and defence against lasers.

Quantum Sensing

Quantum Sensing is one of the most promising disruptive technologies. Today there are countless examples of it, such as the laser rangefinder, the magnetic anomaly detector and the atomic clock. What matters is the high precision of the measurements, coupled with high computing power. The need to cool detectors to absolute zero has been solved, which makes them widely applicable. What’s more, the size is getting ever smaller.

For the maritime domain, two quantum sensor applications are cause for concern, even for MPs in a recent debate on submarines. The first is the quantum-gravitometer, which can measure very small disturbances in the earth’s gravitational field, for example when a large object like a submarine moves underwater. The second is the quantum-magnetometer, which can detect very small disturbances in the earth’s geomagnetic field, which can also be potentially disastrous for a steel submarine.

Nevertheless, there are some comments to be made. First of all, the ocean is very big, so you either need a lot of these kind of systems, or you already need to know where the submarine is approximately. Secondly, the geomagnetic field itself is very fluid and causes noise from everything that contains iron (including the seabed). This makes China’s claim that it is capable of closing off the South China Sea with this technology from space still implausible for the time being. Gravimetric detection is certainly possible, but the ranges are still limited – about 100 metres in trials at the University of Glasgow. But since this article is about innovation, quantum is certainly a technology area for the navy to invest in.

3D printing or stockpiling?

Although 3D printing has actually already found its way into the living room, it is worth mentioning in the maritime context. The most interesting thing is that printing can do more than traditional manufacturing – form actually follows function. Inventory management is simpler because spare parts are digitally stored and can be printed with raw materials. This can drastically change traditional stock management. It is also possible to print energetic materials, such as the propelling charge in shell casings. This consists of small cubes with cavities, making combustion more effective.

3D printed ammunition at TNO.

On-demand printing also means that the dangerous ageing of ammunition by storage can be largely solved. One point for attention is the raw materials chain: it must be available to the Netherlands autonomously and not be dependent on the Chinese Silk Road 2.0.

The virtual world

Virtual reality (VR) has existed as an application for decades. According to Wikipedia, the word dates from 1989, the beginning of the digital revolution. We know VR from the game industry and from science fiction films (Star Trek’s Holodeck). In the design process of complex naval vessels, VR is invaluable, because without much effort a digital twin of the concept can be made with which the future user can influence the design. In addition, the realism of the environment is subordinate to the goal. During operational deployment, the digital twins can be used in a maritime operations centre to allow specialists to watch with maintenance personnel via remote sensing, leading to a reduction in crew.

Augmented reality we know from football and swimming games. This involves adding information to the real environment that is important for the operator during operations. This can be done, for example, with special glasses.

On board, mixed reality can save lives

Mixed reality goes a step further: digital objects are added to the real environment (such as avatars, the digital version of man). MR is particularly useful in training courses such as fire and damage control and special forces simulators. On board, this technology can save lives, because in the event of a calamity, all information about damage can be clearly presented – even fire, leaks or casualties on the other side of a watertight bulkhead.

Hypersonic weapons

In general, ammunition is becoming smarter and more precise. Electronics are getting smaller, radar antennas for the firing signal even fit in small calibre ammunition. Propulsion with ramjets enables very high speeds for both grenades and long-range missiles. Hypersonic missiles use scramjet technology to reach speeds up to Mach 10 or more, at very high altitudes.

They complicate the defence of naval ships because there are only seconds between the moment of detection and the moment of impact. This makes the classic concept of layered defence very complex. In the event of multiple attacks, man can no longer exert any meaningful influence on the decision-making process and the computer has to take over.

The transparent ocean

The discussion about the “transparent ocean” played a role in the acquisition process for the replacement submarine capacity for the rapidly ageing Walrus class. Thanks to the quantum technology already mentioned, detection with synthetic radar from space coupled with unlimited computing power, claims are made that any submarine could be detected in the near future, even without sonars.

If that were true, it would make the submarine weapon irrelevant. Not only would this be a huge setback for our own boats, it would also threaten the nuclear balance between the superpowers. After all, the large ballistic boats (boomers) provide a second strike capacity that is one of the pillars of that balance. The fact that all superpowers are still investing billions in new boomers is proof that the ocean is not yet transparent for the foreseeable future, but here too the Nokia effect is lurking.

The ocean is not yet transparent for the foreseeable future

It is conceivable that peer competitors (equal opponents) could cover parts of the ocean or coastal waters under Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) with a network of sensors, limiting the freedom of action of our unique capacity. This is undesirable and the Netherlands must therefore continue to invest in this knowledge.

What about man?

In all technological developments, the human being must remain central. The human being is part of a chain, of an organisation and uses technology to achieve goals. In Soesterberg TNO researches human-machine interaction, teamwork, the cognitive load capacity of the operator, the significance of new technology and especially its limitations. Old paradigms will perish and new ones will have to be defined. We can learn from society, from civil companies and from the gaming industry. If one thing is clear, it is that man determines the adaptability of military capabilities. Armed with this knowledge, we will now look at some important innovations that are now ready for the Navy’s surface ship replacement programmes.

Innovation in RNLN replacement programmes

Robust platforms

Innovation is important, but once on board the equipment has to perform as designed in a reliable way. Robust design is therefore of vital importance, especially for small crews. This must be an integral part of the design process, particularly when selecting vulnerable subsystems. Not only the hardware is vulnerable, the extremely complex software must also function at all times. Nothing is more frustrating than having to look at a rotating wheel on your screen during a missile attack.

Robust means not only reliability, but also insensitivity to disruption and (weapon induced) damage. Redundancy and self-recovering systems, such as DINCS (distributed intelligent networked control system), are already available and should be common in any new design. Finally, robustness also lies in “dormant innovation potential”: generous tonnage, power generation and modular spaces, e.g. for the integration of unmanned systems.

Energy strategy

Although the world’s supply of fossil fuels will not be depleted in the coming decades, the trend towards climate-neutral operations has also been translated into policy for the Ministry of Defence – the Defence Energy and Environment Strategy. By 2050, dependence on fossil fuels must be reduced by seventy percent compared to 2010. For naval vessels, the combined energy consumption of propulsion, hotel use and subsystems is so high that the energy density of the fuel carried is an important consideration.

Marine diesel oil (MDO) is still the most efficient energy carrier. The navy would like to become a launching customer when introducing energy concepts that in the long term reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This is not only important from the point of view of climate targets. For an expeditionary navy, the limiting factor is the availability of fuel. The supply chain starts in geopolitical risk areas. The price of oil is also highly volatile, which is detrimental to an organisation that wants to be financially predictable.

Hydrogen and LNG are being researched in the Netherlands as an interim fuel solution.

But the supply at sea, with auxiliary vessels such as the Karel Doorman and the Den Helder, can also be interrupted by a well-aimed torpedo attack. Alternative fuels are therefore of strategic importance, but until then, large fuel tanks come in handy.

In the medium term, the solution is an interesting innovative mix of diesel-electric sailing, energy-efficient hotel services, storage in solid state lithium batteries, optimal hydrodynamic design, good antifouling and a smart operation profile, but above all human behaviour. Hydrogen and LNG are being researched in the Netherlands as an interim fuel solution.

The ship as a crew member?

Dutch naval vessels have traditionally been cleverly designed, especially when it comes to integrating all sensor, weapon and communication systems. This is done in-house, at the JIVC Maritime IT software house in Den Helder. In addition, the Defence Materiel Organization acts as a system integrator, which leads to risk reduction and therefore lower costs. Manning and automation is the name of the research programme in which government, knowledge institutes and the naval cluster work together to provide future naval vessels with automated systems to provide the operator with maximum support in his tasks. This involves combat, platform and bridge management.

Dutch naval vessels have traditionally been cleverly designed, especially when it comes to integrating all sensor, weapon and communication systems

If all those systems use a common standardised back bone (GAUDI – Common Architecture for Defence and Industry), smart software can extract all the necessary information from the “system” and make operations easier, especially with intensive support from the shore. The future is full man-machine integration, where human aware artificial intelligence analyses the data and anticipates operator behaviour in a wide variety of scenarios. Self-learning algorithms ensure optimal deployment of weapons, but also know the consequences of incurred damage for the command aim, which translated freely means the operational priority list of the commanding officer. So the ship thinks along with the crew as a fully-fledged crew member.

World-class radar and fire control

Thales Netherlands and TNO are working on a completely new generation of fire control: the Above Water Warfare System (AWWS), linked to the new, fully Dutch and fully integrated X/S band radar high up in the mast. This radar suite has been developed in a unique public-private partnership within Platform Nederland Radarland.

High is important to be able to see far and to increase reaction time, which is why most new European frigates have not very pretty high masts. The future of above water warfare lies in networked detection with proprietary and distributed sensors, on manned and unmanned platforms, on and above the water, coupled with very fast interceptors and lasers. A lone naval vessel, such as the new ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) frigate, would otherwise be a sitting duck.

Collaborating with F-35 fighters gives the ship even better survival chances within range of airbases and the first tests in this area have already been done. On the ocean, however, it is very vulnerable.

Data, information and intelligence in all domains

Military operations are increasingly dependent on the timely availability of the right information. This is no longer just the situational awareness that can be built up around the ship using its own sensors. The naval vessel is part of a networked structure, both with its headquarters at home and with ships with which it operates. The opponent’s behaviour is determined by factors on a political, strategic, operational and tactical level. What happens on land influences the situation at sea and vice versa.

Space is thus, in a sense, the battlefield of the future

Therefore, in addition to classic warfare areas such as submarine combat, the crew must be competent in information warfare. Because this information comes from outside their own ship, the dependence on satellite connections increases. Space is thus, in a sense, the battlefield of the future. Microsatellites, possibly fired from their own launcher, provide both situational awareness and communication with home. Laser light has a high bandwidth and cannot be eavesdropped on, making it a good candidate for satellite communication.

TNO is investigating the specific usefulness of this technology for the Ministry of Defence, also at sea. For the new ships, the data hunger means above all sufficient space on the already overcrowded upper decks for all these communication systems.

The art of (not) being seen

Signatures are an important design driver for naval ships. They determine to what extent a ship can be detected, but also how accurate a weapon system fired at the ship is. The classic example is HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, which managed to escape from the Dutch East Indies in the Second World War by disguising itself as an island – the visual signature was the most important at the time.

The radar cross section (RCS) is an important signature today: the lower it is, the more difficult it is to detect the ship with radar. This is clearly visible in the design: the hull is at an angle and interruptions are avoided or covered as much as possible. Innovative (composite) materials can also absorb radar energy to give the ship even more stealth properties.

The radiated heat is important for the infrared signature. By insulating the ship and cooling radar plates and exhaust gases, it can be reduced to a significant extent. The vessel’s wake can be measured from space, making it easy to trace its position and transmit its location to long-range weapons. To reduce the wake, revolutionary new designs (catamaran, trimaran) should be considered.

Underwater, the ship emits sound that can be picked up by submarines, drones and mines – the acoustic signature. By mounting all rotating systems on insulating blocks or springs it is largely removed. But the propeller also makes noise (cavitation) and that is where there is still room for improvement. By making the propellers out of composite and laminating smart glass fibre sensors into them, the automation can measure its own noise and ensure noise reduction at all speeds (and speed changes).

To reduce the wake, revolutionary new designs (catamaran, trimaran) should be considered.

Because ships are made of steel, the magnetic signature also needs to be reduced. This can be done with the closed loop degaussing system already under development, in which large coils actively demagnetise the ship on the basis of smart measuring sensors all over the ship. Man is no longer able to continuously and integrally monitor all these signatures and therefore a ship signature management system is an indispensable part of the manning and automation concept.

The long screwdriver

As stated above, the new naval vessels will soon be connected to the Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) at the Royal Netherlands Navy Command (CZSK). In civilian shipping, such a thing has already been ironed out – the crew will hardly have to keep track of the condition of the equipment since it will be sent directly to the manufacturer via satellite connections.

The MOC is under development and will revolutionise business operations. Not only because maintenance is controlled and supervised from the shore, but also because real-time data analysis can take place from Den Helder. This is important in order to achieve the same or greater operational effects with a smaller crew.

However, data-driven operations will also lead to major changes at CZSK. Training, personnel management, inventory management, configuration management, readiness reports and countless other applications will change because of the “maritime cloud”. Time will tell whether the political and departmental leadership will be able to resist the tendency to watch and co-decide remotely. How are we going to realise all these innovations in the future?

How’s naval construction going?

If we want to cope with the developments described above, we as the Netherlands can no longer act alone – we are simply too small for that. We need other countries to (cost-) effectively build naval vessels. The Belgian-Dutch partnership (BENESAM) is a good example. However, that combination will also be too small in the future.

In addition, in order to remain sovereign, Europe must act in solidarity against the rise of China and others. Around us, we are seeing the consolidation of naval construction taking shape more and more clearly. State-owned Naval Group (France) and Fincantieri (Italy) are working closely together in the Naviris joint venture. The privately owned companies Lürssen/Blohm & Voss and German Naval Yards have recently been merged, which is good news for Damen as it paved the way for the billion-dollar order for the MKS180.

However, the Netherlands must have a strategic plan for its naval construction, otherwise it will be crushed between these two giants. As Jaap Huisman rightly pointed out in the June issue of SWZ|Maritime, we need to look primarily at the cultural fit. However, I would like to add the long-term perspective as well. The Netherlands has a long history with Germany when it comes to building surface ships. A North European alliance of family businesses in naval construction can counterbalance the state-driven joint venture from the South.

The most important thing in a partnership is that each partner adds value and that that value remains visible. The Netherlands has a number of important bargaining chips, such as Thales Netherlands, MARIN and TNO. The innovation that is built up in the companies and knowledge institutes gives the Netherlands an attractive self-creating naval construction capacity, but it does need maintenance.

The Dutch bargaining chips Thales Netherlands, MARIN and TNO also played a role in the design of the Joint logistic Support Ship (JSS) Sr. Ms. Karel Doorman, built at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding. Here the ship supplies the air-defence and command frigate HNLMS Tromp at sea (photo Ministry of Defence).

Premier League or relegation?

Thanks to the unique cooperation in the so-called Triple Helix, the Royal Netherlands Navy has always been able to boast the most advanced naval vessels at a very competitive price. The Air Defence and Command frigates (LCF) could do the same as or more than the Type 45 frigates of the Royal Navy, but ten years earlier, for half the price and with half the crew. The Netherlands, with its relatively small navy, played a part in the world’s Premier League, partly thanks to the government’s continuous impulse in innovation.

However, the Golden Triangle is under increasing pressure. Buying off-the-shelf seems attractive, the underlying assumption being confidence that the market will take care of the innovation. If we set a benchmark for the price of a multipurpose frigate abroad, such a ship costs about one billion euros in most countries. If we calculate the “Triple Helix effect”, it may be 25 per cent cheaper, but not half the price.

The naval construction cluster is only prepared to pay for innovation if it is certain of an outlet, both at home and abroad. If price is the only criterion, you get what you ask for: cheap naval vessels, based on the knowledge of the past. This means that you can’t face the high-tech threat of the present and future, and so the navy undeniably relegates to the “first division”. This means that the political freedom of action to deploy naval vessels, whether or not in coalition, in the full spectrum of violence disappears. Of course, the analogy with football is flawed, but the richest clubs can also buy the best capacities. You have to be willing to pay or accept to become a second-rate club.

The naval construction cluster is only prepared to pay for innovation if it is certain of an outlet

To reverse this trend, Dutch Naval Design was founded on 11 March, in which knowledge institutes and industry, analogous to Platform Nederland Radarland, together with the government want to give direction to military-maritime innovation in the field of platforms. That’s good, but the government is and remains the driver of innovation – not only as a launching customer, but also and above all as a launching innovator.

Innovation is not an end in itself, it is a necessary and joint activity that reduces risks and costs for the future. This requires an upfront investment. The Netherlands is investing more than 100 million euros in the National Agenda for quantum technology; why not a similar impulse from the Growth Fund for the construction of Premier League naval vessels? This will also enable future generations of naval personnel to defend the interests of the Netherlands safely and confidently at sea and from the sea. Innovating is investing in the future!

Picture (top): The Flex Ship, the dot on the horizon for innovation in Dutch Naval Design (

This article appeared in SWZ|Maritime’s June 2020 issue (in Dutch) and was written by Jeroen de Jonge MSc. From 1981 to 2012 he was an Officer at the Royal Netherlands Navy. Now he is Business Director Naval Programs at TNO,