Damen and Thales Netherlands will definitively design, build and deliver the four new Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) frigates. Two for the Dutch navy and two for the Belgian navy. Dutch State Secretary of Defence Christophe van der Maat signed the contracts today, 29 June, on board HNLMS Karel Doorman in Den Helder.

Damen will build the ships and Thales the integrated radar and fire control system. The ASW frigates will replace both countries’ current four Multipurpose frigates (M-frigates). The Dutch and Belgian ships have now reached the end of their service life, although they are still deployable.

The first new frigate is for the Royal Netherlands Navy and should be deployable by 2029. The second ship will go to Belgium a year later. Both remaining frigates will follow in 2031 for the Netherlands and Belgium respectively.

Van der Maat: ‘The acquisition of the ASW frigates is happening the way I prefer: Through intensive cooperation, between countries, armed forces and industry. The long-term result is an innovative and powerful weapon system. This benefits us as direct users, but also Europe and NATO.’

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.

Also read: Dutch frigates to be modified to keep them seaworthy

Detecting and fighting submarines

The ships can be used for multiple tasks, but the emphasis is on remote detection and combat of submarines. This is done with the NH90 on board helicopter, among others. Both the frigate and the helicopter can launch a torpedo to disable or expel a submarine. This is the Mk54 torpedo, which will be available in a few years.

The frigates will have hybrid diesel-electric propulsion and will be designed to sail as quietly as possible. This makes them difficult to detect by submarines.

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.

Model of the ASW frigate
Model of the ASW frigate (by Dutch Ministry of Defence).

Armament and sensors

The ships will also be equipped with state-of-the-art armament and sensors, such as the Under Water Warfare Suite. This gives the crew timely insight into the submarine threat. With the Above Water Warfare System, targets can be detected and eliminated above water. Also coming on board are the Naval Strike Missile for surface targets and the ESSM Block 2 for air defence.

Other features include underwater decoys, a 76mm gun, MK54 torpedoes, and Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM).  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.

‘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,’ says Gerben Edelijn, CEO of Thales Netherlands. ‘The crew of the ASW frigates can rely on our state-of-the-art Above Water Warfare System that provides effective defence against current and future threats.’

CEO of the Damen Shipyards Group Arnout Damen: ‘With these projects, we retain vital know-how at home and thus our place in the world’s top tier of complex naval construction. More importantly, the crews of the Dutch and Belgian navies get top ships to carry out their complex tasks.’

Also read: Dutch Defence reaches agreement with Damen and Thales for ASW frigates

Dozens of companies

Defence buys the systems from dozens of companies. Signing of a number of contracts is planned around the summer. The remaining contracts for these subprojects will follow this year, in 2024 and in 2025.

The construction of the two ASW frigates for the Dutch navy involves an investment of around EUR 1.9 billion.

Picture top by the Dutch Ministry of Defence.

Also read: Dutch navy frigates get Naval Strike Missiles