The Dutch Ministry of Defence has announced what will be its largest project to date: the replacement of its four air defence and command frigates by four new ones. Where earlier this week rumours appeared that Damen would miss out on the Dutch submarine contract, they will, however, land this frigate contract together with Thales.

Over the next fifteen years, all of the Royal Netherlands Navy’s large surface ships will be replaced. The acquisition of new Air Defence and Command frigates and their armament is an important part of this.

The Dutch maritime manufacturing industry will be closely involved in this project, which has a budget of several billion euros. State Secretary of Defence Christophe van der Maat reported this today.

Also read: Damen may miss out on Dutch submarine order

Four new frigates

The Ministry of Defence has four Air Defence and Command frigates, which are being replaced one on one. They form an important part of the combat power at sea. They can protect a maritime task force, civilian ships and coastal areas from an airborne threat such as from drones, aircraft, helicopters and anti-ship missiles. Furthermore, these frigates have important facilities for the commander of a maritime task force.

The current frigates will be at the end of their service life in the next decade. The ships’ anti-aircraft missile armament is also due for renewal. These projects are therefore being combined.

Damen Naval and Thales Netherlands

Van der Maat wants to involve Dutch industry early on in the replacement process, partnering with companies such as Damen Naval and Thales Netherlands. Damen is to provide the ship’s platform and Thales the radar and fire control system.

‘With this approach, we are consciously choosing to pursue industrial policy. It ensures a strengthening of the Dutch defence industry in a sector where the Netherlands has a leading position internationally and thus contributes to the strengthening of European strategic autonomy,’ states Van der Maat.

In future naval projects, such as the procurement of the Amphibious Transport Ships, Defence also wants to engage earlier and more intensively with Dutch industry.

Defence is also keen to see European partners join the project. Denmark, Germany and Norway are also considering replacing their frigates in some time. With this project, the Netherlands wants to act as a driving force and catalyst for cooperation.

Also read: VIDEO: Damen unveils new Multi-Purpose Support Ship


Like the current Air Defence and Command frigates, the new frigates will have a so-called “layered” defence, with different types of missiles complementing each other in range. With these, enemy targets can be taken out from close to the ship to high altitudes. A family of missiles from one manufacturer is preferred.

Furthermore, some of the armament and equipment of the current frigates will be transferred to the new ones. These include the SMART-L radars and 127 mm cannons.

Planning and naming

In the coming years, the Dutch Ministry of Defence will carry out several major naval construction projects. These include the Anti Submarine Warfare frigates for anti-submarine warfare, the replacement of submarines and the new Amphibious Transport Ships.

Defence is carefully allocating available personnel capacity for these concurrent projects. With today’s knowledge, Defence expects delivery of the first frigate no later than 2034. This will keep the current fleet sailing for up to two years longer than anticipated.

Also read: Dutch naval vessels join NATO’s largest exercise to date

First in 2036

The first new frigate should be operational in 2036. The next ships will follow a year to eighteen months later in each case. The fourth new frigate should be fully operational in 2041.

The State Secretary further wants to involve society in naming the new frigates. This is still being worked out.

Picture: HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën was the first commissioned ship of the total of four Air Defence and Command Frigates in 2002: the De Zeven Provinciën Class (by the Dutch Ministry of Defence).