The Royal Netherlands Navy will see its two Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) and four Oceangoing Patrol Vessels (OPVs) replaced with six Amphibious Transport Ships. These are estimated to cost between EUR 1 and 2.5 billion. The State Secretary of Defence Christophe van der Maat has informed Parliament of the plans in a so-called A-letter.

The LPDS are HNLMS Rotterdam and HNLMS Johan de Witt. The OPVs are the HNLMS Holland, HNLMS Friesland, HNLMS Zeeland, and HNLMS Groningen.

Replacing two existing ship classes with one new class will provide the Royal Netherlands Navy with greater flexibility and economies of scale in the deployment of these ships and in procurement, training and maintenance, among other areas. In addition, the Dutch Ministry of Defence will partner with the UK on the design in terms of interoperability because of the cooperation in the UK/NL Amphibious Force.

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Amphibious operations are changing

In amphibious operations, relatively large ships have until now brought Marine Corps units and their support to the deployment area. Like the current LPDs, the new ships can carry multiple landing craft in their internal dock and via hoists on the side of the ship. Helicopters and unmanned systems can operate from a helicopter deck.

Under current doctrine, Marines land in a limited number of locations with larger units in multiple landing waves from a transport ship relatively close to shore. The new doctrine assumes simultaneous landing of Marines and their equipment at multiple, spaced-out locations, from Amphibious Transport Ships further offshore where they are less vulnerable. The emphasis is on light, rapid, dispersed and covert action by smaller Marine units with light logistical support that includes the use of unmanned systems.

In this dispersed action, each Amphibious Transport Ship carries a smaller detachment of Marines than the current LPDs usually carry. Therefore, the new ship may be smaller in size. Under the new doctrine, more ships are then needed simultaneously to deploy the same number of marines more dispersed. The design of the Amphibious Transport Ships is not yet fixed.

Cooperation with the UK

Defence will work out the design together with Dutch industry and on the basis of consultations with the UK. Defence is pulling together with the UK on the design of the Amphibious Transport Ships because of the Marines’ cooperation. For over fifty years, both navies have been working together in the UK/NL Amphibious Force.

As the requirements and budgets of the ships differ, the two navies will not order identical ships. However, this cooperation should lead to British and Dutch ships with maximum interoperability and, where possible, identical subsystems such as lifting facilities, docking facilities, helicopter installations, propulsion and modular accommodation systems.

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New form of cooperation with maritime industry

The Dutch maritime manufacturing Industry will have a prominent role in this project, similar to their role in the replacement of the Air Defence and Command frigates, also with the aim of strengthening European strategic autonomy.

Defence contributes to the strengthening of European strategic autonomy with the new approach of ‘industry-enhancing procurement’. Defence envisages a partnership with the maritime sector that includes not only naval ship construction but also infrastructure, personnel, innovation, knowledge development and conservation. This approach broadens Defence’s focus from needs assessments per type of ship to also strengthening the sector as a whole.

In these new projects, Defence will cooperate with the wider defence industry earlier and more intensively than in the past. This can shorten the preparation time for construction and the construction time itself. This new mode of cooperation calls for the development of new tools to ensure that a project benefits as much of the sector as possible as a whole.

The Ministry of Defence has already revealed that it will seek cooperation with Damen Naval and additionally with the wider Dutch defence industry. The Ministry has yet to agree with Damen Naval on the terms of such an alliance. TNO, NLR and MARIN will be asked to contribute to innovations for the ships.

Building location to be determined

The remainder of the project will consider whether the hulls of the Amphibious Transport Ships will be built in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe. Building the hulls in the Netherlands has not been ruled out, but this will also depend on the available task-setting budget and developments around the Sector Agenda’s “Shipyard of the Future” project (the aim is to build state-of-the-art ships (circular and scalable) with ten to fifteen per cent cost reduction through digitalisation and robotisation, among other things. This is also to help solve staff shortages).

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Where operationally possible, the Amphibious Transport Ships will comply with current and anticipated international regulations for environment, energy and sustainability. The ships will be suitable for synthetic and biological fuels that will eventually replace the use of diesel oil.

The use of a fuel such as methanol is not yet operationally possible, partly because of its vulnerability in combat conditions and the large volume of fuel the ship would have to carry. Sustainability aspects will be further developed in the next (B) phase of the project.


The inflow of the new Amphibious Transport ships and the outflow of the current two LPDs and four OPVs will be aligned. Each time a new ship enters service, a current ship will be decommissioned. Defence plans to have the first of the six new Amphibious Transport ships commissioned in 2032.

The other five ships will follow in a rhythm of one per year and a new ship will be operationally deployable one year after its intake. The sixth and final Amphibious Transport Ship will be operationally deployable in 2038 according to this schedule.

The first LPD, HNLMS Rotterdam, reaches the end of its service life in 2028, several years before the influx of the first Amphibious Transport Ship. Defence will consider whether this LPD can continue sailing for a few more years and, if so, what measures are needed to do so.

The outflow of the other LPD and the four OPVs roughly corresponds to the end of their service lives (the second half of the 1930s). The Ministry of Defence is currently carrying out a Midlife Update on these ships.

Picture: One of the Amphibious Transporter ships to be replaced (by the Dutch Ministry of Defence).

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