Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie completes two year modernization program
Belgian Navy’s multi-purpose frigate Louise Marie F931 has returned to its homeport in Zeebrugge, Belgium, after undergoing modernization in the Netherlands.
The frigate was docked in Den Helder, where she was fitted with new weapons and communications.
BNS Louise Marie will now be performing operational and readiness tests. According to the Belgian Navy, the ship should be declared operational within the next few months after it receives the ‘ready for duty’ certificate.
Her sister ship BNS Leopold completed this modernization program during 2012 and 2013, while BNS Louise Marie entered the Den Helder naval base in March 2014.
Belgium and the Netherlands have a long-standing naval cooperation which was created in 1948 with a series of treaties known as BENESAM (Belgisch-Nederlandse Samenwerking).
Under this cooperation, all multi-purpose frigates of the two navies are maintained in Den Helder while the Belgian base Zeebrugge base takes care of the two nations’ minehunter vessels.
Ex-Karel Doorman frigates
The two multi-purpose frigates, BNS Leopold and BNS Louise Marie, were bought by the Belgian Navy in 2005 from the Royal Netherlands Navy as replacement for Belgian Navy’s old Wielingen-class frigates.
While they were in service with Dutch Navy, the two vessels belonged to the class of eight Karel Doorman class frigates. Of the eight ships in the class, only HNLMS Van Speijk and Van Amstel are still in service with the Dutch Navy as the remaining vessels were sold to Chile and Portugal.
The 1991-commissioned lead-ship, Karel Doorman, was renamed to BNS Leopold after it was sold to the Belgian Navy, while Louise Marie was formerly known as HNLMS Willem van der Zaan.
In 2009, the Netherlands and Belgium decided to modernize their M- frigates by rebuilding their hangar and helicopter decks to accommodate the NH 90 helicopters.
Additionally, French company Thales provided the frigates with its Seastar non-rotating active phased array radar for naval surface surveillance. Thales also fitted the frigates with a 360° panoramic electro-optical surveillance and alerter system based on IR/TV technology called Gatekeeper.