STX France, EDR, Socarenam team for Belgian mine countermeasure project

French shipbuilders STX France and Socarenam joined forces with Belgium’s EDR to try and secure a contract for the construction of 12 mine counter measure vessels for the navies of Belgium and the Netherlands.

The two navies are jointly procuring mine countermeasure (MCM) vessels and frigates with Belgium in charge of MCM acquisition and the Netherlands in charge of frigate procurement.

The Franco-Belgium consortium bidding for the MCM vessel construction is named Sea Naval Solutions and proposes a version of the Deviceseas multi-role ship unveiled by STX France in 2016.

STX France adapted the Deviceseas design to serve as a mother ship to a complex autonomous systems package which will also be acquired as part of the project.

Belgium’s Deviceseas variant would be 80 meters long and 15 meters wide, with a displacement of 3,700 tons. With a complement of 60, the vessel would carry two surface drones (USV) and up to 8 autonomous underwater systems (AUV and ROV) housed in a dedicated hangar. The design also offers enough deck space for accommodation of two 20-feet containers for additional equipment.

EDR noted that the proposed ship design has a strong focus on autonomous systems operations making it a suitable choice for Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Deviceseas design benefits from a custom launch and recovery system developed by STX France in collaboration with offshore industry specialist NOV BLM.

The system can deploy drones ranging from 80 kilos to 19 tons and measuring up to 12 meters in length.

Despite relying on autonomous systems for MCM tasks, the proposed design still has a hull-mounted sonar optimized for mine detection. The consortium says the ships’ shock resistance would be inferior to that of  minehunters or sweepers but still sufficient considering they will not be required to operate directly in minefields to carry out mine countermeasure tasks.

According to STX, the acoustic signature of the ship would be comparable to that of a frigate.

Finally, it should be noted that the ship offered to the Belgian and Dutch navies can be equipped with a 3D radar as well as remotely operated guns, allowing it to be used for surveillance and patrol missions in addition to mine clearance tasks.

The consortium has also outlined the construction plan under which the hulls would be built in France and subsequently kitted out in Belgium.

The procurement process is currently in the RFI (Request for Information) stage and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Deliveries are expected to start between 2023 and 2030.

The new vessels will replace current Tripartite-class minehunters in service with the navies of Belgium and the Netherlands.

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