Navy to replace its two multi-purpose frigates

The HNLMS Van Speijk at sea. (Photo courtesy of Dutch Defence.)


THE HAGUE–The two multi-purpose frigates of the Royal Dutch Navy that are stationed on a regular basis in the Caribbean, HNLMS Van Speijk and HNLMS Van Amstel, will be replaced by new, more modern ships in about eight years.

The lifespan of the two multi-purpose vessels, commonly referred to as the M-frigates, is nearing its end. HNLMS Van Speijk (F828) entered service in 1995 and HNLMS Van Amstel (F831) in 1993. They are the last two in a series of eight ships in the Karel Doorman class.

The ships, which measure 122 metres in length and have a crew of 150 to 160, are decreasingly able to match current and future threats, the systems on board are becoming outdated and spare parts are harder to come by, which results in high maintenance cost. In 2020, the two ships will have reached the end of their operational and technical lifespan.

It takes about seven years to construct a frigate. The first of the two new M-frigates is expected to be ready for deployment in 2025. Replacing the two ships will cost between 1 billion and 2.5 billion euros. The ships will be developed together with Belgium with which the Netherlands has intensive cooperation where it concerns M-frigates and mine combat vessels. Belgium will also get two new M-frigates.

The M-frigates play a vital role in the Navy, and their replacement is essential. “Frigates are all-round ships and form the backbone of the surface fleet. They are important units to bring safety at sea and for the maritime defence of our own territory and that of allies, including the Caribbean part of the Kingdom,” stated Dutch State Secretary of Defence Barbara Visser in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.

The M-frigates are specialised in anti-submarine warfare, a much-needed capacity in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). M-frigates are also equipped to combat illegal drug operations, terrorism and piracy, and to provide emergency relief and carry out evacuations. The ships are regularly dispatched to the Caribbean as the so-called station ship.

The Navy vessel HNLMS Zeeland that provided the much-needed and appreciated assistance in the Windward Islands, in particular in St. Maarten, and in Dominica after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, was not an M-frigate, but an Ocean-going Patrol Vessel (OPV).

The HNLMS Zeeland, which measures 108 metres in length and has a crew of 50, is a smaller vessel than the M-frigate type, but also a much younger one: it was deployed in 2013. The OPV type vessels are especially used for Coast Guard tasks in the North Sea and in the Caribbean.

Several other new ships of different types will be constructed in the coming years besides the two M-frigates. A second supply ship will be built. The Netherlands currently has one supply ship, the Joint Logistic Support Ship (JESS) HNLMS Karel Doorman, which was dispatched twice to St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma to bring large cargo loads to the island. The HNLMS Karel Doorman is 205 metres long, the largest ship of the Dutch Navy.

A second supply ship, a so-called Combat Support Ship (CSS), should increase the effectiveness of the Navy ships because the latter would not have to leave the operational area on a regular basis to get supplies at a harbour. With a second supply ship, the Dutch Defence can have permanent supply capacity at sea.

The Combat Support Ship will be smaller than the HNLMS Karel Doorman, but there will be many similarities, as the design of the latter ship will be used for the CSS. The CSS should be deployed by 2023.

The six mine combat ships of the Alkmaar class will be replaced. The ships date back to the ’80s and are reaching the end of their lifespan. The vessels are increasingly having trouble detecting modern sea mines. The Navy will receive the new ships, manned and unmanned, between 2025 and 2030. The new mine combat ships will also be developed together with Belgium.

Source: The Daily Herald