Under great interest, Vlissingen was launched October 19th. It is the first new mine countermeasures vessel for the Royal Netherlands Navy. The ceremony took place in Concarneau, France. The port city is located on the south coast of Brittany, where this ship was built. The Vlissingen will become operational in 2025 and will only then receive HNLMS for the name.
Vlissingen is 1 of the 12 new mine countermeasures vessels that the Navy has purchased together with Belgium. Both countries get 6. Delivery will take place between 2024 and 2030. With the construction of new mine countermeasures vessels, the Royal Netherlands Navy will have a modern and robust ship. It can be used for mine countermeasures operations anywhere in the world.
“With these ships, the Belgian and Dutch navies can make an incredibly large contribution to the security of the world,” said Commander Naval Forces Vice Admiral René Tas. “The threat, including from sea mines, is not exactly diminishing at the moment. Communication between the continents is already 90% underwater and we depend on it. The blockage in the Suez Canal and the attack on Nordstream have proven that a free sea is essential.”
The contract for the program was awarded to Belgium Naval & Robotics in 2019. This is a consortium consisting of Naval Group and ECA Group, now known as Exail. The first new Belgian minehunter, Ostend, was launched in March this year. Meanwhile, the Tournai and Scheveningen are also under construction. France has also recently joined the Belgian-Dutch program.
The new ships have a revolutionary design. That is in the systems, but also in the way of operating. The mine countermeasures vessels, for example, are equipped with modern sensors. In addition, the ships contain a toolbox with unmanned and autonomous sailing and flying drones. These can be used on, above and below the water. This way, the ships and their crew no longer have to enter an area with possible sea mines or other explosives.
The threat of sea mines is still topical. They are relatively cheap and easy to produce explosives. This can be used to block seaports, for example. Furthermore, the seabed is still full of explosives from the First and Second World War. In the North Sea alone, it is estimated that tens of thousands of projectiles are involved.
The current minehunters of the Alkmaar class are at the end of their service life and therefore due for replacement. Earlier this year, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren announced that two Dutch ships will be donated to Ukraine after 2025.