New frigates in the Netherlands and Belgium are getting bigger

The design of the ASW frigates for Belgium and the Netherlands is being expanded to meet all requirements. This is stated by the Ministry of Defense in a report to the House of Representatives. As a result, the project is slightly delayed. The air defense and command frigates (LCFs) will also have to accept a new delay: all frigates will not have the new cannon until 2029.

Above the concept from the end of 2019, below the concept chosen in 2020. The lower design is smaller, which includes less space for smaller unmanned vessels and less space on the barge. The bottom design turns out to be too small. (Photos: DMO)

A year ago, the then State Secretary Barbara Visser wrote in the ‘Deviation report with regard to Defense Project Overview 2020’: . ”

Earlier this year, Director of Defense Materiel Organization (DMO) Deputy Admiral Arie Jan de Waard told that there is a technical challenge. In short, the requirements do not fit into the existing design. Incidentally, that design was reduced compared to the ‘ideal’ version at the end of 2019 because it did not fit within the budget. Enlarging the ship, De Waard said, would be the solution, but it again has implications for propulsion because the ship must be able to reach the required speed. And there are costs involved, so that decision was not obvious.

In the past, it was easier to enlarge a frigate and still meet the speed requirements, because back then frigates had gas turbines. Gas turbines have much more power than diesel engines. That effect was not utilized to the maximum, so a larger ship did not immediately have major consequences for propulsion. The ASW frigates are diesel-electric and require much more precision.

In any case, according to the Deviation Report, which was sent to the House yesterday, it has now been decided to enlarge the design. The report states: “In addition, the D-letter, the letter with notification of an irrevocable decision, from the project M-frigates (ASWF) is expected to be sent at a different time than planned. In the D-phase, it turned out that the design must be adapted from the requirements package to a scalable and future-proof frigate The ship must be enlarged to meet the requirements package More time must be spent with suppliers to perfect the design As a result, the Ministry of Defense expects the D-letter to the House of Representatives in the period 2022 – early 2023. The aim is to limit the consequences for the admission plan as much as possible. This will be included in letter D. ”

It is not yet known exactly how big the ship will be.

127/64 LW
Leonardo’s 127/64 LW on board a German F125 frigate. This pistol is the modern version of the current LCF’s 127 mm guns. (Image: Still video German Navy)

Cannons: last placed in 2029
While waiting for the unboxing movies from the first new cannon to the LCFs, the moment the last cannon is placed has been pushed back. The frigates’ old Oto Breda 127 mm guns are replaced. Sr.Ms. Evertsen is currently under the knife in Den Helder at the Materiel Conservation Directorate (DMI). A new ammunition, booster and storage system will also be installed for the new gun. It is a system divided into three decks.

Defense of the work on board Evertsen: “Preparations for the installation of the first cannon are in full swing. The steel construction of the old cannon has been removed and the ship has been made available for installation of the first (semi-) automatic ammunition lifting and storage system. In the coming period, the ship’s steel structure will be adapted so that the first ammunition system can be placed. “

The placement of the new Leonardo 127/64 LW pistol is therefore quite difficult. To avoid that the frigates are often under maintenance at the same time in the coming years, because two ships are currently undergoing the maintenance program and the new APAR block 2 and missiles for two of the ships are installed later, there are i.a. decided to extend “the major maintenance periods” of the frigates so that they overlap as little as possible.

By reserving more time, the whole project takes longer. “As a result, the completion of this project will shift from the last ship to 2029,” the deviation report reports. The old weapons are now about 50 years old. This is another setback in terms of the renewal of the LCFs. It was previously decided to equip two of the four frigates with the latest APAR and missiles.

Waiting for more news
After the deviation report, we now have to wait for the defense memorandum, which must be published before the summer. According to De Telegraaf, Defense could expect an additional 2.4 billion euros. It will then be stated in the defense memorandum how these funds are used.

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