‘Probably’ more money for new ASW frigates

Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder will take steps to find a solution to the problems surrounding the new Dutch and Belgian frigates. The cost of the ships is higher than originally estimated. Dedonder is open to a budget increase from the Belgian side, but will not just come up with extra money.

Sketch by ASWF (June 2020). This design is therefore too small to meet all requirements, but also to leave enough room for later updates. (Image: DMO)

Alternately in French and Dutch, Dedonder explained the situation regarding the new frigates to Holland and Belgium in the Belgian Chamber last week. These ASW frigates are getting bigger to accommodate everything the Dutch and Belgian fleets demand. This was stated in May in the deviation report that the Dutch Ministry of Defense had sent to the House of Representatives.

It had already become clear in the past that the € 1 billion budget set by Belgium in a law had proved insufficient. Belgium therefore initially decided not to buy all launchers. Last Tuesday, in a debate on the new Belgian STAR plan, Minister Dedonder said: “The focus was on the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of future frigates, with less attention to the means of self-defense to withstand air and defense. In an independent way surface threats. will have a number of additional systems that are different for both countries.There is no budgetary scope for these provisions in the Programming Act of 2017 unless it is detrimental to other programs and the previous government did not provide an additional budget for the new frigates . ”

“The latest episode of this file is that in early 2022 it was established that an imbalance had developed between the ship’s weight and the ship’s buoyancy. This has increased the length and displacement of the design. No detailed information is available on At present, the price structure of the new design has been worked out, “said Dedonder.

Towards the end of her first speech on the frigates, Dedonder said that she attaches great importance to the safety of the crew (probably with reference to the ship’s launching devices) and that she attaches great importance to the two Belgian ships being as much as possible the same. like the Dutch frigates. In addition, Dedonder has instructed its officials to inform it regularly about the consequences of what it refers to as the initially underestimated costs.

That these costs were low has been discussed here before. Generations of ASW frigates, such as the British Type 26 and the German F126, cost many times more than the 450 million per ship allocated to the ASW frigates. Meanwhile, prices are rising rapidly and ships appear to be unable to meet the requirements. Insiders involved in the project from various roles already told MarineShips.nl last year that there was not enough money for the frigates.

Dedonder: “negotiate”
Higher costs are a problem for the Netherlands, but especially for the Belgian side of the project. The law, which the Belgian government had stoned, provided, on the one hand, that the money would actually be there, but, on the other hand, an increase in the budget would not just be possible.

The Minister’s speech resulted in various comments from the floor. “If I have understood it correctly: we have planes that are too expensive to fly and frigates that are too heavy to stay afloat. We are very lucky, right?”, Mocked Georges Dallemagne from the French-speaking center party Les Engags , after which he asked about the differences between the Dutch and Belgian frigates.
Peter Buysrogge of the N-VA called on Dedonder to set aside more budget: “In fact, this adjustment of the programming law is a missed opportunity, and you are at least giving the impression, Madam Minister, that you do not believe enough in the fleet., In the frigate program. Why do you choose not to add some resources to the frigate program so that that program can be realized in a decent way? This is something that could be interpreted as something stingy to our fleet. but we will … we believe in the navy in any case, so if an adjustment is still possible, Madam Minister, we are your ally in that area. “

Dedonder replied that the project is in a negotiation phase. “I talk regularly with my Dutch colleague to find a solution. Will I take steps to find a solution? Yes. Will there be more budget for this? Probably. But I will not just accept it either, it has to be negotiated and so “We’re working on it. We want to find an acceptable solution, from a budgetary point of view, which also ensures interoperability and crew safety. So a step forward for the Navy. “

It is not known whether the Netherlands will also make more money available for the project. This is not stated in the defense memorandum. Earlier, in response to questions from MarineShips.nl, the Armed Forces had said that negotiations with the industry are underway and that the Armed Forces does not want to say anything about a possible extra budget.

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