On 19 July 2021, the replacement programme for the current Belgian and Dutch minehunters reached a new stage: the first steel sheets of the new ships were custom-cut in Poland. This marks the beginning of a new phase of the programme that foresees a first delivery in 2024.

In May 2019, the contract for 12 new mine action vessels was signed with Belgium Naval and Robotics. It is a contractual partnership between Naval Group,European leader in maritime defence and ECA Group,specialist in naval drones. For Belgium and the Netherlands, this is a joint replacement programme that our country is leading. Half of the ships are destined for the Dutch Navy.

The new ships will be fully equipped with unmanned systems(toolbox)including more than a hundred underwater drones, unmanned service vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles entirely dedicated to mine action. The ship is currently in the design and development phase. The next step – the critical review of the design of this toolbox – is currently scheduled for the end of 2021. A similar review of the ship and integrated systems will follow in early 2022.

The cutting of the first steel sheets now represents a new stage in the construction of the ship. The actual construction of the vessel will begin in the fall and will culminate in the laying of the keel on November 30, 2021.

The cutting of the plates is carried out by ‘CRIST S.A.’ at the Polish shipyard in Gdynia. Subsequently, they will be transported to the French shipyard of Concarneau (firm ‘Piriou’) where the first Belgian ship will be built. The first delivery is scheduled for November 2024.