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Dutch Ministry of Defence announces historic naval modernization programme

By Defence Industry Europe

The Dutch Ministry of Defence has unveiled ambitious plans to overhaul nearly its entire fleet of large surface ships over the next 15 years, marking a significant commitment to enhancing its naval capabilities and the national defence industry. State Secretary Christophe van der Maat announced the project, which is poised to be the largest maritime initiative currently undertaken by the Ministry, encompassing a budget of several billion euros.

 

Central to this sweeping modernization effort is the replacement of the Royal Navy’s four Air Defence and Command Frigates (LC-fregatten), which are integral to the nation’s maritime combat strength. These vessels are designed to protect maritime task groups, civilian ships, and coastal areas from aerial threats, including drones, aircraft, helicopters, and anti-ship missiles, while also providing critical command facilities for maritime task group commanders.

The current frigates, nearing the end of their service life in the next decade, along with their air defence missile systems, are due for a comprehensive update. The replacement process will see the introduction of new LC-frigates, equipped with a “layered” defence system featuring a range of complementary missiles, ensuring the capability to neutralize threats from close range to high altitude. Preference is given to sourcing missile systems from a single manufacturer to streamline operations and maintenance.

 

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In line with fostering national industry, the Dutch government is keen on involving the Dutch maritime manufacturing sector closely in this project. Companies like Damen Naval are expected to play a significant role in the construction of the ship platforms, while Thales Netherlands is set to contribute radar and missile guidance systems. This approach not only underscores a strategic move towards bolstering the Dutch defence industry but also aims at enhancing Europe’s strategic autonomy.

The state secretary highlighted the government’s intention to engage more deeply and earlier with Dutch industry in future naval projects, including the acquisition of Amphibious Transport Ships. By doing so, the Netherlands aims to strengthen its international standing in the maritime sector and encourage European partners to collaborate on similar initiatives. Countries like Denmark, Germany, and Norway are also contemplating frigate replacements, with the Netherlands aspiring to serve as a catalyst for broader cooperation.

 

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The plan also includes other significant naval construction projects, such as Anti Submarine Warfare frigates and the next generation of Amphibious Transport Ships, with a careful allocation of personnel resources to manage these concurrent undertakings. The delivery of the first new frigate is anticipated by 2034, with the fleet expected to be fully operational by 2041.

In an innovative move, the Dutch government intends to involve the public in the naming process of the new LC-frigates, further details of which are to be developed.

 

 

This comprehensive fleet renewal initiative comes as the Netherlands, the euro zone’s fifth-largest economy, escalates its defence spending in response to global security challenges, aiming to meet the NATO alliance’s minimum military expenditure of 2% of its GDP by next year. This project not only signifies a major step forward in modernizing the Dutch naval forces but also underscores a strategic investment in the nation’s defence industry and European security collaboration.

 

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