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Thales Group awarded contract for the Belgian-Dutch anti-air frigates.

| 2019

The Netherlands Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Thales are developing the Above Water Warfare System (AWWS) for the Royal Netherlands Navy, the first implementation of which will take place on the next generation of its multi-purpose frigates. The M-frigates will be replaced in cooperation with the Belgian Navy. AWWS will protect the Navy against evolving future threats. Vice-Admiral Arie-Jan de Waard, Director of DMO and Gerben Edelijn, CEO of Thales Nederland B.V., are proud of this important step in their cooperation for the future of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Thales Group awarded contract for the Belgian Dutch anti air frigates An artist impression of the M-frigate (Picture source : Thales Group)

The current multi-purpose frigates in service of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Belgian Navy are reaching the end of their lifecycle. The next generation will replace these two Dutch and two Belgian M-frigates as of 2024. Although their primary role will be anti-submarine warfare, the new frigates must be able to independently defend themselves as well as nearby units against air and surface threats. For this purpose, they will be equipped with a state-of-the-art surface warfare fire control system, called AWWS.

The development of AWWS has become necessary because above-water threats are growing exponentially in terms of complexity, coordination and speed. Missiles go up to three times faster than the speed of sound, and possibly even up to five times faster in 2020. Currently used technologies are insufficient to make use of all the new sensor and weapon systems to counter these threats in the future. This new system continuously generates the best solution to counter any incoming threats, whatever the environmental conditions or threat complexity. The system will support the operator in making the right decision at every decisive moment.

When faced with scenarios of several different threats arriving simultaneously and employing complex behaviours, such as very high speed, a human operator will no longer be able to schedule and plan the right defensive priorities effectively and efficiently. However, AWWS will offer the operator information to make the right decisions within seconds, so the ship can protect itself successfully and continue on its mission.

AWWS will consist of a new generation of sensors, coupled with intelligent software that continuously calculates which actions are best suited to tackle each threat detected by radar and other sensors in the right manner. This maximizes the chance of survival, while the crew stays in control.

This system uses the latest sensor technology from Thales to detect and monitor all abovewater threats, including the next-generation, fully digital dual-band X/S radar suite: an integral combination of Active Phased Array Radar (APAR) and Sea Master 400 radar technologies.

Prior to the AWWS contract, the Dutch Ministry of Defence initiated advanced research into this technology with DMO, TNO and Thales more than ten years ago. This resulted in an agreement for a “technology demonstrator”. The technology demonstrator will eventually be installed at a shore-based test site for tests and trials.

As a reminder, in December 2016, defence Ministers from Belgium & the Netherlands Signed an MoU for the Common Procurement of Vessels: It was then agreed that for the replacement of the so-called M-class frigates Netherlands would take the lead while Belgium would be leading the MCMV program. The Dutch Defense organization requested a bid (without competition) from local shipyard Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding and Thales Netherlands. In 2018, Belgium and the Netherlands formally launched the joint procurement for the four frigates.

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