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WDS 2024: Does Naval Group really hope to sell its mine countermeasures vessels to Saudi Arabia?.

| Naval News Navy 2024

Naval Group's showcasing of the Belgian minehunter Oostende (M940) model at the World Defense Show (WDS) 2024. It signifies a strategic move to demonstrate its advanced naval capabilities, particularly in mine countermeasures, to the Saudi and broader Middle East market.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 A model of the City-class mine countermeasures vessel BNS Oostende. (Picture source: Navy Recognition)

Initiated in 2019, the mine countermeasures program involving Belgium Naval & Robotics—a collaboration between Naval Group and Exail—aims to significantly update the mine countermeasures capabilities of the Belgian Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy.

This program, which emerged as a result of an international tender, includes the delivery of twelve mine countermeasures vessels alongside an integrated system of approximately one hundred drones, enhancing the fleets' operational scope. The first of these vessels is expected to be delivered by the end of 2024 in Zeebrugge, Belgium, with the program scheduled to continue until 2030.

These vessels distinguishing themselves by their ability to operate a wide array of drones for mine countermeasures. This includes the autonomous detection, classification, and neutralization of mines, employing a combination of surface, underwater, and aerial drones.

This method significantly reduces risks to personnel and increases the efficiency of operations in mined areas, while also being designed to minimize acoustic, electrical, and magnetic signatures to better fulfill their missions.

The technical specifications of the vessels are detailed and include a length of 82.6 meters, width of 17 meters, and a displacement of 2800 tons. They can reach speeds up to 15.3 knots and have a range of over 3500 nautical miles. The crew capacity varies from a base of 33 to a maximum of 63 personnel, depending on the operation.

Drone capabilities form a crucial part of the vessels' operational toolkit, featuring unmanned surface vehicles (Exail Inspector 125), autonomous underwater vehicles (A-18 with Exail UMISAS 120 sonar), towed sonars (T-18 with Exail UMISAS 240 sonar), and Mine Identification & Disposal Systems (Exail Seascan and K-Ster C).

An unmanned aerial vessel (UMS Skeldar’s V200) and an Exail influence mine sweeping system, with CTM magnetic modules and a PATRIA acoustic module, are also included.

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