Representatives of the Belgian Navy and Belgium Naval and Robotics (ECA Group and Naval Group) consortium have unveiled the logo of the Mine Counter Measure (MCM) programme being jointly developed with the Dutch Navy, and focused on its operational gains – safety and rapidity. In terms of safety, men will be far from minefields because the warship is designed according to NATO standards and has a low electromagnetic and acoustic signature. Its embarked drones, although adapted to meet requirements, are all sea proven. Speakers focussed on the mission bay and the Combat Management System (which can be embedded in a task force). Mission-oriented training, including virtual reality modules, can be available before the beginning of a new mission. Ideally, 33 out of the 63 crew members are specifically trained for the use of the modules thanks to the fact that collected data can be downloaded and exploited off the ship.
Aymeric Moullart de Torcy (Naval Group) and Antony Penn (ECA) put an emphasis on the Toolbox, the new concept which is at the hearth of the programme and raised the interest of the Belgian and the Dutch Navies. The drone system (UMIS) has a completely scalable configuration, with the possibility to use different toolboxes according to mission requirements. With the preliminary design review to end in two months, the first steel is expected to be cut in June 2021. Despite such an advanced MCM programme, the Belgian Navy does not plan to totally abandon legacy capabilities. To this end, some facilities will remain operational and experienced people will continue to work on legacy systems to mitigate the risk of losing relevant know-how.