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The Belgian Ministry of Defence has announced that the Thales NS50 radar has been selected for the Belgian-Dutch Mine Countermeasure Vessel (MCMV) programme. The NS50 is said to be the first compact 4D Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, making it suitable for use on small and medium-sized naval units. In addition to its conventional tasks, it is also intended to provide defence against drones as well as low-altitude and low-speed flying threats. The track capacity of the radar system is said to be 1,000 targets, which can be engaged simultaneously. The maximum range of the radar is 180km.

The Belgian-Dutch programme, valued at more than €2Bn and led by Belgium (whereas the Netherlands is responsible for the other joint project where the two countries are procuring four frigates), envisages six MCM units (motherships and drones) for each of the two countries. The vessels, which are about 80m long and have a displacement of about 2,800 tonnes, will be built in Brittany by Naval Group and Piriou (through their joint venture Kership).

The ECA’s INSPECTOR 125 Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) will be part of the programme as well as a novel launch and recovery system on board the motherships. In addition, there are autonomous A18-M Underwater Vehicles (AUV), T18-M towed sonars and Mine Identification and Destruction Systems (MIDS – remotely operated SEASCAN and KSTER-C systems). The operation of these unmanned vehicles are to be autonomously controlled by the INSPECTOR 125 USV. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are also part of the programme’s elements.

Companies Joining Thales to Equip MCMVs

In 2019, the BELGIUM NAVAL & ROBOTICS (BNR) consortium, consisting of the French NAVAL GROUP and ECA Robotics, was awarded the contract to build and maintain the MCMVs. The Belgian FOC system (of six) is to be delivered in the course of 2024 followed by the first Dutch unit (of six) is expected in 2025 with the last vessel to be delivered in 2030.

More details are expected to be unveiled during the procurement process. Belgium’s FN Herstal will equip the boats with the Sea deFNder remote-controlled 12.7mm automatic cannon. ABC – Anglo Belgian Corporation – from Ghent will provide the power generation with two 6DZC diesel engines  and the 12VDZC generator. The FLS 50 sonar systems are provided by iXblue, which is also the supplier of the inertial navigation and positioning as well as underwater communication systems. The SKELDAR V-200 UAV from Swiss UMS Skeldar was already selected June 2020. It is also in service on one of the the German Navy’s K130 corvettes designated SEA FALCON.

Juergen Hensel