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The Belgian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has ordered six Exail R7 remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), the naval technology specialist announced on 2 April 2024. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

“This state-of-the-art underwater vehicle will play a pivotal role in enhancing the Belgian armed forces capabilities for inspection and disposal of underwater explosive ordnance, safeguarding harbours, coastal areas, ships and key infrastructures, the company stated in a press release.

“We would like to thank the Belgian Defence for the trust they place in us by selecting the R7 ROV,” Nicolas Astruc, managing director for ROVs at Exail, was quoted as saying. “This order from a nation renowned for its expertise in underwater operations, confirms the R7’s capabilities for critical infrastructure protection, explosive ordnance disposal and inspection missions up to 300 m depth.”

“The introduction of ROV R7s in the Belgian navy marks a significant advance in the protection of Belgian waters, for underwater explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), inspection and removal, security of ports, coastal areas, ships and key infrastructures,” the Belgian MoD was quoted as stating. “This initiative demonstrates the navy’s commitment to continuously improving its capabilities and ensuring the safety of both its personnel and the environment in which they operate.”

The R7 is a “cost-efficient, compact, and versatile ROV that is easy to deploy and operate from small boats such as RHIBs or from the shore”, according to Exail. It can accommodate a robotic arm and several payloads, allowing it to carry out a wide range of tasks.

For EOD missions the R7 carries a special payload equipped with a neutralisation charge. Highly accurate positioning is ensured by the R7’s embedded inertial navigation system (INS), Doppler velocity log ((DVL) and ultra-short baseline (USBL) sensors. In addition, the ROV is equipped with a multi-beam sonar and an Orphie 12S camera for precise target detection and identification in the most challenging conditions.

Six Exail R7 ROVs have been purchased for use by the Belgian Naval Component. (Photo: Exail)