Deployments that last several years, what does that mean for crews and onboard systems?

28 - 12 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

Warships years away from home, that sounds like something from the past. It is however also a future possibility. More and more navies are looking at very long deployments, with rotating crews. Some navies have already started doing this. But what does that mean for the ships and the systems?

River class OPV HMS Tamar left Portsmouth in September together with HMS Spey for a five-year long deployment in the Indo Pacific. (Photo: Royal Navy)

Deployments such as those of the UK Carrier Strike Group and the deployment of the German and French navies in the Indo Pacific have the classic form: ship and crew depart together and return together. A few years ago, the Dutch OPV HNLMS Groningen left for the Caribbean for three years, with rotating crews. COVID-19 and damage to the propeller shafts caused the ship to return early, but sailing back and forth to the West every four months by ship and crew seems to be a thing of the past. That concept was also applied to the Dutch Alkmaar-class minehunters when they were operating in the Persian Gulf in the eighties, but that was a shorter period.

However, both classes of the ships mentioned were not designed for the rotating crew concept. The new German F126 frigates (MKS 180) are.

But if a ship stays thousands of nautical miles from its home port for two years, what does that mean for the support of the ships and systems, for example? Or for countries with a coastline that is more than thousands of kilometers and they want their navies to operate a ship from a small port far from the maintenance base, how does that work?

“Far from home you lack the support that you have in your own naval base,” says Berend Jongebloed, who works at Thales’ support branch, which deals with these kinds of issues. “There are precautionary maintenance that have to be performed at set times. Those tasks can be planned. That has become less and less of a problem with modern systems, they require less precautionary maintenance.”

“It mainly concerns emergencies far from the homeport,” Jongebloed continues. “Do you have the knowledge and skills to solve this on board? And do you have the spare parts on board? So the support of the systems takes on a completely different dynamic. A support hub in or near the mission area offers a solution.”

Of course, part of the problem would also be solved by having more technicians on board. Dutch submarines that operated around the North Cape or in the eastern part of the Mediterranean in the 1970s also had to solve many of the technical problems by themselves. There was not much contact with the homeport and it was sometimes necessary to solve problems underwater near Soviet ships. They had to make do with what was available on board, but the submarines of the time had 67 crew members.

Navies are faced with a staff shortage, especially among technicians, and are looking for solutions with fewer crew members. New ships will sail with fewer technicians than their predecessors.

HNLMS Evertsen (De Zeven Provinciën class) in Japan (Photo: SGT Petronilla/ Royal Netherlands Navy)

A different approach: more data

“For long-term missions far from home”, Jongebloed says, “you need a support system that can also be deployed worldwide. In the Netherlands, a ship is supervised by the Maritime Operating Center of the Royal Netherlands Navy in Den Helder. That is where the issues come in and then specialists from the homeport provide support. If they can’t figure it out, the industry will be called in.”

Providing remote support is becoming easier thanks to modern means of communication. The future Dutch and Belgian ASW frigates will share much more information with Den Helder. “Provided you have sufficient internet bandwidth, you can help remotely, just like an IT department can. Of course there are risks when you send data. You have to be very careful and very selective with it. Cybersecurity is essential.”

What also helps is using data that the sensors on board record about the systems. This has been used for some time for propeller shaft vibrations, for example, but Thales is now also working on applying additional sensors in its systems. Jongebloed: “You can analyze that data and distil deviations from it. If you can identify those deviations early, you can tell a crew ‘this particular element will malfunction in the future. Just go ahead and replace it.”

“Besides sending data, you can also let the crew perform some technical tasks by using Augmented Reality.”

“So there are various technological options that can offer remote assistance. It depends on how we set it up for each customer. If you want to make this happen, you have to forge an entire chain from a ship to the maintenance department and the industry. That’s not easily done.”

Other requirements

For the industry, this concept means that the systems must be available for a longer period of time. “Reliability requirements will be higher,” says Jongebloed. “Designers must know how users will use the system, to adapt the system for long term operations. Also graceful degradation and reconfigurability are important. The first means that a system does not immediately fail completely if certain parts fail, but that a system continues to work with a reduced performance. This has already been achieved to a large extent by the scalability of technology. Reconfigurability means that a system also reacts when there is an error, by changing its settings so that the loss of performance is minimal.”

Modern systems already require less maintenance because of their digital nature. If there are malfunctions, it is more often in high-end electronics. With a good design, plug and play is possible very quickly: when a unit is designated as defective, exchange it and designate the defective unit for repair.”

The SMART-L MM radar for land applications, for example, already has a high operational availability, says Jongebloed: “The availability requirement is already very high for land applications: 24/7 and 365 days of use. For maritime applications, a different operational profile applies. Navies can probably use it continuously for three weeks, get to a port and then carry out maintenance there. On the other hand, the complexity of systems has also increased and if there is a problem, it can sometimes take a lot of knowledge to find the cause. This should also be taken into account when setting up maintenance.”

Copy at home

It also helps if you have exactly the same systems in the home base as on board. “I know that Germany always has a copy of the ship’s installation ashore. They use it for testing new software releases, for example, but also for double-checking systems on board if something is wrong with it.”

“Also the Royal Canadian Navy “, Jongebloed continues, “is buying two extra systems from us for testing, but also for training personnel.”

A so-called Total Ship Trainer is one of the options for educating and training crews in the rotating crew concept. Such a trainer consists of, for example, simulators of a bridge, command center and technical center, just like on board the ship that is thousands of miles away. Real sensors can also be added to such a trainer, says Jongebloed.

Perfect packaging

Of course, this is also a logistical issue. “How do you get the spare parts on site?”, Jongebloed asks. “Countries that have short missions will order a different package of spare parts in advance than countries that sail longer missions. They need a more extensive package to be able to cope with emergencies at sea. So-called mission packages are also possible.”

“Of course, a naval vessel comes back periodically for maintenance and the opportunity to combine this with a thorough modernization. Technology and the threats are developing faster and faster, which can create threats that did not exist at all when the ship was built.”

System life-cycle approach

Jongebloed thinks that an approach is needed to design tailor-made solutions. “This approach must answer the question: ‘How can you best fulfill this increasing importance of support?'”

“This requires an integrated approach and preparation,” says Jongebloed. “This is not limited to the individual systems, but relates to the entire ship. It starts with the operational objectives. These can be translated into a desired usage profile, such as “operate longer in the mission area”. The technical design of the systems is based on that usage profile. Subsequently, training, maintenance and supplies are also set up accordingly. The period of major maintenance offers the opportunity to assess these topics and possibly introduce new methods.”

“This integrated approach is supported by ILS. This is currently developing, with an increasing emphasis on an approach in which the entire lifespan of a system is central. To give substance to the question of how maintenance concepts should be adapted to changing ways of deploying ships, new technologies and developments in the service and logistics world, it is important that industry and customer jointly implement these new standards.”

This is a sponsored article. With a sponsored article, a client chooses the subject of the article. Thales paid Marineschepen.nl to write this article on this topic, but Thales had no influence on the journalistic content.

How to keep warships relevant during their operational life?

28 - 06 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

Naval vessels undergo maintenance at regular intervals and are often modernised once during their operational lifetime. But technology and threats are evolving faster and faster, creating threats that didn’t even exist when the ship was built. Thales is thinking about how ships can keep up with this.

KRI Usman-Harun, the Indonesian corvette is currently being modernised. (Photo: Indonesian Navy)

In collaboration with Thales, Naviesworldwide.com publishes a monthly article on a topic that is relevant to many navies now or in the future. From cyber to autonomous systems. In part 2: how can naval ships remain relevant? More info at the bottom of this page.

“The small UAV [drone] is such an example,” says Adriaan Smits, head of Services at Thales. “They didn’t exist when for example the LW-08 radar for the S-frigates and M-frigates was developed and was not designed to detect UAVs. You might think that would require some small changes, but it is in fact quite complex. In terms of movement characteristics small UAVs are very similar to birds, with similar dimensions and fly at approximately the same speed. Old radars can detect them, but birds and UAVs are seen by the system as clutter and are not shown.”

“In order to be able to recognise and distinguish small UAVs, such as the average commercial drone, from birds, adjustments are needed. This requires special wave forms, special viewing frequency, search patterns, etc. That is very difficult. To do that you have to need a new radar.” 

In the past, the only solution was to wait for the next ship or replace the radar with a new one during a midlife upgrade. But as with the previous radar, chances are that the new radar was not suitable for the next threat. In that case the user has to wait for another 15 years.

Incidentally, this does not only apply to radars, but to many more software based systems. For example combat management systems and cybersecurity systems.

Smits: “What is different now is that the operational needs change faster than before. It is not a question of whether your system will continue to work for thirty years, but whether the system does not suddenly become useless ten years after it has been put into operation due to new developments.”

“Of course a ship is maintained regularly and modernised once or twice”, says Smits, “but that maintenance is mainly intended so that ships can continue to do what they were once designed for. If parts can no longer be supplied, then a solution is found so that the system can continue to work.”

“We are now talking about functional obsolescence. We didn’t have a solution for functional obsolescence in the past. Apart from decommissioning old vessels and developing new ones.”

HNLMS Van Speijk, one of the two Dutch M-frigates, with LW-08 radar. (Photo: Jaime Karremann/ Naviesworldwide.com)

HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën, an Air Defense and Command Frigate. The SMART-L MM/N is the black radar, the APAR is located on the forward mast and can be seen exactly to the left of the SMART-L in this photo. (Photo: Jaime Karremann/ Naviesworldwide.com)

Solution
The solution to the problem sounds simple: software updates. Smits: “What is new is that much more systems are software based than in the past. This means that you can change the function of devices to a very large extent by changing the software. As a result, you can change the function during the life of the product. So apart from the traditional maintenance after fifteen years, removing on-board systems, painting over and replacing rotating parts, you can do an annual evaluation: does the system still do what you want? And if not, can we adjust it in such a way that it will do that?”

“It actually started with APAR,” says Smits, who has been working with that radar for years. “But with our latest radars, the hardware is mainly a way to send and and receive energy, but that hardware is controlled by software. There is a lot of room for adjustments in software.”

According to Smits, radars can for example be adapted to see UAVs. “Modern radars are flexible, but how that is implemented depends on the system. An adjustment goes further than only changes in software.”

“Technology has also become more scalable in terms of hardware. The NS-100 radar can also be expanded with more reception or transmission tiles for more power or other processing hardware. The interaction between hardware and software offers enormous flexibility. Due to the rapid technology development, you have to replace the processing power on a regular bases anyway. Because it can do more, there is more room to program new functionalities: faster computers, more possibilities.”

Design for change
According to Smits, these new possibilities are not limited to radars alone, but apply to the entire ship. That starts with the requirements and the design phase. Smits: “We call this design for change; you have to take adjustments into account in your product design. Try to keep parameters as broad as possible, so that you build in flexibility. You can also physically free up more space for upgrades.”

Updates
Can operators in operations rooms of navies around the world using Thales radars count on pop-ups, informing them that they can download radar software updates? Not for the time being.

Smits: “This is very common for civilian software, but does not fit well in the defense world. App updates on your phone can often be done because developers continuously receive data from those apps and can also send data to them. For military products this is not possible because that data has strategic value and is of course not freely shared.”

“Furthermore, in the defense world we cannot simply share all upgrades developed for a product with all users. A dialogue is also important here. Forming user groups could be a suitable approach here.”

“So we know the advantages, but there are blockages and we have to discuss that with each other,” says Smits.

Conversation
Smits sees starting a dialogue as the first step in tackling other challenges of the new modernisation as well. Because although technically there are a lot of possibilities thanks to software, many navies are not equipped for it. “Everything, including Thales, is geared towards innovation and creating new generation systems and then doing maintenance. Existing processes at many organisations are often not designed for regular adjustments of systems.”

Of course, the industry itself can decide to offer updates for forty years, but that is financially unfeasible in this market without a suitable contract. When engineers retire, start working elsewhere or focus on a new generation of radars, knowledge of specific systems evaporates quickly. “If after fifteen years a customer suddenly says: I want to do an update, then we are both disappointed. We have to say that we no longer have the people with that knowledge and the customer does not get the desired update,” explains Smits. “Because in order to retain knowledge, you have to keep working with the product.”

“What I think is very important is that there is a continuous dialogue between navies, knowledge institutes and industry in order to come to solutions together. There is already a particularly effective collaboration in the Netherlands, called Nederland Radarland. That model could be extended to the entire asset life cycle management, which therefore not focuses at how we develop a new platform, but also at how we deal with it once it is up and running.”

“Another thing is: what agreements do you make? If a navy says: I want to buy that flexibility for 20 years, that means for us that we have to keep that knowledge available. We then have to be able to offer software updates during that period, but we still have no idea what needs to be reprogrammed, so it has organisational, contractual, and implementation aspects that challenge the status quo on a number of points.”

Other countries
In the Netherlands there is the so-called Golden Helix, consisting of the Defense/Navy, knowledge institutes and industry. As a result, there is often contact, so a dialogue about this new topic is relatively easy to set up. But what about this idea in other countries?

Not all navies handle their equipment in the same way, there are navies that only do maintenance when something breaks. Other navies have highly professional maintenance organisations. But also the navies that now work with limited resources will sooner or later have to deal with the software possibilities that now come with, for example, the Thales NS-100 radar.

Thales already mention technological flexibility in tenders. Smits: “We describe the possibilities, but until now using them has been a separate transaction. To use the full flexibility, you want to move towards a relational model, in which we set up a basic technical capacity and you use an organised discussion platform together with the user decides what the correct updates will be.”

“Because,” Smits continues, “that is the way to achieve this. If you do not enter into a partnership, customers may still benefit, but much more from the traditional model. For example, if a new function is developed, then the navies which entered the partnership benefit first. They, however, also to help determine who we can sell that update to. So it could very well be that if you don’t participate in such a discussion platform, you can’t benefit from the updates or that you have to pay the entire development costs.”

“You could organise this through a user group, in which multiple users of a product, together with industry, coordinate the upgrade roadmap of the product. You could see the international cooperation towards the development of the APAR as a precursor of such a user group.
Within the group, agreements were also made at the time, if another party were to be added.”

Does Smits already see concrete opportunities for this model in the future? Certainly: “For the new SMART-L MM/N, the technology is ready.”

This is a sponsored article. With a sponsored article, a client chooses the subject of the article. Thales paid Marineschepen.nl/ Naviesworldwide.com to write this article on this topic, but Thales had no influence on the journalistic content.

Cyber security at sea, defending against digital attacks on ships

30 - 04 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

Cyber-attacks happen every day. Large commercial organizations are often targeted, but governments have also faced attacks. The mentioned targets have one thing in common: they are targets on land. Are ships invulnerable? No, and fortunately more and more attention is being paid to cyber security at sea.

(Photo: Jaime Karremann/ Marineschepen.nl)

In collaboration with Thales, Marineschepen.nl publishes a monthly article on a topic that is relevant to many navies now or in the future. From cyber to autonomous systems. In part 1: cyber security at sea. More info at the bottom of this page.

René van Buuren is cybersecurity authority  Naval at Thales Netherlands. Marineschepen.nl spoke to him about digital defence at sea: “Information security has been around for a long time. But with the advent of the internet it has exploded and we call it cybersecurity. Partly thanks to office automation, everything in companies was suddenly connected to the internet and therefore vulnerable. And in my world, a naval ship is similar to a land based organization, with potential vulnerabilities, which are often interconnected. “

Cyber ​​security is not limited to the digital domain. “A cyber-attack can also have effects on things that we can see and feel in the physical world. That is important for naval and commercial ships. The cyber-physical consequences of an attack can be enormous. Stuxnet [a computer worm believed to have damaged a nuclear power plant in Iran, JK] is one of the best-known examples, but imagine if a potential next blockade in the Suez Canal were the result of a cyber-attack on the steering gear, which is not inconceivable. “

Ships are often far from home and the internet connection is not always that fast, is a cyber threat realistic? “That is the most frequently asked question,” answers Van Buuren. “Nuclear power plants are hacked and they are not connected to the Internet. Cybersecurity goes much further than the Internet. A ship is an enormously complex system consisting of all kinds of military and commercial systems that are linked together. That automatically implies that there are a lot of potential vulnerabilities and a large attack surface [many possibilities for attacks, JK]. In addition, ships are in service for 30 years, during which time a lot of people and equipment come on board. “

“You can get supply chain attacks such as Solarwinds”, Van Buuren continues. “This kind of attacks are common more and more. A supply chain attack is an attack on a supplier of your company. The infected software enters your company via that supplier.”

“Cyber ​​threats at sea are also realistic because cyber-attacks have become part of hybrid warfare, in addition to military, economic, political and propaganda means. This means that opponents will use cyber-attacks to disrupt your operations. This does not have to be via the Internet and can be done via various attack paths. For example, it is widely known that some state actors equip maritime vessels with 4G masts and sail in the vicinity of naval ships in order to hack the phones of crew members. “

Future: cyber positions in the command center?

Navies are increasingly interested in adding protection against cyber-attacks. Cyber ​​security is an intrinsic part of the total solution for many new naval ships. According to Van Buuren, the German F126 frigates (MKS180) are an example where cybersecurity is a large and important part of the contract.

“That’s the design side,” says Van Buuren. “You try to deliver it as well as possible, with all lines of defence. And that applies not only to the software in the CIC, but to the entire ship. All software, the sensors and the weapon systems must meet high cyber requirements.”

Thoughts are now moving towards the next step. Van Buuren: “The modern side of cyber is about detection and response. The design must be in order; a fence around your house. But you also have to actively monitor and intervene. Naval ships have all kinds of resources on board to combat damage and fire. There will also be a cyber variant of this in the future. “

That is not easy at sea, says Van Buuren: “On shore you have all the means at your disposal. How do you translate the ordinary cyber defence on land in a civilian company to a naval vessel in conflict? Then it becomes difficult. It depends on, for example, the available knowledge on board, the permitted connectivity and the mission conditions. Do you want to fix something quickly in order to keep fighting? That is something completely different from doing a recovery and update your systems when you’re in your homeport. “

There is no one solution; it is a continuous process. according to Van Buuren. “We are talking about that at Thales and with our clients.”

Systems on board future German F126 frigates. (Source: Thales)

Not easy

Thales focuses on cyber defence. “Cyber-offensive capabilities are capabilities for governments and not necessarily for the industry,” says Van Buuren when asked. “Besides, if you have ten missiles on board, you can achieve the same impact ten times. But a cyber weapon can generally only be deployed once. The moment that it is noticed, you cannot use it the second time.”

Conversely, this also means that the threat posed to naval ships comes almost exclusively from a government; a state actor, and to a lesser extent from criminals. And not from someone who is bored and hacks a navy ship in a few hours. The major threats come from maritime cyber-attacks at the highest level by attackers with almost unlimited resources, i.e. state actors.

Van Buuren: “The Solar Wind attack was preceded by many months of preparation by a huge team of experts. You have to have that kind of capacities in mind: the attacker must have to be eager, a lot of money and time.”

For the defenders it is important to keep up with the developments. “It’s a cyber race,” says Van Buuren. “You are always one step behind and developments are going very fast.”

“Cyber ​​security on ships is also difficult because a complex system of all kinds of information systems and operational systems are linked together, all of which have a completely different history and background.”

Entire lifespan

And such a complex system must remain protected for thirty years. “That’s another trend in cybersecurity thinking,” says Van Buuren. “We need to discuss this. Agreements must be made about updates: who is responsible for the updates? Do you also have to qualify again or do sea acceptance trials?”

“Mid-life modernization of a naval ship is now the standard. But that is a different way of thinking than a regular cyber update. Many navies are also geared towards purchasing equipment and not the maintenance and releases that follows and often they have different organizations for purchase and maintenance.”

These agreements about cybersecurity during its entire lifespan are important, because when the cyber security part of a ship is not properly maintained, means that the ship is a risk for friendly warships. “In the future it cannot be ruled out that certain warships will no longer have access to certain information during a combined mission because they do not have their security in order,” says Van Buuren.

This is a sponsored article. With a sponsored article, a client chooses the subject of the article. Thales paid Marineschepen.nl to write this article on this topic, but Thales had no influence on the journalistic content.

Overhauled Dutch frigate prepares for major test

15 - 04 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

A lot of work has been done on Dutch frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën to modernize the ship. Marineschepen.nl visited the frigate that is working hard towards an important milestone in the participation of the ‘missile shield’ against ballistic missiles: At Sea Demonstration 2021 later this year. That is the focus, but much more has been renewed and changed inside the nearly 20-year-old ship.

Marineschepen.nl was on board modernized frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)

The Air Defence and Command Frigate (LCF) HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën is still as gray as when the ship was put into service in 2002.  Like then a large black radar is rotating on the hangar and the 127mm gun, eagerly looked at by museum directors, is still on the forecastle. So nothing has changed.

“For us it is really a new ship, so much has changed”, an employee of the Dutch MoD software department Maritime IT tells to your reporter in the gangway, while stewards take large containers of food from the elevator to the officers’ mess.

It sounds a bit strange, ‘new ship’, because the LCF does not seem to have changed much on the outside, nor on the inside. But appearances can be deceiving. The LCF Upkeep Program (IP LCF) is a major modernisation project that is most visible on a technical and operational level. IP LCF consists of 41 subprojects that will ultimately deliver a new bridge, new Command and Information Centre (CIC), new ballast water treatment system, the new Thales SMART-L MM / N radar, 24 km of new cables and more than 1,000 new devices.

“I think it is easier to build a new ship than to strip a ship completely empty and fill it with new equipment,” said Commanding Officer of De Zeven Provinciën, captain Bob van Hoof a little later in his cabin. “For example, all computers in the CIC have been replaced”, Van Hoof continues. “The tricky part is that very old equipment, such as the old Harpoon installation with the bakelite buttons, must be connected to the new systems. Such a network must then ‘speak’ various old and new languages, which must also be synchronized. That is a challenge to integrate.”

“That is why we are doing tests at sea for weeks,” adds Head of Operational Branch lieutenant Kevin Stolk. “Maritime IT is in our CIC and is constantly updating the CMS to do that integration as well as possible, so that the system will soon work as well as possible.” And what the system has to do is, for the first time all by itself, detect and track ballistic missiles in space. That is the goal for everyone who is involved in Dutch BMD-programme. But first about the new stuff of the ship.

Technology on the bridge

There is lots of new stuff on the bridge. This will strike anyone who has been on a bridge of the LCF before. The most visible changes: the chart table has disappeared and has made way for a large renewed console for the signallers. Here the signallers set up digital and voice connections thanks to new systems.

On the other side of the bridge, there is now a position for the Marine Engineering Officer, which has the new platform management software with all the information and options available. If a naval vessel is in narrow waters or if it is foggy, more people will come on the bridge, including the Marine Engineering Officer. He or she provides technical knowledge on the bridge, acts as an intermediary in communication between the Ship Control Centre and the bridge, and can advise the officer in the event of, for example, technical problems (which are very inconvenient in such a situation). of the guard or the commanding officer.

The renewed bridge. The positions on the left are for the commanding officer and the officer of the watch, and of course for the helmsman. The helmsman’s seat is higher than in the past and the front row is also positioned further forward. This was possible thanks to the smaller equipment. The two rear ‘islands’ are in front of the Head of Technical Branch  (right), the signalers have the other position. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)

In the past, the Marine Engineering Officer only had a seat on the bridge and could talk to the Ship Control Centre. Van Hoof is pleased with the innovation: “The Marine Engineering Officer had to get all the information from the Ship Control Centre. That had a delaying effect and, moreover, you never had the total overview. Now the Marine Engineering Officer can see on his screen what the Ship Control Centre sees. For example, we had a problem with a certain propulsion system that shut down as soon as we turned hard. Thanks to the console, the crew on the bridge could keep an eye on the system and prevent the machine from shutting down. We can extract much more information from the system, so that in emergency situations we ask fewer questions to the Ship Control Centre who is then dealing with the calamity. We can also better anticipate possible problems, so that they occur less often. “

Standby, fix, click

The removal of the chart table has everything to do with the introduction of the digital chart, ECDIS. But the digital chart was already there, right? Van Hoof: “Yes, but because that chart was integrated in the CMS we were not allowed to use it, so we had to have a paper chart. We now have a system that is independent of the CMS.”

And the difference can be seen on the bridge. Of course because the chart table has been removed, but also because of the way in which the position of the ship is now determined on the basis of landmarks on the shore.

With a paper chart that is a very precise job that can take a while. Thanks to the electronic chart and the digital bearing compasses, which directly enter the bearing in ECDIS, it has become a quick bearing of three objects and some clicks of the mouse. This is so fast that nowadays the position can even be determined when the ship is turning.

Digital bearing compass. These are actually binoculars with a button. Instead of reading the bearing aloud, now only a button on the device has to be pressed and the bearing is transferred to the digital map. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)

But wait a minute. Are we talking about positioning here? We’ve been using GPS for that since the late 1970s, right? Well, navies have indeed been using GPS for many years. However, it is also known that, for example, Russia has sometimes spoofed the GPS signal.

“Everyone nowadays sails and drives on GPS, the car industry is even completely switching to GPS,” says Van Hoof. “We turn off the GPS so that we also keep sailing safely by making visual fixes. We force our team to look outside. That is much more difficult than sailing on GPS, but you should always be aware that you can handle a situation in which you cannot use GPS. “

All screens have become larger, but this ‘super tablet’, which was made in collaboration with RH Marine, takes the cake. This is the chart room behind the bridge, where a chart table used to be. This screen, which works as a tablet, shows maps (which have been licensed) just like Google Maps. For example, the route to be sailed can be planned here and it can be used for briefings. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)

Change in navigation

Sailing with an electronic chart is really different. “In recent incidents where commercial ships ran aground, errors were often made with the electronic chart,” says Van Hoof. “They thought they were in safe waters. Sailing safely with a computer system is different because you have to pay attention to other things. A paper chart does not change, you can see everything at once, for example depth lines. You can set these on an ECDIS. But you do have to adjust the settings of the hazard depth line and keep checking. An error in the settings can run the ship aground “, says Van Hoof.

Another risk is the amount of alarms and information that is sent to the bridge team in some situations. Especially alarms that are not relevant (for example for a shallow area that is not really dangerous), can ensure that crew members are no longer alert to an alarm if something is really important. Information on a screen also appears reliable and complete, while it is sometimes better to just look outside. Van Hoof. “The somewhat older young people are used to looking outside more to assess a situation and are used to making decisions based on the outside image. The new generation looks at screens more quickly, there is a risk that they are too involved in the AIS, ECDIS and radar images. ”

“Ultimately, an ECDIS is much safer, because you can see your position much faster. And before that it was only visible in the map, the officer of the watch who looked through the window did not see that. Now you almost have a head up display. “

Unfortunately, no photos were allowed to be taken in the new Ship Control Centre. This is the old situation. More screens have been added to the screens to the left of the photo, especially with images of engineering spaces. The console on the right has been shortened and reduced to a smaller position. A new large console is located almost in the middle of the room. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)

Ship Control Centre

A long way down is the technical heart of the frigate, the Ship Control Centre. A major change can also be seen here. There are more and larger screens on which, thanks to a much larger number of cameras, the technical areas in the ship are shown much better. The most important improvement is not visible, that is the renewed Integrated Platform Management Software (IPMS) from RH Marine.

In this new version a lot of attention has been paid to user-friendliness and an automatic advisory function has again been included, which now plays a much larger role in the Ship Control Centre. The software can take over more tasks from the staff and an unmanned Ship Control Centre, just like on the Holland class OPVs, is not inconceivable in the future. How exactly everything will take shape is sometimes still to be figured out on board the De Zeven, as is also apparent from the words of Van Hoof: “A concept has been devised for how the Ship Control Centre should work, for example with an Marine Engineering Officer that is behind a large console and a personnel division that has been devised on paper. We now have to see whether it is as logical as expected in practice.”

The SMART-L MM / N, recognizable by the square pattern instead of the horizontal lines on the old SMART-L. This radar also features a new IFF with Mod 5, replacing Mod 4. In addition, the modernized Goalkeeper can be seen. De Zeven Provinciën is the first ship to fully integrate the new Goalkeeper into the CMS. It is also the first ship to work with the new Link 22. The Netherlands is one of the first countries to work with Link 22.. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)

Dot on the horizon: dot in space

On one important point, the LCF has made a huge step: Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). A programme that began in the 1990s when these frigates only existed on paper. At the time, it was already understood by the designers that these ships could play a role in detecting and destroying ballistic missiles.

In 2006 LCF HNLMS Tromp demonstrated for the first time off Hawaii that, to the surprise of the Americans, it could detect ballistic missiles with the old SMART-L.

In 2019 the new Thales SMART-L MM / N was finally put on HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën and since then there has been one clear goal for the ship: At Sea Demonstration 2021 in May / June of this year. “That is the dot on the horizon for ship and crew,” says Van Hoof.

Old situation of the command centre, no photos were allowed of the new one. The interior has largely remained the same, but all hardware has been replaced. Instead of two screens, each position will have one large screen. (Photo: NL MoD)

New task, no extra people

Van Hoof is looking forward to ASD21. “Because this is the only radar in the world that can do BMD and air defence at the same time. In 2015 we also combined BMD and air defence with De Zeven, but that was thanks to a trick. The Americans have done the same in the past, but we will have this capability as a standard option on board.”  

The new radar can detect missiles up to a distance of 2,000 km. Van Hoof: “I already thought the old SMART-L radar for air defence was good, we now see that the new radar can do a lot more than the previous one.” A pitfall is that the personnel in the CIC receive too much information, because the radar not only detects more, it also looks much further.

Representation of the radar beam of the test model of the SMART-L MM / N from Hengelo in 2017. The white icons are satellites. The beam has a range of 2,000 km and can thus image missiles near Spain, Northern Greece, from the North Sea. (Image: Thales)

In addition to a new radar, more is needed to be able to do BMD. The CMS, the software in the CIC, has also been updated and adapted to the new radar. BMD is built into the CMS and now displays a 3D image of the ballistic missile instead of a flat radar image. Despite all the new possibilities, the commanding officers of the LCFs have not been given any additional personnel.

Van Hoof: “BMD is something we have to do next to our normal work in the CIC. So we have to be efficient with the crew. They also have to receive the training to be able to use the BMD planner, for example [used to determine the best position for optimal detection, JK]. The BMD planner is important when we’re in a mission area, suddenly new intel comes in and we can’t wait for support from shore. Then we use the planner ourselves to determine the best position. That means training, and that means a workload distribution in the CIC and a different operational management. “

“A few years ago we came up with a concept for the CIC,” adds Stolk. “Now it has to become clear in practice whether it works, we adapt what does not. Ultimately we will arrive at what is workable for all future BMD naval ships.” In addition to existing personnel, the CIC also has to make do with the same number of display cabinets; there will be no separate BMD console. “We would have preferred it,” says Stolk, “but it is more a nice to have than a need to have.”

This article was first published in Dutch on Marineschepen.nl, March 2021.

Finally: drones can hunt submarines, ships can communicate with submerged submarines

29 - 03 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

Without water there would be no life, and worse, no ships. But water is not always our friend: even gigantic submarines are very difficult to find, and communication with submarines is almost impossible. The Canadian company Geospectrum Technologies has come up with a solution to these problems.

HNLMS Zeeleeuw, filephoto. (Photo: Dutch MoD)

A NATO anti-submarine warfare frigate in the Atlantic Ocean is ordered to hunt for a nuclear submarine that, based on observations by various sensors, is suspected to be approaching a position within range of the frigate rapidly. The frigate is designed to combat submarines: the latest sonar (hull mounted sonar) is mounted under the bow and the low-frequency sonar that can be towed behind the ship allows submarines to be detected from a great distance. In addition, the ship has an anti-submarine warfare helicopter and two unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). These USVs are equipped with the Towed Reelable Active / Passive Sonar (TRAPS): a system using passive and active sonar.

“A single ship is unlikely to survive a confrontation with a submarine,” says Sean Kelly, a former anti-submarine warfare officer in the Canadian Navy who is now working at Geospectrum. “But if a group of ships takes on a submarine, the submarine is at a disadvantage.”

“By having a helicopter and USVs search for that specific submarine, hereby supplementing the frigate’s on board capabilities, we are actually creating our own task group. A great tactical advantage, and useful in times when Western navies are confronted with a shrinking fleet.”

Both the USVs and the helicopter are deployed at a great distance from the ship. “A frigate’s own sonars should actually stay out of the submarine’s range,” says Kelly.

A Seagull USV with TRAPS. (Photo: Elbit)

Our frigate is advancing towards the position where the hunt for the hostile submarine can begin. The USVs and helicopter are prepared for deployment. “Let’s say that the sonar ranges that day are 30 nautical miles,” Kelly continues. The ship can therefore detect submarines up to a maximum range of 30 miles with its own sonar, but so can the USV. “So if you send your USV 30 miles forward and the helicopter too, you can search from a greater distance. Now you can increase your sonar range to 60 nautical miles or more in one go. ”

Operating as an ASW picket, the unmanned vessel lowers the low-frequency active sonar into the water and starts to ping loudly. The sound signal ripples through the cold Atlantic Ocean and bounces off objects, but not just back to the USV. Kelly: “You ping in one location, you receive in another location.” In this case the echoes reach the sonar that is towed behind the frigate and the received signals are processed by the software on board the frigate.

“In waters such as the Atlantic, the Pacific or the South China Sea, I want a sonar with the lowest possible frequency,” says Kelly, “because that gives you enormous range. But not all ASW-operations take place in such deep waters. ”

The position of the enemy submarine in our story turns out to be more towards coastal waters. Our frigate recovers the USVs and helicopter and sails to the newly specified position. On board a plan is made how the submarine can be located in shallow waters. “Low-frequency sonars are less effective in coastal waters,” says Kelly. “Here we need medium frequency sonar.”

Almost all naval sonars operate on one single frequency. This is not the case with TRAPS though. Kelly: “The USVs have been recovered and we only need to replace a small part so we can deploy a medium frequency sonar. Half an hour later the USV is back at sea and the USV can search for the submarine again. If you are not able to change that frequency, you will lose the submarine in no time. If you can adapt quickly, you have a huge tactical advantage. ”

TRAPS with passive and active sonars visable. The black transmitter part has to be swapped if an other frequency is needed. (Photo: Geospectrum)

TRAPS

The name of the TRAPS system has previously been mentioned in articles on Marineschepen.nl and Naviesworldwide.com. Specifically in the article about the Seagull unmanned surface vessel, which was developed by Elbit Systems and is being built in the Netherlands by De Haas Maassluis.

As we have just seen in the example, an important addition to that specific USV is TRAPS: a sonar set consisting of a long array fitted with hydrophones for listening, and the active part being formed by a transmitter.

TRAPS is the flagship product of Geospectrum, which focuses on underwater acoustics for naval and civilian applications. The system has been under development for some time, and has recently been installed on various ships of the Canadian Navy. TRAPS can also be used as an add-on sonar for patrol ships, for example. However, in this article we will focus on the version intended for USVs. The latter version is extraordinary, as currently there is, according to Geospectrum, no sonar for unmanned ships that is operational on this level.

What TRAPS exactly will look like in practice depends entirely on the requirements of the customer. “We have hundreds of options,” says Kelly. “Every navy operates in slightly different circumstances, so there is no sonar that works for all of them. And during operations conditions often change for naval vessels as well. Therefore, TRAPS is also highly modular and can therefore be adapted to the ongoing situation.”

Another advantage of the system being modular is the fact that you do not have to return to port when there is a malfunction, but can easily replace the broken part.

The active sonar can ping on frequencies between 2 kHz and 10 kHz, simply by changing the transmitting part. Hence TRAPS is suitable for bi-static operations (transmitting and receiving at different locations). Complex waveforms are also be accommodated, Kelly assures. With passive sonar, it is the length of the sonar array that determines the lowest frequency (and the lower the frequency, the greater the range that can be achieved).

Changes to the design of the Belgian and Dutch ASW frigates have affected the sizes of the USVs.

Integrating TRAPS with small USVs

This is nice and all but is it also useful for the navies of the Netherlands and Belgium? After all, about a year ago, a design change was approved which led to a reduction of the space for accommodating unmanned vessels on board the future Dutch and Belgian ASW frigates. Instead of 12m USVs, these future vessels will have a maximum length of 7 meters.

This means the standard version of the Seagull can no longer be facilitated on these ships. A smaller version will have reduced range and cannot be used in certain sea states. How does this affect TRAPS?

TRAPS is not made for one specific USV size. “When we are confronted with less space, we will make the passive part of TRAPS smaller. This means that if the vessel gets smaller, the passive capabilities will be reduced,” Kelly explains. However, “we consider the active part the most important, we will never change that.”

Does all this mean we can breathe a sigh of relief? No. “A 7 meter USV will be very difficult,” Kelly notes. “We will definitely look into it, but the weight is the problem. Not so much the vessel’s length. Coincidentally, an other navy recently decided to extend the length of their USVs in connection with TRAPS, ” Kelly adds hopefully.

Canadian Coastal Defense Vessel HMCS Shawinigan (Kingston class) operates with a containerized TRAPS version. (Photo: Geospectrum)

Sales

TRAPS has already been sold to the Canadian Navy. And recently a navy in “Asia” procured several TRAPS systems. “Unfortunately, we cannot say which navy it is,” Kelly says. “We are also negotiating with a navy in the Middle East, and we expect more sales in the near future.”

Communicating with submarines

While TRAPS is meant to detect submarines, LRAM has been developed by Geospectrum to communicate with submerged submarines.

Underwater communication is extremely difficult due to the difficult properties of seawater. How can a submarine receive messages from its headquarters when it is engaged in a covert operation thousands of miles away? Impossible if the boat is operating in very deep waters. More and more submarines do have satellite communication. However, to use this the boat has to go to periscope depth, and at that moment there is a higher chance of detection.

In the past submarines used a so-called postbox procedure: a maritime patrol aircraft flew from, for example, Keflavik (Iceland) to a predetermined position in the Norwegian Sea with the NATO-submarine setting up its antenna, after which both could transmit messages at short range. However as a result Russian units were able to track the aircraft and detect the submarine.

Yet another option was Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) communications. During the Cold War, a number of gigantic cell towers in the US, Great Britain and Norway were emitting at extremely low frequencies using tremendous power. Messages could thus be sent to submerged submarines operating far away from port, but the cost of maintaining such a huge broadcast station was enormous. Therefore, they are no longer in use.

Geospectrum has now developed a solution: the Long Range Acoustic Modem, or LRAM. Any transmitter can be linked to LRAM, for instance TRAPS for shorter ranges, or the Very Low Frequency C-BASS system, another Geospectrum product, in order to achieve long range communications.

With LRAM and C-BASS a ship can send a message to a submerged submarine operating 1,000 nautical miles (1,852 km) away. (Photo: Google Maps, text added by Naviesworldwide.com)

Long range

Talking about long range we mean really long range: 1,000 nautical miles. “But it can also be done at an extremely short distance: 10 yards,” Sean Kelly says. “LRAM enables communications with divers, unmanned underwater vehicles and submarines.”

Thanks to LRAM it is possible to send messages to submarines from shore, but also by ships. This means a commander of a task group which includes a submarine can also send messages. “If a submarine is part of a task group, that specific submarine still mainly operates on its own and receives messages perhaps once a day or every few days,” Kelly says. “However there can be significant change in a day or in a few hours.”

An LRAM broadcast using C-BASS will stand out, however the great distances being covered in all directions has the advantage that this is of little use to an opponent: the area with a radius of 1000 nautical miles is simply too large to search for a submarine.

C-BASS family. (Photo: Geospectrum)

C-BASS

To be able to communicate over such great distances, an underwater transducer is needed that works at very low frequency and has a lot of power. “When we started the project, there was one similar system,” Sean Kelly recalls. “However that system had the size of a large delivery van and weighed 3 tons. Totally unsuitable for naval ships.”

“We promised to build a small system that could transmit at 40 Hz, which is extremely low, with a power of 200 dB. Some experts said we couldn’t do it and said we could bring the system over once it was finished and they would explain why it didn’t work, ” Kelly says.

“So we started developing it and it became a device with a diameter of one meter, weighing 300 kg transmitting at 40 Hz. The power was more than 200 dB. We showed it to the  previously mentioned experts and they immediately bought two. It is a breakthrough in underwater acoustics. ”

Then there were the at sea trials. They were a success, the small device could send and receive messages over a distance of 1,000 nautical miles.

C-BASS transmitter in LRAM system put into the water by a ship. (Photo: Geospectrum)

Text messages

However, submarines still cannot stream videos; only very short text messages are possible. “It’s more like encoded Morse code,” Kelly explains. “We have 16,000 pre-programmed messages in the system, which the sender can choose from. There is also a method to create your own messages, but it is actually not designed for that. ”

So the bandwidth is limited, but still much more than that used during Cold War submarine broadcasting, Kelly says. “An ELF broadcast station costs billions of dollars, your radio frequency antennas have to be miles long. LRAM costs just a fraction, can be put on a ship, is highly mobile and has much more bandwidth.”

In addition, the system is designed to be reliable, because typically the sender does not get a return message from the submarine.

Unless the submarine is in distress. Kelly: “Some navies are also interested in LRAM from a safety perspective. A submarine that is in distress or lying on the seabed can then send a message about its status and its position. ”

The sea will remain a challenging environment for a long time. However, due to the latest advances in anti-submarine warfare using unmanned vessels and sub sea communication, things will really change under water.

This is a sponsored article. With a sponsored article, a client chooses the subject of the article. Geospectrum paid Marineschepen.nl to write this article on this topic, but Geospectrum had no influence on the journalistic content.

HNLMS Evertsen to join UK taskgroup to Japan

22 - 03 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

The Air Defense and Command Frigate HNLMS Evertsen will pay a port visit to Japan with the UK taskgroup, a spokesman for the navy said this morning after questions from Marineschepen.nl/ Naviesworldwide.com. Both the Dutch and British navy do not want to formally confirm whether they will sail through the South China Sea, but different route is very unlikely.

HNLMS Evertsen, filephoto. (Source: Dutch Ministry of Defence)

In 2018, then UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a Dutch warship is going to deploy alongside the 2021 HMS Queen Elizabeth taskgroup. One year earlier, at the time, Minister of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson had made public that the Royal Navy taskgroup would sail through the South China Sea.

Although the Royal Netherlands Navy didn’t comment on the South China Sea plans of the UK taskgroup, it was expected that the Dutch ship would follow HMS Queen Elizabeth through the contested waters. However, in September 2020, a Dutch navy spokesman said that ‘The Hague’ preferred a port visit in Indonesia, instead of a transit through the South-China Sea.

Today, after Naviesworldwide.com asked questions about the deployment, the Royal Netherlands Navy confirmed the plans to join the UK taskgroup to Japan. Although the spokesman did not confirm that the ships will sail through the South China Sea, he added that the taskgroup will act according to the Law of the Sea. Freedom of navigation is disputed in the South-China Sea.

A route from the Indian Ocean to Japan, other than through the South China Sea, could been seen as an approval to China’s claims in the South China Sea. Naviesworldwide.com expects that HNLMS Evertsen will sail through the South China Sea alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth and its UK and US escorts.

Sonar competition future Dutch and Belgian frigates ongoing

04 - 03 - 2021 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

The procurement for hull mounted sonars for the future Anti Submarine Warfare Frigates (ASWF) for the Dutch and Belgian navies, is ongoing. Raytheon and Ultra are two of the companies that have offered their solutions to the Dutch MoD.

Illustration of the future Anti Submarine Warfare Frigate. (Image: DMO)

The Netherlands and Belgium are replacing their current Multipurpose frigates (M-frigates) with the Anti Submarine Warfare Frigate. Both countries will receive two of these frigates, designed by the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and built by Dutch shipyard Damen.

Hull mounted sonar

Whereas the attention of the defence media has been mainly focused on the above water systems, another interesting competition is going on around one of the underwater sensors; the hull mounted sonar.

Both US company Raytheon as the Canadian Ultra have last night confirmed to Marineschepen.nl that they are offering sonars for the new frigates.

“With a legacy in sonar of over one hundred years, Raytheon Missiles & Defense offers its fifth generation sonar system for surface ships, the Modular Scalable Sonar System (MS3). Building on the highly capable SQS-56 and DE1160 sonars, Raytheon has leveraged improvements in technology from later versions of the DE1160 series and US Navy’s ZUMWALT-class destroyer sonar suite to provide a scalable sonar system”, a spokesperson told Marineschepen.nl.

Ultra revealed their offer as well: “The HMS [hull mounted sonar] solution proposed is derived from the world-leading S2150 HMS which are being fitted to UK Type 23 and 26 vessels, Canadian Surface Combatant, and Australian Hunter Class frigates.”

It is rumored that Atlas Elektronik is also offering a hull mounted sonar. It is not known which type, Atlas has the ASO 713 and the ASO 723 in their product portfolio.

It is not yet known whether Thales are offering their UMS 4110 CL (a.k.a. BlueMaster), this sonar was selected for the FREMM-frigates and for the future F110 anti-submarine warfare frigates of the Spanish Navy.

LFAPS

The hull mounted sonar is only one sensor of the complete sonar fit. Apart from the sonars the USVs will receive, the Dutch MoD have already decided that the Low Frequency Active Passive Sonar (LFAPS) will be used on the ASWFs. This system has replaced the Anaconda towed array on the M-frigates, during their modernisation.

LFAPS has been developed by TNO, the Dutch Navy and the Canadian sonar company Ultra.

Submarine periscope production returns to the Netherlands

14 - 12 - 2020 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

Dutch optronics company Nedinsco and German defense company Hensoldt have signed a letter of intent to start production of complex assemblies for submarine periscopes at Nedinsco’s facility in Venlo.

A Hellenic Navy Type 214 submarine (Papanikolis class). On the right the OMS 150 optronic mast (search) and in the middle the SERO 420 attack periscope. (Photo: Hans van Pijkeren / Royal Netherlands Navy)

In 2021 Nedinsco (Nederlandse Instrumenten Compagnie) will celebrate its 100-years anniversary, and like in 1921, Nedinsco will produce (German) periscopes. In recent decades, Nedinsco has still worked extensively in the military domain, for example it built thermal imaging cameras for naval vessels, night- and day vision equipment for armored vehicles, but it did not produce complete periscopes anymore. That will change.

Hensoldt and Nedinsco signed a Letter of Intent for the complete construction of SERO periscopes for Hensoldt. “The production will be done at Nedinsco’s existing facility in Venlo,” both companies wrote in a press release. “For the assembly a high-end dedicated production area will be created using state of the art optronics tooling and equipment.”

A collaboration between Hensoldt and Nedinsco is not new, Nedinsco added, but it has grown in recent years. Nedinsco has been producing parts for Hensoldt periscopes for twenty years. Parts as the motor drive, and later on the drive of the optronic masts and the optical heart of the masts, which consists of a system of lenses, cameras, filters and prisms, are already produced in Venlo.

SERO 250 periscope. (Image: Hensoldt)

The periscopes that Nedinsco will produce are members of the SERO family, and are often part of tkMS submarines. For example, the (newest) German 212A and the Portuguese 209PN submarines sail with SERO 400 periscopes . Turkish and Colombian submarines operate with SERO 250 periscopes.

The production of the first periscopes in Venlo will start in the summer of 2021 and both companies expect production to grow in the coming years.

Thanks to the extensive facilities at Nedinsco, it will also possible to repair or refurbish periscopes in the Netherlands.

The transfer of a part of the production of German periscopes to the Netherlands comes at an interesting time, given the tender for new Dutch submarines. However, the Venlo company is not exclusively associated with tkMS.

HNoMS Maud, the ship that wasn’t allowed to sail, still in the Netherlands

02 - 12 - 2020 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

A year the new Norwegian oiler HNoMS Maud was in such a bad shape that the ship was not allowed to sail. The sailing ban was extended last spring, but in September the ship built in South Korea carefully returned to sea. Last week the replenishment vessel arrived in the Dutch naval base of Den Helder for a visit. Not because the problems were solved, but because of work on the masts needed for replenishment at sea (RAS).

HNoMS Maud, entering Den Helder. The RAS rigs are right in front of the bridge. (Photo: Bas Schaatsenberg)

Monday 23 November Norway’s largest naval ship appeared on the Marsdiep, approaching Den Helder. The HNoMS Maud was immediately noticed. Obviously because it is a foreign naval vessel, but also because the Maud has mainly been along side in Norway since it was commissioned. A week later, the Maud is still in Den Helder. What is going on? 

Bosch Rexroth supplied the Maud with electrically-operated RAS rigs, just like the rigs for the ‘sisterships’ Royal Navy Tide class tankers. These RAS positions were installed at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) during construction, but were not completely finished at the time. The final work, and additional work on the rigs was planned to take place in Norway, but due to the COVID restrictions, this was not possible. When it proved difficult to get the technicians to Norway, it was proposed to move the ship to the Netherlands. And so Den Helder became HNoMS Maud’s first foreign port of call.

The fact that the Maud was allowed to sail to the Netherlands is quite something. The ship was barred from sailing in August 2019 when it turned out that there were many problems with the brand new supplier. Well, brand new, construction was delayed due to problems at the yard in South Korea. And while the ship was waiting at DSME, the condition of the ship deteriorated. Nevertheless, the Norwegian Navy accepted the ship, sailed it to Norway and in the spring of 2019 the Maud was put into service. But the shortcomings had already come to light by then.

 Sognefjord

The sailing ban was extended last spring, but in August 2020, after hard work, the systems could be put into operation. In September the ship went to sea for the first time and it was decided to mix business with pleasure by planning a navigation exercise via the Sognefjord to the picturesque village of Flam. The ship was not allowed to sail much further from port, but that was already a lot at that time.

According to a press release of the Norwegian Navy, it was expected that the Maud could participate in the major naval exercise FLOTEX in Norwegian waters in November. The ship would be ready for the first RAS after commissioning. But that still required some work on the rigs and that was not possible in Norway. De Maud had to skip FLOTEX and headed to the Netherlands.

This change caused new delays and the ship is expected to be fully operational in autumn 2021, instead of summer 2021.

HNoMS Maud will return to sea next Monday, 7 December.

Thales NS50 radar on future Dutch, Belgian MCM vessels

29 - 10 - 2020 / Navy News / 0 comments

Author: Jaime Karremann

There is a good chance that future Dutch and Belgian mine countermeasures vessels will be equipped with Thales NS50 radars. An image recently distributed by Naval Group shows that the original radar has made way for a radar dome like that of the Thales NS50 radar. It is not entirely certain yet; because no contract has been signed yet. However, according to a Belgian Defence spokesperson this illustration is more or less the final version.

More or less the final design for Belgium and the Netherlands. According to the Belgian Defense, little will change in this latest version of October 2020. (Image: Naval Group)

If the NS50 has indeed been or will be chosen, then that is a setback for BAE Systems, which has long been on pole position with their new BAE Systems AWS-10 2D radar. That radar has been on the mast of the MCM-vessels since the beginning of 2019 in the illustrations of Belgium Naval & Robotics, the consortium that designs and builds the ships and MCM-tools.

A new illustration, however, was shared by the materiel procurement department of the Belgian armed forces, DGMR, on Twitter. Immediately there were followers who recognized the dome of the NS50, where the AWS-10 radar was previously.

A DGMR spokesperson explained Naviesworldwide.com that the modified illustration will not change much in the coming months. No contract with Thales has yet been signed, but this could also be due to the objection period in which the losing parties can still lodge an objection.

NS50 radar

Thales NS50 on the concept of Sea Naval Solutions. (Photo: Thales)

Thales NS50
The NS50 radar was presented in 2018. The radar is the smallest member of the family of AESA radars from the Netherlands and is a family of the SMART-L MM / N (Dutch LCFs) and the NS100 (HNLMS Rotterdam and Johan de Witt). The NS50 is a very advanced radar with technology that was introduced to quickly search for air threats. Thanks to the AESA technology, the NS50 is able to process a large number of electronically controlled radar beams (terabytes per second), in contrast to normal radars that work with one radar beam. The NS50 does rotate, but can also look left and right while rotating, and the radar can transmit in a wide variety of frequencies.
The NS50 is an X-band radar with a range of 180 km and can be used to detect sea and air targets. This radar also functions as a fire control radar for the 40 mm gun.

Thales had the radar in mind in 2018 for the replacements of the Belgian and Dutch mine hunters, but as part of the consortium Sea Naval Solutions consisting of Socarenam and EDR, with Thales responsible for the software, sensors and drones. However, this consortium that was seen as a major contender lost, after which Thales offered the radar to the winning consortium.

Comparison of the most recent design (below) and the previous one. The bottom one is mirrored (by Naviesworldwide.com) and is not at exactly the same angle, which makes it appear smaller, but in practice the bottom design is almost a meter longer. (Image: Naval Group)

Other changes
For Chess Dynamics there was good news. DGMR ordered Sea Eagle FCEOs for the twelve Belgian and Dutch ships. This electro-optical system consists of stabilized HD and infrared cameras plus laser range finder, and is capable of detecting and designating targets for the weapon systems.

Not everything went well for Chess Dynamics, because initially, in addition to electro-optical systems, also systems with radar and cameras were in the illustration. However, this sensor has been removed from the concept.

There are many more changes to be seen in the latest illustration, but they are not very important changes. What is striking is the changed location of the funnels. Research has been conducted into the position of these exhausts that would blow hot exhaust fumes over the drone’s deck and might hinder drones during take off and landing. The number of funnels has been reduced to three and the port funnel has been moved forward, further from the flight deck.

Another adjustment is that the ship has become slightly longer; from 81.4 meters to 82.3.

Since the illustration shows an almost final design, besides Thales, FN Herstal and BAE Systems also seem to be on board. The image still shows the 12.7 mm Sea deFNder from FN Herstal (2x) and the BAE Systems Bofors 40 Mk4 gun.

Construction on multiple yards 

The French shipyards Piriou and Kership in Brittany were expected to do the construction. It now appears that other yards will also be working on the ships. “Most ships are built in Brittany (France). Some ships are built in other European yards and completed at yards in France,” DGMR wrote in a presentation last week.

Construction of the ships is due to start in June 2021.