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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Complementing drones that will hunt for mines, the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Belgian Navy will also get unmanned vessels in the near future that will hunt for submarines. One of the possible unmanned anti-submarine warfare vessels is the Seagull, offered by the Israeli company Elbit. This vessel can carry sonars and torpedoes, just like a helicopter which is one of the submarines’ greatest enemies, however it can search for 4 days instead of 4 hours. The future of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is unmanned.
Two Seagulls from Elbit next to an Israeli Sa’ar 5 class corvette. The Seagull has been designed as an unmanned surface vehicle and built by De Haas in the Netherlands. Both Seagulls on the picture can be manned, this is due to regulations in Israel. (Picture: Elbit)
In about eight years from now, the replacement of the current M-class frigate must be delivered. These four frigates for Belgium and the Netherlands are optimised for ASW; they will be quieter, are equipped with special sonars and torpedoes, but surface ships are and will remain at a disadvantage when confronted by a hostile submarine. That is why specialised anti-submarine warfare helicopters have been operating from these frigates for decades.
Future Dutch and Belgian frigates will, next to helicopters, be provided with unmanned surface vessels. The first model that was shown in 2013 already showed the capability to carry 12-metre long unmanned surface vessels (USVs). USVs have therefore been part of the philosophy of the new frigates from the start.
USVs have been part of the plan for the future Dutch and Belgian frigates from the beginning. The first model, here in 2013, had, apart from two cranes and an open deck, no facilities for the USVs, but these boats were 12 meters long. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)
The Israeli company Elbit is one of the possible suppliers of such USVs. That’s why I have been speaking to retired rear admiral Yaron Levi, vice president of Elbit Naval Systems. We first met in 2018 during Euronaval, when Elbit with Dutch shipbuilder Damen were still in the competition to supply the new mine countermeasures capability for Belgium and the Netherlands.
As is known, the latter assignment went to Naval Group and ECA.
A Seagull fires a lightweight torpedo. (Photo: Elbit)
Fighting submarines However, the Seagull is not a one trick pony, the 12-metre long unmanned vessel is suitable to execute multiple tasks: mine countermeasures, force protection, intelligence gathering and fighting submarines. And in the latter role, the USV could also operate from the future Belgian and Dutch frigates.
“The Seagull has roughly the same sensors and weapon systems as a helicopter,” says Levi. “But a helicopter can stay airborne for three or four hours. The Seagull can search for submarines for four days.”
In the concept developed by Elbit, typically two USVs hunt for the submarine together. It is possible to have one USV as a hunter-killer, which will have to be equipped with both sonar and torpedoes, but that is not preferred. It is better to set up one Seagull as a hunter and one as a killer.
The Seagull as a hunter can then be equipped with various systems, such as a dipping sonar. Levi: “We use the HELRAS from L3, but any dipping sonar can be integrated. We have open architecture that enables us to integrate any type of dipping sonar such as Thales’ Flash.” The Dutch NH-90 helicopters are also equipped with HELRAS, one of the best helicopter sonars available.
The Seagull can also be equipped with sono buoys, these kind of buoys normally are dropped into the sea by helicopters and airplanes and can actively or passively search for submarines.
Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) during trials. (Picture: Elbit)
It does not stop there if it is up to Elbit. “We have also developed TRAPS, a special active passive towed sonar together with our Canadian subsidiary Geospectrum Technologies:,” says Levi. Active-passive towed sonars are more and more important for ASW-frigates and will turn a USV into a truly formidable asset.
“With such a sensor you can search for submarines while on the move, for the dipping sonar you have to be stationary”, Levi explains. “We tested the towed sonar near Haifa and the results were excellent. The Seagull is the only USV in the world with a towed sonar. ”
In addition to underwater sensors, the Seagull can also carry Electronic Warfare equipment, electro optic sensors, radar and more.
The killer configured Seagull can be equipped with lightweight torpedoes.
Together the USVs search autonomously for the lurking submarine. “You just have to indicate their search area and then they get to work. The USVs are familiar with the right of way rules at sea. Human consent is required if the USV proposes firing a torpedo or any other type of weapon,” says Levi. “The Seagull can be completely autonomous and learn from missions, while benefitting from ‘supervised autonomy’ by humans.”
The Seagull has a draught of 80 centimeters. On this picture the retractable forward looking sonar/ multi-beam echo sounder can be seen, lower than the keel. (Picture: Elbit)
No target USVs are becoming increasingly dangerous for submarines, but are not easy to eliminate for nowadays submarines.
Despite all the possibilities offered by a USV, the costs are relatively low, according to Levi. “At least a fraction of a ASW-corvette or frigate with a crew of at least one-hundred,” he says. The Seagull is said to amount to 5% of the cost of an anti-submarine warfare corvette.
“Suppose a submarine commander feels so threatened that he decides to take out the Seagull,” says Levi. “Then he has to launch a $ 5 million torpedo on an aluminum boat. A tough decision. Suppose he does … 99 percent of the torpedoes will not be able to take out the Seagull. The Seagull is not only made of aluminum [torpedoes explode under a ship and are triggered by magnetism, JK], the Seagull’s draft is a mere 80 centimetres.”
The larger future frigate concept (2019) including room for 12 meter USVs was too expensive and after a modification, there is only room for a 7 meter USV. (Photos: DMO, edited by Jaime Karremann)
Too bad, it won’t fit For those of you who based on all this see a bright future for the Seagull on board the new Dutch and Belgian frigates, there is some bad news: the Seagull will not fit.
The RMF-22D frigate that the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) had designed for Belgium and the Netherlands was considered too expensive. Changes were made to the design last spring. In general, these were not major changes, however one change has major consequences: the maximum size for USVs was reduced from 12 meters to 7 meters.
The Seagull is 12 meters.
What does that mean for Elbit? “The Seagull was designed in the Netherlands and is being built by De Haas in Maassluis,” says Levi. “We can adapt the design and we work closely with De Haas. For another potential customer we have to make a version of 18 meters. We can also develop a USV of 7 metres.”
Does it matter? Maybe not so much for Elbit, for the possibilities of the USV it matters though. “There is always tension between size and capabilities. A larger USV can do more: it can be equipped with sonar and torpedo (7 meters USV has room for either a sonar or a torpedo), can carry towed sonar (7 meters USV: still to be researched and developed if possible), the larger USV can sail in higher sea states and has greater range. On the other hand, you can more of the smaller USVs, assuming you have adequate space of course.
“The Dutch navy is a leading navy in the field of anti-submarine warfare,” says Levi. “If you look at the developments, you see that anti-submarine warfare is moving in the same direction as MCM: more unmanned cpability. And then, with the utmost humility, I would suggest freeing up more room for a capable USV. Although you can also do some activities with a 7-metre USV.”
Seagull integrated in the MCM concept of Damen. (Picture: Damen)
“Learned a lot from cooperating with Damen” Although Elbit has not yet worked on much of the Dutch navy’s equipment, the company is in fact very familiar with Dutch industry. “During the tender for mine countermeasures we got to know Dutch organizations. We have spoken to research institute TNO several times, but also to DMO and the navy,” says Levi. “And I can tell you that we spent a lot of time with Damen integrating USVs on board MCM vessels, as well as frigates.”
According to Levi, there are, very broadly, three features that are important in order to be able to operate with USVs:
the frigate must have a launch and recovery system (LARS) suited for unmanned vessels (in a manned RHIB a crew member can attach a hook from a crane to the RHIB)
space to accommodate several USVs (preferably inside)
room for storage of sonars, torpedoes, etc.
space to maintain the USVs / change modules, etc.
The USVs have to be integrated into the command center’s software, however that is not different from integrating a radar or a weapon system on board the frigate.
Also in terms of communication, a USV has no major impact, according to Levi. Basically, the standard ship’s communication systems are sufficient.
Over the horizon The Seagull is designed to conduct ASW independently over the horizon. Of course contact between the frigate’s Opsroom and the USV is maintained at all times. As soon as the USV operates beyond line of sight, communication goes via satellite. Levi: “Then distance doesn’t matter anymore. We gave demonstrations during trade shows where we controlled a Seagull in London, from Israel. And we did that too with a Seagull demonstrating its capabilities in Singapore and Sydney.”
Wherever the Seagull might be, the Opsroom is provided with a real-time picture of what is happening beneath the waves. It is also possible to operate with the Seagull from a container on deck of an LPD or tanker.
Operating with USVs over the horizon in a hostile will mean that an enemy will try to jam the communications between the ship and unmanned vessel. “Together with our sister division of Elbit, specialised in Electronic Warfare, we offer solutions that make the Seagull resistant to jammers,” explains the former Navy officer. “The Seagull can also function if GPS suddenly fails or is unreliable, that is part of the ‘safety & collision avoidance’ algorithm.”
There are also various backup communication methods. In the unlikely event that communication is no longer possible at all, the USV will recover all sonars and return to a predetermined point.
The complete toolbox for the future Dutch and Belgian mine countermeasure vessels is designed and built by ECA Group. (Picture: Jaime Karremmann/ Marineschepen.nl)
Cooperation with competitors? A Seagull can be converted by the crew of a frigate in about three hours from ASW to MCM and vice versa.
Elbit has not only devoted a lot of time to the Seagull as a submarine hunter in recent years. Together with Hydroid, underwater drones and mine sweeping systems have been developed that can be used by the Seagull. Levi shows the results of the trials that the companies taking part in the tender for the mine countermeasures vessels for Belgium and the Netherlands conducted in the North Sea in 2017. Elbit participated with the Seagull. Levi: “We found 33 out of 35 mines and got the highest score of all participants.”
Despite these results, the Belgian and Dutch navies will soon have ECA USVs and associated tools. Could these tools also be used on board the Elbit’s USV if these navies want to use the Seagull for mine countermeasures? Levi: “That could be done, the design can be adapted and we can work together with ECA. We have done that before and if the customer wants that, we can do it. If the anti-submarine warfare USV will be 12 meters, just like that of ECA, it is more likely that we can use the same toolbox as much as possible. If the USV becomes 7 meters, we will have to look for solutions that fit.”
Future As promising as unmanned hunting of submarines may sound, few navies have taken actual steps in this regard. According to Elbit, several countries are interested in the Seagull. “We have a contract with the Israeli Navy for some time now and there is a lot of interest. I think you will soon be hearing positive news about the purchase of the Seagull from one of the countries that is interested. However,” admits Levi, “we expected things to go faster.”
Why are many navies reluctant? Levi: “The technology is ready, that’s not the problem. We can do a lot with USVs. The reasons why navies have not yet embraced USVs are mainly psychological and sociological reasons. In the air domain, things go much faster when it comes to unmanned technology. Perhaps it is because humans have been sailing for thousands of years and developments in the air only started 150 years ago.”
Still, Levi remains a firm believer in an unmanned future: “The Seagull is not the solution to everything, but at a time when trillions of dollars are being pumped into ships and helicopters to hunt submarines, USVs that cost a fraction of the price and which require no people, become more and more attractive. USVs are ideally suited for a range of tasks, from the dullest to the most dangerous of jobs. As such it is a true “force multiplier”. It will take some time, but the unmanned hunting of submarines is about to happen. We can’t escape it.”
This article first appeared on 20th of October 2020 in Dutch on Marineschepen.nl. This is a sponsored article. With a sponsored article, a client chooses the subject of the article. Elbit paid Marineschepen.nl to write this article on this topic, but Elbit had no influence on the journalistic content.
Two minehunters, without pennant numbers, left Den Helder on Monday morning and sailed along the Dutch coast towards Amsterdam, to be put on a heavy lift ship. The two ships were towed by Dutch naval tugs Gouwe and Noordzee. The minehunters have been sold by The Netherlands to Bulgaria.
Monday morning Marineschepen.nl received a message from a reader who lives in an apartment in Egmond aan Zee. Two Alkmaar class mine hunters without pennant numbers were spotted, with tugs Gouwe and Noordzee. A naval spokesperson confirmed that these are the two ships that were sold, ex-HNLMS. Maassluis and ex-Hr.Ms. Hellevoetsluis.
The four ships arrived at the locks of IJmuiden around a few hours later and sailed a short time later to the port of Amsterdam. They were put on the Super Servant 4, a heavy lift ship, in Alaskahaven and in that way transported to Bulgaria.
One day later, on Wednesday the 8th of September, the Super Servant 4, carrying two tiny minehunters, left Amsterdam. Currently, Thursday afternoon, Super Servant 4 is sailing in the Bay of Biscay, to the southwest. Speed 12.7 knots. The ship is expected to arrive in Varna, Bulgaria, on the 21st of September.
2 million euros
Last year, it was announced that the Netherlands had sold two minehunters to Bulgaria. Bulgaria already has Tripartite minehunters and bought the Dutch ships that were decommissioned in 2011 for almost 2 million euros. One ship will be used for active duty and one for spare parts.
The Maassluis and Hellevoetsluis were in service with the Royal Netherlands Navy for 27 and 24 years when they were decommissioned in 2011. The ships were moored in Den Helder for a long time. The Hellevoetsluis was located in Amsterdam at the naval barracks from early 2019 to early 2020. In recent months, the ships have been docked at the Material Maintenance Department (DMI) in Den Helder, awaiting transport.
Russia simulated launch Kalibr missiles from North Sea
The Russian Navy held the Ocean Shield exercise in August. About 30 Russian warships trained in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. The exercises had a predominantly offensive character, which is remarkable. During this exercise, Russian naval ships simulated an attack on land with Kalibr cruise missiles, the Russian variant of the Tomahawk. This has probably never happened in the North Sea before.
Cruise missiles in the North Sea
On the 6th of August three corvettes of the Steregushchy class, RFS Steregushchy, Boikiy and Stoikiy, corvette RFS Serpukhov (Buyan class) and the new corvettes RFS Mytishchi and RFS Sovetsk of the Karakurt class, set course for the North Sea, where they started their exercises on the 8th of August.
According to a report from the Russian Navy, the ships simulated the simultaneous launch of Kalibr and Uran cruise missiles on land and sea targets. Kalibr missiles are cruise missiles designed to hit land and naval targets. Uran missiles are anti-ship cruise missiles. Despite the fact that both weapons move at a subsonic speed, the range of the weapons is gigantic. Both weapons are known to be capable of covering distances of at least 1500 kilometers.
Although the Russian Navy has not announced exactly where that exercise took place, the location can be determined roughly, based on a satellite photo. The photo was taken by the commercial Sentinel-2 L2A satellite on the 8th of August in the morning, around the time the Russian Navy posted the article. At that time the ships sailed 132 km west of Esjberg, Denmark and 239 km north of Frisian Island Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands, in a south-westerly direction.
It is probably the first time that Russia did a simulated cruise missile launch in the North Sea. It is remarkable that Russia chooses this location for practicing with long-range weapons. From this position, NATO countries such as Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain are well within the reach of the cruise missiles.
Exercises related to electronic warfare were also held, such as jamming radars or GPS of a simulated enemy.
It is of course allowed to hold exercises in international waters, but the decision to practice with such weapons near NATO-countries Denmark and The Netherlands, is as unique as it is striking. According to former naval officer of the Belgian navy Frederik van Lokeren, who has been engaged in tracking the Russian Navy since 2019, this is the very first time that cruise missiles have been simulated to hit land targets from the North Sea. This is also the first time as far as Naviesworldwide.com is aware. The Kalibr is a new weapon and was first used in 2015.
NATO followed the Russian ships
Since the exercises took place in the North Sea, the Russian ships were shadowed and escorted by NATO warships during the exercises. These were Royal Navy ships HMS Mersey, HMS Tyne and the Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster, and ships from the standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) NRP Corte-Real (Portugal) and HMCS Toronto (Canada).
It is not known whether Dutch ships participated in the shadowing of the Russian ships. In any case, no Dutch naval vessel is mentioned in public sources. The Royal Netherlands Navy did not say if it had a ship at sea near the Russian Task Force, but said it “was aware of the exercise”.
The Russian fleet was also monitored by a P-8a Poseidon of the British Air Force. This is a Boeing 737-based maritime patrol aircraft, equipped with torpedoes, radar and submarine detection equipment. On the 12th and 13th of August the Rusian ships returned to their ports, marking the end of this part of the exercise.
Starting in the Baltic Sea
Before the Russian ships headed for the North Sea, Ocean Shield 2020 began on the 3th of August with a amphibious landing on the coast of Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave at the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland. Using 25 BTR-82A vehicles, a small battalion landed on the beach. The BTR-82A is an armored amphibious vehicle, intended for landing small groups. Satellite images show that the Russian ships were very close to each other here, making it quite possible that exercises between the ships were also carried out. There were three ships of the Ropucha class present here: RFS Minsk, RFS Kaliningrad and RFS Korolev. In addition, hovercraft RFS Evgeny Kocheshkov (Zubr class) was present and RFS Rimsky-Korsakov (Dyugong class) was also located off the coast of Kaliningrad.
An assertive Russia
Despite the fact that 30 ships took part in the exercise, a lot less than last year, Ocean Shield 2020 was an interesting exercise due to its offensive nature. Frederik van Lokeren also reports this in his blog, where he describes the exercise in more detail.
Van Lokeren: “2019 was mainly a defensive exercise in which Russia tried to send a convoy to Kaliningrad that was under siege while they wanted to regain maritime dominance. Now it was completely different. Kaliningrad was the forward base used for the first amphibious assault. After which the counterattack is blocked by the training enemy [in the Baltic Sea], followed by a sortie on the North Sea, so more offensive. ”
In addition, the lack of available information was remarkable, according to Van Lokeren. This year’s exercise received much less attention from Russian media than last year. The information mainly originated from Open Source Intelligence. Very little information is available, particularly on the period from the 9th to the 12th of August, the period on the North Sea. Where Russia seemed to want to show its defensive strength in 2019, in order to convince the world that a possible attack on Russia would be unwise, this was now a more mysterious exercise. On the other hand, the Russian Navy did report the training launches and the electronic warfare exercise at the site.
What does this mean for the European NATO countries? The exercise does not mean that Russia has plans of attack, but it is in line with an increasingly assertive Russian defense force that is more often active in the North Sea.
Greece expects French to arrive, Turkey extends survey
Monday evening Turkey announced that it would renew its survey in the Greek Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) until the 12th of September. In the meantime, Athens is counting on France and the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle, that will be sent with escorting ships to the east of the Mediterranean in early September.
Tensions between Greece and Turkey continue to mount, stirred up again and again by rhetoric and new plans that are going against the grain of the neighboring country.
Expansion of territorial waters
Greece announced its intention to expand territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from six to 12 nautical miles. The latter is the standard according to the Law of the Sea Convention, but in the part of the Mediterranean that is covered by Greek islands, this is a very sensitive point. Certainly because Athens immediately mentioned that, although this extension concerns the west side, the Greeks are entitled to expand the territorial waters in other areas as well, if they wish. This immediately resulted in a response from Ankara. For Turkey, expanding Greek territorial waters to twelve miles, Turkish officials reported, has been a casus belli for Turkey since 1995.
At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly lashed out at Greece and its “former colonialist allies” (France) in recent days. Erdogan warned Greece last week that it will never budge when it comes to energy reserves and yesterday that Turkey has the full right to protect the interests of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots and that it does not tolerate piracy. Erdogan also advised Greece to study its history carefully.
The Turkish authorities have also studied that history themselves, a history that is full of wars between the two countries. This past week resulted in a propaganda film that mixes images from the Ottoman Empire with the issues between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. Whatever the purpose of the video, it does not exactly express reconciliation or the intention to reach a solution through the negotiating table.
FS Charles de Gaulle
While the European Union is discussing possible sanctions, Greece has pinned its hope on France. Last Sunday, the French Defense Minister announced in a TV program on the French channel Europe 1 that the Charles de Gaulle, after cleaning and adjustments, is ready to go back to sea in early September.
According to Greek and Turkish media, the Charles de Gaulle will move to the east of the Mediterranean. Greek media, who can sometimes barely hold back not to exaggerate, also report that the ship will be sent to the Aegean Sea with nuclear submarines, FREMM frigates fully “ready for war”.
We have yet to see whether that will actually happen, the carrier is currently still in Toulon and can also be sent past Operation Irini. A visit to the Aegean Sea is not unlikely, especially since the French president will also visit Athens on the 10th of September. Macron had previously said it would strengthen France’s naval presence in the east of the Med.
Macron will probably not only talk about Turkey in Athens. The negotiations between Greece and France about new frigates have started again. As is known, Naval Group had offered the Greeks two Belharra frigates for 3 billion euros. That turned out to be too much for the Greek treasury.
Naval Group would now have offered the Greeks two Belharras without Scalp cruise missiles and without modifications to Greek wishes. The price is now two billion for two ships.
Those costs may well be feasible. Especially now that Greek finance minister Christos Staikouras said on Monday that Greece is ready to tap into its financial reserves for military purposes. For years there have been cutbacks in Greek defense, after Greece has repeatedly been financially supported with emergency packages from the EU. This last happened in August 2018.
However, Staikouras has now said that the Ministry of Finance will do everything possible to support government policy on the Greece-Turkey issue. This support, he says, will not only consist of buying weapons, but it will be part of a more comprehensive defense strategy that will unfold in the coming years. Where the priority will lie is still unknown, but Greece has around € 34 billion in unused EU aid and economic turnover as a buffer. These funds can be used in the conflict against Turkey.
Oruç Reis stays until September 12th
The issue between Greece and Turkey has not been resolved for the time being. Certainly not because the research vessel Oruç Reis, which has been conducting research in the Greek EEZ since the 10th of August, is staying longer. Turkey announced this last night.
There is therefore no reason for the Turkish or Greek navies to return to the ports earlier and the tension remains at least the same.
Do conventional submarines need diesels in the future?
When you think of conventional submarines, you think of batteries and diesel engines. However, that might change completely. Naval architect Sven Los from Nevesbu presented a new concept: the electric submarine. Without diesel engines. A submarine revolution?
The Moray 1800 without diesel engines. In this submarine, they have installed as many lithium batteries as possible. (Image: Nevesbu)
Ever since the early days of modern submarines, some 120 years ago, conventional submarines have been sailing on batteries that can be recharged at any time with the help of onboard fuel generators. That concept has barely changed, despite all technological developments. Yes, thanks to the snorting mast, a submarine can also stay submerged during charging, and air-independent propulsion (AIP) has created a small revolution. Because of AIP, next to diesel generators and batteries, submarines can stay submerged even longer.
The next step might have much more impact. If the diesel engines are removed from the submarines and many more batteries are installed, Sven Los believes this will result in a less complicated design, less maintenance, a smaller crew, less chance of detection and lower costs (in acquisition and operation).
On board of a classic diesel-electric submarine, depending on its size, there are two to four diesel generators plus systems such as a snorting mast, tanks for fuel, an exhaust gas system and many pipelines to connect all these parts. This takes up space and requires maintenance both at sea and on shore. In addition, certain parts, such as valves, are sensitive. The diesel generators and the snorting mast also provide an increased risk of fire and leakage. This is why there is a lot of technical staff on a submarine.
Sven Los graduated from the TU Delft. Since then, he has been working as a naval architect. (Photo: Nevesbu)
Jaime Karremann from Naviesworldwide.com/ Marineschepen.nl spoke to Sven Los at the IV-Group’s office in Papendrecht (the Netherlands), an organisation of which the maritime engineering firm Nevesbu has been a part since 2004. Nevesbu was founded in 1934 and, together with the Dutch navy, took care of the designs of various cruisers, destroyers, frigates and submarines. Nevesbu was involved in the design of all Dutch submarines since 1945 andthe Hai Lung class submarines of Taiwan. Nevesbu also contributed to various foreign designs and to the upkeep programme of the Walrus-class. As a subsidiary of the former Dutch shipyard RDM, it also designed the export submarine Moray.
However, the agency is also constantly researching opportunities to innovate. When Sven Los started his graduation project at Nevesbu in 2017, he was given the assignment to conduct research into fully electric submarines.
Los: “A graduate before me had made a very nice model of a submarine’s propulsion system and he compared different configurations, such as diesel-electric with lead-acid batteries and diesel-electric with lithium-ion batteries. Those resulted in great improvements which made people at Nevesbu think about 100% electric submarines. ”
Los focused on today’s technology. The current submarines still use lead-acid batteries, but smartphones, laptops and electric cars use lithium batteries. Los: “Lithium batteries have undergone major developments in recent years. They have an enormous energy density, which makes electric sailing a realistic possibility.”
Soon, it turned out that the profits could be huge, but to figure out the exact impact, Los simulated the concept in a propulsion model to answer the following question: “What could you do with an electric submarine and could it be interesting for certain navies?”
The Moray was a concept submarine that was designed by Nevesbu in the 1980s on the basis of the Walrus and Zwaardvis class and had to be sold by RDM. Until the beginning of the year 2000, RDM unsuccessfully tried to offer the different versions (1100, 1400 and 1800) to Indonesia, Thailand and Egypt, among others. This advertisement dates from 2001. (Image: RDM)
Interest from abroad
Although the idea of an electric submarine seems to be fairly simple, it is unique. In any case, nothing has ever been published about it. In June 2018, Los presented his research results during the submarine symposium UDT in Glasgow, where there was a lot of interest in his project. Los: “Everyone was enthusiastic, especially because it is a very different way of thinking. People often only think of two kinds of propulsion: diesel-electric or nuclear, and my research was an eye-opener. Many people saw that fully electric submarines could have many advantages.”
However, the electric submarine is still something for the future. “The battery technology is fairly new and the capacity is not sufficient just yet. But, you have to work on it now in order to be able to implement it in twenty years. If you look at how much the capacity of batteries has improved over the past ten years, then this must be a realistic design.”
The Moray 1800 as it was designed and published by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf (22 April 1989). In red, you can see the major parts that are removed or changed. The replacement of the diesel engines (left) with batteries would be the biggest advantage. The existing lead-acid batteries (at the bottom) are replaced by lithium batteries. (Source: Delpher / De Telegraaf, adaptation: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)
Los’s design is based on the Moray. This submarine was developed by Nevesbu in the 1980s to be sold by RDM.
Los changed the Moray 1800 (of about 1800 tons, comparable to the French Scorpène, the German Type 212A and the Swedish A26) into a fully electric submarine. “Because Nevesbu designed the Moray, there’s a lot of information about it.I’ve changed the design so I can put in as many batteries as possible . I did not make the submarine smaller, I just used the space in a different way. The dimensions of the submarine have stayed the same, so I could make a comparison.”
The result is an electric Moray-1800 without engine room, snorting mast, fuel tanks, fuel pipes and all kinds of other equipment. The accommodation has been moved backwards and a lot of batteries have been added.
The electric concept submarine can go round the Baltic Sea under water, which is a distance of about 3500 km. A diesel-electric version would have to snort after about 550 km. (Source: Nevesbu)
Submerged for one month
The result is amazing. Los: “A diesel-electric submarine can stay submerged for a few days and then cover 300 nautical miles. The electric variant can stay under water for 25 to 30 days and sail 2,500 nautical miles underwater.”
That means the electric submarine can sail around the Baltic Sea while submerged.
The electric version loses against a diesel-electric variant as soon as it starts snorting or surfaces and starts its diesel engines. “From then on, a diesel-electric boat has a range four to five times as large as an electric version.”
However, the question is whether it is necessary for a lot of navies to have a submarine that can sail long distances. “You have to ask yourself in a very early stage, what you want to do with such a submarine. The Swedish SSK’s, for example, mainly sail submerged in the Baltic Sea and I have heard that those submarines are only away for short periods of time; days or maybe two weeks.”
“For such profiles, a design like this is very interesting, because the Swedish submarines almost immediately enter their patrol area. Dutch submarines first have to transit long distances.” For example, in the past, Dutch submarines have been operating mainly in the Norwegian Sea, Mediterranean Sea and even in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Like their Canadian and Australian counterparts, they are weeks or months away on a deployment.
On the high seas this will be a thing of the past. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)
Just stay submerged
Conventional submarines quite often sail surfaced during long transits. “Of course, you can still do that with an electric submarine, but it will not have any benefits. The drag is generally much higher. So, an electric submarine will submerge as soon as possible and will surface only in emergency situations or for a barbecue. ”
Long periods of submerged sailing also have consequences for the air quality, which rapidly deteriorates. “You have to look at submarines with AIP or nuclear boats that have been under water for some time. The biggest difference with nuclear submarines, however, is that thanks to the nuclear powerplant you have a lot of energy at your disposal, so you can get oxygen from sea water. For electric submarines, I would consider a tank of liquid oxygen.”
A snorting submarine runs the risk of discovery by heat radiation, noise (from the diesel engines) or because one of the mastsspotted with the naked eye or a radar. (Photo: NIMH)
Diesel-electric submarines regularly have to recharge their batteries. The least noticeable option to do that is sailing at periscope depth, putting the snorting mast out of the water and starting the diesel engines. But, a snorting submarine can be detected in several ways: the diesel engines make a lot of noise, the submarine sails just below the surface of the water and can be seen in clear water with the naked eye or with magnetic sensors, the diesel engines produce a lot of heat, and the masts can be seen by radar.
A submarine that does not have to snort has a huge advantage, as we have seen with nuclear submarines. But there is more, Los discovered: “To start with, an electric submarine doesn’t have the extreme signatures of snorting, and in addition it does not have any fuel on board, so you need fewer valves and pumps.” These valves and pumps produce noise when fuel from a tank is used and the weight of the boat has to be corrected. The electric submarine is therefore also quieter when submerged than a diesel-electric submarine.
As the book In deepest secrecy shows, during a patrol, diesel-electric submarines leave their patrol area before they start snorting. To go to that snorting position, they first have to transit for a while and when they are not in their patrol area they might miss crucial intelligence. An electric submarine can stay in its patrol area for much longer.
Less work, less maintenance, less crew, less recruitment, less costs
Half of the crew of diesel-electric submarines are technicians, and the majority is involved with the propulsion. Removing the diesel engines results in an enormous reduction in staff. Originally, it was planned that the Moray 1800 would need 34 crew members . Sven Los: “The number of people needed for maintaining and controlling technical systems will be reduced. There is no need for surveillance in the engine room, there is no snorting mast that might take in water accidentally. With less systems, there is less chance things break down. Especially if you also replace the hydraulic systems with electrics. That means a huge reduction in hydraulic systems and pipelines. That way, you can leave out a lot of mechanical systems. Less energy is needed and there is less work to be done. Maintenance for the lithium batteries is not needed, you might even not do any maintenance. The only thing that still requires maintenance are small pumps.”
“I expect that it is possible to reduce the size of the crew, depending on the requirements and automation on board, to 18 to 20 people.” This obviously saves costs (salary, training, etc.) and the recruitment department doesn’t have exert itself to recruit technicians.
Diesel engines take up a lot of space, require staff and maintenance. (Photo: Jaime Karremann / Marineschepen.nl)
Less crew; risk in case of fire?
Continuously reducing the number of crew members is obviously interesting to limit costs, but is not it more dangerous in the event of a fire? Sven Los does not think so. “I often hear that crew reduction is a risk when there is a fire on a submarine, but a huge risk is taken away by removing the diesel generator set. Most of the fires start there: it is warm, there are rotating parts, oil, exhaust fumes. The battery compartment is much more manageable and these are also compartments you can shut off. Plus, in case of a fire in the battery compartment, I would not send people in to extinguish it. ”
Japan believes in lithium batteries for submarines. JS Oryu was launched in early October 2018. For this submarine Japan has exchanged the Stirling engine (AIP) of Saab Kockums for lithium batteries. The sub still has diesel engines. (Photo: Japanese navy)
Safety of lithium batteries
During his research, Los first investigated the available battery technologies and looked at which would be best applicable for submarines. Lithium batteries turned out to be the best.
The advantages of lithium batteries compared to those of lead-acid batteries are, for example, that lithium batteries are much smaller. A submarine with lithium batteries can also sail longer.
Lithium batteries, however, are known for their risk of fire. There are lots of stories about exploding smartphone batteries or burning electric cars. “That’s a risk,” Los acknowledges, “but it also applies to lead-acid batteries, which produce hydrogen gas during loading or unloading. That means there is a risk of an explosion, which is not the case with lithium batteries. Those batteries might catch fire. The downside is that these batteries are small and installed in packs, so if one battery catches fire, there might be a chain reaction. ”
However, many of the incidents involving lithium batteries involve cheap batteries of poor design. Large battery manufacturers such as Panasonic and Kokam are working on special submarine batteries and pay a lot of attention to safety mechanisms for these batteries. Los: “These safety measures are already built in at cellular level. They are also developing cells that are resistant to external heat sources and prevent a chain reaction. Also, other cells can be automatically switched off and cooled as soon as the battery becomes overloaded.”
Hence, the effect of fire in one battery becomes minimal, because there are a lot of cells, explains Los. There is no need for a separate backup according to him, because “they are all backups”. If batteries are damaged by fire or something else, there is enough spare capacity.
And shock? The shock requirements on submarines are strict. That should not be a problem according to Los. “If you drop your phone, your screen might be shattered, but the battery will still work. Besides, some manufacturers say they meet the shock standards for submarines of certain navies.”
Charging at sea
An electric submarine cannot charge its batteries itself. Recharging has to be done in port, but that can be done in quite a short time, says Los. The batteries of his concept submarine can be charged in 16 hours, at its fastest.
The submarine does not even have to go to its home port or a naval base. Recharging is possible almost everywhere. “You do need a certain voltage and the connection must be suitable, but it is relatively simple. All major ports have shore power connection and the submarine has to be designed in such a way that the batteries can be recharged in a civilian port. That might take a bit longer, but it does not directly affect the readiness of the submarine. ”
In the researcher’s view, it is also possible to order a diesel generator and recharge the batteries that way.
That already provides more flexibility, but Nevesbu has continued to think outside the box for solutions . “We have also talked about charging via a support ship. The submarine can sail next to a replenishment ship that uses its diesel engines to transfer energy. I don’t know if any navy could be interested, but it certainly is possible. ” Many countries have submarine support vessels, so the concept of charging at sea might be relatively easy to apply for them.
Nevesbu’s search for more solutions did not end with charging at sea. “You can come up with all kinds of futuristic ideas, such as submerged charging stations or a floating wind farm with tapping points for submarines. But that is more 007-style,” Los admits. “Technically it could be possible, but whether it is realistic, is something else.”
Back to reality. The technique is not ready yet to be appliedto submarines used for operations thousands of nautical miles from home. InLos’s view, the electric submarines are especially suitable for countries that now want to operate close to home with smaller submarines. Countries such as Germany, Sweden, but also Greece, Singapore and Indonesia, for example.
There is, however, another interesting market: countries that do want submarines, but find them too expensive and / or too complex. They can not only purchase these submarines, but also design and build them themselves.
Although the concept is about the propulsion, electric submarines are easier to design and much cheaper to build. “The number of pipes in a submarine is huge. An electric submarine has far fewer systems to integrate; there are hardly any tanks left, much fewer pipelines and pressure hull penetrations. Pressure hull penetrations add to the complexity during the building phase, because they weaken the construction. The snorting mast and the system for exhaust gases are quite complex as well, and you do not need them anymore. If the number of systems reduces, you will have fewer interfacesand thereforeless chance of things going wrong.Also, lithium batteries do not need cooling and do not need to be designed and built, you just need more cables.”
“So, the use of electric submarines is easy, less maintenance is needed and there are fewer things that can break down at sea, especially if you compare themto boats that have the same submerged endurance, for example AIP submarines. An integrated AIP system is only suited for specialised technicians and there aren’t a lot of them. Especially countries that are new to submarines run into problems due to insufficient knowledge and experience.”
Sven Los expects electric submarines to be cheaper, because they need less maintenance. As a result, they will also be available more often. “Pipelines, the snorting mast, the exhaust gas system and auxiliary systems will take the most time during maintenance. I’m not an expert on submarine maintenance, but someone at Nevesbu, who is familiar with the Walrus class, said that maintenance costs would be reduced by 50%.”
Might these types of submarines in the future also be interesting for countries that operate thousands of miles from their home port with conventional submarines? Like Canada, the Netherlands and Australia? Los: “It depends on the development of battery capacity. The past decade, battery capacity has improved by 60%. If you add another 60% in the next decade, a lot of possibilities will open up. But still, a lot has to happen before the energy density of batteries comes even near the energy density of diesel. If they want a conventional submarine to cross the ocean, I do not think it will be a battery-only submarine. I expect in that case AIP is needed. ”
That is why Nevesbu is currently researching a concept of batteries and AIP.
Will electric submarines cause a revolution within the submarine world? It is likely, but as usual, it does not only depend on technological development, but also on the courage of admirals to move in that direction.
This article was published on Marineschepen.nl in Dutch.
All SM-2 missiles of the same type as the one that caught fire in June 2018 are currently not allowed to be used for exercises. During a launch by the German frigate FGS Sachsen, an SM-2 Block IIIA missile burnt down while it was still in the VLS. Since then, research has been carried out to determine the cause, and until that is completed, no exercise launches are done. This was reported by the German Ministry of Defence to Naviesworldwide.com.
Launch of an SM-2 missile by an US Navy destroyer. (Photo: US Navy)
On June 21, 2018, the German Navy had a live fire exercise with two frigates near Norway. The SM-2 missile of the F124 class frigate FGS Sachsen burnt down. This caused major damage to the VLS and the bridge of the ship.
As claimed by a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defence, the engine burnt. The SM-2 has a dual-thrust solid propellant engine. This Mk 104 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor from Aerojet Rocketdyne has two types of fuel. The first part of the fuel provides an enormous amount of energy and acceleration, causing the missile to leave the launcher. Next, the fuel meant for the flight towards the target is burnt. Other missiles such as the SM-3 or Harpoon have a separate booster, which is dropped after launch.
Immediately after the accident, an investigation was launched to find out the cause. When it will be completed is not yet known. In any case, the German MOD does not expect this to happen in the coming weeks.
Until the research has ended, no SM-2 missiles will be launched for exercise. “For safety reasons, all missiles of this type were initially blocked, which they are still,” said the German MOD’s spokesperson. Earlier, the Dutch MOD had already reported that no SM-2 Block IIIA would be launched by the Netherlands while the investigation is going on.
The SM-2 Block IIIA is used by the United States, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and South Korea. However, there are sometimes differences in electronics. Denmark is currently ordering the missile.
For the time being, these restrictions have no consequences for the Dutch and German navies. No launches of SM-2s are foreseen until the second quarter of 2019.
The launch restriction only applies to exercises. The missiles will be launched in combat situations.
Incidents with the SM-2 are rare. However, in June 2015, an SM-2 missile exploded after being launched by USS The Sullivans. As claimed by the Dutch Ministry of Defence, the cause was a defect in the rocket engine. This missile was the same type as the German SM-2, but from an older production series. After the investigation of the incident, there was contact with the navies who use the SM-2 missile “about the cause of the incident and measures to prevent recurrence”, thus the Dutch MOD. They also wrote that “the US Navy has set a maximum life for a particular part of the missile. Part of the Dutch missiles has not yet exceeded this lifetime.”
All parties are now waiting for the results of this research. It is to be expected that in the future, users will again be informed of the outcome and any measures taken.