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 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 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.