Netherlands Will Hand Over MCM Vessels to Ukraine
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren, together with her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov, visited the heavily bombed port cities of Mykolajiv and Odesa in southern Ukraine in recent days. Minister Ollongren announced that her country will hand over two Alkmaar-class MCM vessels (more widely known as Tripartite after the Belgian-Dutch-French tri-alliance for which they were built). However, this is to happen only after the Netherlands receives the first next-generation systems, built under the rMCM (replacement Mine Counter Measures) program, by the French consortium Belgium Naval & Robotics, formed by Naval Group and ECA Group. This is expected to take place starting in 2025.
Ollongren said the Netherlands understands the strategic and economic importance of the Odesa port for food imports and trade. And certainly for connectivity to the rest of the world. Its protection from the sea mine threat is vital to Ukraine’s economy. Along with a pair of minehunters, the Ukrainian Naval Forces will receive “additional equipment”. Presumably, these are underwater remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) for searching, identifying, and neutralizing dangerous objects on the seabed. In addition, Belgium and the Netherlands will jointly train Ukrainian crews. This process will begin in advance, as early as the second half of this year.
At present, six of the 15 Alkmaar (Tripartite) class MCM vessels built between 1979 and 1989 remain in service with Koninklijke Marine (Royal Netherlands Navy). To date, the Netherlands has sold nine vessels to three countries (Pakistan – two, Bulgaria – two, and Latvia – five). The available Alkmaars are quite old vessels, all more than 30 years old. They underwent modernization (beginning in 2003), including the installation of the Atlas Elektronik IMCMS (Integrated Mine Countermeasures System) system and Thales 2022 Mk III hull-mounted sonar, as well as integration with Atlas Seafox and Saab Double Eagle Mk III Mod 1 ROVs. It is not known whether these ROVs will be transferred to a new user. The announcement does not say which ships will be handed over to Ukraine.
Ukraine already has Western-made minehunters. In 2021, Kiev procured two Sandown-class MCM vessels from the United Kingdom. They are the 20-year-old ex-HMS Blyth (M 111) and the 21-year-old ex-HMS Ramsey (M 110). The vessels have been renamed Chernihiv (M 310) and Cherkasy (M 311). The process of training their crews in Scotland is underway. It is not known when the ships will move to the Black Sea. This may be difficult not only because of the war and the significant advantage of the Russian Navy in that area, but also by Ankara’s ban on the movement of ships of the countries involved in the conflict through the Bosporus.
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