The picture, shared by local ship spotter “C. des Déserts” shows most, if not all of the blocks in place and the hull fully assembled. Only part of the mast and top side are missing.
The first-in-class ship Oostende (M940) was previously taking shape in a covered shed at the Piriou shipyard. It was taken out last week, probably to finish work on the top side. The keel of the ship was laid on 30 November 2021 during a ceremony in Concarneau, in the presence of the Belgian Chief of Defence, Admiral Michel Hofman, and the Dutch Chief of Defence, General Onno Eichelsheim. Naval News attended the event and you can watch our video coverage at this link.
Contacted by Naval News, a Naval Group spokesperson explained that the mothership is expected to start conducting harbor trials in October 2023. Delivery to the Belgian Navy is scheduled for the end of 2024 at Zeebrugge naval base in Belgium.
The second vessel of the class, HNLMS Vlissingen (M840), is intended for the Royal Netherlands Navy. Its keel was laid in June 2022 at a different shipyard: The Kership shipyard in Lanester.
These ships are part of the rMCM program, which is a cooperation between Belgium and the Netherlands in which the Belgian Navy acts as program manager for both navies. The program was awarded in 2019 to Belgium Naval & Robotics, the consortium formed by Naval Group and ECA Group, following an international competition. It provides for the supply to the Belgian Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy of twelve mine countermeasures platforms and around a hundred drones integrated inside a toolbox that will equip the vessels.
Kership, a joint venture between Naval Group and Piriou, is in charge of the production of the twelve platforms which are assembled in Concarneau and Lanester. Fitting out will be conducted by Piriou in Concarneau. Naval Group, as overall architect and prime contractor, is responsible for the design of the ships, the overall integration, and the testing and commissioning of the mission system (combat system and mine countermeasures system). ECA Group, as co-contractor, is in charge of the unmanned drones’ system. The drones will be produced in ECA Group factory (Ostend, Belgium). The maintenance of the ships will be carried out in Belgium in close collaboration between the Belgian Navy and Naval Group Belgium, with the assistance of its partner Flanders Ship Repair.
During Euronaval 2022, France announced it was joining the program, confirming that the rMCM mothership will be used as a basis to answer the French Navy “Bâtiments de guerre des mines” (BGDM) need, which are to be ordered next year.
rMCM Mothership / Oostende-class specifications
- Length: 82,6m
- Width: 17m
- Displacement: 2800t
- Maximum speed: 15,3 knots
- Range: >3500 nautical miles
- Crew: 63 people
- Drone capabilities: ECA Group’s UMISOFT System, 2 unmanned surface vehicles (ECA Group’s
- Inspector 125), 3 autonomous underwater vehicles (A-18 equipped with ECA Group’s UMISAS
- 120 sonar), 2 towed sonars (T-18 equipped with ECA Group’s UMISAS 240 sonar), 2 Mine
- Identification & Destruction Systems (MIDS) systems (ECA Group’s Seascan et K-Ster C), 2
- unmanned aerial vessels (UMS Skeldar’s V200), 1 ECA Group influence dredger integrating 5
- CTM magnetic modules et 1 PATRIA acoustic module.
- Embarkation capacity: 2 SOLAS rigid hull inflatable boats of 7m.
- Handling: 2 side gantries with floating cradle for surface drones and commando boats, a 15t
- rear crane and a 3t overhead crane.
- BAE Systems Bofors 40Mk4 main gun
- Thales NS50 radar