In January 2010, Damen Schelde announced a contract from the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation to build a 28,000t “Joint Logistic Support Ship” (JSS), which will become the HNLMS Karel Doorman. The vessel is scheduled to launch in 2014, and will replace the retired 16,900t HNLMS Zuiderkruis.
The Dutch wanted a very versatile ship that can resupply other warships, transport significant loads of army equipment and vehicles, act as a floating headquarters, take on hospital duties, and embark up to 6 helicopters. That level of versatility will come with costs. Canada’s ill-fated JSS program had similar or larger ambitions, but the 3-ship, C$ 2.9 billion program was ultimately suspended when contractors couldn’t supply what Canada wanted at the prices demanded. Can the Netherlands be more successful? So far, the answer is “yes”.
The Dutch JSS: HNLMS Karel Doorman
The program’s last-reported budget is EUR 365.5 million (then about $485 million). Karel Doorman is due for delivery in 2014, in order to become operational in mid-2015. The question will be whether the program can remain on budget and on-schedule, or whether the versatility requested will create design and testing challenges that will raise the final price, and result in late delivery. So far, the ship is precisely on schedule.
Size: The Dutch JSS design measures 205m/ 672’6″ long with 30m/ 98’5″ beam, and 27,800t total displacement. That offers much more space compared to the 190m length, 20m beam, and 16,900t displacement of the replenishment ship HNLMS Zuiderkruis, which was decommissioned on Feb 10/12.
Power: Ship power and propulsion will come from 5 diesel generators offering up to 25 MW, and speeds of up to 18 knots will be achieved using 2 main electric motors of 9 MW each, driving 2 fixed-pitch propeller shaftlines, 2 bow thruster pods, and 1 stern thruster pod.
Logistics: In order to fulfill its main supply role, the Dutch JSS will have 2 Replenishment-At-Sea masts, an elevator and crane for up to 40 tonnes, a large (“2000 lanemeters”) vehicle storage or evacuee holding area with roll on/roll off (Ro-Ro) capability, and a “steel beach” stern design for cargo transfer via landing craft. A large helicopter deck can handle up to 2 CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, and the hangar will be able to hold up to 6 NH90 helicopters with rotors folded, or 2 CH-47 Chinooks with rotors operational. By comparison, HNLMS Zuiderkruis used to carry 2 smaller Lynx helicopters.
At present, Dutch NH90 orders involve 12 NH90 NFH naval anti-submarine helicopters, and 8 marinized NH90 TTH medium transports that could equip its LPDs and JSS ship. Making full use of the new ship will require either (1) additional NH90 orders; (2) leased helicopters, just as the USA uses leased AS330 Pumas for its T-AKE supply ships; or (3) using some of the Dutch RNLAF’s Boeing CH-47D/F Chinooks and/or Eurocopter AS532-U2 Cougar Mk2s on board.
The Dutch appear to have picked option #3. Specifying the Chinook for ship hangar storage is very unusual, as it isn’t marinized against the salt-water environment, and its height and features make it less than ideal for naval storage. Diagrams provided in the Parliamentary briefing clearly show stowed Chinooks, however, and the CH-47 will remain the Netherlands’ main heavy-lift helicopter option into the foreseeable future. As such, designing the ship to operate with Chinooks gives the Karel Doornan unique and useful options when operating with other Dutch services, or with allies.
Sensors & Defense: Most of the sensor suite, including the Thales I-Mast 400 integrated mast, is reportedly borrowed from the new Holland Class OPVs that Damen is still building for the RNLN. One exception is the new SCOUT Mk3 stealthy 2D radar system for scanning the sea, shore, and air near the ship.
Self-defense capabilities won’t include any missiles, but they will include 2 of Thales Nederlands 30mm Goalkeeper gatling gun systems, for last-ditch missile defense and withering fire against boats and UAVs. Close-in surface warfare is handled by 2 single-barrel Oto Melara Marlin WS 30mm cannon Remote Weapon Systems (RWS) that can be aimed and fired from stations within the ship, 4 Oto Melara HITROLE RWS with 12.7mm machine guns, and 4 SRBOC launchers to put up quick chaff screens against incoming missiles. This compares with HNLMS Zuiderkruis’ single Goalkeeper system and 2 manned 12.7mm stations. The new JSS ships are also expected to include “signature reduction measures” in radar and infrared, ballistic protection, blast resistant construction, redundant and shock resistant systems, a gas citadel, and extensive firefighting systems.
Other: HNLMS Karel Doorman is expected to hold 150 crew. Automation is expected to help achieve these low manning totals. Another 150 residents would include people like helicopter crews, medical teams for the ships 2 independent operating theaters, etc.
Unlike the specifications for the abandoned Canadian JSS, the Dutch ship is not expected to offer any capabilities for ice-breaking, or structural reinforcements to cope with iced ocean operations.
Contracts and Key Events
2012 – 2014
March 8/14: Christening. Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert christens the Karel Doorman. The ship is expected to be commissioned into the RNLN fleet in 2015.
The name honors the Dutch rear admiral who perished aboard the light cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter, facing an superior Japanese force during the Battle of the Java Sea on Feb 27/1942. He had been the multinational American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDA) Strike Force commander, but despite their best efforts, his force of surface combatants weren’t able to break through and damage the Japanese invasion fleet. He perished in the opening battles, choosing to follow tradition and go down with his ship. A number of his crew were rescued, but most of the allied ABDA force were picked off in a series of follow-on engagements, losing a total of 10 ships and approximately 2,173 sailors. Japan did invade Java, and an forced allied surrender on March 9/1942.
Previous ships named after Karel Doorman have included a second-hand Nairana Class escort carrier from Britain (1946-1948), a Colossus Class aircraft carrier replacement from Britain (1948-1969) that was eventually sold to Argentina, and a frigate (1991-2005) that currently serves with the Belgian Navy as F930 Leopold I.
Feb 14/14: Sub-contractors. Thales Nederland announces that the JSS Karel Doornan has become the 1st naval order for their new SCOUT Mk3 radar.
This 2D (range & azimuth only) radar system uses advanced processors on the back end to get better performance in clutter and against moving targets, with Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) on the front end to spread a very low peak power signal so it looks like noise. A radar that can see outward without triggering enemy radar detection warnings is a useful attribute for an amphibious craft, and the radar works against targets from surface opponents to low-flying aerial objects. Sources: Thales, “Thales wins first contract for new SCOUT Mk3 naval radar system”.
Oct 25/13: No sale. The Dutch MvD intends to reverse some of its planned cuts, after another EUR 115 million in funding is made available. The Karel Doorman will be purchased after all, but manned with a reduced crew, at which point HNLMS Amsterdam will be retired. Aside from France & Britain, European countries are a bit short on support vessels, and there is some talk of using the ship in cooperation with other NATO countries.
Beyond the JSS, a marine company will be retained in Aruba, but 13th Mechanized Division will become a wheeled-only Motorized Division, selling 44 tracked CV90 IFVs and reserving the other 44 for training and spares roles – effectively cutting the operational Dutch CV90 fleet in half. Another CH-47 simulator will help boost the readiness of the heavy helicopter force. Sources: Dutch MvD, “Minister draait deel pijnlijke maatregelen terug” [in Dutch].
Sept 5/13: For Sale? NIS reports that Dutch budget cuts will force them to sell the Karel Doornan before they ever commission her. It’s part of an effort to find EUR 330 million in savings, which will also include the reduction of a Navy company, an Army battalion, and 6-7 of the RNLAF’s remaining F-16s. The F-35’s acquisition budget will reportedly be capped at 4 billion, which is likely to leave them with less than half the planes they planned on if they persist in buying that type [Postscript: in fact, it ends up cutting the planned buy from 85 – 37].
The Dutch need something to fill the supply ship role, and a smaller, cheaper, single-purpose ship is expected. Meanwhile, the 17,000t HNLMS Amsterdam will need to remain in service longer than expected. Sources: NIS, “Defence to Sell off Biggest Navy Ship before It is Finished” | MvD, “HNLMS Amsterdam ready for tasks in the Caribbean”.
Sept 3/13: Sub-contractors. Alewijnse Marine Systems say they are now on the 2nd stage of a 4-year project to install the Karel Dorrman’s electrical systems, as it sits pierside at Vlissingen. During Stage 1, about 500km of cabling was installed in Romania by subsidiary Alewijnse Marine Galati (AMG). During Stage 2, the AMG team is working to activate the 440V power system and the lighting systems, which will help with worker safety during final fitting-out. After that, the focus switches to finalizing installations in individual areas. Sources: MarineLink, “Dutch Shipyard Alewijnse Carefully Race to Wire Warship”.
July 22/13: Leaving Romania. The future Dutch JSS ship Karel Doorman leaves Romania, en route to Vlissingen in The Netherlands for final outfitting. She’s expected to arrive in mid-August, and installation of the Thales I-Master 400 integrated mast is expected to begin in January 2014.
The ship was built in Damen Shipyards Galati. Alewijnse Marine Galati supplied and installed over 490 km of cabling on board, performing 25,216 connections. Marine Link.
2009 – 2011
June 7/11: Keel laid. The formal keel-laying ceremony takes place in Romania at the Damen yard in Galatz. Damen.
Feb 5/10: Engines. Rolls Royce announces an order to supply Bergen diesel engines for the Royal Netherlands Navy’s JSS. The vessel will be equipped with 4 Bergen B32:40V12A generator sets, and one B32:40L6A to provide diesel electrical power and propulsion. See also: Bergen 32:40 Diesel generator set.
Jan 18/10: Contract. Damen Schelde announces the JSS contract, and gives a scheduled launch date of 2014 but no cost information. Base construction will largely take place at Damen Shipyard Galati under supervision of DSNS. The next stage will take place at DSNS’ premises in Vlissingen, where the complete engineering, purchasing of material packages, final systems outfitting, commissioning and testing of the vessel and all of her systems will take place.
The list of key suppliers remains: Thales Nederland, Thales France, Rhode & Schwarz Nederland, and Finmeccanica subsidiary Oto Melara in Italy (for naval RWS systems, presumably).
Meanwhile, Canada is reportedly preparing to re-start its own JSS competition, and the Dutch design could create an additional contender. Weapon programs whose design breaks new ground add a lot of expense. If the Dutch government has effectively subsidized that R&D work for a ship that could meet Canada’s revised requirements, Damen Schelde may be able to offer the Canadians a lower risk option. The key questions would be whether Canada can accept the lack of ice-breaking capability; and whether it can wait until successful performance on the Dutch contract offers assurances that the design and equipment won’t require major changes, and costs won’t jump again. Damen Schelde | CTV News Canada.
JSS ship contract
Nov 3-6/09: MvD Report. The Dutch MvD offers a briefing to Parliament regarding the Joint Logistic Support Ship, and describes the project budget as EUR 365.5 million (about $538 million) – a 37.7% escalation from the initial 2005 figures of EUR 265 million. That cost increase breaks down as follows:
* EUR 25 million for an enlarged design.
* EUR 15 million for additional finishing work at Vlissingen. De Schelde has traditionally handled items like the upper structure and all military equipment, but Vlissingen appears to have been given this role for JSS. That adds costs, and also risk.
* EUR 46 million for inflation, based on general price and wage indices of the Central Bureau of Statistics and other statistical agencies from 2005 – 2009 (17.35% total), and validated by the Defense Audit Service.
* EUR 12 million for price increases specific to shipbuilding. This includes rises in commodity prices, but demand for diesel engines, electrical wiring and equipment are also up. Figures from the Association of Dutch Shipbuilding Industry (VNSI) show that prices in the Dutch shipbuilding market rose 25% from 2005 – 2009, then partially receded.
There are no contracts yet, but there are draft agreements for the platform, the Sewaco systems and other matters. These draft agreements contain provisions including penalty clauses. The final contract will stipulate which suppliers shall be involved, and subcontractors have not yet chosen yet, but key suppliers to date include Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania, Thales Nederland, Thales France, Rhode & Schwarz Nederland, and Finmeccanica subsidiary Oto Melara in Italy. See: MvD release [in Dutch] | MvD briefing [PDF, in Dutch] | Q&A [PDF, in Dutch].
DID thanks our Benelux correspondents, including our friends at VNCcc, for translation assistance. To contact the reporter: joe, here at defenseindustrydaily.com.
The Dutch JSS
* Dutch MvD – Joint logistic Support Ship (JSS)
* Damen Schelde – Joint Logistic Support Ship
* Thales – Integrated Mast
* Thales Nederland – Scout Mk3 – Medium range covert surveillance radar
* Thales – Goalkeeper – close-in weapon system
* Oto Melara – Marlin – WS. Unlike Goalkeeper, it isn’t useful for defense against missiles.
* Oto Melara – HITROLE® 12.7 mm – Remote Controlled Naval Turret
* James Hasik (Nov 5/13) – A Dutch aircraft carrier? Some views on the value of ‘Joint Support Ships’
Similar & Related Vessels
* DID – Canada’s C$ 2.9B “Joint Support Ship” Project Sinks. Canada decided to go its own way, and the program eventually broke their budgets.
* New Zealand Navy – HMNZS Canterbury – L421. New Zealand has its own, smaller multi-role ship design, which combines transport and some minor patrol tasks. The vessel was built by Merwede Shipyard in the Netherlands, under subcontract to Tenix. Note that its smaller size and design has led to some stability issues in rough Antarctic seas.
* Damen – Holland Class Patrol Vessels. Some components and systems were translated into the larger ship as well.