Dutch Looking for New Minesweepers
During the Cold War, NATO countries had a strong incentive to invest in minesweeper fleets, in order to keep their ports open to American reinforcements and cover key chokepoints that might be mined by Soviet submarines. With the demise of the Soviet Union, and the rise of remote-controlled UUVs and USVs that can be mounted on any ship, the perceived need for minesweeper ships has declined. The US Navy, for instance, will decommission all 12 of its 893 ton, fiberglass MHC-51 Osprey Class minesweepers by the end of FY 2008. So far, 8 of them have been sold to the Egyptian (MHC 60 & 61), Greek (MHC 52 & 53), Lithuanian (MHC 56 & 57), and Turkish (MHC 58 & 62) navies, even though the first ship was only christened in 1991.
With piracy rising sharply in the early 21st century, however, and land mines showing themselves to be the preferred tactic of islamists and other terrorists on land, some countries are connecting the dots and reassessing their post Cold War needs…
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s highest-volume and most important ports, and Dutch Defence State Secretary Jack de Vries has said in a letter to parliament that “in view of the current availability of sea mines, the use of these by terrorist groups is seriously taken into account, including in European waters.” This added fuel to a 2007 NATO study that said the Royal Netherlands Navy had too few minesweepers.
At the moment, the Dutch TNO engineerng and research firm is looking into options for a EUR 100-250 million program to expand and renew the Dutch minesweeper fleet. Jan 23/08 NIS News Bulletin report.
The Dutch Navy currently owns 10 minesweepers of the 543 tonne Aalkmar/ Tripartite Class, after selling 5 of its ships to Latvia in July 2006. They were designed in the late 1970s, and built during the 1980s, in conjunction with Belgium and France. Tripartite Class ships currently serve in or have been ordered by the navies of Belgium, France, Indonesia, Latvia, the Neterlands, and Pakistan.