First of new Belgian minehunters launched
The first of 12 mine-hunting ships jointly ordered by Belgium and the Netherlands to replace their existing vessels was officially launched in France on Wednesday. The Belgian and Dutch defence ministers, Ludivine Dedonder and Kajsa Ollongren, the Belgian chief of defence Admiral Michel Hofman and Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein were present at the ceremony in Concarneau.
The naval forces of Belgium and the Netherlands will each take delivery of six of new mine countermeasure vessels. Dedonder called the launch of the M940 Oostende “an important moment”.
She praised the project’s innovation, which means the vessels send out drones to detect and destroy mines rather than approaching mines themselves. “The technology allows us to operate even more safely,” she said. “This is an example to our NATO allies and our partners.”
Though the M940 Oostende was launched on 22 February, the official ceremony was held this week for technical reasons. During the event, the ship's nameplate and bell were handed over. The bell will be installed when the ship reaches its home port of Zeebrugge.
The 12 minehunters will be delivered between 2024 and 2030 and will replace more than 30 existing Belgian-French-Dutch minehunters, which were commissioned in the 1980s.
The launch of the M940 Oostende minehunter in Concarneau, France © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK
Drone views of the launch of the M940 Oostende © BELGA HANDOUT VIDEO BELGIAN DEFENCE JOHAN LIEVENS