Naval Warfare

Kership Launchs Belgian-Dutch Mine Countermeasure Vessel Tournai (M941)

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Kership Launchs Belgian-Dutch Mine Countermeasure Vessel Tournai (M941)

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Kership Launchs Belgian-Dutch Mine Countermeasure Vessel Tournai (M941)
Kership Launchs Belgian-Dutch Mine Countermeasure Vessel Tournai (M941)

The launching ceremony of the Tournai (M941), third of the twelve mine countermeasure vessels in the Belgian-Dutch rMCM programme, intended for the Belgian Navy, took place on 2 July 2024 in Concarneau in the presence of the Belgian Minister of Defence, Ms Dedonder, and the Mayor of Tournai, Mr Delannois. The launching was carried out by Kership, the programme’s industrial prime contractor, on behalf of Naval Group, the overall prime contractor. The Tournai, third ship in the programme and second for the Belgian Navy, will be delivered to Belgium in 2026. The first ship in the series, the Oostende, destined for the Belgian Navy, was launched on 29 March 2023, and the second, the Vlissingen, destined for the Royal Netherlands Navy, on 19 October 2023. The fourth in the series, Scheveningen, the second vessel for the Dutch Navy, was laid down on 19 July 2023 and is scheduled to be launched in December 2024. Delivery of the Oostende is scheduled for summer 2025 in Zeebrugge, Belgium. Deliveries of the other ships will then be staggered until mid-2030, at a rate of two a year.

The rMCM programme was awarded in 2019 to Belgium Naval & Robotics, the consortium formed by Naval Group and Exail, as part of an international competition. It provides for the supply to the Belgian Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy of twelve mine countermeasures vessels, as well as around a hundred drones integrated into a toolbox to equip the vessels. In September 2023, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between France, Belgium and the Netherlands, allowing France to use the design of the rMCM ships to equip the French Navy with six ships. Thales will be in charge of the onboard UAV system for France. This programme is a major component of European defence cooperation. It demonstrates the ability of European states to work together and share a solution destined to become the benchmark in mine countermeasures, not only for the Belgian, Dutch and French navies but also for other partner navies in Europe and around the world.

Tournai (M941) is the third ship in the City-class mine countermeasures vessels, and second to be built for the Belgian Navy.
Tournai (M941) is the third ship in the City-class mine countermeasures vessels, and second to be built for the Belgian Navy. (Photo Naval Group)

Naval Group, as overall architect and prime contractor, is responsible for the design of the ships, overall integration, testing and commissioning of the mission system (combat system and mine countermeasures system). Kership, a joint venture between Naval Group and Piriou, is the industrial prime contractor for the twelve ships, which are being built in Concarneau and Lanester. Exail, co-contractor, is in charge of the UAV mission system, most of which will be produced in Ostend, Belgium. Maintenance of the ships will be carried out in Belgium as part of a close collaboration between the Belgian Navy and Naval Group Belgium, with the assistance of its partner Flanders Ship Repair in Zeebrugge. These specialist mine warfare vessels will be the first to have the capacity to embark and launch or fly a combination of surface drones (vessels of around 12 metres and 18 tonnes), underwater drones and aerial drones. The mine countermeasures vessels will use a fully robotised system to detect, classify and neutralise mines. They can withstand underwater explosions and have very low acoustic, electrical and magnetic signatures, in line with the missions to be carried out.

These minehunters have the following characteristics:
Length: 82.6m overall Width: 17m overall ;
Displacement: 2800t ;
Maximum speed: 15.3 knots ;
Range: >3500 nautical miles ;
Accommodation: 63 people ;
Boarding capacity: 2 RHIB SOLAS 7m boats ;
Handling: 2 side gantries with floating cradles for 18t surface drones and commando boats, 1 15t stern crane, 3t overhead crane;
UAV capabilities : UMISOFT Exail system, 2 surface drones (Inspector 125 Exail), 3 autonomous underwater vehicles (A-18 equipped with UMISAS 120 Exail sonar), 2 towed sonars (T-18 equipped with UMISAS 240 Exail sonar), 2 mine identification and destruction systems (Seascan and K-Ster C Exail), 2 aerial drones (V200 Saab Skeldar), 1 Exail influence dredger integrating 5 magnetic modules from CTM and 1 acoustic module from PATRIA.

As an international naval defence player, Naval Group is a partner for countries seeking to maintain control of their maritime sovereignty. Naval Group develops innovative solutions to meet its customers’ requirements. Present throughout the entire life cycle of vessels, it designs, produces, integrates, supports and upgrades submarines and surface ships, as well as their systems and equipment, up to and including dismantling. It also provides shipyard and naval base services. As a high-tech company, it draws on its outstanding expertise, unique design and production resources and ability to establish strategic partnerships, in particular within the framework of transfers of technology. Ever mindful of the issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR), Naval Group is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact. With bases on five continents, the group generates revenue of 4,257 billion euros and has 16 325 employees (average annual full-time equivalent workforce – data as of December 31, 2023).

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