The four remaining M-type multipurpose frigates operated by the combined navies of Belgium and the Netherlands will be upgraded with a new combat management system based on the Guardion system, the Dutch defense ministry confirms. Earlier versions of Guardion already equip the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN)'s LCF-type air defense and command frigates and the amphibious command ship HrMs Johan de Witt.
Guardion is based on software developed by the RNLN's in-house Center for the Automation of Mission-critical Systems (CAMS, also known as Force Vision). It uses hardware supplied by Thales (multifunction operator consoles) and commercial vendors (servers and processors).
(Photo: This is the RNLN-developed 1990s-generation combat management system that equips the M frigates today, here on board HrMs Van Nes that will be transferred to Portugal under a deal signed earlier this year. (Credit: Joris Janssen Lok)
According to the defense ministry, Guardion is "less costly, available sooner, more flexible and better" than the combat management systems developed by industry for comparable international warship programs in France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. -- apparently because it combines military in-house-developed software components with an off-the-shelf commercial hardware infrastructure.
By re-using proven Guardion components, the risk of developing the new M frigate combat management system will be low, the defense ministry says. However, the existing sensor, weapon and communications systems on the four ships need to be integrated with the new suite.
Other upgrade items will be a modification of the flight deck and hangar to accommodate the new 10-ton NH90 helicopter and the installation of provisions for operating a towed low-frequency active sonar system. These modifications will be outsourced to a civil shipyard, most probably Schelde Naval Shipbuilding -- the original builder of the ships.
Furthermore, a new integrated monitoring and control system from Dutch company Imtech will be installed, while the Seastar littoral surface surveillance radar from Thales is another likely new system.
It is expected that Belgium and the Netherlands will share the non-recurring costs of the upgrade program (Belgium will decide in the Fall whether it will indeed join the project). The other users of M-type frigates, Chile and Portugal, who each took two, will not join for the time being although this may happen at a later time, the defense ministry in The Hague says.
--Joris Janssen Lok
(Photo: This is the Guardion system as installed on the four new LCF-type air defense and command frigates of the RNLN. Both systems use software developed by the Dutch Navy combined with hardware supplied by Thales. Credit: Thales)