“The Royal Netherlands Navy cannot do without the golden triangle.” This statement was made by Rob Zuiddam, project manager at the Dutch Ministry of Defence and responsible for the ocean-going patrol vessel (OPV) project, during a special gathering to celebrate the official handover of HNLMS Friesland, that also marked the end of this OPV project.
The golden triangle refers to the cooperation between the government, knowledge institutes and the industry and it is this cooperation that made the OPV project a success. During the event, shipbuilder Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS), supplier Thales and knowledge institutes TNO and MARIN explained how they used the experience and knowledge gained during the project in other projects, the so-called spin-offs.
DSNS was responsible for the build of the four OPVs (next to HNLMS Friesland also HNLMS Holland, HNLMS Zeeland and HNLMS Groningen) and reported several sorts of spin-offs, the most direct one being other parties showing interest in this kind of patrol vessels, for example the US Coast Guard. Also, DSNS was inspired by the modularity of the OPVs which led to the development of the Damen Crossover range. Another example of a spin-off are the environmental applications of the vessels – the diesel-electric propulsion system, the ballast water treatment system and the bioreactor, which treats wastewater so it can be discharged overboard – that are used for other projects as well.
Thales’s responsibility was the Integrated Mast Module, which houses all of the ship’s sensors and communication systems. This so-called ‘plug and play’ system is a true innovation, as for the first time, radar and communications antenna systems have been combined in a single construction. As a spin-off, Thales created a complete new radar family with transmitter and receiver in the same construction and scalable to fit multiple platforms.
TNO was involved in several studies regarding the OPV project and stated that it is important to constantly continue innovating together. One of the studies TNO conducted was regarding manning and automation. Due to the centralised operating system and the simple maintenance of the various systems in the integrated mast module, the OPVs only require 50 crew members instead of the 150 personnel manning a frigate. “The Royal Netherlands Navy is good at optimum manning, making sure the size of the crew fits the size of the vessel”, commented Jeroen de Jonge, business director naval programmes at TNO. Also studies regarding the weapon systems (effectiveness and best position, among
others) and the integrated mast were conducted by the knowledge institute. According to De Jonge, spin-offs are difficult to define, but he is always eager to point out Dutch innovations on vessels. MARIN was also involved in research regarding the OPVs, for example the launch and recovery of FRISCS. The US Coast Guard and the British Navy have shown interest in these tests as well, and as launch and recovery becomes more and more important, a new Joint Industry Project together with the British Navy was established to look into standardising and improving launch and recovery systems. Senior project manager ships at MARIN, Frans Kremer, also gave an example of a ‘spin-in’: knowledge gained from manoeuvre tests for commercial purposes were applied to this project, which also is a great example of the success of the golden triangle.
The 108-metre long OPVs with a beam of 16 metres and a maximum speed of 20 knots are deployed in counterpiracy missions, counterdrug operations and coastguard tasks in the Netherlands and the Caribbean. Next
to the 50 crew members, the vessels can accommodate 40 temporary crew and a maximum of 100 evacuees each and are equipped with a large crane for loading and unloading aid supplies, a helicopter deck for an NH-90 helicopter, and two FRISC speedboats. The first vessel of the project, HNLMS Holland, was commissioned on 6 July 2012, HNLMS Friesland was made operational on 22 January 2013. The patrol vessel was stationed in the Carribean, participating in the international counterdrug operation ‘Martillo’ and before and during the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands in March 2014, she took care of the coastal safety between IJmuiden and Hook of Holland.
Director of DMO (Defence Materiel Organisation) Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom called the project a highlight: “The assignment was to design and build four OPVs in a short time with a tight budget and by working with the golden triangle we succeeded to realise the project within the boundary conditions budget, project and time.”
Gail van den Hanenberg