The Dutch Navy is considering the acquisition of short-handed ships to support its frigates

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With the Trific program, the Dutch Navy is developing a reduced-crew ship capable of carrying modular capacities in container form to support its frigates, the number of which continues to decrease.

Like combat aircraft, large surface ships such as destroyers and frigates have also seen their acquisition and implementation costs increase significantly in recent years. Thus, the OH Perry class frigates were sold to the US Navy and its allies for around $120 million at the end of the 1980s, or a little less than $300 million in 2022 taking into account inflation, while frigates of the same relative capacities today exceed $600 million, or double.

Not only have material and human costs increased significantly faster than the budgets of the navies, but for several years they have encountered significant difficulties in recruiting and maintaining their workforce, as we have reported several times .

This is why many navies are considering turning to automated ships to replenish lost mass, and bolster expensive but small fleets of frigates and destroyers. This is particularly the case for the US Navy, which has already tested several autonomous ocean surface ships, notably the SeaHawk and SeaHunter demonstrators, during major exercises .

However, if the use of robotic ships tends to spread rapidly with regard to light coastal units and autonomous underwater reconnaissance drones, the development of surface combatant ships with oceanic capability still faces certain difficulties, notably in terms of reliability, even making some planners fear a future traffic jam at dedicated maintenance sites if necessary .

Sea Hunters sea hawk
The US Navy is actively engaged in the development of autonomous ships to increase its mass against the Chinese Navy

The Dutch Navy is no exception in the area of ​​mass loss. Thus, in the mid-1980s, the 12 Kortenaer class destroyers which entered service between the end of the 1970s and the mid-1980s, were supported by 2 large anti-aircraft destroyers of the Tromp class and 6 combat frigates. anti-submarines of the Van Speijk class, i.e. 20 large surface combatant units, compared to only 4 frigates of the De Zeven Provicien class and two of the Karel Doorman class today, one of which is inactive due to lack of personnel , while the submarine fleet has decreased from 8 to only four Walrus-class ships.

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