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Tripartite Class Coastal Minehunters (MHCs)

The main task of the minehunters is to keep the sea, the coastal waters and the harbor mouths free of mines. In addition, they protect maritime units in a dangerous area by performing specific mine countermeasure operations. The units can be deployed worldwide in support of country operations from the sea. But also closer to home for the detection and clearance of mines and explosives at sea in the the continental shelf. Minehunters are in constant demand in times of peace, let alone in times of war. Even today, minehunters regularly destroy Allied and Axis mines that remain from the Second World War. NATO minehunters have been involved in operations in the Adriatic Sea to clear the area of NATO ordinance jettisoned during the 1998 NATO air war against Yugoslavia.

The Tripartite class was a joint venture between Belgium, France and the Netherlands. These mines hunters are a joint design of Netherlands, Belgium and France. France has supplied the equipment, Belgium the electronic system, and the propulsion comes from Netherlands. Because of this cooperation between 3 countries is the international name of this ship class is the Tripartite class.

The most striking feature of the minehunter is the complete absence of steel: the hull is of polyester and building of aluminium. This is done because many mines respond to disturbances in the magnetic field. This construction prevents this. These minehunters feature special polyester construction with no magnetic field distortions. As a result mines do not explode as a minehunter speeds over it. The size of the crew is depending on the tasks to perform. The total varies between 28 and 38 crew members. Everyone on Board has its own tasks and specialty. In addition, each crew member a specific role in special situations such as the combat of disasters as fire and damage. In all cases there is one team that intensively in a relatively small space under often harsh conditions.

The "tripartite" type of mine hunters were built in cooperation between France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Operational studies drew around engineers and seamen various European nations, all interested by the first results of minehunters, and desirous of participating in a program for the production of a modern minehunter. By the terms of multiple transactions, three countries - France, the Netherlands, and Belgium - signed an accord in 1975 which sanctioned the first association, in the history of the world's navies, of three countries for the construction of a warship.

It was in 1973 that everything began. The Belgian, French and Dutch navies decided to jointly build a building dedicated to mine hunting. In February 1974, the agreement was signed between the three countries to cooperatively build this new type of ship. The project culminated in the elaboration of a military program, ratified by the Chiefs of Staff of the three navies on December 9, 1974. Under this program, 35 Tripartite Class Moblers - 'Acronym CMT - were ordered: 10 by France, 10 by Belgium and 15 by the Netherlands. The 10 Belgian mines hunters were built during the 1980s. Like all Belgian warships, in tribute to the Belgian Royal Navy section which named its corvettes "flower class".

France built mine hunting equipment, radar and sonar systems. At the same time, Belgium provided the electronic part and deals with electric navigation, and more precisely engines. The vessels had three extremely quiet generators that do not produce trepidation. The Netherlands was in charge of the propulsion system. Each country built its own boats. For Belgium, the M915 Aster was the first mine hunter to see the light of day and the second to be equipped with a modernized mining system.

The "tripartite" agreement envisioned the start of its realization with the introduction of trials for the first of the French ERIDAN minehunters. The development of this ship in comparison with preceding minehunters lay in several areas which explains, moreover, its rather difficult completion. This was the first construction in France of a hull of this size in a qlass resin composite. The entire ship must resist extremely strong shock stress and this fact led the engineers to allow for a wide range of materials. The requirements for nonmagnetism and for silence gave rise to radically new options such as the installation of turbogas alternators in the superstructures of the ship in order to produce the electricity necessary to power an auxiliary propulsion system of the same type as that on the CIRCE /8 Class, in addition to a bow thruster.

The weapon system was still along the lines of the SKUBERMOR, with a third generation. Everyone was inclined to believe that it would be a good selection. Automation was improved for increased precision and ease of operation. An automatic pilot connected to the EVEC frees the watch officer in the operations center from the necessity of giving orders to navigate the ship during operations with either the PAP or divers. Finally, the ship is destined to operate in an NBC environment (nuclear, biological and chemical), implylng that the totality of living and operational spaces is Included In a "citadel, hermetically sealed off from the surrounding atmosphere.

The first Dutch ship, the Alkmaar M850, was sold to Latvia. On the other hand, built by the Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) in Lorient and commissioned in April 1984, the first French minesweeper, Eridan M641, Is the oldest in the series.

All tripartite mine hunters, while serving in European navies, are part of NATO's Mine Countermeasures Force North, the permanent naval force of NATO's mining wars. In 2005, Belgium and the Netherlands launched a modernization project: the Belgian Netherlands Capacity Upgrade Project (BENECUP). Mine hunters of older generations were built of wood. The current series has a glass / resin composite shell, making the ships practically indestructible. 635-700,000 mines were wet during the Second World War. To date, only 20% of these mines have been neutralized and cleared.






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