Background - Amphibious Assault / Underway Replenishment
The Netherlands armed forces of the future will have to concentrate particularly on high-quality units that are suitable for expeditionary operations together with other nations. In other words, armed forces that are largely self-supporting in the area of logistics and that carry out military operations at a relatively great distance from the home base. The reduced threat of a large-scale attack against Alliance territory and the increased necessity of (being capable of) reacting quickly to conflicts have lead to the decision to transition to virtually fully active armed forces that can be deployed rapidly anywhere in the world.
A task that is growing in importance is providing support from the sea (littoral waters) for operations on land. The Royal Netherlands Navy also has the Marine Corps and two amphibious ships (LPDs) for amphibious operations. The two amphibious transport ships (HNLMS Rotterdam and, from 2007, HNLMS Johan de Witt) provide the armed forces with expeditionary capability, albeit on the scale of one battalion plus associated combat support and logistic support.
In 2003 it was announced the successor to HNLMS Zuiderkruis will not be only a maritime supply ship, but a ship that can also transport equipment and other supplies. A study into those capabilities, in which suitability for joint operations is an important point of attention, would be completed in 2005.
In early 2004 it was reported that the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNN) was considering acquiring a new amphibious assault vessel with a full-length flight deck to replace the 29-year-old fast-combat support ship Zuiderkruis, a replacement at sea (RAS) vessel. This type of ship keeps naval vessels supplied with all of their needs while at sea - for the Royal Netherlands Navy. HNLMS Zuiderkruis was launched 1974 and entered service in 1975.
The RNN was considering a design combining elements from the Spanish Buque de Proyección Estratégica and the UK's e Ocean. Both of ships are capable of underway replenishment. The Netherlands vessel would probably be built at the Royal Scheldt Group in Vlissingen.
According to one account, the plan was to begin construction around 2006 or 2007. This would add an amphibious vessel to a task force consisting of one large LHD/LPH with the two Rotterdam-class LPDs. By another account, the Dutch order for the replacement of the supply ship Zuiderkruis was not expected until 2011. The Indonesian order will fill this gap in the order flow, while holding out the prospect of possible follow-up export orders.
Since the mid-1990s, the navy increasingly focused on brown water operations as the submarine threat decreased. As a result, the Marines have become central to the service. Today, the navy is looking for ways to enhance its role in and beyond the littoral in land support operations. To that end, projects include the building of four patrol vessels, the replacement of the oiler Zuiderkruis by a multifunctional support ship, which can doubleas a helicopter carrier. Under the 2005 Budget, the navy was to drop the construction of the helicopter carrier vessel.
By December 2009 the Netherlands seemed more likely to purchase a 363 million support vessel for the Dutch Navy after a change of mind by the governing Christian democrats. A budget revision showed that the ship will cost 100 million euros more than estimated earlier, which led to critical questions in parliament. MPs demanded of Deputy Defence Minister Jack de Vries that he reopen negotiations with the builders over the pricing of the ship. But Mr De Vries, a Christian democrat, argued that sharp negotiations had already yielded the best price, and pointed out that a lower price would lead to a loss of quality.
Christian democrat MPs then tabled a toned-down motion calling on the Deputy Defence Minister to report to the lower house earlier in case of excess expenditure. This volte-face of the party led to critical reactions from the opposition benches. Despite the newly-won support of the Christian democrats it was unclear whether Mr De Vries will receive the go-ahead for the purchase of the joint support ship. The Navy currently had two support ships. The oldest, dating from 1975, was to be replaced by the new vessel.
On 18 December 2009, the Netherlands' Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) signed a contract for the supply of a Joint Logistic Support Ship (JSS). The Joint Logistic Support Ship will be built for the Royal Netherlands Navy, and will be delivered in July 2014.
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