At the end of 2007 Defence placed an order worth EUR 467.8 million for the construction of four new patrol ships and their integrated sensor and communication systems. The recipients of the order were Schelde Marinebouw and Thales Nederland. The well-coordinated, integrated approach to the work enabled TNO to contribute a great deal to the design of the ships.
It has to be said that the most striking innovation visible on these ships' exterior is the integrated sensor mast. TNO was closely involved in the concept definition and design of the mast and the various sensors it contains. In Nederland Radarland, the collaborative partnership in which TNO, Thales Nederland and Defence form the 'golden triangle', research and development pertaining to radar are clustered at a national level to maximise their impact. A key aspect of this work is the concept of the integrated sensor mast. TNO also contributed to optimum arrangement of the systems in the mast, and applied itself to the combination of sensor data and to the sensor management. The specalised computer components for the radars, the Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits, were designed by TNO.
New style of working
The 108-metre long patrol ships are fully operational with a crew of just 55 people – a significant saving compared with the current ships. TNO analysed the on-board operations and in cooperation with the navy devised a new way of working. The command centre (traditionally buried deep in the ship) is now combined physically with the navigation bridge and with the disaster management functionality. Moreover, the risk of any of the limited staff falling prey to sea sickness has been reduced: firstly by calculating the optimum location of the command bridge (near the rear of the ship) and secondly by introducing windows, enabling staff to orient themselves against the horizon. In addition, TNO collaborated with the navy to design the operational space and the individual workstations.
All the sensors in one mast, windows in the command centre … won't these changes make the new naval vessels more vulnerable? To protect the crew against terrorist explosions near the ship, TNO designed new blast-tolerant bulkheads, including innovative membrane doors, and incorporated these in the ship's design. TNO also contributed to the ballistic protection. The use of windows isn't a problem: they are fitted with bullet-proof glass. And transparency has been only slightly compromised. Protection against missile shells was also required and we devised a solution. Another TNO contribution concerned the sprinkler system and the cooling water: their pipes were cleverly routed so that one chance hit cannot knock out both systems. TNO's participation in the thought process right from the very first concept at system level results in the smartest solutions and the best implementation.