Feb. 28 (UPI) -- With multipurpose frigates for the Royal Netherlands and Belgian navies reaching the end of their life cycles, Thales has been awarded a contract for three frigates by 2024.
France-based Thales will replace two Dutch and two Belgian M-class frigates with an Above Water Warfare System, according to news release Thursday. The contract amount wasn't specified.
Although they will be primarily anti-submarine, the new frigates will defend themselves as well as nearby units against air and surface threats.
The frigates will be designed to handle threats of increasing complexity, coordination and speed, the company said.
"Missiles go up to three times faster than the speed of sound, and possibly even up to five times faster in 2020," the company said in a news release. "Currently used technologies are insufficient to make use of all the new sensor and weapon systems to counter these threats in the future.
The system doesn't exclusively rely on a human operator.
AWWS will consist of sensors and artificial intelligence software "that continuously calculates which actions are best suited to tackle each threat detected by radar and other sensors in the right manner. This maximizes the chance of survival, while the crew stays in control."
More than 10 years ago, the Dutch Defense Ministry initiated advanced research into this technology with Thales, the Defense Materiel Organization and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.
"I am proud that we can contribute to the Dutch Navy through the AWWS contract," Thales Nederland CEO Gerben Edelijn said. "Together, we can set the new standard for the rest of the world. This development will also strengthen the opportunities of the Dutch industry in the big development programs in Europe and beyond."
In 2016, Belgium and the Netherlands signed an agreement the Dutch would be leading the program, Navy Recognition reported.