A few weeks ago, the Pakistani Navy confirmed that the Dutch government has agreed to sell its two retired second-hand Royal Netherlands Navy Tripartite Class Minehunters (Alkmaar Class in the Netherlands), the HNLMS Haarlem and the HNLMS Middelburg, which will join the Pakistan Navy in February 2022.
The Alkmaar class mine-hunting ship was jointly developed by the Netherlands, France and Belgium, and is also known as the “Three Partners” class, whose entire research and development costs are shared by the three countries and are built by each country according to their own needs.
A minehunter is a naval vessel that seeks, detects, and destroys enemy naval mines. It uses an imaging sonar to detect and classify targets and then sends out divers or remotely operated vehicles to inspect and neutralize the threat, often using small charges detonated remotely. The Alkmaar Class is further upgraded with improved electronics, including Atlas Elektronik INCMS combat data system, Thales 2022 Mk III hull-mounted sonar, Atlas Seafox Mine Identification and Disposal System, and a Double Eagle Mk III Mod 1 ROV.
Pakistan already has three Tripartite Class known as Éridan Class, acquired from France, which were renamed Munsif Class minesweepers. The three ships are M163 “Muhafiz”, M164 “Mujahid”, and M166 “Mansif. The “three partners” class mine hunters introduced by the Pakistani Navy from the Dutch Navy were retrofitted and upgraded in 2005. It was in service from 1984 to 1986 and has had at least 35 years of service life, making it an out-and-out old second-hand ship, an outdated minesweeper, with the unique advantage of being cheap.
The Pakistani Navy, which introduced two second-hand mine-hunters from the Dutch Navy, shows that it is satisfied with the mine-sweeping performance of the “three-partner” class mine-hunting during its service, otherwise, there will be no more two second-hand mine hunting ships with a service life of more than 35 years. It can also be very convenient to change them into multi-functional patrol ships just like the Indonesian Navy, expanding its function.
This move also confirms that the military expenditure of the Pakistani Navy is still insufficient, which is related to Pakistan’s worsening economy that greatly affects the strength of its Navy, including the armed forces and overall military expenditure. However, in contrast to the Indian Navy, Pakistan has a leading operational advantage in this domain, given that New Delhi has no operational minehunters.
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 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.