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Saturday 26 December 2020

Castor class coastal patrol vessels of the Belgian Navy (plus PHOTO GALLERY #36)

Written by D-Mitch

The two coastal patrol vessels of the Belgian Navy
The Belgian Navy, officially the Belgian Maritime Component (Marinecomponent) of the Belgian Armed Forces, provides the maritime component of Belgium’s defence capabilities. The Naval Component of the Belgian Armed Forces consists currently of two frigates, five mine hunters, two offshore patrol vessels, one command and support ship and one oceanographic ship, all located in the Belgian naval base in Zeebrugge. The Navy also operates a sail training ship, a number of tugs and a large number of rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs), the majority of them carried by the naval units. It is a small but modern and very capable naval force and will be even more capable in the future thanks to two major projects which will provide six new multi-mission large minehunters and two multi-mission frigates. In this article we will analyze the patrol boats.

The two coastal patrol vessels of the Belgian Navy
Dioscuri twins
Dioscuri twins
The Belgian Navy acquired in 2014-15 two very modern coastal patrol vessels within the framework of the Ready Duty Ship (RDS) program. The Navy selected the French shipyard SOCARENAM for the construction of the vessels. The first RDS, the Castor (P-901) was delivered in July 2014, 18 months after the order, while the second, Pollux (P-902), in April 2015. The missions of the Dioscuri twins (the pair, in Greek mythology, were regarded as the patrons of sailors) vary and include surveillance of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), illegal fishing control, search and rescue, training, and fighting trafficking and pollution.
The two coastal patrol vessels of the Belgian Navy

The Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) 530 design by Mauric is a 53.5m multi-mission aluminium and steel vessel of 570 tons at full displacement. Their high tensile steel hull and aluminium superstructure dominate in the arena of resistance and longevity full aluminum designs. The propulsion is realized by two MTU 16V4000M73L engines. 

P901 Castor
P901 Castor

P901 Castor
















P901 Castor
P902 Pollux
The fully loaded ship can sail at top speed in excess of 22.5 knots, an outstanding performance for a displacement steel hull. On one engine, she can sail at the incredible 17.5 knots speed. The range is about 2,800nm at 16kts cruising speed and 4,500 at 12. This highly flexible design has exceptional seakeeping performances at cruising and low patrol speeds and offers great operability, versatility and reliability to its shipowners.

P901 Castor

One of the two RHIBs
The stern ramp of Castor
The ship features a large 360° wheelhouse. The crew comprises 16 men and women (3 officers) with accommodation designed for 30 persons shared between 15 cabins. There are living areas with cafeteria, officers’ mess and a complete galley for distribution of meals. The ship is classified according to the highest standards of the Bureau Veritas for unlimited navigation in open sea. Its design flexibility allows easy integration of different command and weapon systems, intervention RIBs, deck equipment and sensors, which provides extensive operational capabilities.

One of the two RIB MST of 7.5m
The combat system is comprised of two identical interventions Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boats (RIB) MST of 7.5m (37 knots max speed), one launched by the stern ramp and the other by a davit. Both RIBs are equipped with Garmin navigation radar. On the deck there is space for one container which can be lifted by a crane installed on board. The container is used for storage and transport of equipment and systems for a variety of special missions (UAV, explosive ordnance disposal, submarine missions, etc.) performed by the vessel.

Modified photo of a Pollux-class coastal patrol boat. For a high resolution image click here.

FN Herstal SeaDeFNderRWS
An FN Herstal Sea DeFNder remote controlled light weapon system (RWS) is settled on the front axle. This is the main armament of the vessel. The SeaDeFNder consists of a 12.7 mm heavy-duty M3R machine gun or an M2HB-QCB (on Blegian vessels), a 300-round ammunition cartridge supply system for the heavy machine gun (there is an option for 500-round box), an integrated propulsion system, and a built-in electro-optical sensor that includes a high performance 3rd generation cooled sensor with a high resolution detector, a laser rangefinder, motorized thermal lens, GPS and a high resolution day camera full HD.
SeaDeFNder RWS with M2HB-QCB 12.7mm
SeaDeFNder RWS
SeaDeFNder RWS firing
Its universal cradle can hold any machine gun, from FN MINIMI 5.56mm up to .50 cal in the range (.50 cal is either the FN M2HB-QCB or FN Herstal’s exclusive FN M3R that  offers an outstanding firing rate of
1,100rds/ min). The Sea deFNder can also be equipped with 40mm AGLs for additional firepower.The system will equip also the new Belgian and Dutch minehunters.
FN SeaDeFNder RWS forward of the brdige of a Castor PCV

Hensoldt UK SharpEye radar
OIP Micro Orbis
The SeaDeFNder has excellent features,
outperforming its competitors in many areas, the main ones being its very low silhouette (height <680 mm), very light (weight <250 kg), low acquisition price, elevation angles from - 40° to + 70°, while the whole system (electro-optics, stabilization system, armament) is manufactured by the Belgian FN. The control console of the weapon system is located inside the bridge, so that the operator can operate under protection and in direct cooperation with his colleagues. There are also two mounts for light machine guns. The equipment includes among others a water cannon with a range of 60 meters installed behind the bridge, remote controlled searchlights and SATCOM antennas atop the bridge as well as CCTV. The system of detection includes an OIP Micro Orbis electro-optical sensor and two Hensoldt UK (former Kelvin Hughes) SharpEye Χ-band and S-band surveillance and navigation radar systems located in the mast at the bridge's roof. Manta Digital Multifunction Displays (MFD’s) provide configurable access to all tasks critical to navigation - Radar, ECDIS, Conning Displays, Bridge Alarm Management, greatly improving situational awareness.


More than 60 photos by D-Mitch, during a visit to Zeebrugge Naval Base in June 2018
P902 Pollux
Bow view of P902 Pollux
BNS Pollux patrol vessel
P902 Pollux
The stem of Pollux
View of the superstructure
View of the superstructure
Signs on the hull that the boat is fitted with bow thrusters
Nore the covered RWS (without the cannon)
On top of the bridge's roof there are SATCOM domes
One of the two RIBs on davit
There is space for one container on the deck
The bridge with the panoramic view
Another view of the bridge. Note the mount near the
sign Pollux for a machine gun

The two SharpEye radars are visible
The mast, view from the stern
Rear view of the mast
The stern ramp
The stern ramp
The stern ramp
A small crane is used for the container
View of the aft deck
One of the two mounts for machine guns
View from the wheelhouse deck
The water cannon behind the bridge (covered)
The water cannon behind the bridge (covered)
The small command and control center
The console for the RWS
Navigation panel
MantaDigital display for the navigation system
The aft deck as it is seen from the bridge
The wheelhouse
The very modern bridge
Spacious living areas all over the boat
Cafeteria and dining room
Officers’ mess
MST RIB on its davit
MST RIB's cockpit
MST RIB on stern ramp
Each RIB has four suspension seats
The propulsion system of MST RIB includes a single hydrojet
The propulsion system of MST RIB includes a single hydrojet
View of the RIB on the stern ramp
View of the RIB on the stern ramp
Mast and crane are visible
Pollux's forecastle
The RWS covered
The bridge of Pollux
The RWS covered
Ammunition box
The bell of the boat
View of the stern
View of the stern
Ships stationed at Zeebrugge Naval Base
Note the kiosks for the change of command in few hours!
Another view of BNS Pollux
Another view of BNS Pollux
Pollux's superstructure and mast
Pollux's superstructure and mast

My excellent tour guide, Mr. Hubert Rubbens!
A big thank for his support during my two visitis to the Base!

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