Bulgarian navy inducts former Dutch mine sweepers of Tripartite type

On October 14, 2020, a ceremony was held in Varna for the induction in the Bulgarian navy of two mine sweepers of the Tripartite type (Alkmaar type) built in the 1980s – M856 Maassluis and M859 Hellevoetsluis – which were previously operated by the Dutch navy.
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The Mesta (hull number 31) and Struma (hull number 33), the former Dutch M 856 Maassluis and M 859 Hellevoetsluis of the Tripartite type (Alkmaar type), introduced into the Bulgarian fleet. Varna, 10/14/2020 (Picture source: Ivan Savov's Facebook page)

The ships received the Bulgarian names "Mesta" (number 31) and "Struma" (number 33) in reference to rivers. The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Defense of Bulgaria Krasimir Karakachanov and the Commander of the Bulgarian Navy Rear Admiral Kirill Mikhailov.

The agreement on the acquisition for the Bulgarian fleet of two mine sweepers of the Tripartite type (the Dutch designation type Alkmaar), which were decommissioned from the Dutch Navy, was concluded by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense at the end of 2019. The cost of acquiring minesweepers amounted to only 2.395 million euros. Another 2 million euros were spent on reactivation and delivery of the minesweepers to Bulgaria, and another 1.5 million euros will be spent on retrofitting the ships.

Both the Dutch mine sweepers M856 Maassluis and M859 Hellevoetsluis acquired by the Bulgarians were commissioned by the Dutch Navy in 1984-1985 and withdrawn from the fleet in 2011. Both mine sweepers were delivered to Varna on September 23, 2020.

During their service in the Netherlands Navy, both these ships were modernized in 2005-2006 as part of the Belgian-Dutch program BENECUP, with the installation of a new system of anti-mine weapons, including the Atlas Elektronik INCMS mine action control system, Thales Type 2022 Mk III mine detection system and underwater mine countermeasures. Atlas Seafox MIDS and Saab Bofors Double Eagle Mk III Mod 1.

The Bulgarian Navy already has one mine sweeper of the Tripartite type - the M922 Myosotis – purchased under a 2004 agreement from the Belgian fleet, which, after being repaired since March 2009, is part of the Bulgarian fleet as Tsibar (number 32).

These 600-ton composite-hull mine sweepers were built under the joint Franco-Belgian-Dutch Tripartite program in the 1980s. As part of the trilateral program, then 15 minesweepers were built for the Netherlands Navy and ten each for the French and Belgian navies. Now the Netherlands Navy has six minesweepers of this type, and the Belgian Navy has five, and in these two fleets, the Tripartite type minesweepers are planned to be replaced from 2024-2025 with new large mine-sweeping ships, which will be built by the Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium. (representing the French companies Naval Group and ECA Group).

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