Belgian's Louise Marie via F931 Louise Marie on Facebook


Belgian navy left red-faced over botched frigate exercise


A failed naval test simulating a drone attack on the Belgian frigate Louise-Marie (F931) has resulted in the ship’s Red Sea mission being cancelled.

During the exercise, an anti-aircraft missile jammed in the vessel’s launch tube and other onboard weaponry also malfunctioned.

One of Belgium’s two frigates, the Louise-Marie and its 170-strong crew was due set to sail to the Persian Gulf and join the European mission in the Strait of Hormuz. There, warships protect merchant vessels against potential attacks from Houthi rebels in Yemen and elsewhere.

That has become increasingly important amid heightened tensions in the Middle East. On April 13, a huge wave of missiles and drones was fired from Iran and its sites in Yemen towards Israel. Almost all were reportedly intercepted by Israel with help from Western forces.

Also on April 13, Dutch marine blog reported the failed exercise involving the Louise-Marie.

The ship was unable to shoot down a drone after one of its RIM-7 Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles got stuck in the launch tube as its other defences also failed.

The embarrassing incident took place in the presence of Admiral Michel Hofman, the Chief of Defence of the Belgian Armed Forces.

As a result of the botched test, the frigate’s deployment in the Red Sea has been postponed.

“At present, the frigate remains in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship’s commander and the general staff have decided to extend the training period of the frigate due to previous exercises and technical tests that have not yet yielded the intended results,” the Belgian defence ministry told

“The identified shortcomings are currently being analysed, and necessary adjustments will be made to ensure the continuation of the mission towards the operational theatre.

“For defence, the safety and preparedness of our personnel and capabilities are paramount. No compromises will be made in this regard,” it added.

According to its own page on Facebook, the Louise-Marie was taking part in two weeks of intensive training in the Mediterranean together with a Dutch frigate.

Drone and missile attacks on ships are not uncommon in the Strait of Hormuz.

According to the Dutch marine blog, the Louise-Marie, in addition to 16 “launch cells” for Sea Sparrow Missiles, is equipped with an Oto Melara 76mm rapid-fire cannon, a Goalkeeper close-in weapons system and machine guns.

Specifically for deployment in the Red Sea, Dillon M134D mini-guns, Colt C8 rifles and Benelli M4 shotguns were also brought on board.

Belgium has long been criticised for underinvesting in its armed forces. According to the Financial Times, last year it only spent 1.2 per cent of GDP on the military, far from meeting the domestic spending threshold of 2 per cent as is agreed with NATO.

Belgium is not the only country to have had problems with naval craft. At the beginning of April, the Danish frigate Iver Huitfeldt suffered what were described as vital defence failures.

It experienced unexplained outages rendering its Sea Sparrow Missiles useless for about half an hour. The ship’s 76mm guns also had problems, according to Danish news website Olfi.

These incidents were most likely connected to the vessel’s APAR radar system, also used by other navies in Europe including Germany’s, experts said.

On February 26, the German frigate Hessen tried and failed to shoot down a drone in the Red Sea that was later identified as an American MQ-9 armament.