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French Navy - Marine Nationale
Mistral class Amphibious Assault & Command Ship
Bâtiment de Projection et de Commandement (BPC)

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 02c
L 9013
FS Mistral (2006)
L 9014
FS Tonnere
L 9015
FS Dixmude (2012)
21300 tons (full load) / 16500 tons (empty)
199 meters (653 feet)
Beam: 32 meters (105 ft)
Draft: 6,3 meters (21 ft)
Speed: 18.8 knots (35 km/h), max.
Range: 5800 NM (10800 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h) / 10700 NM (19800 km) at 15 knots
Complement: 160

3 x
Wärtsilä diesel alternators 16V32 (6,2 MW)
1 x Wärtsilä Vaasa auxilary diesel alternator 18V200 (3 MW)
2 x
Rolls-Royce Mermaid azimuth thrusters (2 x 7 MW) - 2 five-bladed propellers


2 x SIMBAD Systems (2-cell) for Mistral SAM
2 x
GIAT 20F2 20mm machine guns

2 x
Nexter Narwhal 20 Naval Weapon Station (NWS)

2 x M134 7,62mm miniguns

4 x M2-HB Browning 12.7mm (cal. 50) machine guns

flight deck (6400 m2 / 69000 sq ft.) - 6 landing spots
hangar (1800 m2 / 19000 sq ft.) for up to 16 helicopters
2 aircraft lifts (13 tons)
capable for all French Forces operated helicopters
16 heavy or 35 light helicopters in total

DRBN-38A Decca Bridgemaster E250 navigation and landing radar
MRR3D-NG air/surface sentry radar
2 x optronic fire control systems
Optical Landing System

Vehicles: 59 vehicles (including 13 AMX Leclerc tanks)
Troops: 900 (short duration) / 450 (long duration)
Well deck: 4 x
CTM landing craft or 2 x EDA-R Catamarans or 2 x LCAC
Concept, history and general information:

French doctrine of amphibious operations in 1997:
In 1997, the DCNS started a study for a multi-purpose intervention ship (bâtiment d'intervention polyvalent or BIP). At the same time, the French doctrine of amphibious operations was evolving and being defined as the CNOA (French: Concept national des opérations amphibies, "National design for amphibious operations"). The BIP was to renew and increase the amphibious capabilities of the French Navy, which at the time consisted of two Foudre-class and two Ouragan-class landing platform docks.

The CNOA was to assert the French Navy's capability to perform amphibious assaults, withdrawals, demonstrations, and raids. This would allow the French Navy to further integrate into the doctrinal frameworks described by NATO's Allied Tactical Publication 8B (ATP8) and the European Amphibious Initiative. While the CNOA made air capabilities a priority, it also recommended an increase in the number of vehicles and personnel that could be transported and deployed; the CNOA fixed the aim to project a force comprising four combat companies (1,400 men, 280 vehicles, and 30 helicopters) for ten days, in a 100 kilometre-deep sector; this force should be able to intervene either anywhere within 5000 kilometres of the French metropole, or in support of French oversea territories or allies. As well as joint operations with NATO and EU forces, any proposed ship had to be capable of inter-service operations with the Troupes de Marine brigades of the French Army.

Evolution of the concept:
The studies for a multi-purpose intervention ship (French: bâtiment d'intervention polyvalent, BIP) began during a time where the defence industries were preparing to undergo restructuring and integration. The BIP was intended to be a modular, scalable design that could be made available to the various European Union nations and constructed cooperatively, but political issues relating to employment and repartition of contracts caused the integration of the European nations with naval engineering expertise to fail, and saw the BIP project revert to a solely French concern.

In 1997, a series of common ship designs referred to as nouveau transport de chalands de débarquement (NTCD), loosely based on the aborted PH 75 nuclear helicopter carrier, were revealed. The largest of these was BIP-19, which later became the basis of the Mistral class. The BIP-19 design included a 190-metre (620 ft) long flush deck, with a 26.5-metre (87 ft) beam, a draught of 6.5 metres (21 ft), and a displacement of 19,000 tonnes; dimensions which exceeded the requirements of the NTCD concept. Three smaller ship designs were also revealed, based on scaled-down versions of the BIP-19 design and with a common beam of 23 metres (75 ft): BIP-13 (13,000 tonnes, 151 metres (495 ft)), BIP-10 (10,000 tonnes, 125 metres (410 ft)), and BIP-8 (8,000 tonnes, 102 metres (335 ft)). BIP-8 incorporated features of the Italian San Giorgio-class amphibious transports, but included a helicopter hangar.

At the design stage, the NTCD concept featured an aircraft lift on the port side (like the U.S. Tarawa class), another on the starboard side, one in the centre of the flight deck, and one forward of the island superstructure. These were later reduced in number and relocated: a main lift towards the aft of the ship was originally located to starboard but then moved to centre, and an auxiliary lift behind the island superstructure. Concept drawings and descriptions created by Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN), one of the two shipbuilders involved in the project, showed several aircraft carrier-like features, including a ski-jump ramp for STOBAR aircraft (allowing the operation of AV-8B Harrier II and F-35 Lightning II-B aircraft), four or five helicopter landing spots (including one strengthened to accommodate V-22 Osprey or CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters), and a well deck capable of accommodating a Sabre-class landing craft, or two LCAC hovercraft. A review by the French Senate concluded that STOBAR aircraft were outside the scope of the CNOA, requiring the modification of the design.

The NTCD was renamed Porte-hélicoptères d'intervention (PHI, for "intervention helicopter carrier") in December 2001, before being eventually named Bâtiment de projection et de commandement (BPC) to emphasize the amphibious and command aspects of the concept.

Design and construction:
At Euronaval 1998, the French confirmed that they were planning to construct a series of vessels based on the BIP-19 concept. However, approval for construction of two ships, Mistral and Tonnerre, was not received until 8 December 2000. A contract for construction was published on 22 December and, after receiving approval from the public purchase authority (Union des groupements d'achats publics, UGAP) on 13 July 2001, was awarded to Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) and Chantiers de l'Atlantique at the end of July. An engineering design team was established at Saint-Nazaire in September 2001 and, following consultation between DCA and the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (General Delegation for Ordnance, DGA), began to study and adapt the BIP-19 design. In parallel, the general concept was being refined by DGA, DCN, the Chief of the Defence Staff and Chantiers de l'Atlantique. During the design and validation process, a 1/120th scale model was constructed and tested in a wind tunnel, revealing that in strong crosswinds, the height of the ship and elongated superstructures created turbulence along the flight deck. The design was altered to minimise these effects and provide better conditions for helicopter operations.

The ships were to be constructed at various locations in two major and several minor components, which would be united on completion. DCN, which was designated the head of construction and made responsible for 60% of the value of construction and 55% of the work time, assembled the engines in Lorient, combat systems in Toulon, and the rear half of the ship, including the island superstructure, in Brest. STX Europe, a subsidiary of STX Shipbuilding of South Korea, constructed the forward halves of each ship in Saint-Nazaire, and was responsible for transporting them to DCN's shipyard in Brest for the final assembly. Other companies were involved in the construction: some of the construction work was outsourced to Stocznia Remontowa de Gdańsk, while Thales provided the radars and communications systems. It was predicted that each ship would take 34 months to complete, with design and construction for both ships costing 685 million Euros (approximately the same cost for a single ship based on HMS Ocean or USS San Antonio, and approximately the same cost as the preceding Foudre-class amphibious ships, which displaced half the tonnage of the Mistral-class ships and took 46.5 months to complete).

Starting from Dixmude, the rest of the French Mistrals and the first two of the Russian Mistrals were built in Saint-Nazaire by STX France, which is jointly owned by STX Europe, Alstom and the French government, with STX Europe having the majority stake. DCNS will provide the ship's combat system. The sterns of Russian ships were built in Saint-Petersburg, Russia by Baltic Shipyard.

DCN laid the keels for the aft part of both ships in 2002; Mistral on 9 July, and Tonnerre on 13 December. Chantiers de l'Atlantique laid the keel of the forward part of Mistral on 28 January 2003, and of Tonnerre later. The first block of the rear of Tonnerre was put in a dry dock on 26 August 2003, and that of Mistral on 23 October 2003. The two aft sections were assembled side by side in the same dry dock. The forward section of Mistral left Saint-Nazaire under tow on 16 July 2004 and arrived in Brest on 19 July 2004. On 30 July, the combination of the two halves through a process similar to jumboisation began in dock no. 9. Tonnerre's forward section arrived in Brest on 2 May 2005 and underwent the same procedure.

Mistral was launched on schedule on 6 October 2004, while Tonnerre was launched on 26 July 2005. Delivery of the ships was scheduled for late 2005 and early 2006 respectively, but was postponed for over a year because of problems with the SENIT 9 sensor system and deterioration to the linoleum deck covering of the forward sections. They were commissioned into the French Navy on 15 December 2006 and 1 August 2007, respectively.

The French Livre Blanc sur la Défense et la Sécurité nationale 2008 (White Paper on Defence and National Security), a policy-defining document for matters of defence, forecast that two more BPCs would be in service with the French Navy by 2020. A third ship was ordered in 2009, with this order being placed earlier than expected as part of the French government's response to the recession which began in 2008. Her construction began on 18 April 2009 in Saint-Nazaire; due to economic constraints, the entire ship was built there.

On 17 December 2009, it was announced that the third ship of this class would be named Dixmude. It had been suggested that it might be given the historic name of Jeanne d'Arc following the decommissioning of the helicopter cruiser of that name in 2010, but the idea met opposition in some French naval circles. The possibility of a 4th Mistral-class ship was officially abandoned in the 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security.

Features and capabilities:

The flight deck of each ship is approximately 6,400 square metres (69,000 sq ft). The deck has six helicopter landing spots, one of which is capable of supporting a 33-tonne helicopter. The 1,800-square-metre (19,000 sq ft) hangar deck can hold 16 helicopters, and includes a maintenance area with an overhead crane. To aid launch and recovery, a DRBN-38A Decca Bridgemaster E250 landing radar and an Optical Landing System are used.

The flight and hangar decks are connected by two aircraft lifts, each capable of lifting 13 tonnes. The 225-square-metre (2,420 sq ft) main lift is located near the stern of the ship, on the centreline, and is large enough for helicopters to be moved with their rotors in flight configuration. The 120 square metres (1,300 sq ft) auxiliary lift is located aft of the island superstructure.

Every helicopter operated by the French military is capable of flying from these ships. On 8 February 2005, a Westland Lynx of the Navy and a Cougar landed on Mistral. The first landing of a NH90 took place on 9 March 2006. Half of the air group of the BPCs is to be constituted of NH-90s, the other half being composed of Tigre attack helicopters. On 19 April 2007, Puma, Écureuil and Panther helicopters landed on Tonnerre. On 10 May 2007, a MH-53E Sea Dragon of the US Navy landed on her reinforced helicopter spot off the U.S. Naval Station Norfolk.

According to Mistral's first commanding officer, Capitaine de vaisseau Gilles Humeau, the size of the flight and hangar decks would allow the operation of up to thirty helicopters.

Mistral aviation capabilities approach those of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, for roughly 40% the cost and crew requirements of the American ship. However, they do not support fixed-wing aircraft, unlike the Wasp and America class amphibious assault ships, thus lowering procurement and operating costs.

Amphibious transport:
Mistral-class ships can accommodate up to 450 soldiers, although this can be doubled for short-term deployments. The 2,650-square-metre (28,500 sq ft) vehicle hangar can carry a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, or a 13-strong Leclerc tank company and 46 other vehicles. By comparison, Foudre-class ships can carry up to 100 vehicles, including 22 AMX-30 tanks, in the significantly smaller 1,000-square-metre (11,000 sq ft) deck.

The 885-square-metre (9,530 sq ft) well deck can accommodate four landing craft. The ships are capable of operating two LCAC hovercraft, and although the French Navy appears to have no intention of purchasing any LCACs, this capability improves the class' ability to interoperate with the United States Marine Corps and the British Royal Navy. Instead the DGA ordered eight French-designed 59-tonne EDA-R catamarans.

Command and communications:
Mistral-class ships can be used as command and control ships, with a 850-square-metre (9,100 sq ft) command centre which can host up to 150 personnel. Information from the ship's sensors is centralised in the SENIT system (Système d'Exploitation Navale des Informations Tactiques, "System for Naval Usage of Tactical Information"), a derivative of the US Navy's Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS). Problems in the development of the SENIT 9 revision contributed to the one-year delay in the delivery of the two ships. SENIT 9 is based around Thales' tri-dimensional MRR3D-NG Multi Role Radar, which operates on the C band and incorporates IFF capabilities. SENIT 9 can also be connected to NATO data exchange formats through Link 11, Link 16 and Link 22.

For communications, the Mistral-class ships use the SYRACUSE satellite system, based on French satellites SYRACUSE 3-A and SYRACUSE 3-B which provide 45% of the Super High Frequency secured communications of NATO. From 18 to 24 June 2007, a secure video conference was held twice a day between Tonnerre, then sailing from Brazil to South Africa, and VIP visitors at the Paris Air Show.

As of 2008, the two Mistral-class ships were armed with two Simbad launchers for Mistral missiles and four 12.7 mm M2-HB Browning machine guns. Two Breda-Mauser 30 mm/70 guns are also included in the design, though not installed as of 2009.

Incidents such as the near-loss of the Israeli corvette INS Hanit to a Hezbollah-fired anti-ship missile during the 2006 Lebanon War have shown the vulnerability of modern warships to asymmetric threats, with the Mistral-class ships considered under-equipped for self-defence in such a situation. Consequently, Mistral and Tonnerre cannot be deployed into hostile waters without sufficient escorting ships. This problem is compounded by the small number of escort ships in the French Navy; there is a five-year gap between the decommissioning of the Suffren-class frigates and the commissioning of their replacements, the Horizon-class and FREMM frigates.

Following the experiences of French naval commanders during Opération Baliste, the French deployment to aid European citizens in Lebanon during the 2006 war, proposals to improve the self-defence capabilities of the two Mistral-class ships were supported by one of the French chiefs of staff, and are under active consideration as of 2008. One suggestion is to upgrade the dual-launching, manual Simbad launchers to quadruple-launching, automatic Tetral launchers.

In December 2014, the French Navy awarded a contract to Airbus to study the integration of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) with Mistrals. This is an attempt to increase the ships' naval fire support capabilities, as current 76 mm and 100 mm guns have been determined to have insufficient range and lethality for the role. The MLRS is in service with the French Army, using a GPS-guided rocket with a range of 70 km (43 mi) and a unitary 90 kg (200 lb) high-explosive warhead.

In late 2013 The French Navy equipped all three Mistral "BPC" ships with two M134 Miniguns each; intended for close-in self-defense against asymmetric threats faced during anti-piracy operations, such as speedboats and kamikaze boats.

In late 2011, the French Navy selected the NARWHAL20 remote weapon station (RWS) to equip Mistral ships for close-in self-defense. Nexter Systems will deliver two NARWHAL 20B guns for each ship, chambered in 20×139mm ammunition, with one gun covering the port bow and the other covering the starboard stern. The Dixmude was the first of the vessels outfitted with the cannons in March 2016.

Each ship carries a NATO Role 3 medical facility, i.e., equivalent to the field hospital of an Army division or army corps, or to the hospital of a 25,000-inhabitant city, complete with dentistry, diagnostics, specialist surgical and medical capabilities, food hygiene and psychological capabilities. A Syracuse-based telemedicine system allows complex specialised surgery to be performed.

The 900 m2 hospital provides 20 rooms and 69 hospitalisation beds, of which 7 are fit for intensive care. The two surgery blocks come complete with a radiology room providing digital radiography and ultrasonography, and that can be fitted with a mobile CT scanner.

50 medicalised beds are kept in reserve and can be installed in a helicopter hangar to extend the capacity of the hospital in case of emergency.

Mistral and Tonnerre are the first ships of the French Navy to use azimuth thrusters. The thrusters are powered by electricity from five 16-cylinder Wärtsilä 16V32 diesel alternators, and can be oriented in any angle. This propulsion technology gives the ships significant manoeuvering capabilities, as well as freeing up space normally reserved for propeller shafts.

The long-term reliability of azimuth thrusters in military use is yet to be rigorously studied, but the technology has been employed aboard ships in several navies, including the Dutch Rotterdam class, the Spanish Galicia class, and the Canadian Kingston class.

The space gained by the use of the azimuth thrusters allowed for the construction of accommodation areas where no pipes or machinery are visible. Located in the forward section of the ship, crew cabins aboard Mistral-class ships are comparable in comfort levels to passenger cabins aboard Chantiers de l'Atlantique-constructed cruise ships.

The fifteen officers each have an individual cabin. Senior non-commissioned officers share two-man cabins, while junior crew and embarked troops use four- or six-person cabins. Conditions in these accommodation areas are said to be better than in most barracks of the French Foreign Legion, and when United States Navy vice-admiral Mark Fitzgerald inspected one of the Mistral-class ships in May 2007, it was claimed that he would have used the same accommodation area to host a crew three times the size of Mistral's complement.

source: wikipedia
class + detail images
for more images go to the individual ship's page

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 14c l-9013
FS Mistral (L 9013)

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 36c l-9014 tonnere
FS Tonnere (L 9014)

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 03c l-9015 dixmude
FS Dixmude (L 9015)


mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 42c flight deck helicopters
large flight deck with various helicopters

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 50c well deck ctm landing craft
well deck operations

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 24c landing craft well deck catamaran ctm eda-r
two landing crafts (Chaland de transport de matériel / CTM) and a landing catamaran (Engin de débarquement amphibie rapide / EDA-R) in the well deck

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 37c well deck landing catamaran
a landing catamaran (Engin de débarquement amphibie rapide / EDA-R) approaching the well deck

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 08c armament simbad mistral ciws sam missile giat nexter 20f2 machine gun system
SIMBAD/Mistral SAM system (left) and 20F2 20mm machine gun system (right)

mistral class amphibious assault command ship lph bpc french navy marine nationale 49c armament giat nexter 20f2 machine gun system
20F2 20mm machine gun system

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