Mistral-class amphibious assault ship
BPC Dixmude in Jounieh Bay, Lebanon 2012.
|Preceded by:||Foudre class|
|Cost:||€451.6m (FY 2012) (~US$600m)|
|In commission:||December 2005 – present|
|Active:||Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar El Sadat|
|Type:||Amphibious assault ship|
|Length:||199 m (653 ft)|
|Beam:||32 m (105 ft)|
|Draught:||6.3 m (21 ft)|
|Installed power:||3 Wärtsilä diesel-alternators 16 V32 (6.2 MW) + 1 Wärtsilä Vaasa auxiliary diesel-alternator 18V200 (3 MW)|
|Propulsion:||2 Rolls-Royce Mermaid azimuth thrusters (2 × 7 MW), 2 five-bladed propellers|
|Speed:||18.8 knots (35 km/h)|
|Boats & landing
|Capacity:||59 vehicles (including 13 AMX Leclerc tanks) or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion|
|Complement:||20 officers, 80 petty officers, 60 quarter-masters|
|Aircraft carried:||16 heavy or 35 light helicopters|
|Aviation facilities:||6 helicopter landing spots|
The Mistral class is a class of three amphibious assault ships, also known as a helicopter carrier, of the French Navy. Referred to as "projection and command ships" (French: bâtiments de projection et de commandement or BPC), a Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 or Tiger helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 AMX Leclerc tanks, or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, and 450 soldiers. The ships are equipped with a 69-bed hospital, and are capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force, or with United Nations or European Union peace-keeping forces.
Three ships of the class are in service in the French Navy: Mistral, Tonnerre, and Dixmude. A deal for two ships for the Russian Navy was announced by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 24 December 2010, and signed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and French Defence Minister Alain Juppé in the presence of Sarkozy on 25 January 2011. On 3 September 2014, French President François Hollande announced the postponement of delivery of the first warship, Vladivostok, due to the Russia–Ukraine crisis. On 5 August 2015, President François Hollande and Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that France will pay back payments and keep the two ships initially produced for the Russian Navy; the two ships were later sold to Egypt.
- 1 History
- 2 Features and capabilities
- 3 Operational history
- 4 Export
- 5 Ships
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 External links
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.
Comparison between the BPC and the preceding TCD types.
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.[when?] 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
Based on displacement tonnage, Mistral and Tonnerre are the largest ships in the French Navy after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, for roughly the same height above water.
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.
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 NARWHAL20B 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.
The BPCs are certified as members of the naval component of the NATO Response Force, which allows them to take part in a Combined Joint Task Force. France provided forces to NRF-8 in January 2007, including a Commander Amphibious Task Force and 8 ships. The next contribution took place in January 2008 in NRF-10, after exercises Noble Midas which tested link 16 and the SECSAT system which operationally controls submarines. The forces can be set up on 5 to 30 days' notice.
Mistral made her maiden voyage from 21 March to 31 May 2006, cruising in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.
Following the start of the 2006 Lebanon War, Mistral was one of four French ships deployed to the waters off Lebanon as part of Opération Baliste. These ships were to protect, and if necessary evacuate, French citizens in Lebanon and Israel. Mistral embarked 650 soldiers and 85 vehicles, including 5 AMX-10 RC and about 20 VABs and VBLs. Four helicopters were also loaded aboard, with another two joining the ship near Crete. During her deployment, Mistral evacuated 1,375 refugees.
Tonnerre's maiden voyage occurred between 10 April and 24 July 2007. During this voyage, Tonnerre was involved in Opération Licorne, the French co-deploying complement to the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire following the Ivorian Civil War. Gazelle and Cougar helicopters of the French Air Force operated from the ship during 9 July.
At the start of 2008, Tonnerre was involved in the Corymbe 92 mission (see Standing French Navy Deployments), a humanitarian mission in the Gulf of Guinea. During this deployment, Tonnerre acted on tip-offs from the European Maritime Analysis Operation Centre – Narcotics, and intercepted 5.7 tonnes of smuggled cocaine: 2.5 tonnes from a fishing vessel 520 kilometres (280 nmi) from Monrovia on 29 January, and 3.2 tonnes from a cargo ship 300 kilometres (160 nmi) off Conakry.
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Burma; the worst natural disaster to hit the region. Mistral, which was operating in the East Asia area at the time, loaded humanitarian aid supplies, and sailed to Burma. The ship was refused entry to the nation's ports; the 1,000 tons of humanitarian supplies had to be unloaded in Thailand and handed over to the World Food Program.
Since 1997, and particularly since the Euronaval 2007, the Mistral type has been promoted for export. The "BPC family" comprises the BPC 140 (13,500 tonnes), the BPC 160 (16,700 tonnes) and the BPC 250 (24,542 tonnes, 214.5 metres (704 ft) long). The BPC 250 was the design from which the final Mistral-class design was derived: the reduction in length and other modifications were a price-saving exercise. The BPC 250 concept was one of two designs selected for the Canberra-class amphibious warfare ships, to be constructed for the Royal Australian Navy. The design finally chosen was the Spanish Buque de Proyección Estratégica-class amphibious ship.
In 2012, the Royal Canadian Navy showed "strong interest" in buying two Mistral ships. The two Canadian ships were to be built by SNC Lavalin, with an option to buy a third. The project represented a total investment of $2.6 Billion. Canada had also pursued the two former Russian vessels, and Canada's defense minister held a face to face exchange at the NATO Ministerial in June 2015. As of late 2011, the Polish Navy has been working closely with the Polish Ministry of Defense to purchase one Mistral ship. The Indian Navy has also expressed interest in the design of the Mistral type as a Multi-Role Support Vessel. Brazil and Turkey could in time consider purchasing BPCs. Algeria is also considering the purchase of two BPCs. South Africa, The United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Singapore also reportedly expressed interest in the Mistral.
In August 2009, General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, suggested Russia planned to purchase one ship and intended to later construct three further ships in Russia. In February 2010, he said that construction would start sometime after 2015 and would be a joint effort with France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy favoured the building of the first two ships in France and only the second two in Russia. According to Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the first ship would be entirely built and assembled in France from 2013, the second would also be built in France, delivered in 2015, but with a higher proportion of Russian components. Two more would be built in Russia by a DCNS/Russian United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) joint-venture. On 1 November 2010, Russia's USC and France's DCNS and STX France signed an agreement to form a consortium, including technology transfer, the USC president stated that it was linked to the Mistral deal.
On 15 November 2010, the Russian defense ministry announced that the tender was closed and the winner would be named by the end of the month. On 24 December 2010, after eight months of talks, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved the purchase by Rosoboronexport of two Mistral class ships (and an option for two more) from France for €1.37 billion (€720 million for the 1st ship; €650 million for the second). The first ship was expected to be delivered in late 2014 or early 2015; Russia made an advance payment in early 2011 pursuant to the 25 January 2011 memorandum of understanding between the two parties. On 25 January 2011, the final agreement between Russia and France was signed.
In the United States, six Republican senators, including John McCain, complained in a letter to the French ambassador in Washington about the proposed sale; Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced a resolution that "France and other member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union should decline to sell major weapons systems or offensive military equipment to the Russian Federation." On 8 February 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told French officials during a visit to Paris that U.S. was "concerned"; however, accompanying U.S. officials said there is little if anything the U.S. could do to block the deal, adding that it "did not pose a major problem." The same day, the deal was granted by France's DGA. It was the first major arms deal between Russia and a NATO country, apart from the Soviet Union's acquisition of Rolls-Royce Nene and Rolls-Royce Derwent turbojet engines in 1947. NATO members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia protested against the deal. Lithuania's Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene stated that "[i]t's a mistake. This is a precedent, when a NATO and EU member sells offensive weaponry to a country whose democracy is not at a level that would make us feel calm."
Some design changes were needed, such as for compatibility with Russian Ka-52 and Ka-27 helicopters. In 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated that the ships would not be able to operate in Russia's climate and that the ships require a grade of diesel fuel not produced in Russia. Russian General Staff General Nikolai Makarov announced that the first ship would be deployed to the Russian Pacific Fleet, and it can be used "in case of necessity" to transport troops to the Kuril Islands. According to Nikolai Makarov, the chief reason for the Mistral purchase, rather than using domestic producers, is that Russia required another 10 years to develop the technologies needed - an unacceptable delay. In March 2011, the deal stalled on Russian demands for sensitive NATO technologies to be included with the ships. In April 2011, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired the senior Navy official in charge of talks with France over the purchase. On 17 June 2011, the two nations signed an agreement for two ships for $1.7 billion.
In 2014 the Mistral sale had to be put on hold due to Russia's arms embargo as a result of its actions in the Crimean crisis. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was considering cancelling the Russian Mistral deal in response to the Crimean referendum as the United States and European Union had imposed sanctions on Russian officials associated with the referendum. They are considered "phase two" economic sanctions, while cancelling the Mistral contract would be "phase three." Fabius acknowledged that the contract's loss would be damaging to the French economy. However, the two ships could be sold to Russia as "civilian hulls" and then armed as warships after receiving them. In May 2014, Paris issued a formal guarantee that the two ships would be built.
On 3 September 2014, French President François Hollande announced that due to Russia's "recent actions in Ukraine", the two ships would not be delivered. In November 2014, the Hollande government placed a hold on the delivery of the first Mistral to Russia. Hollande set two conditions for delivery: the observation of a ceasefire in Ukraine and a political agreement between Moscow and Kiev. In December 2014, Russia gave the French government a choice to deliver the two Mistral warships to the Russian Navy or refund the $1.53 billion purchase price. On 26 May 2015, Russian news agencies quoted Oleg Bochkaryov, deputy head of the Military Industrial Commission, the government body which oversees the defence industry, as saying "Russia won’t take them, it’s an accomplished fact. Now there’s only one discussion—concerning the money sum that should be returned to Russia."  Russia's Ka-52K (Hokum B) helicopters were developed for use on the Mistral-class; on 25 May, Kamov designer Sergei Mikheev told RIA Novosti that they will be put to work elsewhere in the Russian Navy. On 5 August 2015 it was announced that France is to pay back Russia's partial payments and keep the two ships initially produced for Russia.
On 7 August 2015, a French diplomatic source confirmed that President Hollande discussed the matter with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during his visit to Egypt during the inauguration of the New Suez Canal in Ismailia. Subsequently, Egypt and France concluded the deal to acquire two former Russian Mistral for roughly 950 million euros, including the costs of training Egyptian crews. Speaking on RMC Radio, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Defence Minister, said that Egypt had already paid the whole price for the helicopter carriers. Egypt also purchased the Russian helicopters that were planned for the ships.
DCNS unveiled a model of a smaller version of the standard Mistral BPC 210 ship called the Mistral 140 in September 2014 at the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2014 exhibition in Pretoria, South Africa. Compared to the full-sized ship's 21,500 tons displacement and 199 m (653 ft) length with six helicopter landing spots, the 140 would have a displacement of 14,000 tons, 170 m (560 ft) long with five helicopter landing spots. It would be 30 m (98 ft) wide with a range of 6,000 nmi (6,900 mi; 11,000 km) at 15 knots.
Like the original plans for the Mistral BPC 210 that have not yet come to fruition, the Mistral 140 would have naval guns at the left stern and at the right side of the bow, with heavy machine gun posts on both sides. There would be a well dock in the stern for landing craft, and two alcoves on each side to launch rigid-hulled inflatable boats, along with a crane positioned amidships behind the superstructure. The hangar deck would have space for ten helicopters, with a 400 m2 joint operations centre for a command staff. There would be accommodation for about 500 troops as well as over 30 vehicles and a 30-bed hospital. Propulsion would be provided by two azimuth pods and a bow thruster, probably an all-electric propulsion system like the BPC 210.
DCNS is advertising the Mistral 140 as "a political tool for civilian and military action" for countries that cannot afford the standard Mistral vessels. Roles listed include humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, crisis management, force protection, joint headquarters command, medical and logistics support and transport of military forces. The company is pitching the ship to countries less likely to engage in combat operations which need something more like a multi-role support or logistics ship, particularly the South African Navy.
|Pennant no.||Name||Laid down||Launched||Commissioned||Homeport|
|L9013||Mistral||10 July 2003||6 October 2004||February 2006||Toulon|
|L9014||Tonnerre||26 August 2003||26 July 2005||December 2006||Toulon|
|L9015||Dixmude||18 April 2009||17 September 2010||27 December 2012||Toulon|
|L1010 ||Gamal Abdel Nasser
|18 June 2013||20 November 2014||2 June 2016||Safaga|
|L1020||Anwar El Sadat
|1 February 2012||15 October 2013||16 September 2016||Alexandria|
Notes and references
- "Mistral Construction Program". Globalsecurity.org.
- "Projet de loi de finances pour 2013 : Défense : équipement des forces" (in French). Senate of France. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 2014-09-26. Dixmude cost France €451.6m at FY2012 prices
- "BPC Mistral". netmarine.net. Archived from the original on 2 January 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- "France Says Egypt To Buy Mistral Warships". Defense News. Retrieved 2016-03-25.
- Arnault (April 2005). Veyrat, Jean-Marie, ed. "The national concept of amphibious operations" (PDF). Objectif Doctrine. Metz: Ministry of Defence (36). ISSN 1267-7787. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2008.
- Bulletin d'études de la Marine Archived 23 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine. no 33 (March 2006), p.7
- Terre information magazine ISSN 0995-6999, no. 184 (May 2007)
- "Navy painter André Lambert". Retrieved 24 September 2014.
- TCD classe NTCD Archived 15 August 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Avis du Sénat français no 90 du 22 novembre 2001". Retrieved 24 September 2014.
- "Histoire du BPC Mistral (2000 - 2006)". Archived from the original on 23 March 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
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