Mistral-class amphibious assault ship

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-56 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 halt of delivery of the first warship, Vladivostok, due to Russia's involvement in Ukraine and French sources have rejected the claim by Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that Vladivostok will be delivered on 14 November 2014.

Mistral-class amphibious assault ship
Class Ship
Type Battleship
Manufacturer STX Europe
Origin France
Country Name Origin Year
France 2005
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Burma 2008 View
Gabon 2007 2007 View
Lebanon 2006 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
STX Europe View
DCNS View
Admiralty Shipyard View

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 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.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé announced on 23 May 2011 that Tonnerre would be deployed with attack helicopters to the Libyan coast to enforce UN resolution 1973.

Class overview
Name: Mistral
Builders: STX Europe

DCNS

Admiralty Shipyard
Operators: Marine Nationale
Preceded by: Foudre-class
Cost: €451.6m (FY 2012) (US$600m)
In commission: December 2005 – present
Building: 2: Vladivostok, laid down for Russia in February 2012, Undergoing sea trials; Sevastopol, laid down for Russia in June 2013
Planned: 5–7
Completed: 4
Active: Mistral, Tonnerre, Dixmude

General characteristics
Type: Landing helicopter dock
Displacement: 16,500 tonnes (empty)

21,300 tonnes (full load)
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)
Range: 10,800 km (5,800 nmi) at 18 knots (33 km/h)

19,800 kilometres (10,700 nmi) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Boats & landing craft carried: 4 CTM (chaland de transport de matériel) alternatively, 2 LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion)
Capacity: 59 vehicles (including 13 AMX-56 Leclerc tanks) or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion
Troops: 900 (short duration)

450 (long durations)

150 (serving as operational headquarters)
Complement: 20 officers, 80 petty officers, 60 quarter-masters
Sensors and processing systems: DRBN-38A Decca Bridgemaster E250 navigation radar
MRR3D-NG air/surface sentry radar
2 optronic fire control systems
Armament: 2 × Simbad systems

4 × 12.7 mm M2-HB Browning machine guns
Aircraft carried: 16 heavy or 35 light helicopters
Aviation facilities: 6 helicopter landing spots

End notes