Marines: January 26, 2001


France has ordered two new 21,000-ton amphibious carriers, to be named Mistral and Tonnerre. The first will enter service in 2005 and the second in 2006. They will replace the old amphibious landing ships Orage and Ouragan, and will supplement the newer amphibious ships Foudre and Siroco. Total cost for the two ships will be $472 million. The ships are designed to serve as flagships for amphibious interventions, but can also support humanitarian and disaster relief operations. As flagships, they will have extensive communications facilities, with datalinks to both NATO and EU command headquarters. The overall design is similar to US amphibious carriers. The ships will be similar in general outlines to World War II carriers. They are to be 199 meters long and have a 28 meter beam. The flight deck is designed to handle six helicopters. Two elevators will bring the helicopters to the deck from the hangar. Each ship will be able to carry 16 medium helicopters (NH90, Cougar, or Tiger), 60 armored vehicles (or 15 tanks), 450 troops, and a 63-bed hospital. Two hovercraft (or four mechanized landing craft) are accommodated in a docking well. As it is assumed the ships will be escorted, their armament is limited to two short-range missile launchers, two 30mm guns, and four machineguns. In a first for a French warship, the ships will have electric drive. Four huge generators (5.2 megawatts each) will power two 7.5 megawatt podded propulsors, driving the ship at 19 knots. Cruising at their most efficient speed, 15 knots, the ships can steam for 11,000 nautical miles They will carry supplies for 45 days at sea.--Stephen V Cole 


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