Only a year late, the French navy has received the first (the Mistral) of two LPD amphibious ships. The 21,000 ton ships were ordered in 2001. The second one, the Tonnerre, is due next year. These two ships will replace two older amphibious landing ships. This will give France a force of four amphibious ships. The two new ships are also equipped to serve as command vessels for amphibious operations.
The two ships are similar in design to U.S. LPDs. The ships are 617 feet long and have a crew of 180. In addition to 450 marines, the ships carries 16 NH90 helicopters, two hovercraft and four smaller landing craft (LCUs). There is a 63 bed hospital on board. Armament is defensive (two short-range anti-aircraft missile launchers, two 30mm guns and four heavy machine-guns). The ships can stay out 45 days at a time, unless replenished at sea. The Mistral cost about $600 million.