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The Mistral Class Force Projection and Command Vessels

The Mistral Class Force Projection and Command Vessels

With its new Mistral Class force projection and command vessels, the French Navy is definitely entering the 21rst century. Source : Excerpt from DCN Corporate Communications' Pressfile, Paris October 23, 2006.

Force projection vessel Mistral in Brest. DCN © Photo.

Force projection vessel Mistral in Brest. DCN © Photo.

DCN designed the 21,000-ton Mistral force projection and command vessel (French designation BPC) to the French Navy’s requirements. The main mission is amphibious sea-based air-land force projection. In response to emerging operational needs identified by other client navies, DCN now proposes the smaller Mistral 140 and 160 vessels with displacements of 14,000 and 16,000 tons, respectively. These derivative versions are based on the same general layout as the French Navy’s Mistral class.

  • Real projection capabilities

Aerial view of the Mistral force projection and command vessel. Marine nationale © Photo.

Aerial view of the Mistral force projection and command vessel. Marine nationale © Photo.

The Mistral 140 and 160 feature a ‘flush-deck’ architecture (i.e. unobstructed flight deck) with five helicopter spots with excellent payload capacity. The hospitals feature two operating theatres equipped for level 3 surgery. The outfitting of the troop habitability compartments can be tailored to each client navy’s own standards.

DCN © Photo.

The forward sections are similar in both layout and shipbuilding terms to commercial ships while the aft sections are more military and naval.

Aerial view of the Tonnerre force projection and command vessel. DCN © Photo.

Aerial view of the Tonnerre force projection and command vessel

The Mistral 140 and 160 use all-electric propulsion, specifically two main azimuth pods and an electric bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability. Other propulsion arrangements can also be envisaged.

  • Complete combat system

Mistral force projection and command vessel. DCN © Photo.

Mistral force projection and command vessel

• Mistral force projection and command vessels feature a high-performance combat system comprising an integrated navigation system for state-of-the-art navigation and a CMS controlling all weapon systems, including the close-in self-defence system.

• The integrated navigation system includes displays indicating the ship’s attitude, position, heading, speed and so forth and the new Senin electronic chart system which simplifies navigation and improves navigation safety.

• The CMS sensors include the ship’s two navigation and precision approach radars and the 3D air/surface surveillance radar. The CMS, a derivative of the DCN-designed Senit® 8 family developed for the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, enables duty officers to monitor both the tactical situation and helicopter movements in real time.

 Mistral and Tonnerre force projection and command vessels. Marine nationale © Photo.

 Mistral and Tonnerre force projection and command vessels

  • Communications suite tailored to interoperability needs

The Mistral family’s advanced communications suite offers high performance. It combines internal communications and all forms of external communications, including radio, satellite links, internet, videoconferencing and tactical datalinks.

Access to various spaces is controlled by an access control system while the flight deck, well deck and other restricted areas are monitored by closed-circuit video surveillance systems.

In addition to the flight operations system and various planning and intelligence analysis systems, Mistral-family vessels can be equipped with information systems and command aids tailored to the needs of the relevant command team. The vessels have been designed from the outset to allow chiefs of staff to command joint, allied and multinational forces from locations outside their respective countries.

The high-performance communications suite included in the basis design for the Mistral family of force projection vessels offers ideal command vessel capabilities.

  • 1) Mistral-type force projection and command vessels are meeting new challenges

Mistral-class force projection and command vessels are the biggest ships in the French fleet after the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. This new class of vessel, with the French designation BPC, is designed to meet new and emerging military challenges.

Vue aérienne du BPC Mistral © DCN.

Aerial view of the Mistral force projection and command vessel

  • a) Force projection and interoperability, two key challenges

Over the last 20 years, force projection has played a growing role on the international stage. Force projection operations are sometimes undertaken by a single-nation force acting under a defence or cooperation agreement, but more frequently by a multinational force. They involve not only moving people and equipment to distant locations, but also support roles, from logistics and sustainment (i.e. forwarding and distribution of fuel, munitions, spares, food and other supplies) to medical evacuation by air, sea or land.

Force projection thus calls for air, land and sea capabilities, including amphibious assault ships and troop and materiel transports. Besides deploying landing craft, navies need to provide increasing support for helicopter operations and command teams.

Mistral and Tonnerre force projection and command vessels. Marine nationale © Photo.

 Mistral and Tonnerre force projection and command vessels

  • b) Multirole flexibility

Mistral-class force projection and command vessels offer facilities for a maritime command centre (MCC) or multinational joint forces command team. For the customer, the French Navy, the aim is to renew and strengthen the force projection and command capability while at the same time meeting allied interoperability objectives.

Aerial back view of the Mistral force projection and command vessel. DCN © Photo.

Aerial back view of the Mistral force projection and command vessel

With a displacement of 21,000 tons for a length overall of 199 metres, the Mistral class offers a speed of 19 knots and sufficient endurance and range for global force projection. A typical payload might include 450 troops, 16 heavy helicopters plus two hovercraft and four LCM landing craft or one-third of a mechanised regiment complete with armoured vehicles (1,000 tons). The design features electric propulsion using azimuth pods and high-level automation compatible with a complement of just 160.

Mistral-class vessels, currently the Mistral and the Tonnerre, are bigger and more capable than their predecessors, the French Navy’s TCD-type amphibious assault vessels; they can also be classified as landing helicopter docks or LHDs. This sea-based airmobility capability combined with exceptional multirole flexibility enables Mistral-class ships to undertake a huge variety of missions.

DCN © Photo.

Mistral-class vessels are destined to play a leading role in a range of missions, including amphibious, crisis management, sea-based airmobility and command operations, operational transportation, medevac and cargo transportation. The ships’ multirole capabilities can be gauged from the following typical mission breakdown: - Embark materiel (vehicles, helicopters, troops, weapons, munitions, etc.), transport by sea to destination then contribute to on-location support

  • Prepare materiel prior to disembarkation
  • Force projection disembarkation
  • Command operations
  • Support forces during operations ashore
  • Support shipboard command team
  • Support ship-based units (medical and paramedical staff, munitions supplies, helo air group, vehicles, landing and craft, etc.)
  • Re-embark forces.

Mistral BPC-type hangar. DCN © Photo.

Mistral BPC-type hangar

To be capable of undertaking this variety of missions, the capabilities of the Mistral class had to be significantly improved compared to those of the earlier Foudre and Siroco classes. The main improvements include:

- Increased payload, capacity for 10 to 16 helicopters, including combat helicopters and associated capabilities for helicopter transportation, deployment and operations
- Improved interoperability with allied forces, particularly allied landing craft, helicopters and communications equipment
- Powerful, interoperable command systems and facilities
- Iincreased payload for vehicles and munitions (60 armoured and logistic vehicles)...

Mistral BPC-type elevator for helicopter. DCN © Photo.

Mistral BPC-type elevator for helicopter

  • c) Quality equipment

In the force projection role, Mistral-class vessels will typically deploy both landing craft and helicopters.

m The 5,200-sq.m flight deck offers six spots for NH90/Tiger-class helicopters, including one for a Super Stallion-class heavy-lift helicopter. The 18,000-sq.m below-deck hangar, served by two lifts, provides storage and maintenance space for 16 helicopters.

DCN © Photo.

m Mistral-class vessels can carry four LCM landing craft or two LCACs. Each 95-ton LCAC air-cushion landing craft can carry several armoured vehicles and infantry carriers, all stored in transit on 2,650 sq.m of deck space.

m These vessels also offer ample capacity for use as a hospital ship or for humanitarian evacuation missions.

Tonnerre force projection and command vessels' field hospital. Photo © Joël-François Dumont.

Tonnerre force projection and command vessels' field hospital

The 750-sq.m hospital comprises 20 separate areas, including two operating theatres, an X-ray room and a 19-bed ward. Hospital capacity can be further expanded by adding field hospital modules. The helicopter hangar can even be converted into a fully-equipped 69-bed field hospital.

  • 2) The Mistral family, technologies and innovation

  • a) Warships to commercial shipbuilding standards

Mistral BPC-type rooms of leisure. DCN © Photo.

Mistral BPC-type rooms of leisure. DCN © Photos.

Mistral BPC-type rooms of leisure. DCN © Photo.

Mistral-class vessels are built largely to commercial shipbuilding standards. Classification was performed by Veritas. The ships also comply with international Marpol regulations for the prevention of pollution.

Mistral BPC-type gangway. DCN © Photo.

The design incorporates a large measure of civil sector features as part of a deliberate effort to move closer to commercial shipbuilding and to make maximum use of commercial arrangements and standards. Wherever possible, the designers specified materials in their normal commercial form, or just moderately hardened.

Mistral BPC-type bedroom. DCN © Photo.

These vessels are the first of the French Navy’s major assets to be designed along these lines. As such, they represent an important new trend in naval procurement.

  • b) All-electric propulsion

The propulsion system uses two electric pods and an electric bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability, making the Mistral the French Navy’s first all-electric warship.

  • c) Complete combat system

Mistral-class vessels also feature a high-performance combat system comprising an integrated navigation system for state-of-the-art navigation and a CMS controlling all weapon systems, including the close-in self-defence system.

• The integrated navigation system includes displays indicating the ship’s attitude, position, heading, speed and so forth and the new Senin electronic chart system which simplifies navigation and improves navigation safety.

The Senit® 8 System. DCN © Photo.

The Senit® 8 System

• The CMS sensors include the ship’s two navigation and precision approach radars and the 3D air/surface surveillance radar. The CMS, a derivative of the DCN-designed Senit® 8 family developed for the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, enables duty officers to analyse and respond to both the tactical situation and helicopter movements in real time.

  • d) Communications suite tailored to interoperability needs

The Mistral family’s advanced communications suite offers high performance. It combines internal communications and all forms of external communications, including radio, satellite links, internet, videoconferencing and tactical datalinks.

Access to various spaces is controlled by an access control system while the flight deck, well deck and other restricted areas are monitored by closed-circuit video surveillance systems.

In addition to the flight operations system and various planning and intelligence analysis systems, Mistral-family vessels can be equipped with information systems and command aids tailored to the needs of the relevant command team. The vessels have been designed from the outset to allow chiefs of staff to command joint, allied and multinational forces from locations outside their respective countries.

The high-performance communications suite included in the basis design for the Mistral family of force projection vessels offers ideal command vessel capabilities.

  • 3. Innovative industrial organisation

Mistral 140 Derivative version based on the same general layout as the French Navy’s Mistral class. DCN © Photo.

Mistral 140 Derivative version based on the same general layout as the French Navy’s Mistral class

  • a) Early integration of customer’s needs

To fully understand the customer’s operational needs, an integrated design team was set up even before the programme had been officially launched. By bringing together DGA specialists, representatives of the chiefs of staff of the armed forces, DCN naval architects and representatives of private naval design bureaux, the Mistral integrated design team was able to complete the programme’s preparatory phase more quickly. This work resulted not only in a detailed description of the customer’s operational needs, but also in a draft specification and design studies of solutions for meeting programme needs.

The work done by this co-located and integrated team again demonstrated the benefits of concurrent engineering methods.

Mistral 160 Derivative version based on the same general layout as the French Navy’s Mistral class. DCN © Photo.

Mistral 160 Derivative version based on the same general layout as the French Navy’s Mistral class

  • b) Programme management

The Mistral programme to build two force projection and command vessels — Mistral and Tonnerre — for the French Navy was led by DCN as prime contractor for the shipbuilding programme in collaboration with leading industrial partners Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Thales. Rigorous project management methods were set up from the outset for the duration of the Mistral programme.

With the common goals of delivering two ships on cost, on time and with performance as promised, the integrated programme team brought together specialists from client navies, in-house specialists in project management, quality, purchasing, etc. and representatives of the chiefs of staff of the forces that would become the ships’ users.

Key contractors also participated in certain phases of the integrated design team’s work, all working together on the one site and using concurrent engineering methods to optimise programme definition.

The team used best practice guidelines, methods and tools throughout. Day-to-day cooperation and coordination benefited considerably from the dedicated groupware used to set up the design tools and shared documentation systems.

  • c) Industrial partnerships spanning design and production

The Mistral programme is a good example of cooperation between contractors and its benefits when designing and building sophisticated warships like the Mistral and Tonnerre.

With DCN as programme prime contractor, the design phase was undertaken jointly by DCN and Chantiers de l’Atlantique using an integrated design facility in Saint-Nazaire, where the platform coordination team was also based.

DCN designed the aft section and superstructure (island) and Chantiers de l’Atlantique the forward section.

Similarly, the shipbuilding work was shared by DCN’s Brest shipyard and Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

The communications suite was designed by Thales with DCN taking responsibility for its integration with the combat system.

  • Mistral-class force projection and command vessels: Technical data

Length overall: 199 m
Beam overall: 32 m
Displacement, full load (approx.): 21,500 tons
Maximum speed: 18.8 knots
Flight deck area: 6,400 sq.m
Number of helo spots: 6
Carrying capacity, helicopters: 16 (NH90, etc.)
Propulsion: electric azimuth pods
Accommodation, passengers: 450
Hospital: 19 intensive-care beds + 50-bed extension
Command centre: full provision
Lead time, shipbuilding: 34 months

Useful links :

Contact :

DCN (Headquarters)
2, rue Sextius Michel, 75732 Paris Cedex15, France.
Tél. : +33 (0)1 40 59 50 00 - Télécopieur : +33 (0)1 40 59 56 48

 


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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