The Mistral at Bold Alligator 2012


02/13/2012: The BPC Mistral was the key sea platform which allies brought to the Bold Alligator 2012.  The Mistral was recently involved in the Libyan operations and part of the French use of sea bases in a Mediterranean engagement context. In a key interview with a senior French leader, SLD focused on the role of this element to the Libyan operations.

SLD: The amphibious ships were an important part of the air operation.

Lt. Gen. Desclaux: They were. On the Mistral, it was very interesting because when we are conducting the night assault with the helicopters, a few hours before the helicopter runs, we were sending Rafale, downloading the imagery on the Mistral or on the Charles De Gaulle, and then the intel officers were preparing the targets for the helicopters and they were taking off with very fresh information on their targets.

In this slideshow, several shots of the Mistral in preparing for the exercise are highlighted. Photos by Murielle Delaporte

[slidepress gallery=’the-mistral-at-bold-alligator-2012′]

Credit SLD 2012

For some background on the Mistral and recent developments we are including a couple of recent pieces, one on the latest BPC and the other on the construction approach for building the BPC.

STX France and DCNS deliver BPC Dixmude three months ahead of schedule

January 16, 2012

BPC Dixmude, the third Mistral-class force projection and command vessel for the French Navy, has been delivered to the French defence procurement agency (DGA) three months ahead of the initial contract schedule. The DGA took formal delivery of the ship on 3 January 2012. This success is the result of outstanding cooperation between industry partners DCNS and STX France. The design, construction and testing of the vessel was conducted in close partnership with DGA and French Navy teams. Gérard Longuet, the French Minister for Defence and Veteran Affairs, praised this achievement after touring BPC Dixmude in Toulon on Saturday 14 January 2012.

The DGA ordered BPC Dixmude in April 2009 under the French government’s economic stimulus package. It was scheduled for delivery to the DGA at the end of the first quarter of 2012 for entry into active service with the French Navy later in the year. However, the DGA was able to take formal delivery of the vessel on 3 January 2012, three months ahead of the contract deadline.BPC Dixmude, France’s third BPC-type force projection and command vessel, benefited from lessons learned during the construction of the first two Mistral-class ships and efficient cooperation between shipbuilder and outfitter STX France and DCNS, which has responsibility for the combat system and logistic support.

STX France coordinated industrial operations and built the platform and propulsion system as well as installing shipboard equipment. After successful sea trials, BPC Dixmude returned to Toulon in July 2011. DCNS then integrated and tested the combat system, including its communication, navigation and combat management capabilities. Between April 2009, when the first steel was cut, and July 2011 when the platform was delivered, STX France consistently outpaced the production schedule. DCNS was also able to validate the combat system with just three sea trials, instead of the six scheduled under the contract.

The commitment and availability of the participating DGA and Navy teams and ready naval and air support ensured that the trials went very smoothly indeed. The fact that BPC Dixmude’s Navy crew was able to work on board and familiarise itself with the new vessel from June 2011 contributed further to the success of the trials. In 2012, BPC Dixmude will be used as a training ship for the French Navy’s Jeanne d’Arc mission. In this capacity, it will host a new cohort of officer cadets for instruction and exercises at sea as well as a detachment of French Army personnel. The first two Mistral-class vessels, BPC Mistral and BPC Tonnerre, were co-designed by DCNS and STX France and delivered to the French Navy in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

The first 2 ships of class, FS Mistral [BPC 1] and FS Tonnere [BPC 2], were built in multiple shipyards around France, with state-owned DCN responsible for 60% of the value of construction. Chantiers de l’Atlantique, which is now part of the South Korean shipbuilding multinational STX, built the forward halves in Saint-Nazaire. Some of the construction work was even outsourced to Stocznia Remontowa de Gdansk, in Poland.

This ship will use a very different construction approach, in order to meet both the challenging cost targets set by the French government, and the economic stimulus program’s requirement to finance French jobs.

DCNS’ release stated that:

”…the ship will be built solely on the Saint-Nazaire site [by STX]. In fact, the sharing of the construction of the platform between two production sites would have generated additional costs – in particular for transport, interfacing and tests – which would have made it impossible to meet the budgetary target fixed by the Government.

STX France, in charge of the overall coordination of the project for the industrial part, will build the whole of the propelled platform including the fitting out of equipment onboard. This represents 75% of the vessel value. Once trials are completed, BPC 3 will move to Toulon under its own power. DCNS will manufacture and integrate the combat system, which includes communications, navigation and combat management systems [and is 25% of the project’s value].”

As its name implies, STX France Cruise SA is one of the world’s premier designers and builders of advanced passenger cruise ships. The former Chantiers de l’Atlantique corporation was renamed STX France after being bought by Korea’s STX group, and the French government acquired a 33.34% stake in November 2008. Cruise ship construction has been hit by the economic slowdown, and the use of complementary shipbuilding standards for the Mistral Class made it easy to advance BPC 3, in order to preserve some of those jobs.

A July 23/10 release from France’s Ministere de la Defense placed the Dixmude’s cost at about EUR 300 million.