GEAR & TECH

This ship helps French marines storm the beaches

The big-deck amphibious ship has long been a staple of getting troops from the sea to the shore with heavy equipment. The United States has built the most of these, but other countries have them, too. Perhaps the largest force of these vessels outside the U.S. Navy is that of the French Navy.


France's force is centered on three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Mistral displaces 16,500 tons, about 7,000 tons less than a Commencement Bay-class aircraft carrier, and a top speed of 19 knots, about one knot slower than the World War II-era escort carrier. The Mistral can carry up to 35 helicopters and 900 troops.

The Mistral-class amphibious assault ship Anwar el-Sadat, prior to being handed over to the Egyptian Navy. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But like the American Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, the Mistral isn't just limited to sending helicopters. This ship also has a welldeck, capable of operating landing craft. This allows the Mistral to deploy heavy armored vehicles like the LeClerc main battle tank.

France's main landing craft for this ship is the EDA-R catamaran landing craft.

The Mistrals also have a decent self-protection suite. One primary weapon is the Simbad system, which carries two Mistral surface-to-air missiles. Yeah, the Mistrals are defended by a missile called… Mistral. They also have two 30mm cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns.

The BPC Dixmude (L9015) moored behind the LaFayette-class stealth frigate Surcouf (F711) on the 14th of July 2011, one day after she arrived in Toulon from Saint-Nazaire for fitting out. (Wikimedia Commons)

The ships have seen some action, mostly in evacuating civilians or providing humanitarian relief. France built two more for Russia, but that deal got kiboshed after Russian proxies invaded Ukraine.

Egypt now owns the two vessels intended for the Russian Navy, and managed to MacGyver some air defenses.

You can see a video about the Mistrals below.