French Building OPVs


NavyRecognition reports the French have contracted for two OPVs with an option for two more.

In several respects, these ships are very different from most OPVs and particularly the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) and Webber class WPCs.

France has a huge Exclusive Economic Zone, very nearly as large as that of the US, which is the largest in the world. These ships are intended to support France’s many island territories far from European France. Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Assistance is expected to be an important mission for these ships.

Structurally they appear much closer to a typical Offshore Industry Support Vessel. At 70.3 meters (231 feet) long, it is sized between the OPC and the WPC. Speed is relatively low at 14 knots. The crew is smaller than that of the Webber class, while the endurance is similar to that of the much larger OPCs.

Significantly, they have no helicopter facilities.

17 thoughts on “French Building OPVs

  1. Structurally they appear much closer to a typical Offshore Industry Support Vessel.

    And they seem to be exactly that, but with grey paint. That would make them analogous to the Icelandic Coast Guard’s ICGV Thor, which was a commercial design from Rolls Royce.

    It’s the usual problem with patrol vessels: how much capability is too much? Add aviation and you’d have to significantly alter the design from that which is already available, relatively cheaply, off the shelf. You also increase support and maintenance costs with the additional equipment and personnel (a big part of this projects affordability is the vessel’s endurance and low manning).

    If you want to see what many would call a “properly militarised” version of this basic design, you could look at the Knud Rasmussen class built for the Danish Navy which, in its basic configuration (without additional stanflex weapons modules), only requires one more crewman than the French ship, and includes a helicopter deck and refueling.

  2. When they announced the Bâtiments Multimission to replace BATRAL last year which are also sans helicopter facilities it wasn’t that which I lamented but that they couldn’t do this,

    That the MN have opted for more of the same is interesting.

    BTW BATRAL’s at least have a small flight deck. I can’t see why any navy would want a vessel over 500t or over without the ability to land a small helicopter or drone or at least give a very clear area for winching or VERTREP.

  3. These are support vessels, not OPVs. They are crewed by the navy and have a wartime role, though in peacetime they will spend most of their time on Coast Guard and environmental missions:

    Navy roles:
    – Ocean going tug
    – Dive support and ROV operations
    – Submarine tender
    – Mine layer (likely)

    Coast Guard/environmental missions:
    – Salvage and rescue
    – Buoy tender
    – Oil spill response

    What may be causing the OPV confusion is that the French have also ordered four very similar support vessels for their oversees territories, as X mentioned:

    These overseas ships will overlap more with an OPV: fisheries patrol, humanitarian operations, landing troops and stores on remote islands, in addition to some of the support roles above. That’s probably enough work to go around… no need to add interdiction (which would requires speed, a helicopter, and better sensors and armament).

    Interestingly, the overseas ships may get an 81mm mortar, carried over from the old BATRAL landing ships… Looks like someone is expecting more island coups in the Caribbean, Indian or South Pacific!

    • Indeed OPV designs can run the gamut from support auxiliary to light duty corvette, their crewing while mostly naval could be coast guard which goes to the constabulary duties in the French overseas ships.
      And again shows the USN & USCG the possibility of a dual service ship procurement.

    • OPV means different things to different services, In a lot of ways the French Light Surveillance Frigates of the Floreal and Lafeyette classes might be thought of as OPVs.

      For many years the USCG used former Navy tugs as OPVs.

  4. I would observe that this type ship seems similar in size to the oft-put off T-ATS(X) the USN has been working on? Perhaps IF the USN wanted to stop sending amphibs to do DR/HA, there might be some future of this type? Maybe even a dual-service ship with USCG? And we wouldn’t have to pay a half-billion for them?~~

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