Foudre class dock landing ships
Transport de Chalands de Débarquement [TCDs] are tasked with the transport and beaching through amphibious means, on an unprepared and insecure beach area, of one standard French mechanized regiment, to include combat tanks, armored vehicles and other various vehicles and military hardware. The beaching is done via the use of landing craft carried inside the ship's well deck.
The TCD can also transport, refuel and call to action four heavy helicopters; assume command of a limited scale amphibious operation; and handle the hospitalization and care of wounded. They can also serve as maintenance, repair and logistics support ships.
The Foudre-class landing platform dock provides substantial carrying capacity, with each ship being capable of landing and supporting a mechanised armoured regiment of the French rapid deployment force. In this role, the vessel features: a well-deck accommodating one mechanized landing craft (LSM) and four medium-sized landing craft (LCMs), or ten LCMs four 9-ton helicopters housed in the main onboard hangar a cargo of tanks, vehicles and stores. The three main missions of the Foudre class are the landing of infantry and armoured vehicles on unprepared coasts, mobile logistic support for naval forces and humanitarian missions.
The ship is armed with two Simbad twin missile launchers for the Mistral surface-to-air missile; and armed with three OtoBreda/Mauser 30 mm/70 calibre guns capable of firing 6 kilogram shells at a firing rate of 800 rounds per minute. The guns are integrated with two VIGY 105 optronic weapon control systems supplied by Sagem, which include thermal imager, TV camera and laser rangefinder. To meet military and humanitarian requirements, Foudre-class ships provide hospital facilities for large-scale medical and evacuation missions. The hospital facilities include two fully equipped operating theatres and 47 beds.
The ship's complement is 210 crew with 13 officers and the ship provides accommodation for 226 crew members, and 467 passengers or troops. With 700 crew and passengers, the ship has an endurance of 30 days. In times of crisis the ship can accommodate up to 1600 people. The ship's propulsion system provides a maximum speed of 21 knots. At an economical speed of 15 knots, the ship's range is 11,000 miles.
TCD can also perform the following tasks:
- Operational transport
- Humanitarian action
- Evacuation of nationals
- Logistical support
The planned construction of the two project TCD-90 ships began with the lead ship of the series, L9011 Foudre, whose keel was laid on 26 March 1986 at the DCN's Brest shipyard. Foudre was launched on 19 November 1988, and entered active service on 07 december 1990.
The second ship of thie class, L9012 Siroco, was also built at the DCN shipyard in Brest; its keel was laid on 09 May 1995, and it was launched on 14 December 1996 before being commissioned on 21 December 1998.
The two TCD Foudre and Siroco, were both integrated into the amphibious group of the FAN (Force d'action navale / Force of naval action).
The weakness demonstrated by the TCD Orage and Ouragan as Command and Control platforms justified the need for TCD Foudre for large scale operations. When employed as command centers, they would sacrifice a significant share of their transport capacity (occupation partial or total of the foundation raft by shelter) and the need for vessels better adapted to this task appeared very clearly.
The main difference from the ships of the Ouragan-class is the presence of the hangar used for assault-transport helicopters, along with the large flight deck area, which allows for the simultaneous takeoff of two helicopters of the AS.332 Super Puma type.
The end of the cold war did not result in a reduction of operational activity for the TCDs: They were used during the Gulf War, during Operation BALBUZARD [OSPREY] in the Adriatic in complement to the air and sea group, and also as part of a number of operational deployments and transport operations during various crises such as those of Kosovo (Foudre) and Timor (Sirocco) in 1999.
In 1999, TCD Foudre contributed to the deployment of a prepositionned extraction force based out of Macedonia by disembarking men and supplies in Thessalonia. TCD Siroco itself took part in Operation Santal in East Timor, as part of an international force, transporting vehicles and humanitarian supplies between Darwin, Dili, Suaï and Oekussi to the Ambeno enclave.
In 2000, the TCDs took part in a half-dozen multinational exercises, in multiple missions of reinforcement or presence in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic or Indian Ocean and various national exercises. They also constituted the principal tool for presetting off West Africa when the political tensions forced consideration of an evacuation of nationals (intelligence missions CORYMBE). In December 2001, January 2002 and late 2004, TCD Foudre provided support to the French contingent operating in Ivory Coast as part of Operation Licorne and the cease-fire there.
In 2010 TCS Siroco, provided support to relief operations in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake that devastated the country.
Following the 26 July 2010 announcement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the order for a fourth projection and command vessel of the Mistral-class would not be immediately forthcoming at least until 2019/2020, the French Navy would include the PCBs Mistral, Tonnerre and Dixmude (in-service in 2012), as well as the TCD Siroco, operational since 1998.
The Siroco sister ship, Foudre (1990), was slated to be disarmed with the entry into service of the Dixmude. Considering its age, it was not sent to be broken up; France opting instead to sell it to a foreign Navy. Argentina, which had considered a few years prior acquiring the TCD Ouragan and Orage (prior to waivering due to asbestos-related concerns) had initially believed by some to be a potential buyer. Ultimately, Chile acquired the Foudre for as part of a 43 million Euros deal that also included the CDIC Rapière and CTM 19 and CTM 24. Chile formally took possession on 23 December 2011 during a transfer ceremony held in Toulon and renamed Sargento Aldea, after a Chilean figure from its War of the Pacific against Peru.
Siroco was to be decommissioned as stated in the 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security. The decision was confirmed in October 2014. The Siroco was decommissioned from French Navy service in July 2015. Launched in 1996, the vessel is still relatively recent and modern. A delegation from the Brazilian Navy conducted an evaluation of the ship in December 2014. Brazilian Navy personnel are already in France to prepare for the delivery and transit of the vessel to Brazil.
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