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Vigilante 1400 CL79 OPV / L’Adroit BATSIMAR

As of 2009 the French Navy had about 20 patrol boats, half of which were in metropolitan France and overseas. Most of them were over 20 years old, and they will eventually be replaced by a single surveillance and intervention vessel (BATiments de Souveraineté et d'Intervention MARitime). "BATSIMAR" was expected to start in 2012. In order to take account of the nature of the missions (fight against trafficking, fisheries police, pollution control, maritime relief), the growing needs for surveillance and intervention in exclusive economic zones (EEZs), the need for Often as far away from our coasts, as far upstream as possible of threats and to free ourselves from the meteorological constraints which limit the action of small vessels, the navy has expressed the need for an ocean-going vessel, enduring And autonomous, capable of a sufficient transit speed, able to accommodate commandos and to implement the usual means of intervention (helicopter or drone).

These vessels would be equipped with an unsophisticated weapon system, reduced to a small gun and a simplified detection system which will seriously lower its acquisition cost. Spain with BAM (Buque de accion maritima - 4 units of 1800 tons) and Denmark (SIV of 1000 tons) have already adopted such a concept although their maritime domain is more limited than that of France. The tonnage of a building is only part of its acquisition price. As the BPC or Dupuy de Lôme programs had shown, a larger vessel is not necessarily more expensive to buy and can be more economical in terms of maintenance, as its size facilitates maintenance operations (ease of disassembly and standard exchange, reduction of labor costs).

In December 2009 DCNS offered to the French Navy use of a company-funded prototype ocean or offshore patrol vessel as the naval company strives to become the top supplier of warships in foreign markets. To meet these requirements, these vessels are expected to displace about 1,000 tonnes, which is significantly higher than most current patrol vessels and comparable with A69 in service. The latter, after a reduction in their military capabilities, could be used as a maritime safeguard building pending the delivery of BATSIMAR.

L’Adroit, an offshore patrol vessel (OPV), built by DCNS on its own funds and placed at the disposal of the French Navy since October 2011, returned at the start of July 2015 after 4 months of intense operations around the African continent. Its commander, frigate captain Luc Régnier, talks about the operational capacities and availability of the vessel, which demonstrated its reliability to carry out fisheries policing and maritime security missions. The partnership developed between DCNS and the French Navy can therefore be considered a veritable success.

The four months of mission for the OPV L’Adroit were extensive and intense. After a patrol in the Mediterranean in March, the vessel was sailed to the Red Sea at the start of April to participate in the Atalante European anti-piracy mission around the Horn of Africa. But the conflict in Yemen between the Houthi rebels and the Yemenite president’s forces changed this program. Over a period of two weeks, together with the frigate Aconit, L’Adroit played a major role in the evacuation of some one hundred French citizens from Aden, then escorted Djibouti boutres between the Yemenite ports of Al-Moka and Djibouti for the evacuation of several hundred Djiboutian citizens and foreign refugees. L’Adroit then returned to participate in the Atalante operation along the Somalian coast up until the end of May, after which the mission continued in the French exclusive economic zone of the Mozambique canal to ensure fisheries monitoring and maritime security. Last but not least, after a stopover in Cape Town, the patrol vessel sailed to the West African coast and participated in several weeks of intense exchanges with the navies of the Gulf of Guinea region, in support of the Corymbe support operation.

During these missions, the offshore patrol vessel demonstrated exceptional endurance and availability. The vessel’s low fuel consumption allows the spacing out of re-supply stopovers and L’Adroit is simple to operate and maintain… It is a great success! Furthermore, the integrated innovations make it a vessel that is entirely suited to its monitoring and rapid intervention missions. Most of the work is done visually. The high bridge with panoramic visibility therefore represents an advantage and increases operations safety as the helicopter and boats are clearly visible.

In addition, L’Adroit is equipped with modern systems for communications, radar surveillance and electronic warfare, integrated into the Polaris® mission management system. This software system merges gathered information to support navigation and allows sharing with other vessels. It was presented to the navies of the Gulf of Guinea region within the frame of our cooperation, which includes in particular the exchange of information at sea with the land-based regional control centres.

The Camcopter® S-100 airborne drone that equips L’Adroit is also connected to the Polaris® system. It was not possible to use this drone during the recent operations of L’Adroit but over the last two years of testing, it represented a clear advantage. With a flight autonomy of five hours, it can send real-time images while remaining discrete, with a low fuel consumption and without exposing personnel to risks. Last but not least, L’Adroit has very high-performance rapid boats and a launch ramp on the rear platform allowing a discrete launch in thirty seconds. This acceleration of operations speed was greatly appreciated in Aden, in particular.

The Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie presented a new design of multi-role Offshore Patrol Vessel. This platform is designed to meet the budgetary constraints of marine agencies, proposing building with lower operating costs but also very versatile, able to fulfill not only the tasks traditionally assigned to patrol, but also other key functions, such as hunting mines, anti submarine and the fight against pollution.

The vessel is 79.2 meters long with a width of 13.6 meters and a draft of 3.6 meters, Vigilante 1400 CL 79, according to the adopted propulsion, can reach a speed of 25 knots and cross 8,000 miles at 12 knots. Designed to remain in operation for 30 days, she is armed with a small crew, comprising only 25 sailors, but can accommodate 25 additional passengers, such as special forces. To this end, the new CMN patrol vessel, whose hull is made of steel and aluminum superstructure is equipped with a gateway 360°, with two niches on each side for commando boats (RIB) of 9.5 meters.

The davit system of Norwegian Vestdavit was chosen to ensure the launch of semi-rigid boats. Considered high performance and retained including the German Navy frigates on the Type 124, this system, which is based on the equipment used in offshore, has a shock-absorbing device and a compensator roll and pitch (damped system with three axes of rotation), with management of the descent velocity depending on the state of the sea thanks to the shock wave and a hook to automatic release, all secure the best staff and equipment during launch operations and recovery of boats, which, depending Vestdavit and feedback from the German Navy be launching beyond a sea state 5. The system would, in addition, be highly reactive, since it would take less than a minute to launch a RIB, an operations that can be visually inspected from the bridge. These devices launch, in fact, the principal weapon system of the Vigilante 1400 CL 79. They can also deploy other equipment. Note also that a third boat of 9.5 meters can be mounted on the rear, its launch is ensured by a crane.

In terms of aviation, the patrol has a platform of 270 square meters, can accommodate a 10-ton helicopter of the NH90 type, and a hangar for a 5 ton machine, such as Panther, or unmanned aerial vehicles. The Austrian Shiebel's Camcopter S-100 UAV was the first for the Navy. Tested on an experimental basis, this machine (which was accidentally lost and soon replaced). Spread over an area of 180 m², the rear has, in turn, a crane with a capacity of 8 tonnes and 4 meters, outside storage area for a RIB, with a space to accommodate cargo containers, or used for the storage of specific materials. Containers fitted can also be used, for example for staff. They are then added to the premises located under operational helicopter platform. This modular space has direct access to the rear.

Reworked in terms of safety, ergonomics and seakeeping over previous designs proposed by the CMN, the new Vigilante has a Central Operations (CO) separate from the gateway to allow operators to work in away from the hustle and bustle of the wheelhouse. In terms of electronic means, the vessel is equipped with C-Mast developed by CMN, Cassidian and Inéo, which houses a surveillance radar (type TRS-3D or Giraffe Sea), optronic systems, the electronic warfare and communication. The basic armament includes a barrel 20mm remotely operated, eg Narwhal Nexter, and carriages 12.7mm. But, if necessary, the patrol vessel is also designed to implement the heaviest artillery cannon up to 76mm, controlled by a fire control system.

The Vigilante 1400 CL 79 was designed to meet a wide variety of missions, including monitoring and control of ocean space and maritime approaches, the fight against piracy and illegal trafficking, police fisheries, the collection of information and the implementation of commandos. But, and this is a great novelty, the Vigilante may also be configured for mine warfare and anti submarine warfare. To this end, CMN worked with the German Atlas Elektronik, one of the world leaders in the field. The patrol has thus been adapted for implementing drones and remotely operated vehicles type SeaOtter Mk2 SeaFox designed for the detection, identification and neutralization of mines. These resources would be deployed for systems launching boats. The modularity of the rear premises, particularly those located in the platform helicopter will also accommodate all the infrastructure and equipment necessary to mine hunting operation but also anti-submarine warfare.

CMN also worked with Atlas to integrate the building system ACTAS (Active Towed Array Sonar), an active sonar towed at low frequency, which can be deployed from the rear. Opening the domain of ASW on an OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) is indeed seriously considered in some staffs. Marines in northern Europe especially reflect this concept of employment in a context of fiscal restraint, which encourages limiting the use of large frigates anti-submarine, very expensive and too specialized for certain tasks. An OPV with a means of ASW could thus be used in the fight against drug traffickers, who have developed the use of submersibles means, for example in the Caribbean. It could also perform intelligence missions and tracking and, in some cases, working in cooperation with a building with heavy equipment to intercept and neutralize underwater threats. Offensive capability can still be integrated into the patrol through the implementation of a helicopter equipped with means ASM, as lightweight torpedoes.

Another great advantage of patrol, in terms of versatility is its ability to take action against maritime pollution. For this purpose, the patrol can accommodate either a version of abatement “classic” including a boom deployed from the rear, a skimmer into the water and towed floating tanks; containerized version is developed by the company Lamor, more compact, with two lateral and recovery tanks towed. These solutions will be presented at the next EURONAVAL NMCs also work with the company Ecocéane to propose a variant of the Vigilante with arms collectors can be deployed at the rear. The particularity of the concept is that the boat will maneuver recovery of pollution floating in reverse order to optimize the collection of waste while better protecting the hull. As for mine warfare, the premises can be used for modular home teams and specific hardware.

Initially, under the BATSIMAR program, the launch of which has been steadily delayed for more than 10 years, there was talk of replacing the P-400 patrol boats and the A-69 single and same type of ship. But for cost reasons, this approach was abandoned, as admiral Christophe Prazuck, the chief of staff of the French Navy (CEMM), said during an August 2018 parliamentary hearing. "After several years of fighting to have BATSIMARs overseas, I proposed to differentiate this program," said the CEMM. And to add: "I propose to deploy overseas boats two to three times cheaper, to have them faster. So I'm ready to trade the level of specification against a shortening of deadlines.

The BATSIMAR program had been split in two, and it remained to prepare for the replacement of the high seas patrol boats [PHM - ex aviso A69, ed], which give "worrying signs of aging, which suggests a temporary reduction more serious than expected ", according to Jean-Jacques Marilossian, rapporteur for opinion on the credits of the Navy. LPM 2019-25 provides for the ordering of 10 ocean patrol boats, two of which must have been delivered by 2025. One of the solutions envisaged to avoid a capacity rupture by 2030 would be, according to the MP, "to reuse the frigates light stealth not renovated, by means of some work to maintain those of their capacities which do not arrive at term."



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