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Jeanne d'Arc

The Jeanne d'Arc was a Porte-hélicoptères [helicopter carrier] which replaced the traditional cruiser of the same name as the naval training ship of the French Navy in 1964. Jeanne d'Arc had no sister ships, and was not much altered in her years of service with the French Navy.

Five ships have already born the name of the JEANNE d'ARC; among those, two were used as training ship: a 11,300 tons armored cruiser (1901-1933), and a 9,200 tons cruiser-school (1931-1964); the latter having been the first specifically built for the purpose of being used as a school. The new Jeanne d'Arc, built by the arsenal of Brest from 1959-1961, was put afloat on 30 September 1961. With the provisional name of the RESOLUE, it entered active service on 16 July, 1964. That same day, it took the name of Jeanne d'Arc.

The ship served a dual peace time and wartime role. In her peacetime role, the Jeanne d'Arc, launched in 1964, successfully trained some 6,400 cadets. The naval officers school was created in 1864. Prior to this date, naval officers leaving the Naval college were divided amongst various vessels of the fleet in order to gain practical knowledge which could not have been taught to them otherwise. The desire to maintain them grouped in order to give them a homogeneous teaching, within a vessel dedicated to this hands-on training purpose led to the creation of the school of application. There, officer-pupils took advantage of a program which allowed them to discover many countries, improve their seafaring skills, whilst carrying out many exercises and directly taking part in the daily life of the ship; with the end goal at the end of the formation, being to be able to assume by themselves all the aspects associated with being a naval officer: head of a service, nautical control, propulsion operation, weapons control, etc.

In her wartime role, the Jeanne d'Arc had the capability to serve as either a helicopter carrier for heavy anti-submarine helicopters, for assault helicopters or as a troop transport. Though she was never called to serve in that capacity, she nevertheless took part in a number of humanitarian missions (including in 1988, 1998 and 2005). She also took part in more limited operations, such as the 2008 liberation of hostages being held aboard the Ponant sailboat.

Of 182 meters length and with a displacement of 12,000 tons, the Jeanne d'Arc was propelled by four boilers supplying two turbines with vapor, and could reach a speed of 28 knots (50 km/h). Its main armament initially consisted of its carrying-capacity of helicopters of all types. The Jeanne d'Arc also had six Exocet sea-to-sea missile launchers (offensive antI-ships armament). The two batteries of three launchers were fitted on the deck in front of the bridge. The four turrets outfitted with 100 mm guns were to be used for anti-air and anti-surface self-defence. Other equipment included a sonar (anti-underwater and torpedes detection) as well as electronic warfare equipment (electromagnetic emissions detection and identification).

The helicopter carrier embarked a detachment of Flotilla 22S and a detachment of the Light Aviation of the Army (ALAT). The Jeanne d'Arc received the sponsorship of the towns of Domrémy, Nancy, Orleans, Rouen and Vaucouleurs.

With another combat ship, the Georges Leygues in 1999-2000, she set up the School Group of application of the Navy Officers and carried out each year a several months-long journey around the world starting from Brest. The 1998-1999 deployment was completed on 09 April 1999, after a voyage of 32,885 miles nautical, that is to say 50,193 km or 93 times the Paris-Brest distance. During this circumnavigation of the world, the Jeanne d'Arc and George Leygues made 13 stopovers including two technical stopovers and two stopovers aimed at providing assistance to local Central American population.

As part of Operation Cormorant, the Jeanne d'Arc's crew provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of Hurricane Mitch, which had devastated the East coast of Central America in November 1998. The Jeanne d'Arc was diverted on November 6 and was on the scene in Honduras and Guatemala from 13-22 November. Each day, seven teams made up of two doctors, a male nurse and an interpreter provided assistance to local populations. With roadways having been rendered impracticable, the ship's helicopters proved crucial in ferrying help. In 8 days, 2,000 medical consultations were carried out and 59 tons of food were delivered to villages and disaster victims.

Put in pre-retirement in 2004, the Jeanne d'Arc was no longer pushing its machines at full steam to preserve its mechanical systems, while its sonar was out of service, and dozens of coats of grey paint covered her hull to hide her growing obsolescence.

The last deployment of the "Jeanne d'Arc" saw her navigate for six months to the American continent, before stopovers Honfleur and St Malo and a final return to her homeport of Brest, on 27 May 2010. Her onboard helicopters departed for the naval base's dock on 31 May 2010; date at which her disarmament began. Whilst in port, fuel, ammunition, rations, documentations and spare equipment were off-loaded. At the end of these operations, the ship officially left the naval action force of 120 combat and support vessels, and passed under the authority of the maritime prefect of Brest. The ship, which had trained thousands of cadets, was inactivated on 1 September 2010.

The Navy then conducted the "condemnation" of Jeanne d'Arc, an administrative procedure which "debaptised" the ship and gave it a hull number, starting with Q. The "Clemenceau" in its time had thus become the Q790. A public tender was then launched to establish "the inventory of potentially hazardous materials" necessary to prepare for the removal of asbestos and the deconstruction of the ship. The ship contained significant amounts of asbestos. Another public tender was expected to be launched two or three years later, for the breaking off of several decomissioned Navy ships including the Jeanne d'Arc.

Following the Jeanne d'Arc's inactivation, the at-sea training of naval student officers was shifted to a four months-long semester ('mission Jeanne d'Arc') onboad the projection and command ship (BPC) Tonnerre and the anti-submarine frigate (FASM) Georges Leygues. The BPC Mistral assumed that role in 2011 followed by the Dixmude in 2012.



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