Bâtiments de Projection et de Commandement (BPC)
Force Projection and Command Ships
Nouveaux Transports de Chalands de Débarquement (NTCD)
New Landing-Craft Transport
Mistral and Tonnerre are all-electric ships with an overall length of 199m and a displacement of 21,300 tons. These ships are designated Bâtiments de Projection et de Commandement (BPC) -- Force Projection and Command Ships, and were previously designated Nouveaux Transports de Chalands de Débarquement (NTCD) - New Landing-Craft Transports. The BPC concept combines a landing helicopter dock, a floating hospital, an amphibious assault ship, troop transport and a command vessel in a single platform. These two initial BPCs of the Mistral-class were the first naval vessels built to be propelled by a pair of podded propulsors of the type that have become widely used on commercial vessels. They have a crew of 160, plus 450 troops, endurance of 45 days, and maximum range of 11,000nm at 15 knots.
The Mistral is the first vessel of a new BPC force projection and command type developed by DCNS for the French Navy. The Mistral combines payload capacity and versatility. It can carry up to 16 heavy helicopters and one-third of a mechanized regiment, plus two LCAC hovercraft or four LCM landing craft. A high-performance communications suite makes the Mistral ideal as a command vessel. The 750-sq.m hospital features two operating roms and offers 69 beds. If additional hospital/medevac space is required, the hangar can be converted into a modular field hospital.
The 21,000 ton Nouveaux Transports de Chalands de Débarquement (NTCD -- New Landing-Craft Transport / New Transport Barges of Unloading) are designed to control an amphibious operation within the framework of NATO projection operations. Their communication systems are thus very powerful. They possess an exceptional men and equipment carrying capacity. Living spaces are more developed than in highly armed military ships.
France had a amphibious fleet made up of 2 Transports de Chalands de Débarquement (TCD or LPD according to the Anglo-Saxon terminology) of the Ouragan class of 8,000 tons, and 2 TCD of the Foudre class of 12,000 tons. In 1990 and 1998 respectively, the French Navy commissioned the two 9,000 tons dock landing ships Foudre and Siroco. The two TCD Ouragan and Orage, which entered in service in 1965 and 1968, needed to be replaced in 2004 and 2006 at the latest.
The increasing importance of aeromobility in operations and search for complementarity with the existing TCD Foudre and Siroco resulted in being directed towards amphibious vessels of a new type where the helicopter carrier is an option. This capacity associated with an exceptional versatility to cover a broad spectrum of missions, brings the NTCD closer to US ships of the LHD category. However, the comparison with US ships, with twice the displacement and built according to military standards, stops there. The NTCD, for budgetary reasons, was manufactured according to civilian standards, much like the Dutch LPD Rotterdam (TCD) or the British LPH Ocean. An inscription of the NTCD to the Veritas Bureau register was required.
On 26 July 2010, French President Sarkozy confirmed that an order for a fourth vessel of the Mistral-class would not come early, as was the case for BPC 3. While unsurprising given the economic context, the announcement nonetheless formalized things. Named Dixmude, the third ship of the Mistral-class, initially planned for after 2015, was ordered in April 2009 as part of an economic stimulus plan in order to provide work to the St Nazaire shipyards whose shops were suffering due to a lack of new orders.
Dixmude was initially scheduled for delivery at the end of the first quarter of 2012 for entry into active service with the French Navy later in the year. However, the French procurement agency, the Délégation Générale de l'Armement (DGA) took formal delivery of the vessel on 3 January 2012. BPC Dixmude benefited from lessons learned during the construction of the first two Mistral-class ships as well as cooperation between shipbuilder and outfitter STX France and DCNS, which had responsibility for the combat system and logistic support. STX France coordinated industrial operations and built the platform and propulsion system as well as installed shipboard equipment. After conducting sea trials, BPC Dixmude returned to Toulon in July 2011 whereupon DCNS integrated and tested the combat system, including its communication, navigation and combat management capabilities.
While the fourth PCB remained under the next law of military programming (2015-2020). Nicolas Sarkozy had indicated that this ship would be delivered to the Navy in 2019/2020. Until then, the French fleet would therefore only count the PCBs Mistral, Tonnerre and Dixmude (in-service since July 2012), as well as the TCD Siroco, operational since 1998. The sister ship of the Siroco, Foudre (1990), was scheduled to be decommissioned with the entry into service of the Dixmude. France opted to sell Foudre to a foreign Navy; Chile acquiring it and taking formal possession on 23 December 2011 during a transfer ceremony held in Toulon.