Navy Dixmude LHD sails off with a full load of reinforcement
for Serval operation in Mali
January 21, 2013, French Navy Dixumde
LHD (Mistral class) sailed off on alert from Toulon naval base.
With a record (for the class) load of French Army troops, vehicles and
equipment belonging to a battalion task force (JTF-battle group) the
amphibious vessel contributes to the strengthening of the French military
deployed in Operation Serval.
Dixmude LHD on its way to the Western African Coasts, note the L-CAT
/ EDA-R landing craft sailing past Dixmude with a full load of vehicles
(picture: French Navy)
operations expert onboard the ship defined a loading plan, to embark
and spread over all levels of the ship vehicles and equipment belonging
to the various units of the joint task force. According to this plan,
the crew took turns Sunday, all day and night to load vehicles, equipment
and containers. It was assisted in this task by software that helps
monitor in real time the load and weight repartition and its impact
on the vessel stability. Vehicles include VBCI
Infantry Fighting Vehicles, AMX10RC
Anti-tank reconnaissance armoured vehicle, VAB
armoured personnel carrier and ambulances, VBL
armored vehicles as well as tactical trucks and refueler trucks for
logistic duties. According to the Dixmude commanding officer,
if all the vehicles were strung together one after another they would
stretch for 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). Total weight of the cargo for
this operation is approximately 2,000 tons (5,000 cubic meters).
The crew of the amphibious vessel is increased for this special deployment.
It is the first time that the French Navy uses one of its Mistral
class vessels for such power projection at full capacity: All three
bridge levels, as well as the well-deck and the flight deck of the
Dixmude are loaded with French Army vehicles.
As for the Army troops, the actual number has not been mentioned but
a Mistral class vessel may accomodate up to 450 soldiers for long
cruises, or 700 troops for shorter journeys, with more basic levels
of comfort. The French Navy explains that Dixmude (as all
Mistral class LHDs) offers top of the line facilities for
Army personnel onboard:
» While underway, the commanding officers of the joint task
force will use the dedicated command, control and communication area
(850 square meters) onboard to stay in touch with the headquarter
and prepare future missions.
» Soldiers have access to a sports room to stay fit ahead of
» The vehicles and equipment can still be maintened in the cargo
area and checked one last time before their long route to the front
This operation will no doubt demonstrate once again the flexibility
of the Mistral class vessels often dubbed "the swiss
army knife" of the French navy. For the record, the class already
proved its worth in 2006 to evacuate 1,376 civilians from Lebanon
during Operation Baliste. Recently, the class also proved its offensive
capabilities during Operation Harmattan off the Lybian coasts and
its amphibious capabilities in the Corsican Lion exercise with the
About Dixmude: Dixmude is the third ship of the Mistral class.
Designed by DCNS, Mistral BPC (Bâtiment de Projection
et de Commandment) LHD is a multi-mission 21,500t amphibious assault,
command and power projection ship. Mistral class vessels
are capable to accommodate and deploy 16 transport or attack helicopters,
four landing crafts, up to 70 vehicles or 13 main battle tanks. They
have accommodations for 450 to 700 troops.