Video Report: At Sea Aboard French Navy Air Defense Destroyer Chevalier Paul

Video Report - Chevalier Paul Air Defence Destroyer
Video Report: At Sea Aboard French Navy Air Defense Destroyer Chevalier Paul
By Xavier Vavasseur - Chief Editor
We recently had the rare chance to spent two days at sea aboard French Navy (Marine Nationale) Horizon-class air defence destroyer Chevalier Paul. It was a long wait (we made the request to cover this type of vessel over two years ago) but it was well worth it in the end as the experience we had was truly unique.
Chevalier Paul Horizon class destroyer French Navy Marine Nationale 1The French Navy Air Defense Destroyer Chevalier Paul
The Horizon-class destroyers (classified as frigates in the French Navy) are multi-role surface combatants specialized in air defence. There are two vessels of this class in the French Navy, Forbin and Chevalier Paul both built by French shipyard DCNS (the vessels were launched in March 2005 and July 2006 respectively, and commissioned in 2008 and 2009).

The programme started in the 1990ies as the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), a multi-national collaboration spearheaded by France and the UK, and later joing by Italy. In 1999, the UK withdrew from the overall prokect, pursuing her own national design and Horizon thus became a French-Italian program. The UK however remained involved in the systems engineering of the Horizon class destroyer, resulting in the development of the PAAMS missile system. The Horizon contract includes the development and the construction of four air-defence ships: Two destroyers for France and two for the Italian Navy (Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio).

The main mission of Chevalier Paul is to provide an air-defence umbrella, protecting high value units (typically a carrier strike group or amphibious ready group). The main threats Horizon-class destroyers may deal with are both supersonic anti-ship missiles and strike aircraft.
Another major mission for the vessel is assuming Command and Control (C&C) tasks within the airspace of an operational area. This mission encompasses all C&C capabilities in the area of air defence and traffic, and the fulfillment of C&C tasks within a coalition maritime force.
Our video report aboard Chevalier Paul
Characteristics of Chevalier Paul
- Length: 153 meters
- Beam: 20 meters
- Draught: 8 meters
- Mast height: 44 meters
- Displacement: 6700 tons

Crew: 27 officers, 120 petty officers, 46 sailors
Propulsion: 2x 5800 Hp diesel engines and 2x 27500 Hp gas turbines
Maximum speed: 29 knots (on gas turbines) 18 knots (on diesel engines)
Range: 7,000 nm at 18 knots
Chevalier Paul Horizon class destroyer French Navy Marine Nationale 2One of the main sensor aboard the vessel: The S1850 long range radar
Anti-Air Warfare
For AAW Horizon-class destroyers are fitted with the Principal Anti Air Warfare System (PAAMS) capable of protecting the ship itself and the entire naval group against incoming threats such as aircraft and missiles. This system consists in:
- The Thales SMART-L S1850 long range radar with a range of over 400 Km
- The Selex ES EMPAR Phased array fire control radar (for the missiles)
- 48x MBDA Aster 15 and 30 surface to air missile in vertical launch systems
- A dedicated command and control system and dedicated consoles inside the CIC

Electronic Warfare
Horizon-class destroyers feature a modern EW system consisting in decoys and jammers that are used against enemy weapons and radar systems enabling the ship to counter multiple attacks providing:
- multi-spectrum detection capability (R-ESM, C-ESM)
- high tracking accuracy with electronic warfare sensors
- countermeasures: SIGEN jammers, NGDS decoy launchers

Information and communication systems

Horizon-class destroyers are fitted with a wide range of navigation and telecommunication equipment ensuring a high degree of interoperability. Automated combat and platform management systems provide high levels of availability and reliability, allowing them to fulfill command and control duties within the coalition force. They have a fully integrated communication system (FICS) that manages networking with:
- a command information system, enhancing strategic discussion (SIC 21)
- tactical automatic data link system (Link 11, Link 16)
- satellite and radio communication systems (ARISTOTE, SYRACUSE)

ASuW and ASW

Secondary roles include the protection of high value units from both surface and submarine threats. To achieve their missions, Horizon-class destroyers are fitted with modern and powerful systems:
- 8x MBDA Exocet MM40 Block III anti-ship missiles
- 2x Oto Melara super rapid guns
- 2x 20 mm modèle F2 guns (the crew informed us that these would be replaced by Nexter Narwhal RWS. We contacted Nexter which confirmed the information however they could not say when exactly these RWS would be installed).
- SLAT anti-torpedo system
- UMS 4110 Hull mounted sonar
- 2x WASS torpedo tubes for MU90 torpedoes

Chevalier Paul can accommodate an NH90 NFH helicopter (11 tons class) for ASW, ASuW and maritime security.
Chevalier Paul Horizon class destroyer French Navy Marine Nationale 3Chevalier Paul is fitted with 48x Surface to Air Missiles and 2x 76mm main guns at the bow
While aboard Chevalier Paul, the Captain told us that in the past two years, his vessel spent 360 days at sea, illustrating the high operational needs for this type of ship, essential to the safety of the French carrier strike group. The latest deployment took place between September and November 2016 in the Western Mediteranean with the Charles de Gaulle CSG (Arromanches III mission).

As you can see in our video report, the Captain organized a simulated anti-air engagement inside the CIC. The CIC is very large, with 19 workstations, showing the high technological level of the vessel. Following the AAW simulation, the crew launched a Lockheed Martin-made MK39 EMATT target and we could witness the ASW officers tracking it as it simulated a submarine threat.

We learned many more details about Chevalier Paul such as the presence of a backup CIC or a dedicated control center for an Admiral to command naval operation. To see all of it, watch our video report above. After two days at sea with the crew of Chevalier Paul, we came to the conclusion that Horizon-class vessels are not just air defense destroyers, but true multi-mission suface combatant, probably the most powerful ones in the French Navy fleet currently.