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French Navy vessels to call at Kochi port

Special Correspondent

Kochi: As part of what is named as the ‘Jeanne D'Arc Mission' after the since-decommissioned helicopter carrier, French Navy's Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) Mistral and Anti-Submarine Warfare Destroyer (ASWD) Georges Leygues, which are on a five-month-long training cruise, will dock at the port here from May 5 to 8.

French Ambassador to India Jérôme Bonnafont and Commander of the French Forces in the Indian Ocean Admiral Gillier will be in Kochi during the warships' port call.

The ‘Jeanne D' Arc Mission', begun in February with a view to training 134 midshipmen including 25 service women—93 ensigns from the French Naval Academy, 12 supply officers, five maritime affairs officers, seven medical officers and 17 foreign officers—in defence drills, diplomacy and geo-strategic issues, is slated to be back at its homeport in Toulon by July. In Kochi, the visiting team will interact with personnel from the Southern Naval Command, the training command of the Indian Navy, and will carry out some joint drills with it.

The French embassy, in a media communiqué, said the primary objective of the voyage is to familiarise the soon-to-be officers with amphibious operations, air support operations, counter-terrorism operations, crisis management and counter-piracy operations. It also prepares the future officers to operate in a combined force operational environment, it said.

LHD Mistral, a state-of-the-art helicopter dock that replaced the helicopter carrier Jeanne D'Arc last year, is primarily an amphibious assault ship. Last month, the LHD was deployed in Libyan waters to assist the repatriation of Egyptian refugees in the aftermath of the Libyan unrest.

Designed as a multi-mission platform, the LHD displaces 21,600 tonnes and is fitted with the advanced Senit-9 combat direction system. With its array of sonars and sensors, it has multi-tracking capabilities.

The warship can be converted into a hospital if needed. It is armed with SIMBAD and Crotale missiles to perform the anti-air role. The huge well-deck of the LHD is capable of accommodating four landing craft units or two landing craft air cushions. Its deck has the capacity to embark 16 helicopters (Tiger or Caiman helicopters), 110 armoured vehicles or 13 main battle tanks.

ASWD George Leygues is also equipped to perform anti-ship and anti-aircraft roles besides its anti-submarine warfare capability. Captain Xavier Moreau commands LHD Mistral, while the Georges Leygues is commanded by Captain Christophe Lucas.

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