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French Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel L’Adroit Has The Big Picture

Small combatant making large impression

A small combatant is making a big impression wherever it goes.

The French Navy offshore patrol vessel (OPV) FS L’Adroit is deployed to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, demonstrating its ability to conduct maritime surveillance, fisheries enforcement and anti-piracy missions.

“This ship is a cost-effective, innovative solution for navies and coast guards, able to integrate [with] a task force in high seas, to monitor the EEZ, or to be part of a surveillance network for coastal missions,” Cmdr. Luc Regnier, her commanding officer, says. “We are now ‘sea proven’ in the full scope of security missions at sea.”

It may not be big, fast, or heavily armed, but with her two interceptor boats and an unmanned aerial vehicle, and ability to also embark a helicopter, she can respond rapidly to developing situations.

With a combined bridge and CIC, with panoramic 360-degree visibility, and a sophisticated sensor suite, the crew of L’Adroit know what’s happening around them.

L'Adroit bridge

Visitors to the ship are impressed by the view from the bridge. Marine National photo

“We have the Polaris combat management system from DCNS,” says Lt. j.g. Laurent Thepaut, the above surface warfare officer. “This system integrates GPS, AIS and ADS-B (Automatic Identification System and Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast), two surveillance radars, two navigation radars, two electro-optical systems and a communication interceptor system.”

DCNS (Direction des Constructions Navales and the Direct Chantier Navel), one of Europe’s leading shipbuilders, developed the Gowind-class OPV and built the ship at company expense.  It has been made available to the French Navy – or Marine Nationale – at no cost for three years to validate the concept and promote the ship for export. DCNS envisions a family of Gowind combatants from 1,000 to 2,500 tons.

Smaller and less capable than a frigate or a corvette, L’Adroit it is also less expensive to build, man, and operate. It is seen as an ideal candidate for many navies and coast guards to meet the growing requirement for surveillance and patrol missions.

Schiebel S-100

A Schiebel S-100 conducts trials aboard the L’Adroit. A four-person detachment for the S-100 can be embarked on L’Adroit when the UAV is aboard. Schiebel photo

The 1,500 ton L’Adroit is 285 feet (87 meters) long. With a combined diesel and diesel (CODAD) propulsion system of two Anglo Belgian Corporation V12 diesel engines rated at 5,600 kW each at 1,000 rpm, and two shafts with variable pitch propellers, she can achieve speeds up to 21 knots. She has a range of 8,000 nautical miles (nm) at 12 knots and an endurance of three weeks at sea without replenishment. Because of her long deployment, she rotates her two crews every four months.

L’Adroit may have a small crew of 32, but she can carry additional personnel for long or special missions, including marines to conduct boardings, a four-person aviation detachment for the Schiebel S-100 UAV (with additional members of the air detachment if a helicopter is embarked), and space aboard and facilities for a special operations team and their gear.

Boat operations are conducted using side-by-side stern ramps, and L’Adroit is capable of conducting simultaneous launch and recovery of both boats.

L'Adroit

The side-by-side stern ramps permit simultaneous boat launch and recovery. Edward Lundquist photo

Space and weight margin exists to add new weapons, sensors, and modularized capability payloads, such as a mine hunting module.

L’Adroit has not one but two surface and air search radars contained within the composite integrated mast structure – the Terma SCANTER 4102 Air & Surface Surveillance and Terma SCANTER 6002 Naval Surveillance radar – which are especially useful for detection of small targets in bad weather and difficult sea conditions. The ship also carries two SAM Electronics navigational radars.

The Terma radars share the same antenna, and can be selected with a simple turn of a switch. “We mainly use the 4102 for air and surface search at sea with the long range surveillance settings,” Thepaut says. “We have good detection and tracking of surface contacts, much better than the navigational radar. We can see aircraft at distances of 60 nautical miles. We also use the radar to control the UAV and the RHIBS when they are away from the ship.”

L'Adroit

The two Terma surveillance radars share the same antenna in a composite mast enclosure for full 360-degree coverage. The radars can be selected by simply turning a switch. Edward Lundquist photo

L’Adroit was in Singapore for IMDEX 2013, the International Maritime Defense Exposition, being showcased to Asian navies and coast guards. The ship has also participated in multinational exercises in the region.

“This ship is a cost-effective, innovative solution for navies and coast guards, able to integrate a task force in high seas, to monitor the EEZ or to be part of a surveillance network for coastal missions,” Cmdr. Luc Regnier, her commanding officer, says. “We are now ‘sea proven’ in the full scope of security missions at sea.”

By

Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...