France to Deploy Mistral Amphib to Serve as Hospital Ship

March 20, 2020 2:34 PM
An American MV-22 Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 lands on French amphibious ship FS Tonnerre on June 28, 2019, during the Semper Thunder exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C. USNI News photo.

The French Navy (Marine Nationale) is about to deploy its Mistral-class LHD Tonnerre(L9014) to the Island of Corsica in a mission to evacuate several Coronavirus / COVID19 patients towards mainland France.

The announcement was made by French minister of the armed forces, Florence Parly, on her Twitter account:

“By decision of the President of the Republic, Tonnerre vessel, an amphibious helicopter carrier of the French Navy, will soon set sail to evacuate resuscitation patients from Corsica to health establishments that can treat them,” reads a translation of the Tweet.

According to Corsican authorities, about a dozen patients (12 to 14 people on life support) are set to be evacuated this coming weekend. This will help relieve the local hospital in Ajaccio which is getting overwhelmed. The patients will then be dispatched across hospitals in the French Riviera (France’s Southern coast).

The French Navy has some expertise in assistance operations for populations in distress, relying in particular on its three Mistral-class LHD Mistral, Tonnerre and Dixmude.

Each vessel of the class with 8,000 square feet of modern hospital facilities (NATO Role 3 medical facility) consisting of:

  • two operating rooms
  • an x-ray room
  • a dental office
  • a scanner
  • 20 rooms and 69 hospitalization beds, of which 7 are fit for intensive care
  • 50 more beds can be installed in the helicopter hangar if needed.

In such MEDEVAC missions, Mistral-class LHD crews are usually reinforced by the French Defence Health Service (Service de Santé des Armées in French or SSA), the service responsible for medical and sanitary support of the French military.

Contacted by Naval News, a French Navy PAO explained that Tonnerre would deploy without an escort. The vessel was on H48 stand by meaning it can be deployed within 48 hours. The PAO couldn’t comment on the presence of a helicopter detachment aboard the LHD for this specific mission.

According to our colleagues from French media Mer et Marine, the first ship of class Mistral is underway in the Indian Ocean and stands ready to assist, if needed, the French overseas department of Reunion island. According to a French Navy PAO, Mistral-class Dixmude is currently sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.

For the record, the Tonnerre was deployed during Operation Irma in 2017 to rescue the populations of the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barth affected by hurricane Irma and in 2019 to provide assistance to the population of Mozambique affected by cyclone Idai.

Earlier this week, American President Donald Trump announced that two U.S. Navy hospital ships would be deployed to New York and the U.S West coast to help alleviate non-COVID-19 medical needs and reduce workload in local hospitals.

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.

Xavier Vavasseur

Xavier Vavasseur

Xavier Vavasseur is the editor of Naval News based in Paris, France. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems and a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). Xavier has been covering naval defense topics for nearly a decade.

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