VESSEL REVIEW | Arbalete & Arquebuse – Versatile heavy-duty landing craft for French Navy

Photo: CNIM

The French Navy has taken delivery of two new landing craft to be used primarily in ship-to-shore transfers of personnel, vehicles, and other payloads during amphibious operations.

The two new landing craft belong to a planned series of 14 vessels designed and built by a local collaboration that also includes shipyards CNIM and Socarenam and engineering firm Mauric. These 14 vessels will be delivered to the navy over a period of 10 years to replace the service’s aging fleet of amphibious logistics barges and CTM landing craft. The newer series of vessels, which will offer improved deep-sea capabilities over their predecessors, has been given the official designation Standard Amphibious Landing Craft (Engins de Debarquement Amphibie Standards; EDA-S).

Photo: French Armed Forces

The first two EDA-S have been given the names Arbalete, after the French word for “Crossbow,” and Arquebuse, after a type of rifle that was in widespread use in Europe during the fifteenth century. Each craft has an LOA of 28.5 metres, a beam of 6.5 metres, a crew of four, and vehicle loading ramps at the bow and stern for improved operational flexibility. The cargo decks, which cover the entire lengths of the vessels, were designed to be capable of carrying a wide range of ground vehicles in the French armed forces’ current inventory, including LeClerc main battle tanks that displace nearly 60 tonnes each.

Power for each landing craft is provided by a pair of Scania DI16 1,193kW engines. These enable each EDA-S to reach a top speed of 16 knots and a cruising speed of 11 knots while carrying a 65-tonne payload. When transporting heavy payloads, the vessels can sail for up to 300 nautical miles under Sea State Four conditions, though they were designed to still be capable of operating even under Sea State Five conditions.

The EDA-S were also designed to be small enough so that up to four examples can fit in the stern well deck of any of the French Navy’s five Mistral-class 199-metre amphibious assault ships. As an alternative, two EDA-S may be transported in a Mistral-class ship’s well deck along with a slightly larger 30-metre fast amphibious landing craft (Engin de debarquement amphibie rapide; EDA-R).

Photo: French Navy

The vessels will also be used for the secondary role of humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), which entails missions such as recovery of air-dropped relief aid and evacuation of displaced citizens. To provide some form of protection for the crews against small arms fire, the pilothouse of each EDA-S is designed to be fitted with add-on ballistic protective plating if necessary.

Arbalete and Arquebuse were handed over to the French Navy in late 2021 following a program of land and sea trials to validate the vessels’ operational versatility. Among other things, the trials showed that the EDA-S vessels can operate to and from larger amphibious ships, piers, and unprepared beaches day or night.

Arbalete & Arquebuse
Type of vessel: Landing craft
Flag: France
Owner: French Navy
Designer: Mauric, France
Builder: CNIM, France; Socarenam, France
Length overall: 28.5 metres
Beam: 6.5 metres
Capacity: 65 tonnes
Main engines: 2 x Scania DI16, each 1,193 kW
Maximum speed: 16 knots
Cruising speed: 11 knots
Range: 300 nautical miles
Other equipment installed: Loading ramps; add-on ballistic protective plating for pilothouse
Type of fuel: Diesel
Crew: 4

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