VESSEL REVIEW | Bir Hakeim – Fast interceptor for French Navy’s infantry force

Photo: French Navy
Photo: French Navy

French boatbuilder Ufast has delivered the first vessel in a new series of 12 interceptor craft slated for the French Navy.

The newbuild belongs to a series of boats officially designated as naval infantry vessels (Vedettes des Fusiliers Marins; VFM) as they will be operated primarily by the French Navy's Fusiliers Marins naval infantry force. Missions will include escort, patrol, surveillance, and force protection day or night. In the force protection role, the boats will rely on a combination of their armament and their embarked fusiliers to deny access to critical areas.

<em>Photo: French Navy</em>
Photo: French Navy

The lead boat has been named Bir Hakeim in line with the navy's convention of naming the VFMs after historical battles in which the Fusiliers Marins participated. As with the other VFMs, Bir Hakeim has a composite hull and deck, an aluminium wheelhouse, an LOA of 15 metres, a beam of 4.3 metres, a draught of 0.99 metres, a displacement of 15 tonnes at full load, and space for two crewmembers and eight additional personnel. As part of its standard operating profile, the additional personnel will consist exclusively of armed fusiliers.

The boat can reach a maximum speed of 40 knots or sail up to 150 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 30 knots. A shallow draught permits navigation in otherwise restrictive port, inland, and coastal waters while the sheltered wheelhouse provides protection for the occupants even as missions are conducted in poor weather.

<em>Photo: French Navy</em>
Photo: French Navy

The VFM is equipped with ballistic protection panels, two manually-operated machine guns of either 7.62mm or 12.7mm calibre at the bow and at the stern, a weapons mount compatible with an Akeron MP anti-tank missile launcher, and electronics that include a Simrad radar.

Bir Hakeim and three other sister boats will be stationed at the naval base at Brest with initial operational capability scheduled to be achieved in 2024. The navy expects deliveries of all 12 VFMs to be completed by 2025.

<em>Photo: French Navy</em>
Photo: French Navy
Bir Hakeim
Type of vessel:Interceptor
Owner:French Navy
Builder:Ufast, France
Hull construction material:Composite
Superstructure construction material:Aluminium
Deck construction material:Composite
Length overall:15 metres
Beam:4.3 metres
Draught:0.99 metres
Displacement:15 tonnes
Maximum speed:40 knots
Cruising speed:30 knots
Range:150 nautical miles
Armaments:2 x machine guns; Akeron MP anti-tank missiles
Operational area:Brest, France

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Baird Maritime / Work Boat World