VESSEL REVIEW | Ophrys – New minehunting dive boat delivered to French Navy

Photo: Merre Shipyard

The French Navy recently took delivery of the first vessel in a new series of eight dive support boats built by local company Merre Shipyard.

Named Ophrys after a genus of orchid, the vessel was designed by French naval architecture firm Neuman. All eight dive boats in the new series will be delivered by 2025 to replace nine older vessels that fulfilled a similar role with the French Navy from 1990 to 1996.

All eight Ophrys-class sisters will be used to support dive operations, primarily dive missions that are focused on the detection and disposal of sea mines. Aluminium was used for the vessels’ construction due to its non-magnetic properties, as other hull materials such as steel would pose a greater risk of causing mines to detonate prematurely.

Photo: Merre Shipyard

The new boat has a length of 26.5 metres, a beam of seven metres, a draught of 1.7 metres, and a displacement of 105 tonnes at full load. Accommodations are available for a standard crew of six plus up to 30 divers.

Two diesel engines that each produce 440 kW deliver a maximum speed of 13 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles to allow the vessel to operate further offshore. The total fuel tank capacity is 6,000 litres. A bow thruster is also fitted.

Once the vessel reaches an area where there are suspected mines, it will switch to electric motors for low-speed navigation to allow it to remain on station for extended periods. Mine countermeasures missions can therefore be conducted at speeds of only one or two knots to ensure thorough coverage of a target area and proper disposal of any detected explosives.

The electronics suite includes a Furuno radar and a towed sonar that can detect mines at depths of up to 100 metres. Although not intended to engage in combat, the boat has a weapons mount for a manually operated 7.62mm general purpose machine gun for self-defence.

Ophrys is based at Toulon and will be operated by the French Navy’s mine-clearing dive unit whose area of responsibility encompasses the country’s Mediterranean waters.

See all the other news, reviews and features of this month’s Marine Engines and Propulsion Systems Week right here.

Type of vessel:Dive support and mine countermeasures vessel
Owner:French Navy
Designer:Neuman, France
Builder:Merre Shipyard, France
Hull construction material:Aluminium
Superstructure construction material:Aluminium
Length overall:26.5 metres
Beam:7.0 metres
Draught:1.7 metres
Displacement:105 tonnes
Main engines:2 x 440 kW
Maximum speed:13 knots
Range:250 nautical miles
Type of fuel:Diesel
Operational area:Mediterranean Sea, France

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