French shipyard and services company Piriou and French naval defence company DCNS are to design and build three multimission vessels (Bâtiments Multimission - B2M) for the French Navy, they announced in a joint statement on 9 January 2014.
The programme is understood to be worth in the region of EUR100 million (USD136 million) and includes an option for a fourth vessel.
The 1,500 tonne B2M ships will replace the Batral-class amphibious transport ships, which had been meeting regional transport and patrol needs in selected French Overseas Departments and Territories since the 1970s, but have now been decommissioned.
The new 65 m ships resemble many of the support ships that ply their trade in the offshore industry, have an at-sea endurance of 30 days, and provide space for several containers on the aft working deck. The B2M ships will be able to launch and retrieve an 8 m workboat and several Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), and can support diving operations.
Studies for a replacement to the Batral-class vessels got under way in 2006 and considered various options before going to tender in 2011 with a reduced requirement for transport capacity vis-à-vis the Batral-class ships and initial concepts for replacement ships.
Piriou is to act as lead designer and shipbuilder, with DCNS providing input on the military requirements, which include transportation of ammunition. DCNS is also responsible for providing the ships' communications suite.
Construction of the ships is expected to get under way soon to enable deliveries in 2015/16. After their entry into service DCNS will provide in service maintenance support for an initial period of up to six years, likely at their overseas homeports.