France’s Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) has ordered eight new diving tenders from Merré Shipyard for operation by the French Navy, the French Ministry of the Armed forces announced on 15 January.
Under the terms of the contract, which was awarded to Merré Shipyard on 18 December 2019, the eight diving tenders (Vedettes de soutien à la plongée – VSP) are expected to be delivered by 2025.
The new VSPs will replace nine Dionée-class diving tenders that entered service between 1990 and 1996. They will be used by the French Navy’s three mine countermeasures (MCM) diving groups based in Toulon, Brest, and Cherbourg, as well as the Saint Mandrier diving school.
The first six VSPs will be configured for mine clearance missions, a DGA spokesperson told Jane’s . They will be able to carry a complement of 16 divers with a crew of six, and will feature overnight accommodation for longer missions.
These vessels will be used largely for MCM operations in shallow waters. Embarked divers will be able to operate to depths of 60 m. The VSPs will also conduct surveillance operations with a towed sonar to a maximum depth of 100 m.
The remaining two VSPs will be configured for training use at the Saint Mandrier diving school. These VSPs will be able to carry up to 30 divers for day-to-day sorties, with no overnight accommodation provided.
The aluminium-built VSPs will have an overall length of 26.5 m, with a 7 m beam and a displacement of 87 tonnes. Maximum speed is 13 kt. Armament includes three 7.62 machine guns. The VSPs will be equipped with a launching system for a rigid-hull inflatable boat, unmanned systems, or a sonar. The VSP will also feature a 200 kg-capable crane and a hyperbaric chamber.
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