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DGA launches series production of new diving tenders for French Navy

The new diving tenders will be used by the French Navy primarily for operations in shallow waters. (Merre Shipyard)

France's Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) defence procurement agency has given the green light to start series production of seven diving tenders (Vedettes de soutien à la plongée – VSPs) for the French Navy following successful trials of the prototype boat.

The eight VSPs are being procured to replace nine Dionée-class diving tenders that entered service between 1990 and 1996 and will be used primarily for mine-countermeasures (MCM) operations in shallow waters.

BMA Group's Merré Shipyard in Nort-sur-Erdre was awarded a contract for the first boat in December 2019, with options for seven additional units to be exercised following successful trials and evaluations.

First-of-class Ophrys was set afloat in April 2022 and handed over to the DGA on 14 November 2022 to start a three-month period of operational use by the French Navy's clearance divers in Toulon.

In a 23 March announcement, DGA said that while the operational evaluation of Ophrys is still under way and would not be complete until the end of March, the trial results were already deemed satisfactory across a range of functions including manoeuvring, navigation, autonomy and endurance, and implementation of the hyperbaric recompression chamber.

“It has thus demonstrated to the groups of clearance divers and the diving school that they will be able to conduct their underwater operations safely,” the DGA said.

Production of the seven follow-on boats will now begin, with delivery of the second VSP scheduled for the third quarter of 2024 and deliveries of subsequent VSPs to continue to a drumbeat of every three months until the second quarter of 2026.

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