The announcement was made by French minister of the armed forces, Florence Parly, on her Twitter account:
By decision of the President of the Republic, the Tonnerre vessel, an amphibious helicopter carrier of the French Navy, will soon set sail to evacuate resuscitation patients from Corsica to health establishments that can treat them.
According to Corsican authorities, about a dozen patients (12 to 14 people on life support) are set to be evacuated this coming weekend. This will help relief the local hospital in Ajaccio which is getting overwhelmed. The patients will then be dispatched across hospitals in the French Riviera (France’s Southern coast) .
Mistral-class LHD as Hospital Ship
The French Navy has some expertise in assistance operations for populations in distress, relying in particular on its three Mistral-class LHD Mistral, Tonnerre and Dixmude.
Each vessel of the class with 750m² of modern hospital facilities (NATO Role 3 medical facility) consisting in:
- two operating rooms
- an x-ray room
- a dental office
- a scanner
- 20 rooms and 69 hospitalization beds, of which 7 are fit for intensive care
- 50 more beds can be installed in the helicopter hangar if needed.
In such MEDEVAC missions, Mistral-class LHD crews are usually reinforced by the French Defence Health Service (Service de Santé des Armées in French or SSA), the service responsible for medical and sanitary support of the French military.
Contacted by Naval News, a French Navy PAO explained that Tonnerre would deploy without an escort. The vessel was on H48 stand by meaning it can be deployed within 48 hours. The PAO couldn’t comment on the presence of an helicopter detachment aboard the LHD for this specific mission.
According to our colleagues from French media Mer et Marine, first ship of class Mistral is underway in the Indian Ocean and stand ready to assist, if needed, the French overseas department of Reunion island. According to a French Navy PAO, Dixmude is currently sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.
For the record, the Tonnerre was deployed during Operation Irma in 2017 to rescue the populations of the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barth affected by hurricane Irma and in 2019 to provide assistance to the population of Mozambique affected by cyclone Idai.
Earlier this week, American President Donald Trump announced that two U.S. Navy hospital ships would be deployed to New York and the U.S West coast to help help alleviate non-COVID-19 medical needs and reduce work load in local hospitals.