Operation Résilience which was launched last week by French President Emmanuel Macron to counter the coronavirus epidemic is described as an “unprecedented military operation dedicated to supporting public services and the French people in the fields of health, logistics and protection”.
First ship of class Mistral which was already deployed in the Indian Ocean has been re-tasked with a similar mission and is set to reach the French island of Mayotte tomorrow (April 4th).
According to the French Ministry of Armed Forces, the two Mistral-class LHDs will be available to the civil authorities of the French Antilles, French Guyana, Reunion and Mayotte as part of Operation Résilience. They may be used for health support, logistics and protection missions.
The LHDs will provide useful reinforcement to overseas territories, in particular thanks to the helicopters they carry, which will be able to carry out support and medical evacuation missions, even in the most remote areas.
Ministry of Armed Forces
Dixmude is set to be on theater in mid-Arpil. It could then head to Guyana as needed. As a first step, the vessel is being used to ship medical equipment and supplies from mainland France. The Dixmude may be used under the command of the local armed forces to provide logistical or transport missions in order to guarantee the populations basic needs. In particular, it is carrying:
- Four helicopters
- Two disinfection teams from the French Army “2e régiment de Dragons”
- Over 170,000 FFP2 masks.
- Over a million surgical masks.
- Several hundred liters of hydro-alcoholic gel.
Mistral will also participate in Operation Résilience and will be engaged in support of overseas territories in the southern Indian Ocean area. It will initially support the civil authorities of Mayotte. The vessel is deployed with
- Amphibious assets
- Several helicopters
- An infantry detachment which reinforce the Foreign Légion troops based in Mayotte
For the record, the US Navy, Armada Española and Royal Navy have all dispatched vessel on Covid-19 support missions. Another Mistral-class vessels, the Tonnerre, was already dispatched by the French Navy to the Island of Corsica in a mission to evacuate several Coronavirus patients towards mainland France in mid-March.
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.