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Friday, July 09, 2010

Mistral Visit

Recently we had a visit by a French Navy Ship, The Mistral. The Mistral is one of the French Navy's new 21,300t amphibious assault, command and power projection ships and was commissioned in 2006. It has the capacity to carry up to 16 medium or heavy helicopters below deck, e.g. the NH90, SA 330 Puma, AS 532 U2 Cougar or AS 665 Tigre helicopters.
The flight deck has six landing spots and a 1,800m² hangar. The 5,000m² flight deck can accommodate up to six helicopter movements simultaneously. They have an Amphibious assault capability and can carry either four CTM, landing craft utility (LCU) or two air-cushion landing craft (LCACs).
They also have a 69 bed, 750m² hospital, equipped with two operating theatres. If additional hospital or medevac space is required, the hangar can also be converted into a modular field hospital. Seeing the hospital and then pictures of past evacuation on the walls really brought the reality of war to our minds.
As you can imagine our ship looked very small compared with this.
Tim and Sharon had the pleasure of being invited to lunch with the Captain and his officers with a delicious 4 course meal, including duck for the main course and a "melt in the mouth" mousse for dessert. Visits were also arranged for our crew to have tours and then they in turn came over to us. We were also able to attend an official function and spend time with a few of the officers over a Togolese meal at a friends house in Lome.
The Navy crew were able to use their skills ashore by helping to renovate a local school by painting, putting in electric lighting and making desks etc for the classrooms. They did an amazing job and the school of 800 kids are certainly enjoying it. We had the opportunity to visit and see the improvements just as they were finishing. The school, is run by a French man and has an amazing story behind how he has built it up to what it is now. He has a heart to provide the opportunity for schooling to kids and only charges a small amount so those who can't afford the big expensive schools in Lome can still have an education. So the French Navy has really added a lot to help this cause.

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