On June 11, the Marine Nationale’s BHA Tonnerre (a Mistral-Class LHD) and FLF La Fayette (FF) made a port call at Veracruz, Mexico, as part of a joint effort by both NAVAL Group (formerly DCNS) and the French Government to foster defense cooperation between the two countries.
The Tonnerre and the La Fayette take part in the Mission Jeanne de Arc’ 2019, a five-month deployment where French naval cadets, marines and international students take part in a variety of operations from anti-piracy duties, amphibious operations and disaster relief exercises.
The Mexican Navy authorities welcomed both ships, but eyes were particularly set on the Tonnerre, which NAVAL Group thinks might be of interest to the Mexican Navy in the coming future.
Olivier Michel, NAVAL Group’s Area Vice President for Latin America stated that the Mistral-Class Landing Platform Dock is the perfect fit for a country like Mexico, where natural disasters such as hurricanes and massive floods happen on a regular basis. “These (disasters) require a rapid response force that could move food, medicines and machinery to places where land communication has been halted”.
Mr. Michel also stated that the Mistral-Class LHDs is a multipurpose ship that could both conduct maritime security tasks and force projection operations, “but it depends on what kind of use the country wishes to give to such a modern platform”, he said.
Nicolas Viala, who oversees NAVAL’s sales to the region, stated that the Mistral could also be used as a hospital ship, either for national purposes or as a component of a multinational assistance force.
Yet the Mexican Navy has not expressed a desire to acquire such a platform, and a possible purchase might come only after one of the two ex-Newport Class LSTs (locally named as Papaloapan-Class) is officially retired in the coming years.
On the other hand, the Mexican Navy is faced with budgetary constraints that put on hold all shipbuilding projects for the rest of the year, making a big purchase of modern capabilities quite difficult in the near future.
Nevertheless, in the words of Mr. Michel, NAVAL Group is committed to a long-term relationship with the Mexican Navy, hence the Company is evaluating the possibility to open a permanent office soon.
“We started to work with Mexico since the POLA project years ago, and we know that Mexico is interested in developing its maritime industry in accordance with the country’s geopolitical relevance in the region, we are evaluating how best to help with that” said Mr. Michel.
The Tonnerre and the La Fayette will conduct naval exercises with the Mexican Navy before departing to the US, as the Jeanne de Arc’ 2019 mission comes to an end.