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Farewell Jeanne d’Arc

October 23, 2009
Photo source-Net Marine and Wikipedia Commons

Photo source-Net Marine and Wikipedia Commons

As a young man growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s, obsessed with all things nautical, this one of the last examples of traditional European cruiser design was always impressive to me. I also think France’s Jeanne d’Arc, launched in 1964 and a contemporary with the original Italian Andrea Doria helicopter cruisers, an interesting transition to the through deck light carriers more popular today.

Mainly used for training purposes, she was also a well equipped vessel for war packing quite a punch, as Global Security reveals:

Of 182 meters length and with a displacement of 12,000 tons, the “Jeanne d’Arc” is propelled by four boilers supplying two turbines with vapor, and can reach a speed of 28 knots (50 km/h). Its armament initially consists of its capacity of carrying of helicopters of all types, which constitute its true system of weapons. The “Jeanne d’Arc” also has six Exocet sea-to-sea missile launchers (offensive armament antI – ships). The two triple Exocet missiles are fitted on the deck in front of the bridge. The four turrets with 100 mm guns are used for self-defence anti-air and anti-surface. Other equipment includes a sonar (detection anti- underwater and torpedoes) as well as electronic warfare equipment (detection and identification of the electromagnetic emissions).

A French blogger, Mike Colombaro, of Combat Fleet of the World blog reports that the veteran cruiser/trainer is currently on its final mission headed for a May 2010 decommission. From Mike we get the ship’s schedule:

Casablanca (Morocco) from 7 to 12 December
– Dakar (Senegal) from 18 to 23 December)
– Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) from January 4 to 9
– Buenos Aires (Argentina) for Jeanne d’arc of January 15 to 20
– Montevideo (Uruguay) for the Courbet of January 15 to 20
– Ushuaia (Argentina) 27 and January 28
– Valparaiso (Chile) from February 4 to 9
– Callao (Peru) from February 15 to 20
– Balboa (Panama) February 26
– Cartagena (Colombia) from 1 to March 6
– Fort-de-France (Martinique) for Jeanne d’Arc of March 16 to 23
– Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) for Courbet’s March 16 to 23
– New York (USA) March 31 to April 5
– Quebec (Canada) from April 12 to 18
– Saint-Pierre (St. Pierre and Miquelon) from April 21 to 23
– La Coruna (Spain) from 1 to May 3
– Hamburg (Germany) from May 14 to 19
– Rouen (France) from May 22 to 26
– Back to Brest May 27 .

So long and farewell to a proud ship, providing years of excellent service for a still great Navy!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 25, 2009 2:55 pm

    It the Japanese DDH had been intended to operate independently I’m sure it would have had more gun armament, but it is meant to function as the flagship of one of four escort flotillas of eight ships each (the number 8 always seems to figure prominently in Japanese naval planning). The four flotillas are formed of two squadrons each. One squadron consist of one DDH, one DDG, and two DDs. The other squadron in each flotilla is intended to consist of a BMD DDG and three DDs. In many countries the DDs would have been called frigates. I really like there apparent concept of operations in that it presupposes team work and includes a range of ship sizes.

    Each flotilla is comparable to the standing NATO escort force but has the advantage of planned composition and almost certainly better common understanding of doctrine. It compares favorably with an American Surface Action Group (SAG) and, other than the normally attached SSN, probably has better ASW capability than an American Carrier Battle Group.

    They seem to have a clear idea of how their ships will operate, and that has allowed them to build specialized ships rather than go it alone, do everything ships.

  2. leesea permalink
    October 25, 2009 1:34 pm

    I think of this ship as the small strike version of an Absalon? Give it modern propulsion system and upddate some weapons and sensor systems. This should be compared to the follow-on Flexbile Frigate version of the Absalon design. Another good comparison would be to the Japaness DDH and Korean amphib carrier.

  3. October 25, 2009 3:16 am


    I concur. Or, lift the modern equivalent of the weapons fit from Vittorio Venetto and upgrade those Hyuga-class DDHs and their follow-on class.

    Korea, Spain, Italy, and Thailand all have light carriers (in addition to those new DDH Japanese ‘destroyers’). Australia is planning on introducing a new class of LHD / LHA aviation capable ships. And France has their Mistral class which -could- accommodate some limited degree of VSTOL capability. There is a whole lot to play with, here…

  4. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 25, 2009 1:58 am


    I think there’s stil a place for purpose built light through-deck carriers/command ships. I mentioned the Hyuga-class DDH ships once before. Aside from their minimal SS capabalities, I admire the Japanese ASW carriers. They’re well-built. Jeanne d’Arc was sort of a pre-cursor, IMHO. I’d prefer her guns & SSM capability on the DDH class, I admit. Or something reasonably similar.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 24, 2009 7:39 pm

    They’re all going through-deck, and perhaps that is just as well. Of equal interest are the japanese Osumi class, less than 10,000 tons light, and the even smaller Italian San Giorgio class.

  6. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 24, 2009 6:50 pm

    Jeanne d’ Arc as built as a training ship as was the Jeanne d’ Arc that preceded her. The previous Jeanne d’ Arc was also a training ship so it will be interesting to see what they come up with as a replacement.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if it is a derivative of the Mistral.

    Noticed she was also so used against Somali prirates:

    As to current similar types, consider the new Japanese DDH (Hyuga class).

  7. Tarl permalink
    October 24, 2009 3:57 pm

    Another great ship, proving you don’t need a large flat deck for all naval air missions.

    The US Navy has agreed with you for a long time, as it built and operated its own set of LPHs since the early 1960s.

    Yet in spite of having helo carriers, the US and French navies nevertheless kept operating big-deck carriers capable of launching and recovering non-VTOL fixed-wing aircraft.

    It’s almost as if you can’t use a small helo carrier for all naval air missions or something…

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 24, 2009 1:14 pm

    Another great ship, proving you don’t need a large flat deck for all naval air missions.

  9. October 24, 2009 12:52 pm

    Vittorio Veneto carried nine ASW helos in her hanger deck. Plus, she had a twin arm Terrier launcher forward (40 SAMs & 20 ASROC) and eight 76 mm cannon. In a mid-life refit she received SM-1ER to replace the old Terriers; four Otomat anti-shipping missiles; and three twin 40 mm Dardo CIWS mounts were added.

    She was decommissioned in 2003 and disarmed in 2006.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 24, 2009 10:41 am

    Or maybe through-deck carriers are cooler, Jed? But as you point out the potential of such a ship is substantial.

  11. Jed permalink
    October 24, 2009 9:53 am

    According to wikipedia, she normally carried 4 x Super Frelon 13 tonne class helicopters with another 4 being the ‘war time’ load-out.

    The Super Frelon can carry 2 x AM39 air-launched Exocets, so that is quite a “helicopter action group” for ASuW, not sure if the Super Frelon was a “dipper” but AW101 Merlin is a slightly heavier aircraft at around 15 tonnes, so that gives some indication of the ASW screen you could achieve with 8 such aircraft (2 on station, 2 in transit, 4 on in between mission maintenance and repair etc)

    Perhaps the reason navies have moved away from this hybrid helicopter cruiser design is the cost of the helo’s ? 8 x Merlin or NH90 is going to cost a lot more than 8 x Super Frelon’s did in real terms.

  12. Hudson permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:52 am

    Thanks, D.E.: All the more reason to love the J-d’-Arc. What a powerhouse, what a beauty! Using smaller calibers, the 4-6 gun mounts give you strong CIWS–not the original intention or capability of the 100mm, although the larger caliber obviously gives you better shore bombardment capability. So maybe 2 100mm (the Russians are stepping up to this caliber from 76mm) plus the smaller rapid fire guns.

    This is a complete warship with ASW. not just a mothership to service your real fighting assets. This baby projects seapower. You could easily do a (movie) Tears of the Sun type extraction mission with this ship. The major long term disadvantage cost wise vs. LCS is the expense of the much larger crew. But look at the 3X air lift capacity vs. LCS. Instead of different mission modules, you would have different helo/VSTOL/UAV combinations–much more useful.

    I wouldn’t replace the LCS 1-to-1 with carrier/cruiser. I would rather have 10 C/Cs than 20 LCS any day. The French and Italians were thinking versatility and bang for the franc, not one-ees and two-ees like current USN weapons designs on medium size ships. The USN has its 30mm to .50 armament about right, but is stinting on larger gun-missile combinations. The C/C is not a stealth design, nor can it be when you get busy in the air.

  13. October 23, 2009 9:18 pm


    Not if it’s really a cruiser with aviation capabilities. The several Spruance-class aviation-capable designs (never built) generally more resembled a DDG or CG with an enhanced aviation capability. Some only had a stern helo deck. Others had a through-deck aviation-deck design while still retaining enough of a DDG or CG typical weapons fit to make them more capable surface combatants than the RN’s Invincible-class of small carriers (aka through-deck cruisers).

    It’s all a matter of perspective, judgment, and evaluation of relative characteristics. The authors of the book I mentioned were truly critical of many prospective designs and some of the -few- actually constructed hybrid aviation ship types. However, they did find some of those -actually- built to be workable and valuable additions to their respective fleets within certain carefully defined roles or certain specific regional areas of operation.

  14. Tarl permalink
    October 23, 2009 8:55 pm

    Putting big guns or missile launchers on a carrier is a sign that you don’t have a lot of confidence in your naval aviation.

  15. October 23, 2009 7:57 pm


    Have you ever read “The Hybrid Warship: The Amalgamation of Big Guns and Aircraft” by R D Layman and Stephen McLaughlin (1991; TheNaval Institute Press; Annapolis, Maryland; ISBN 1-55750-374-5)?

    Especially interesting are Chapters: 14 (pp. 144-155); 15 (pp. 156-163); 16 (pp. 164-175) & 18 (pp. 184-198).

    Covered in those chapters are: Jeanne d’Arc; the three early Italian helicopter-cruisers (Andrea Doria, Ciao Duilio, & larger Vittorio Veneto) plus the Giuseppe Garibaldi; proposed Iowa-class BB conversions to aviation-capable battleships; RN Invincible-class through-deck cruisers; Soviet navy aviation ships like Moskva, Kiev, Baku (& others); proposed Spruance-class DD conversions into aviation ships (some proposed designs were akin to the RN’s HMS Invincible-class); RN helicopter-cruisers like HMS Blake & HMS Tiger; the recently retired Peruvian helicopter-cruiser Aguirre; and other proposed designs not so widely known to have been proposed.

    It’s a great, an informative, and a really entertaining read if you can get your hands on a copy of it!

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 23, 2009 7:17 pm

    DE said “humanitarian relief duties also seem a workable use for such a versatile ship.”

    Absolutely. I think light helicopters cruisers/carriers are eminently more suitable for such a purpose than Big Decks, and to contend otherwise is just an enormous, even tragic waste of resources. Of course, we have the large carriers so we use them, but never would I say we need such giant ships strictly for this purpose.

    As we see with the French cruiser, here is a modest size ship (comparatively speaking) of modest capabilities, extremely capable for a variety of roles, focusing not on what it can’t do but what it can, which is much.

    I can’t see it as an LCS replacement Hudson so much as a mothership.

  17. October 23, 2009 7:11 pm


    Originally, Jeanne d’Arc’s design incorporated six 100 mm gun mounts – with two mounts to either beam alongside the centerline superstructure and the two stern mounts. Also intended in the early design was a quadruple 375 mm ASW mortar -or- alternatively a twin-arm Masurca AAW SAM launcher system. Neither of the latter were ever installed and two of the 100 mm cannon were dropped from the design. Later on those six Exocet launchers were added.

    If you moved the superstructure to starboard then you could do something akin to the RN’s Invincible class by stretching the flight deck forward & portside and so carry some VSTOL assets. You could still carry something like four 57 mm guns, a couple of 21-round RAM launchers atop either end of the superstructure, and a Mk-41 VLS loaded with ESSM and maybe a few ASROC in the foredeck. There should still be some space available to include a strike package of Harpoon and / or Tomahawk in the VLS or in above-deck tube launchers.

    If such a variant were to carry a -variably- mixed package of Vipers, Venoms, and ASW helos, then you’ve have a versatile detachment capable of dealing with many problems. Switch out most of the helos with six to eight VSTOL aircraft and you have a small hybrid strike cruiser / carrier.

  18. Anonymous permalink
    October 23, 2009 6:40 pm

    “I have an irrational affection for this ship”


    I like how the French name their guns………..

  19. Hudson permalink
    October 23, 2009 5:54 pm

    I have an irrational affection for this ship. We should use it as a template to replace the LCS. Keep the original four turret design with 57mm Bofors, and put ESSM 8-packs up front. Longer range weapons would go on the helos. The helos would take you whereever you need to be, in force, in war or peace. I’ll bet we could build it for less than the LCS.

  20. October 23, 2009 4:54 pm


    Given the recurring nature and recent awful frequency of tropical cyclones and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and adjoining SE Asian seas, then humanitarian relief duties also seem a workable use for such a versatile ship. Replace the ASW helos with general purpose helos and provide assistance in getting relief supplies into places needing them. There should be lots of space for a company or two of troops with useful skills (construction / engineering / logistical) who would make a great deal of a difference in a humanitarian crisis.

    On the military side of things, then place a VLS system for the Israeli Barak SAM in the foredeck (which the Indian Navy already uses) and add several Brahmos missile tubes (or something similar) to replace the -old- Exocet missiles launchers forward of the bridge superstructure. Keep the two 100 mm guns. She should still be good for another 10 years of service while the Indian Navy straightens out their problems with aviation-capable vessels.

  21. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 23, 2009 4:12 pm

    Sounds like a good deal, DE! And I think she can operate in the amphibious role as well. Very versatile!

  22. October 23, 2009 3:48 pm


    Perhaps the Indian Navy should look at acquiring Jeanne d’Arc as a temporary fix (to their carrier crisis) so that they can better deploy their ASW helicopters. She may be old, but she has always worked and she is certainly a few years younger than INS Viraat. This would allow the ASW assets to be split between two different ASW / aviation ships.

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