As we mentioned the other day, there were a few things at the Euronaval show last week that were of direct interest to ground forces. One of them was the amphibious landing craft known by its French acronym EDA-R (Engin de Débarquement Amphibie “Rapide”).
Although they are not new — of the four ordered, the last was delivered at the end of 2013 – they, and their “mother” ships, the BPC Mistral-class helicopter landing docks, are currently being modified to take into account lessons learned during their operations thus far. And most notably, that it is difficult in rough weather to get a 12.6m wide, 30m long vessel into the well-deck of the BPC without bumping both the sides of the EDA-R and the entrance of the bay. It has therefore been decided to replace the wooden sides of the entrance to the BPCs’ well-decks with thick rubber and the aluminium sides of the EDA-Rs themselves with “a thicker and more shock absorbing protection,”… more rubber in other words!
The Dixmude is the first of the three BPCs to be modified. Work was undertaken in February and March this year and it was tested in April. The results were “very good” according to the crew member FOB spoke to at the show.
Another change involved the hydraulic jacks as the original ones were not solid enough. “We now have no more breakdowns of a nature that would leave us in the lurch,” he smiled.
Two of these EDA-Rs can fit end-to-end in the BPC’s payload bay. The concept of operation is that one EDA-R would operate in tandem with 2 CTMs, the next generation amphibious landing craft currently under study for scheduled delivery in 2018/19. These vessels would potentially be the same length as the EDA-R but narrower so that two could fit into the 885m² BPC well-deck side-by-side.
The EDA-R can carry up to 100 tonnes, i.e. one Leclerc main battle tank, or three VBCIs or six VABs and their crew, or a complete army platoon. It can also be used to carry up to 450 people. Its 126m² vehicle deck is accessible via a roll-on roll-off system “which is much more practical notably with trailers because you can drive on and then just drive off instead of having to back out the way you came in which is what you have to do with amphibious vessels that only have one door,” the crew member explained.
The front ramp is made up of two 2m25 wide independent segments which are each 4m long. The back ramp is similar but is 7m75 long. “This means that in 2015 when we used the vessel to evacuate westerners from Yemen we were able to use the ramp to reach up to a quayside which was 3m high,” the crew member said.
The vessel has a four-bed cabin with a small mess containing a microwave oven, a fridge and a sink, enough to keep the seven crew members going for 36 hours. Although the EDA-R’s main task is to get ground troops onto the ground from a ship when there are no port facilities, the EDA-R has nevertheless been designed to withstand seas up to sea-state 5 [wave height 2.5 to 4m] “although it becomes uncomfortable aboard from sea-state 4” [wave height 1.25 to 2.5m] we were informed.