March 25, 2020 – With the current worldwide Corona Virus (COVID19) and nations around the world utilizing ships, both military and civil, to assist in health care efforts, Canada is strangely silent.
The French Navy describes their fleet of three Mistral Class as, “Tool of command and projection of forces, the PHA can, from their flight deck, deploy a complete airmobile force made up of combat helicopters, intended to conduct strikes or operations of surveillance of a territory. Their amphibious capacity allows them, thanks to rapid landing craft and barges for transporting equipment, to project troops and vehicles from the sea to land, but also to carry out rescue operations for populations (evacuation of nationals, assistance after a incident).
“Their modularity makes it possible to embark a staff and to set up a command post of joint forces for the conduct of a national or multinational operation from the sea. The PHA have a real on-board hospital enabling them to cope with a large-scale health crisis (operating theaters, burn room treatment room, etc.).” (Google Translation)
An independent evaluation by Colonel George Petrolekas (ret’d) and analyst Dave Perry in 2013 recommended the federal government acquire at least one French Mistral Class amphibious ship. This was not known in the public domain until CBC’s Murray Brewster reported on it December of 2014.
In November of 2014, French President François Hollande suspended completion of two Mistral Class landing ships his nation was building for Russia. Hollande’s move was part of an international sanction program against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Previous French President Nicolas Sarkozy approved the sale in 2011 despite vehement protests from Russia’s neighbors and NATO.
Deputy defense minister John Forster advised then Conservative defense minister Jason Kenney and then chief of defense staff General Tom Lawson to avoid buying the ships in a 2015 briefing.
On becoming Chief of Defense Staff in 2015, General Jonathan Vance urged Kenney to buy the two ships from France. CBC News reported Vabce as saying, “would contribute directly to satisfying current gaps in the area of sea-based force projection across a range of operations.”
Forster prevailed and the NDHQ bureaucracy, true to form, would not deviate from their plans.
In a press release, builder DCNS (now Naval Group) said, “On 10 October, DCNS signed a contract with the Ministry of Defence of the Arab Republic of Egypt for the supply of two MISTRAL-class projection and command ships (BPCs). After the delivery of a FREMM frigate and the construction of four GOWIND® 2500 corvettes, currently on-going, this agreement strengthens the strategic relations with the Egyptian Navy, initiated by the Group in 2014. By 2020, the Egyptian Navy will deploy a fleet of at least seven combat ships designed and built by DCNS.”
France is currently using their Mistral Class Tonnerre (Thunder) assisting in medical efforts on the south coast of France and Corsica.
With one of these excellent ships in the Pacific and another in the Atlantic, their capabilities would be one of the great contributions to the national response to the devastating COVID19 Virus were are currently dealing with.
Time for change is needed with program after program botched by bureaucratic bungling. Canada deserves better.