Slumming it in the colonies
What an idyllic nautical scene! This image, posted by the Forces Armées de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, the French garrison in their of New Caledonia, is of the Floréal-class light surveillance frigate Vendémiaire (F734) tied up at her base at Noumea, that South Western Pacific colony’s primary port.
The six Floreals, built in the early 1990s just after the end of the Cold War, are interesting 3,000-ton (full load) 306-foot ships that split the difference between a standard frigate and a Coast Guard cutter. Built with a diesel-only suite, rather than CODAG/DOG, they have a maximum speed of just 20 knots but can range over 9,000nm without searching for a tanker and pull into ports that can accommodate a 14-foot draft.
Armed with simple weapons pulled from retired platforms– a single 4-inch/55 cal CADAM Modèle 68 main gun, a pair of 20mm GIATs, and accommodation for some Exocets– they can also embark a light helicopter and a platoon of French Marines (who are notorious for being unable to take a joke).
Vendémiaire has spent almost her entire 29-year career at Nouméa while her sisterships Floréal and Nivôse are based at Réunion– the French Indian Ocean colony between Mauritius and Madagascar– Prairial at Tahiti (what a horrible duty station!) while Ventôse and Germinal are at Martinique in the Caribbean, with the latter two vessels often supporting U.S. 4th Fleet training, humanitarian, and counter-drug initiatives.
Shorter and slower than the more expensive LCS concept, they also can provide NGFS in the littoral if needed, though arguably are even more prone to air attack.