The Mistral: France's amphibious assault ship
The Mistral-class warship, of which two versions will jointly be built by France and Russia, is an amphibious assault ship or helicopter carrier, used by the French Navy.
Referred to as "projection and command ships" or "BPC", a Mistral class ship is capable of transporting 16 helicopters, deploying up to six of them on the deck at any one time.
It also can carry four landing barges, 13 battle tanks, around 100 other vehicles and a 450-strong force, and is able to unload troops into the theatre of operations.
The ship has facilities for a full command staff and is equipped with a 69-bed hospital.
The Mistral came officially into active service on December 15, 2006. But already in mid-2006 it had demonstrated its operational capacity by evacuating to Cyprus some 4,700 civilians from Beirut who were trapped in the conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
It is capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force or with United Nations or European Union peacekeepers.
A powerful warship costing around 500 million euros (650 million dollars), the Mistral-class are the biggest French warships, after the aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle.
The French Navy has two of them in service, the Mistral and the Tonnerre.
Each is 199 metres (653-feet) long and 32 metres (105-feet) wide and displaces 21,600 tonnes fully loaded.
© 2010 AFP