The Mistral: France's amphibious assault ship
The Mistral-class warship, four of which France is to sell to Russia under a deal signed on Tuesday, is an amphibious assault ship and helicopter carrier.
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 its deck at any one time.
It also can carry four landing barges, 13 battle tanks, around 100 other vehicles and a 450-strong force, enabling it to unload troops into a theatre of operations.
The ship has facilities for a full command staff and is equipped with a 69-bed hospital.
The Mistral officially entered 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.
The vessel is capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force or with United Nations or European Union peacekeepers.
With the exception of the country's sole aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, the Mistral is the largest vessel in the French navy.
Each vessel costs around 500 million euros (650 million dollars); the French Navy has two in service.
The Mistral is 199 metres (653 feet) in length and 32 metres (105 feet) wide and displaces 21,600 tonnes fully loaded.
© 2011 AFP