The marvel of French shipbuilding called at St. Petersburg last year and moored next to the Martyr Anastasia Cathedral. Blanketed with shallow morning fog, the ship looked like somber and sublime tower Barad-dur. Naturally, the author of this work failed to repel temptation to set foot on deck of the "Toulon guest" as soon as possible to see with own eyes what all the newsmen write.
The French partners arranged a perfect promo-action for residents of St. Petersburg – visitors were shown only those parts of the huge ship which could affect admass mentality and display advantages of Western-style naval service. As was mentioned above, combat capabilities of Mistral are not so great, but designers gave much prominence to living conditions of the personnel placed in two-, four-, and six-man cabins. Each cabin is furnished with shower and lavatory. But the most notable fact is that even landing party lives in cabins but not in common quarters.
Designers of the ship say that improved living conditions (including gym hall and adaptive equipment for marines) make possible to keep personnel fit for a long time. But frankly speaking, this brings up reasoned question – is it so easy to leave warm berth of homey cabin to bear ideals of democracy to underdeveloped nations which for some reason shoot from behind the corner in return? In this connection it is interesting to note an opinion of Russian naval cadets visited Mistral along with our group. Having a tour over the ship, they said: "Comforts are good but how does this ship feel in combat?"
Basically, living facilities as well as a cabin-accommodation principle itself are anything but a fresh idea and can be easily implemented in our ships, and, by the way, they are (for example, Lada class non-nuclear submarines). The main thing is the customer's wish, and then any caprice can be realized with corresponding increase in displacement. By the way, capacities of the French ship are used in the worst kind of ineffectiveness. Russian standards for landing party accommodation allow to place much bigger amount of marines on board.
Enormous spaces between decks (over 3 meters high) and width of alleyways (over 1.5 meters) also come under notice. According to some information, such wide alleys are meant for additional berths while full loading of the ship with marines (up to 900 men). Alongside with that, we had not seen any special fittings or holders for such berths. What is good is that all equipment, cables, and ventilation are hidden under coverings and obviously out of living cabins. There is an easy access to all systems and cables wherever they are open.
Presence of a huge medical compartment onboard the ship (about 750 sq meters) is related with additional tasks assigned to Mistral: participation in peacekeeping operations in zones of local conflicts; casualty evacuation from coastal areas while emergency situations; and rendering assistance to distressed people at sea. Normally, the hospital block is rated for 69 beds, although it can be enlarged.
In a word, the first thing comes to mind when boarding this ship is that you are on a giantlike passenger liner. After all, going ashore you feel the same. In general, an array of "civil" solutions is applied in the ship, for instance, outfit of some stations, medical rooms, mess block and so forth; all equipment of the navigation bridge is based on exceptionally commercial technologies widely used in present-day civil vessels.
It should be noted that our engineers have to solve much more complicated problems while designing and building modern Russian warships. This is because our ships are smaller and equipped with more combat and technical means than their foreign analogs. It is by no means technically difficult to purchase state-of-the-art medical, sport, mess and other household-purpose equipment taken from commercial shipbuilding as well as to install it on Russian warships. Thus and so, there is nothing much to admire in Mistral complaining about backwardness of Russian shipbuilding industry.