The FS Chevalier Paul (D621) is a modern multirole missile destroyer frigate of the French Navy (Marine Nationale). The vessel was ordered on October 27th, 2000 and had her keel laid down at the Lorient Shipyard on January 13th, 2005. Construction was undertaken by DCN Lorient. The vessel was officially launched on July 12th, 2006 and, after successfully completing various trials, was formally commissioned in June of 2009. The FS Chevalier Paul makes her home port out of Toulon in the southeast of France with access to the vital strategic shipping and travel lanes of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Paul was born of a multinational missile frigate requirement originally made up of France, Britain and Italy. The design would center around a missile-armed, anti-aircraft platform with all-modern systems capable of countering all expected aerial threats. However, British requirements soon deviated from the group (in both mission scope and armament) which led to the country leaving in 1999 to pursue its own indigenous solution - an end-product more in line with a large, ocean-going deep water, missile-armed patrol vessel. This left the French and Italians as the primaries and the ship class took shape as a dimensionally smaller, lighter vessel designed for Mediterranean water service. The French program produced the FS Forbin (D620) and the FS Chevalier Paul (D621) while the Italian Navy commissioned the Anrea Doria (D553) and the Caio Duilio (D554). The British initiative eventually evolved into the Type 45 destroyer (better known as the Daring-class to which six vessels have been completed since 2006).
The FS Chevalier Paul is the second of two Horizon-class vessels, the class led by lead ship (and sister ship) FS Forbin which was commissioned in 2008. The Paul displaces at 7,770 short tons and her weight, size and available armament classify her as a missile-carrying destroyer though she is also recognized as a missile frigate. Her primary role is that of air defense due to her large supply of anti-aircraft missiles along her bow though her armament allows her to counter most other naval threats. The vessel measures a running length of 152.8 meters with a beam equal to 20.3 meters. She draws 5.4 meters of water and is capable of open-sea operations. Power is supplied through a conventional gas/diesel turbine combination: 2 x General Electric/Avio LM2500 series gas turbines developing 31,280 horsepower coupled with 2 x SEMT Pielstick 12 PA6 STC diesel engines developing 5,875 horsepower. This arrange feeds 2 x propeller shafts at the stern as well as a beam-mounted propeller unit found at the forecastle. Maximum speed in ideal conditions is listed at 29 knots with a range out to 7,000 nautical miles. The warship is crewed by 174 personnel made up of officers and enlisted.
Externally, the Chevalier Paul exhibits a most modern shape. Gone is the long-running network of rails common to steel ships of naval history. The new approach relies on large sections of smooth panels which contour with the hull sides of the ship. These integrate into the superstructure for an undisturbed approach which lends well to basic stealth characteristics concerning naval vessels (the practice has been widely adopted elsewhere as well). The Paul showcases a raise bow and the forward superstructure is headed by a first line of defense - namely a vertical launch missile system and deck cannons. The bridge, easily identified by the windowed surface just aft of the first line of deck guns is set well ahead of amidships. The main mast is of the enclosed type (pyramid design) and mounts the various sensor and communications processing systems. A second mast (capped by a pole-type appendage) is mounted further aft in the design. The twin separated smoke funnels are squat and wholly enclosed to benefit the signature of the Paul. Each are integrated into existing post structures. In the aft section of the vessel resides a stern-mounted flight deck. The Chevalier Paul is cleared to accept and launch an NHIndustries NH90 series medium transport helicopters or similar.
The Paul is primarily armed with 48 x Aster 15 or 30 series anti-aircraft missiles fired through a SYLVER A50 model vertical launch system fitted in the "A" position. Two SADRAL sextuple launchers are mounted over the aft flight deck. Enemy surface vessels are engaged via an 8 x display of Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missiles found at amidships between the forward and rear superstructures. To counter enemy submarines, the Paul is outfitted with 2 x MU90 torpedo tubes. For short-to-medium ranged defense against surface ships - or to lay down off-shore bombardment during amphibious operations - the vessel is equipped with 2 x 76mm Otobreda rapid firing autocannons located at the "B" position. These are backed by 2 x 20mm modele F2 deck guns.
In terms of processing systems, the FS Chevalier Paul is outfitted with the Alenia EMPAR S-1850 LRR tri-dimensional sentry radar suite complete with IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) functionality. The surveillance/fire control radar is fitted atop the main mast structure . A sonar array is fitted to the hull (ABF TUS 4110 CL) and a towed antenna system can be trailed behind the vessel to detect incoming underwater threats such as torpedoes. The Paul fields a modern countermeasures suite that includes a communications and radar jamming suite and decoy launchers.
The FS Chevalier Paul is named after Jean-Paul de Saumeur (1598-1667), a decorated French admiral having served in operations across the Mediterranean Sea. The FS Chevalier Paul is the third of three French Navy vessels to bear his name.