FS Prairial is part of the Floreal-class frigate group serving the modern French Navy. The class was established in the latter part of the Cold War (1947-1991) period to serve as light-class surveillance / monitoring vessels at a time when the foremost threat remained the mighty Soviet Union. The class ultimately numbered six total ships - Floreal, Prairial, Nivose, Ventose, Vendemiaire, and Germinal - for the French Navy with two purchased by allied Morocco (Mohammed V and Hassan II). Making her homeport out of Tahiti in French Polynesia, FS Prairial maintains an active status in the French fleet today (2019).
She was ordered in 1989 and her keel was laid down by Chanters de l'Atlantique on September 11th, 1990. The vessel was launched to sea on March 16th, 1991 and formally commissioned on May 20th, 1992.
As built, Prairial displaces 2,865 tons (short) under load and 3,250 tons under full load. Dimensions include a running length of 307 feet, a beam of 46 feet, and a draught of 14 feet. Power is from 4 x SEMT-Pielstick 6PA6 L280 series marine diesels coupled to a 3 x Baudouin 12P15 2SR electric plant with 1 x Ulstein beam propulsor. Power drives a 2 x Shaft arrangement under the stern.
All this allows the warship to reach speeds of 20 knots in ideal conditions and operational range is out to 10,000 nautical miles when traveling at 15 knots.
The ship's silhouette involves a conventional arrangement with a turreted main gun in the "A" position over the forecastle. Aft of this is the bridge center section which incorporates an exposed main mast. Midships is home to a spherical radome, low-profile (enclosed) smoke funnels, and an aft superstructure. A full-service hangar and helipad are built over the stern of the ship for the launching and retrieval of a single helicopter.
Aboard is a complement of about 90 that includes a modest air wing detachment. One "Panther" medium-lift helicopter can be positioned on the helipad at the stern of the ship. This aircraft can be equipped to cover a range of at-sea missions including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Search & Rescue (SAR), transport, resupply, MEDEVAC, and the like all the while providing an important over-the-horizon capability. The internals of the vessel are also arranged to handle a full complement of thirty-five marines for supporting amphibious- or humanitarian-centered operations anywhere in the world.
The warship is equipped with the DRBV-21C (Mars) air-sentry radar system, the Racal Decca RM1290 navigation suite, and inertial/GPS navigation systems. The ARBG-1A Saigon and Dagaie systems fulfill the Electronic Warfare (EW) and decoy requirement.
Beyond its sensors and processing systems, Prairial features a modest combination armament mix made up of ballistic- and missile-based weapons. This is led by the single 100mm CADAM turreted deck gun and backed by 2 x MM.38 "Exocet" Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) launchers. For close-in defensive work, the crew can call upon 2 x 20mm Modele F.2 guns. As the vessel's primary role is surveillance and monitoring, her armament suite is somewhat limited compared to other modern frigates.
The warship's only major deployment was to East Timor during INTERFET where she served as part of the peacekeeping initiative headed by Australia (under the flag of the United Nations). She remained on station from October to November of 1999 (the conflict ranged from September 1999 until February 2000).