The La Fayette class from prow to stern

La Fayette class frigate
The forecastle is fully covered and its interior can be accessed through gates and hatches that remain closed during navigation and are opened only during mooring maneuvers. Every mooring element, either located on the forecastle or astern, is under cover and behind protective bulkheads, being accessed the maneuvers through special gates. Also every ladder has been placed internally.

Mooring elements
The Model 1968 mounting of the CADAM 100-millimeter 55-caliber dual-purpose cannon was redesigned with flat angled surfaces to follow the stealth design. The French 100-millimeter cannon, in continuous development since the late 1940s, has been a very successful weapon. It has a maximum range of 17 kilometers against surface targets and 8 kilometers against aerial targets, and it was claimed to be effective against sea-skimming missiles.

On the high bridge, placed atop a stealth pedestal just before the mast, is installed the fire control radar for the cannon (shown in the photograph below), a Thomson-CSF Castor 2J, which operates in J band and has a range of 17 kilometers for targets of up to one square meter. The highest part of the main mast hosts, among other sensors, the ESM device Thompson-CSF ARBR 17. Navigation radars include two Racal-Decca 1229 operating in I band, one of them to control the helicopter.

Atop the aft funnel is located the air/surface search radar Thompson-CFS Tiger Mk 2, which operates in E/F bands and has a range over 100 kilometers for targets of up to two square meters. For weapons control there is a radar/infrared system Thomson-CSF CTM and an optronic system Sagem TDS 90 VIGY, being the combat data system the Thompson-CSF TAVITAC 2000. Other systems onboard are the SATCOM Syracuse and the OPSMER command support system.

Fire control radar Thomson-CSF Castor 2J
Many elements are protected from radar waves behind inclined bulkheads, such as the two 20-millimeter cannons, the decoy launchers and the inflatable boats.

Protective bulkhead
On the bridge wings there are two 20-millimeter automatic cannons Giat 20F2 with a rate of fire of 720 rounds per minute and a maximum range of 10 kilometers. These cannons are particularly useful against fast boats approaching the ship. Note how the folding bulkhead has the same inclination than the bulkhead of the superstructure.

Giat 20F2 20-millimeter cannon
A rollable metallic curtain, whose mesh was designed to reduce to the minimum its radar signature, covers the boat niches, as these and the associated equipment of davits are difficult to protect in a proper way from radar waves. In the deck above the boat niches are installed the two quadruple launchers for the antiship missile Exocet.

Boat niche
After the aft funnel, and above the hangar, is placed the point-defence system Crotale Naval, a navalized version of a French Air Force surface-to-air missile system. The missile is produced by Matra and the electronic systems by Thompson-CSF. The system has an octuple missile launcher and eighteen reloads in a magazine. The range is from 11 to 16 kilometers depending on the altitude of the target. The integrated electronic system comprises a sensor pod with search/tracking elements of semiactive radar, electrooptical and infrared type. The missiles - which are missing in the photograph - are automatically loaded from loading hatches placed on the deck. Note that antiradar plates have been applied to the exemplar in the photograph.

Crotale Naval point-defence system
Astern, the flight deck provides enough space to maneuver large helicopters, such as the NH 90 Super Frelon, and it is provided with the SAMAHE helicopter handling system, which can transfer a 10-ton helicopter between the hangar and the flight deck in less than two minutes, a Beartrap emergency hooking system and rails for a transport cart. The helicopter transported can carry antiship missiles AM39 or AS15 and be launched during rough sea conditions thanks to the SAMAHE system.

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