On the 25th of July, the French Navy marked a significant milestone as it welcomed its inaugural Félix Éboué-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV), known as the Patrouilleur d’Outre-Mer (POM), into active duty. Named Auguste Bénébig (P 779), this first-of-its-kind vessel is part of a batch of six Félix Éboué-class OPVs commissioned to replace the aging P400-class patrol boats stationed in France’s overseas territories. The fleet will be strategically stationed across New Caledonia (Nouméa), French Polynesia (Papeete), and La Réunion (Pointe des Galets). The construction of these POMs is the result of a contract awarded to a consortium formed by Socarenam and CNN MCO on December 3, 2019. The shipbuilding process is taking place at shipyards operated by Socarenam in Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, as well as Saint-Malo in Brittany.
The Patrouilleurs Outre-mer (POM), or Félix Éboué class, are a type of six high-sea patrol vessels of the French Navy. They are to be based at Nouméa, Tahiti and La Réunion, as replacement for the P400-class patrol vessels which are nearing the end of their career. Auguste Bénébig’s construction commenced in October 2020, followed by its launch in October 2021. The vessel embarked on sea trials in July 2022 and successfully completed an extensive overseas trial spanning from January to April 2023. After these trials, it arrived at its designated home port at Chaleix naval base in Nouméa, New Caledonia, to undergo further sea acceptance trials in preparation for its official commissioning.
The construction of the second vessel, Teriieroo a teriierooiterai (P 780), commenced in 2021, with its launch following in 2022. Delivery is anticipated in the latter part of 2023 or early 2024, and this vessel will be stationed in Papeete. The remaining ships are slated for delivery completion by 2026. In the future, Auguste Bénébig will be joined by its sister ship Jean Tranape (P 781) for operational activities in New Caledonia, while Philippe Bernardino (P 782) will be stationed alongside Teriieroo a teriierooiterai. Once in active service, the ship will operate under the command of the French armed forces in New Caledonia (FANC), undertaking a diverse range of missions encompassing maritime surveillance, pollution monitoring, and search-and-rescue (SAR) operations.
The Félix Éboué-class vessels displace 1,300 tons fully loaded., with a length of 80 metres (262 ft 6 in), a beam of 11.8 m (38 ft 9 in), and draught of 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in). The crew is made up of 30 sailors, but they can accommodate 29 passengers and support combat divers.. They have two 8 m (26 ft) swift inflatable boats and an Airbus Aliaca unmanned aircraft system (UAS) drone. The drone, capable of up to three-hour missions over a 50-kilometre (31 mi) range, is launched by catapult and recovered automatically via a net. The ships are fitted with a Lyncea combat system made by Nexeya. Surveillance radars are made by Hensoldt. Armament comprises a Nexter Narwhal 20 mm (0.79 in) autogun at the bow, and four mounts for 12.7 mm (0.50 in) and 7.62 mm (0.300 in) machine guns.