On 24 April 1998, Halter Marine Group received one of the largest patrol boat orders won by a U.S. yard in many years—a dozen 79-foot units for the Venezuelan Navy's Coast Guard Command and ten 54-foot search-and-rescue patrol boats for the separate Venezuelan National Guard Armed Forces of Cooperation ( Guardia Nacional/Fuerzes Armadas de Cooperation ). All 22 craft are being fabricated of aluminum and assembled at Halter's Equitable Shipyards facility at New Orleans. Deliveries of both designs began early this year, and the program will continue into early 2000, funded by the Export-Import Bank. The National Guard craft (top) are powered by two MTU 12V183 TE93 diesels, can achieve 36 knots, have a range of 500 nautical miles, and employ a crew of five. The Coast Guard units (bottom) are capable of 25 knots on the power of their twin General Motors Detroit Diesel 12V92A engines, have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles, and carry a crew of ten. Both classes carry two single .50-caliber machine-gun mounts and are equipped with Raytheon radars and the latest small-craft communications and navigational equipment. Additional examples of the 54-foot design may be ordered if Venezuela's economy permits, to continue replacement of the large number of overage craft in the National Guard fleet. On 3 August of last year, the Coast Guard also received two additional former U.S. Coast Guard Point-class patrol boats for antidrug patrol use; the Point Ledge (WPB-82334) became the Albatros and the Point Franklin (WPB-82350) the Pelicano . This brought to four the number of 82-footers donated to Venezuela during this decade. The Venezuelan Coast Guard Command also operates two elderly frigates, two salvage craft, two survey launches, and nearly 20 smaller patrol launches. Two of Venezuela's six Italian-built Lupo -class frigates currently are undergoing a thorough refit and modernization by Ingalls Shipyard at Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The French Navy Tourville -class destroyer Duguay-Trouin (right), completed in 1975, is to be retired this summer. Her two sisters, the Tourville and De Grasse , were modernized during the mid-1990s with the Thomson-Marconi DSBX-1 low-frequency variable-depth sonar system, but the Duguay - Trouin was given only a modest refit in 1993-94 to permit her to act as escort for the French Navy's cadet training ship Jeanne d'Arc during the latter's annual world cruises. The 5,885-ton full-load displacement, steam-powered Duguay-Trouin is seen here from the Golden Gate Bridge departing San Francisco last October. At the end of 2000, the major surface combatant component of the French Navy will have one aircraft carrier, a dozen destroyers, four non-antisubmarine warfare-capable frigates, and ten small corvettes; only one major surface combatant, the final La Fayette -class stealth frigate, the Guepratte , will be under construction, scheduled to be completed in 2002. Along with other NATO navies, the French fleet has shrunk greatly throughout the 1990s, as a result of the diminished threat environment and—especially in France's case—adverse economic and social pressures. In addition, the protracted construction of the trouble-plagued nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and the development of the ship's much delayed air group have eaten funds originally earmarked for new surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships, mine countermeasures ships, and submarines. Construction for export, once a mainstay of the French naval construction industry, also had declined in recent years.