The former Military Sealift Command freighting tanker Sealift Caribbean (T-AOT-174), returned to her owners at the end of a 20-year charter in 1995, was purchased early this year by the Peruvian Navy. The Bath-built, 27,217-deadweightton tanker has been renamed the Lobitos and given the same pendant number (ATP-159) as an earlier tanker of that name in Peruvian Navy service. The Lobitos primarily carries revenue cargo for Petroperu, the Peruvian national oil company, and lacks any underway replenishment capability. Seen here while still in U.S. service, the ship was one of nine sisters completed in 1974-75 under an early form of the "build-and-charter" concept.
With the recently announced decision to permanently retire the older carrier Foch in 1999, the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle , seen here fitting out during 1997, likely will be France's only aircraft carrier for the foreseeable future. Other French naval programs have had to be severely curtailed to ensure funding for the de Gaulle 's completion, but with the retirement next year of the last of the F-8P Crusader interceptors and Etendard IVP reconnaissance aircraft and the demise of the remaining Alize surveillance aircraft in 2000, the new carrier will have a fixed-wing combat air group composed only of two 12-plane squadrons of aging Super Etendard light strike fighters until the first squadron of Rafale-M interceptors enters service in 2002. A strike version of the Rafale-M will not be available until 2004, and not until 2007 will it be possible to retire the last of the Super Etendards when a nuclear stores-capable version of the Rafale-M arrives. The last of only 60 planned Rafale-Ms currently is scheduled to deliver in 2012. The 40,600ton, 26-knot Charles de Gaulle , laid down in April 1989, is planned to commission late in 1999, barring any more of the delays and fiscal constraints that already have hindered her progress.
Although the French Navy's La Fayette -class "stealth frigate" program has been cut to five units and commissioning of the last, the Guepratte , has been delayed until 2002, the basic design has found favor with Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, which between them have ordered a total of nine modified units. Various versions also are on offer to other countries. The fourth French Navy unit, the Aconit (ex- Jaureguiberry ), seen here running initial sea trials in April of this year, is to commission in 1999. French Navy La Fayette s have no antisubmarine sensors or weapons, and, indeed, the French Navy has not ordered a new ASW-capable surface ship since 1979 and has had to cut its planned procurement of the troubled multinational "Horizon Frigate" class to only two, the first of which may be completed in 2005.