COLBERT cruiser gallery

In 1959 the C-611 Colbert cruiser entered service, which as a curiosity was not launched, since it was built on a dock and lacked the classic entrance to the water by horizontal displacement. Its design was similar to the C-610 De Grasse cruiser that, although it began to be built in 1938, did not enter service until 1956, so its design, as well as that of the Colbert, was quite out of date when they entered service. However, C-611 Colbert was able to benefit from some improvements during its construction, such as the incorporation of four Indret high-power boilers coupled to two groups of CEM-Parsons turbines. These two groups were installed in two separate rooms, one forward and one aft of the boilers, achieving a maximum power of 86,000 shp. The maximum speed was about 32 knots and its autonomy reached 4,000 miles (7,400 km) at the high cruising speed of 25 knots.
The ship was built in the classic style with a certain degree of armoured protection and had an 80mm thick waterline belt in the central area that tapered to 50mm at the ends. In addition, as horizontal protection, a 50mm thick armoured deck was installed, enough to detonate bombs with contact fuze. The Colbert was designed to perform as an anti-aircraft escort and had an armament accordingly. It had a powerful battery consisting of 16 dual purpose 127/54mm guns in double turrets and 20 rapid fire Bofors 57/60mm anti-aircraft guns in twin turrets. Certainly the artillery was remarkable, although at this time the arrival of jet powered aircrafts and the technical advances in missiles made this armament somewhat useless except to support landings. These guns were stabilized and controlled by an automatic fire control system.
Between 1962-63 the ship received a modernization regarding its electronic equipment to be able to act as flagship and carry out air control operations. Until 1964 she alternated this task with the De Grasse cruiser in the Mediterranean Squadron, but from 1964 to 1969, the Colbert exercised it without interruption. In addition, it was assigned the task of acting as a rapid transport in case of emergency, with which it could transport a land force for a short period.
The C-611 took on the role of a “diplomatic ship” so to speak. She made numerous trips to represent France in various events and celebrations. The ship’s most “famous” moment took place in July 1967 during General de Gaulle’s tour of Canada. On the 24th, while on an official visit to Montreal, he had no idea other than to proclaim: ” Vive le Québec libre!” (live free Québec!) at the end of a public speech, which produced a serious diplomatic crisis with Canada that forced him to cancel the rest of the planned tour. Certainly, this event shouldn’t be the highlight of a warship’s career, but that’s the way it is.
Between 1970 and 1972 Colbert received an extensive modernization in almost all areas of the ship. It received an air conditioning system for the entire ship as it only had an old very ineffective ventilation system. The electronic suite installed at the time of her retirement was very extensive and the main systems were a DRBV 23C radar and a DRBV 20C radar for aerial exploration, a DRBV 50 radar for surface control and low altitude air, a Racal Decca 1226 navigation radar, a DRBI 10 D and a Thomson CSF DRBC-32C fire control radar for 100mm guns, two DRBC 31C fire control radar for 57 mm guns, two Thomson CSF DRBR-51B fire control radars for Masurca missiles and a SENIT-1 tactical combat system. As electronic countermeasures it carried an ARBR-10F radar detector/interceptor, an ARBB-31 and ARBB-32 jammers, two Syllex chaff/decoy dispensers and a TACAN.
The original guns were almost totally retired, losing all 127mm guns and four 57mm turrets, leaving only 12 57mm guns in six twin turrets. Two 100mm dual purpose Model 68 automatic naval guns were installed in single turrets at the bow and a double missile launcher for medium-range surface-to-air missiles Masurca Mk.2 mod.3 was installed in the stern. The aft magazines were used to store the missiles and their reloading system. In addition, a helicopter pad was installed at the stern end, behind the missile launcher.
In 1981, the Colbert received its last modernization with the installation of a Syracuse satellite communications system and the incorporation of four simple launchers for MM-38 Exocet anti-ship missiles. The installation of these missiles represented a great increase in its combat capacity, placing the ship among the most powerful units of the Marine nationale. With this arrangement, the C-611 would face its only combat deployment in its career. On August 13, 1990, Operation Salamandre began with the R-98 Clemenceau aircraft carrier and the A-608 Var oil tanker. The formation arrives in Saudi Arabia on September 23 after several stops in ports in the Gulf area. After unloading the helicopters transported by the Clemenceau for the French forces, they returned to France on October 6.
Colbert was decommissioned on May 24, 1991, several years ahead of schedule due to its high fuel consumption and the need for a large crew. In 1993, the ship became a floating museum in the city of Bordeaux, where it remained the main tourist attraction. Sadly, financial problems and certain citizen movements against it, forced its closure in October 2006 and its transfer to the Landévennec ship graveyard in May 2007. There it remained supplying spare parts for the R-97 Jeanne d’Arc helicopter cruiser until 2010, when this was also withdrawn. Finally, torches finished off what was left of the Colbert cruise ship in 2018.

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