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The French term Escorteur (Escort Ship) appeared during the Second World War to designate a warship, of a medium or light displacement, whose mission was to protect ocean convoys and naval squadrons from attacks by submarines. This role was in general handled by a destroyer escort such as the Buckley and Cannon classes built in the United States, or a Hunt-class destroyer built by the United Kingdom, or even a River class built by the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The Imperial Japanese Navy used the denomination of Kaibokan for this type of naval ship.
Construction of a new fleet
During the years 1950–1960, France reconstituted the navy with the assistance of the United States which contributed most of the rebuilding program. Following certain hesitations, the term « escorteur » was finally chosen for this new type of warship, instead of the traditional « torpilleur » or « contre-torpilleur », which were abandoned.
The four families of escorteurs
- 18 Squadron Escorteurs: 12 T 47 class , 5 T 53 class, 1 T 56 class: bâtiments of 3,000 tons, length 128 to 132 metres (420 to 433 ft), vocation anti-ship, anti-submarine, anti-aerial, picket radar flotilla navigation. They formed until the end of 1980s, the backbone forces of high-seas of the French Navy. For NATO, those were destroyers.
- 18 Rapid Escorteurs : Type E50 and Type E52; lighter bâtiments of 1,500 t, length 99 metres (325 ft), vocation anti-submarine, types E50, E52A, E52B. For NATO, those were frigates.
- 9 Aviso Escorteurs : Commandant Rivière class; bâtiments of 2,100 t, length 103 metres (338 ft) , vocation anti-submarine and anti-ship. For NATO, those were frigates.
- 14 Coastal Escorteurs : ( 3 Le Fougeux class and 11 L'Adroit class; bâtiments of 400 t, 52 metres (171 ft) length. For NATO, those were patrol boats and submarine chasers.
The designation of « escorteur » is no longer used in the French Navy. The designation has been replaced by that of frigate, aviso or patrol boat.