The French term escorteur (French: Escorteur) appeared during the Second World War to designate a naval warship, referring to an average or light displacement, which had for mission to protect the oceanic convoys and squadrons from attacks coming from submarines. This role was in general handled by a destroyer escort such as the Buckley and Cannon classes built in the United States, or the Hunt-class destroyer built by the United Kingdom, or even the frigates of the 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.
In the immediate of the war, to fulfill the tasks of naval escorts, the French Navy was limited to a list of torpilleur and contre-torpilleur (otherwise known as destroyers) . Added was several naval ships of German and Italian origin recuperated at title of damages of the war, and several escort bâtiments originated from the United Kingdom and the United States, all under different designations:
The two light Italian cruisers Châteaurenault (D606) and Guichen (D607) would bear their namesake of squadron escorteur starting from 1955 until their disarmament in 1962 and 1963.
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 Squadrons 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 Avisos 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 Costal 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 adopted by the French Navy. The designation was replaced by those of frigates or destroyer, aviso or patrollers.
- Jean Moulin, Rober Dumas, Les Escorteurs d'escadre, Marines éditions Nantes, 1997 ISBN 2-909675297