UK and France take part in huge naval exercise to counter ‘emerging threats’ | France

France’s most senior naval commander has mentioned future conflicts are possible to be fought at sea and in cybersphere, citing the “fast rearmament” of nations equivalent to China as a possible risk.

Admiral Pierre Vandier made his feedback after the French Marine Nationale and forces from 5 allied nations, together with the UK, took part in what he described as a novel two-week exercise supposed to put together for “composite threats”.

Political and diplomatic relations between London and Paris sank to a brand new low after the Aukus row in October when Australia cancelled a contract to purchase French submarines and signed a joint safety pact with the UK and US to purchase American vessels as a substitute, however defence hyperlinks between the 2 nations stay agency.

Lt Commander Duncan Abbott, the one Royal Navy officer aboard the French plane provider for Polaris 21, mentioned he had seen no post-Aukus tensions.

“There exist inextricable ties between the French and the UK and there are numerous alternate officers like me working with the opposite’s navy. All these relations are carried out day to day on a private stage and there’s been no change,” he mentioned.

In an handle to crew and journalists aboard the plane provider Charles de Gaulle, the flagship of the French fleet, because the Polaris exercise got here to an finish, Vandier mentioned: “For the final 20 years we have now seen naval forces concerned in conflicts which have taken place primarily on land, as in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

“At the moment the maritime surroundings is challenged or shall be, by submarines, by cyber-attacks, by area assaults and by a naval battle itself. Our mission is to perceive these elements in an operational setting.”

Vandier mentioned the “compelled march” to increase of sure navies he wouldn’t identify in the Mediterranean – clearly understood to be Russia – and China in the Pacific had been the principle threats.

“At the moment we’re seeing the expansion of navies to two or thrice what they had been. We’ve got seen the tripling of the Chinese language navy in 10 years in order that it now exceeds the US navy,” he mentioned.

The rapidity of worldwide rearmament was creating dysfunction and taking part in with the “keystone of worldwide stability”, hesaid. “We can’t wait till it’s too late, we can’t be taken abruptly, we have now to show our credibility. In an unrestricted, unsure, unstable world if we wish to be revered we have now to present our pugnacity. We’ve got to put together for fight in all conditions.”

Polaris 21, one of many greatest ever worldwide sea workout routines, concerned 6,000 navy personnel from six nations – all Nato allies – and half the French navy in the simulation of a “excessive depth” battle for the management of occupied territory.

A naval officer on the deck of the French helicopter carrier Tonnerre
A naval officer on the deck of the French helicopter provider Tonnerre. {Photograph}: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Photographs

Twenty-four battleships took part, together with vessels from the US, Italy, Spain, Greece and the Royal Navy’s Kind 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, in addition to French land and air forces. These collaborating had been divided into two enemy camps and engaged in an intense six-day “battle” in actual time managed from the Charles de Gaulle.

At one level there was a blackout of satellite tv for pc communication for twenty-four hours leaving forces to function in what officers described because the “fog of battle”.

“It was a return to the Nineteen Eighties,” mentioned one officer in cost of coordinating flights. “We had no thought the place the enemy was.”

All crew had been ordered to flip off their cell phones to keep away from being traced. A ship might be tracked if a single sailor has misconfigured considered one of their functions, officers mentioned.

“Warfare even on the tactical stage has turn out to be fully composite as we speak. The digital traces we go away are instruments for the combatants,” Vandier mentioned.

Emerand, a fighter pilot, mentioned the 16-day exercise had been intense. Two squadrons of the jets had been repeatedly scrambled with out discover as they’d be in an actual fight and a simulated mission came about to rescue an ejected fighter pilot from enemy territory.

“It was a novel exercise over a big space and for a very long time,” he mentioned. “In addition to testing our personal capacities it despatched the message of what we and our allies can do. It allowed us to see our capability to react towards an enemy that’s as properly armed and even higher armed than us.”

The Charles de Gaulle and the UK plane provider HMS Queen Elizabeth additionally took part in Exercise Gallic Strike in the western Mediterranean in June, exhibiting how the 2 navies may work collectively.

Abbott, who’s on detachment to the Marine Nationale on the naval base in Toulon, mentioned Polaris had examined the French navy’s “plug and battle” capabilities, that means the power to combine non-French forces right into a nationwide deployment.

“The entire objective of the exercise was to have a look at preventing in a high-intensity scenario, to check the French and allied models’ functionality to reply to unpredictable and totally different threats in an agile means. What we discovered is {that a} ship like HMS Dragon may have been built-in. It was a very helpful coaching alternative,” he mentioned.

“It was about preventing above, on and below the water. The Royal Navy and Marine Nationale are comparable in some ways together with measurement and the way in which we function. It’s unlikely France could be concerned in one thing and the British not.”

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