The Royal Navy’s key deployment of 2012 - which will see the UK Response Force Task Group (UK RFTG) head to the Mediterranean - is due to join forces with the FS Charles de Gaulle and her carrier battlegroup for an exercise that will highlight co-operation between the two navies.
The link up was agreed by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, and his French counterpart, Amiral Bernard Rogel, who have met twice recently - once in Paris and once at the US Navy-led International Sea Power Symposium on Rhode Island - to formally review progress made since the signing of the UK-France treaty last year.
The two admirals said that maritime operations off Libya this year had demonstrated the significant progress already made in developing cooperation and interoperability between the two navies.
In addition to the international effort in the Gulf of Sirte, 2011 has seen the Cougar 11 Task Group - the first test of the UK RFTG since it was formed under last year’s Defence Review - work with the French patrol ship FS Commandant Birot, while just this month assault ship HMS Bulwark hosted 130 troops from 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment (2RIMa), plus all their equipment, for the latest Joint Warrior exercise in northwest Scotland.
In the two recent meetings, Admiral Stanhope and Amiral Rogel decided that the major assets of both navies should make ‘maximum use’ of working together as the two navies look to create a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force by the mid-decade - and that much of the foundations for such a force have already been laid.
The coming years will see an increasing number of British sailors and marines trading places with the French counterparts as part of the Personnel Exchange Programme designed to improve the understanding of the respective navies so they can work together more effectively.
In addition, more work will be carried out on the two navies’ aircraft carrier programmes, enabling British aircraft to fly from the Charles de Gaulle and French aircraft to operate from HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales when they enter service towards the decade’s end.
During his time in the USA, Admiral Stanhope visited Groton, Connecticut, known as the ‘submarine capital of the world’, to visit the latest addition to the US Silent Service.
The USS Missouri is the seventh of a planned 30 Virginia-class hunter-killer submarines, which are similar in size, firepower, equipment and price to the UK’s new Astute-class boats.
Captain Mike Bernacchi, Commander of the US Navy’s Submarine Squadron 4, guided Admiral Stanhope around the brand-new Missouri. Admiral Stanhope is himself a submariner with two commands - those of HMS Orpheus and HMS Splendid - under his belt, and the role of teacher on the Perisher command course in a naval career spanning four decades.
The US officer said the visit was highly beneficial for both navies as the submariners discussed construction, training and modernisation of the two silent services:
Throughout my naval career I have had great interactions with the Royal Navy and through engagements, such as the visit aboard USS Missouri by the First Sea Lord, which was very engaging,” Capt Bernacchi explained.
We continually share information, which contributes to our alliance and makes us both stronger.
We discussed the advantage of the new training technologies and how that has led to advances in onboard warfighting preparation, which our captains are using to very effectively prepare our Virginia-class boats for at sea operations.