After concluding several days of drills with the Egyptian Navy, the French task group composed of helicopter carrier BPC Tonnerre and destroyer FS Chevalier Paul pulled into Aqaba, Jordan, to embark US Marines on December 4.
The French Task Group 473.1, together with sailors and marines from Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (TF 51/5) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, will be conducting amphibious and maritime security operations within the US 5th Fleet area of operations.
According to Brig. Gen. Frank Donovan, commanding general of TF 51/5, France’s amphibious task group (CATG) will integrate into the command and control structure of US Naval Forces Central Command and provide critical leadership. While operating in the region, the ATG will report to US 5th Fleet and will remain under the tactical control of TF 51/5, but is also capable of conducting multiple missions simultaneously in support of France’s national tasking operations if required.
“This bilateral operation will provide an invaluable opportunity for our countries to enhance capabilities in critical mission sets inherent to the US Navy-Marine Corps team operating in the region,” said Capt. Todd Glasser, Navy deputy commander of TF 51/5.
The two french ships got underway from their homeport of Toulon on November 21 to start a five-month mission to the Middle East. After arriving off the coast of Egypt on November 26, BPC Tonnerre and FS Horizon-class air defense destroyer Chevalier Paul met up with Egyptian Navy ships for a series of drills.
The French ships were joined by Egyptian Navy’s Mistral-class helicopter carrier BPC Andwar El Sadat, Gowind corvette El Fateh – another French-built ship – and Ezzat-class missile boat Mahmoud Fahmy.
After a series of cross-deck evolutions and touch and go maneuvers performed by French helicopters aboard BPC Andwar El Sadat, the ships were joined by an Egyptian Navy Type 209 submarine for anti-submarine warfare drills.
The engagements of the French task group are part of a deployment called Bois Belleau 100, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, and in memory of the sacrifices of US Marines during the second battle of the Marne.
BPC Tonnerre and FS Chevalier Paul are scheduled to return home in March 2018.