Mistral-class amphibious assault ship Dixmude and La Fayette-class frigate FS Surcouf wrapped up the French Navy’s annual Jeanne D’Arc mission returning to naval base Toulon on July 19.
The two ships got underway in late February and sailed a total of 26,500 nautical miles over a period of 145 days.
In addition to French Gazelle and Alouette helicopters, the task group embarked Wildcat helicopters from the Royal Navy’s 847 Naval Air Squadron throughout their deployment to the western Pacific Rim.
The many exercises Dixmude and Surcouf joined included exercise Wakri off the coast of Djibouti, Indian Navy-hosted exercise Varuna and exercise Komodo in Indonesia. The ships also made port calls in Jakarta, Bali, Darwin, Saigon and Singapore.
The integration of British units and personnel for the duration of the deployment builds upon the cooperation between the two sides during Jeanne D’Arc 2017. This is also part of the UK’s program of bilateral defense cooperation with French forces, which includes the development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, a rapidly deployable joint UK-French force that can respond to crises.
The two countries recently organized the tri-service amphibious drill Catamaran 2018 which was also aimed at further developing the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force conceived following the 2010 Lancaster House Treaty.
Once the Dixmude returned to her home base of Toulon, the UK Wildcat detachment started a 680-mile journey back to their native Yeovilton, an eight-hour flight from the south of France with stops along the way to refuel and considerable planning to navigate French airspace.
“The Jeanne d’Arc deployment has been an excellent experience,” pilot Lt Oliver Leisk said looking back at the deployment
“We’ve seen some incredible places and carried out some really valuable training with the French and other nations. The assistance from the French pilots has been of great help and is one positive indication of how our working together has improved during the trip.”