The "Jeanne d’Arc" mission in Darwin
The organisation of exercises between the Navies of the two countries off the coast of Darwin is once again a concrete example of the recent strengthening of the strategic partnership between France and Australia.
The Landing Helicopter Deck (LHD) Mistral and the Frigate Courbet sailed from Toulon on 28 February to carry out these activities at the antipodes of metropolitan France. This five-month deployment took them to India, Vietnam, China, Japan and the United States (Guam), five strategic partners of France. These vessels have arrived in Australia on 27 May in Darwin, where they will stay for a four-day port call.
They are leading the « Jeanne d’Arc » mission, which contributes to the training of the officer-cadets of the French Navy in a joint and inter-allies context. This year, in addition to the 137 officer-cadets (Midshipmen), a detachment of some 60 British sailors and two Merlin helicopters from the Royal Navy are included on board the Mistral.
Navigation and all exercises are conducted in strict compliance with the United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea. France, a country bordering the Asia-Pacific region, thus wishes to reiterate its commitment to freedom of navigation and to the safety of maritime communication routes. It regularly exercises its right in the region by deploying its vessels stationed in metropolitan France, as is the case here, and more frequently those based in French Polynesia and New Caledonia. This presence is one of the missions of the 3,000 military pre-positioned in Tahiti and Noumea. The arrival in 2016 of the two new multi-mission ships D’Entrecasteaux and Bougainville demonstrates France’s determination to maintain a high level military commitment in the South Pacific.
The naval task force "Jeanne d’Arc" will conduct exercises off the Australian coast, together with Royal Australian Navy vessels, particularly in the amphibious field. The two navies, which are deployed in operations in the same areas and train regularly together, know each other well.
Both navies have been involved in counterterrorism and counter piracy in the Indian Ocean for several years. In spring 2016, the frigate Darwin had thus joined the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and the carrier strike group for a few days off the Strait of Hormuz.
The armed forces of the two nations are deployed on the same theater, the Levant. Both on the ground and in the air, they support the Iraqi armies in the fight against Daech and demonstrate their high level of interoperability, like the regular KC30 (Australian MRTT) in-flight refueling in favour of the French air force’s Rafales.
In the South Pacific, our ships are frequently requested to assist island states in the event of natural disasters, as was the case with the passage of cyclone PAM in Vanuatu in 2015 as well as cyclone WINSTON in Fiji in 2016. The implementation of the FRANZ agreements which bind France, Australia and New Zealand, ensures prompt emergency support. The Jeanne d’Arc mission also offers, during this visit to the Asia-Pacific region, a large-scale disaster response capability, as was the case in Indonesia in 2004.
In the Southern Ocean and the South Pacific, climate change and the scarcity of fish resources are causing a significant increase in illegal fishing activities, as experts have been observing in the Coral Sea for the past several months. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation under the QUAD agreements (Australia, the United States, France, New Zealand) is essential to combat offenders whose means are constantly modernising.
The exercises organised by Australia (KAKADU, Pitch Black, etc.) and France (CROIX DU SUD etc.), are all opportunities to maintain the high level of training and interoperability of our forces with our allies. The 2016 CROIX DU SUD Exercise, organised in New Caledonia, brought together nearly 1,700 military personnel from 12 different nationalities.
Australia and France share the same values. Both committed to the respect of the rules-based global order and encouraging multilateral dialogue, these two nations commit and train together to promote security and international stability alongside their major allies and partners.