Royal Navy sailors joined their French counterparts at action stations over the weekend for one of the French Navy’s largest quarterly exercises.
Helicopter carrier HMS Ocean took part in Exercise Gabian off the coast of Toulon, a large-scale exercise that takes place four times a year and is the French Navy’s principal operational training exercise for task group operations.
HMS Ocean, which has been working as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, used that experience to fit neatly into France’s amphibious task group training, seamlessly operating side-by-side.
A mixture of air-defence exercises, boarding operations and replenishment at sea provided invaluable training and HMS Ocean also took the opportunity to build on her experience of the amphibious exercise Albanian Lion 14 which finished last week.
Joining this French exercise helps strengthen the international partnership with the French armed forces that developed following the Lancaster House Treaty in 2010. Since then, the Royal Navy has been sharing expertise and operating in company with the French Navy, on exercises and operations, around the world.
HMS Ocean’s involvement in Exercise Gabian culminated with a historic meeting onboard between Commander UK Maritime Forces, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant and his opposite number, Rear Admiral Eric Chaperon, Commander French Maritime Forces. They discussed opportunities for future exchanges and mutual support, and HMS Ocean was the perfect backdrop with the plan next year for it to become the Flagship for Commander UK Maritime Forces. 1 of 2
Captain Tim Henry, Commanding Officer of HMS Ocean, said: “Our time operating alongside the French Navy has shown, once again, how similar our two navies are. From replenishment-at-sea to anti-air warfare we operate with a common language and a common understanding of the challenges faced by globally deployed navies.
“France and Great Britain are defence partners of choice in Europe and it is great that we have been able to operate together this early in HMS Ocean’s return to the front line.”
HMS Ocean is the Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, designed to deliver troops to the centre of the action by helicopter or by landing craft.
She can operate six helicopters on her flight deck with space in the hangar to hold, transport and maintain many more aircraft. The ship has a crew of 380 personnel including 9 Assault Squadron Royal Marines who operate the four small landing craft (vehicle and personnel), to take combat troops ashore. HMS Ocean weighs 21,500 tonne and has a top speed of 16 knots and a range of 8,000 miles.