The "MISSION JEANNE D'ARC 2021" will take the LHD and Frigate all the way to Japan. The ARG will transit the South China Sea twice.
JEANNE D’ARC is an annual long duration and joint deployment which aim is to provide officer cadets with “at sea” operational training before joining their units as officers. The mission has three main ojectives:
- Train the future generations of French Navy officers
- Deploying operational capabilities in areas of strategic interest
- Interoperability and regional cooperation
This year, the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) will deploy to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian ocean and Pacific ocean. Note that it will transit twice in the South China Sea. It will call in Egypt, Djibouti, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan (twice), Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Egypt again. Both vessels we be back in their home port of Toulon on 14 July 2021 (Bastille Day).
Not just a training mission, an operational deployment
According to the French Navy, JEANNE D’ARC is not just a training mission but a true operational deployment that is part of France’s defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific. This strategy intends to reaffirm France’s interest in this zone through a strengthened presence and intensified bilateral and regional cooperation activities. The ARG will join the Combine Task Force 150 (CTF150) in the Indian Ocean and will participate in various large-scale exercises with the navies of partner countries present in the Indo-Pacific zone (India, Australia, Japan and the United States). As Naval News reported previously, the group will participate in a combined amphibious exercise with the JMSDF and US Navy in May in on of Japan’ Southern islands.
French Army units aboard Tonnerre
Several French Army units participate in mission JEANNE D’ARC 2021: 155 soliders from 6e Brigade légère blindée, a command company from 2e Régiment étranger d’infantrie, a section from 13e demi-brigade de Légion étrangère, an armored platoon from 1er Régiment de Saphis, two combat sections from 31e Régiment du Génie, an AAW artillery section from 54e Régiment d’artillerie, a JTAC team from 3e Régiment d’artilllerie de marine. There are also two French Army Gazelle helicopters from 4e brigade d’aérocombat.
- 1 Panther helicopter from French Navy 36F airwing
- One EDA-R and two CTM (LCM) and 20 sailors from the French amphibious flottila
- Loire-Class BSAM Support & Assistance Vessel Loire until Suez canal (another similar vessel from Djibouti to Toulon on the way back)
- Floréal-class Frigate Nivôse in the Indian ocean
- Other French Navy vessels could provide escort throughout the deployment
- A unit from 1er Régiment étranger du Génie
- A UAV detachment (with S-100 Camcopter VTOL UAV) may join the Tonnerre later on
“This deployment of the Jeanne D’Arc Group, this willingness to deploy in this zone reinforces the partnerships we have with our key partners in the zone, which are Japan, Australia, India and the United States. During our presence in the zone for 3 months, we will work to strengthen these partnerships.“Capt Arnaud Tranchant, Commanding Officer, LHD Tonnerre
During a phone interview yesterday, Naval News asked Captain Tranchant, the commanding officer of LHD Tonnerre whether he was planning to transit via the Taiwan strait. “We will take the most direct maritime routes […] while obviously respecting international law and the sovereignty of the territories near which we will navigate. But I must admit that we have not yet traced our roads in this area” Captain Tranchant replied.
Asked to share some details on the upcoming combined French, Japanese, US exercise, such as its location and participating units on the Americain and Japanese side, Tonnerre‘s commanding officer said the details are still being worked on “at this stage there are still a lot of things to be defined for this exercise”.
When asked if this deployment to the Indo-Pacific was a strong message sent by France, the Commander of Tonnerre explained:
“I’m going to stay at my tactical level: This deployment of the Jeanne D’Arc Group, this willingness to deploy in this zone reinforces the partnerships we have with our key partners in the zone, which are Japan, Australia, India and the United States. During our presence in the zone for 3 months, we will work to strengthen these partnerships. Of course we will do so while respecting our own line of conduct, which has been defined from the beginning as being present but avoiding tactical escalation or misunderstanding. It will be my “swimming lane” during this mission.”
Talking about the Varuna 21 exercise in India, Captain Tranchant said it will mark the first amphibious exercise between the French Navy and the Indian Navy.
He also confirmed that the ARG will participate to the implementation of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea (monitoring of the attempts to evade UNSC sanctions against North Korea). He confirmed that both the Tonnerre and Surcouf will fulfil this role and explained that the LHD is a suited vessel for this mission thanks to the Panther helicopter. He recalled that French Navy units previously deployed for this role alongside the United States and Japan. For example, a Falcon 200 operated from Japan in March 2019 to monitor North Korean illegal maritime activities. In April 2019, the Vendémiaire was deployed to detect and record ship-to-ship transfers carried out off the coast by or for North Korea. In addition, Naval News learned today from the French MoD that theFloréal-class surveillance frigate Prairial is deployed to the area since 9 February for the same role.
The Indo-Pacific region: a priority for France
France is present in the region via its overseas territories (Mayotte and La Réunion islands, Scattered Islands and French Southern and Antarctic Territories, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia and Clipperton) and 93% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The region is home to 1.5 million French people, as well as 8,000 armed forces personnel stationed in the region. In addition to the French Navy has vessels based in the region and assets from mainland France do deploy to the region. For example the Rubis-class SSN Emeraude recently patrolled the South China Sea.