The “Hook’em Award” rewards Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) excellence. It is presented quarterly to a unit supporting U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet (also known as US Naval Forces Europe) which has demonstrated superior ASW readiness, proficiency, and operational impact.
The two Aquitaine-class FREMM frigates, operating under the tactical command of CTF 473 have demonstrated their excellence in ASW, as observed by the U.S. Navy during joint maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea in recent months.
The commanding officer discussed Naval News what led to this achievement of ASW expertise for the second straight year. He also revealed information on FREMM Frigates and their equipment, including the CAPTAS-4 variable depth sonar.
Naval News: Can you please first tell us what was your feeling when you learn that you won among other units, the 2021 Hook’em award?
Commander Le Goff: Of course, it was a pride. The commanding officers and crews of the two ships that received the award, as well as the staff, were very proud of that. It’s always an acknowledgment of the direction taken, as far as equipment, training, tactics, and operations. And we’ve got such an ally giving you a thumb up for achieving operational results. It’s always great. So we are all proud of course.
Naval News: Can you tell us in which context, Languedoc and Provence and CTF 473 won the award? Was it during a mission in the Mediterranean Sea in the ocean Atlantic, during an escort mission of US Navy CSG?
Commander Le Goff: It was in the context of operations, anti-submarine warfare operations. I cannot release all the details, but the two ships that were part of the escort of the carrier strike group, during the last mission, the French mission CLEMENCEAU 21 with the French carrier. It was in the Mediterranean sea and it was, of course about hunting submarines. The operations involved French and American units and staffs and headquarters during quite a long time in the whole theater of Mediteranean.
Naval News: It is the second straight year that the French FREMM Frigates win this prestigious award. In your opinion, what leads to this success? Is it the proficiency of the crew in anti-submarine warfare? Is it the top-of-the-line equipment onboard those frigates??
Commander Le Goff: Well, in fact, the answer is somehow in the question. When you want to truly perform, you got to align a lot of criterias. When you want to win a Formula One Grand Prix, you got to have a good driver, good mechanics, good tactical staff. You also have to have the willingness and the pressure of a sponsor that wants to win. And in anti-submarine warfare, we got to the pressure and the demanding tasks to master what’s happening under the surface of the water. It’s part of the credibility of our strategic submarines. It’s also necessary to have our big decks able to have their freedom of action.
We’ve got also the naval industry that is maintaining some of the most advanced know-how and the crews. And you got to note that thanks to the submarine fleet, the surface fleet is mostly challenged and stimulated with high-intensity training. We’ve done that recently with a big exercise Polaris which was a high-intensity exercise. And all this is blooming at the same time. We’ve got new ships, new equipment. We got the high-end training and also the strategic context with the return of strategic competition underwater. You have got that way the context to have good results.
Naval News: Can you tell us a little bit about your ship? Its main specifications and characteristics as well as the anti-submarine warfare equipment you have onboard?
Commander Le Goff: The FREMM-class frigates are 6000-tonnes ships 142 meters in length. It’s a very automated ship so we got quite some optimized components with 109 people onboard, regardless of the helicopter detachment which is about 15 people. It’s a multipurpose ship, so, fitted with good air defense systems with good connectivity, but essentially well designed, with an adapted design for anti-submarine warfare. And in that way, we’ve got the connection with the NH90, which has very efficient sonars for ASW. We are specialized with a sonar suite with a variable depth sonar, as well as the NH 90 also with sonars, but it’s not the only way you have to do anti-submarine warfare.
It’s not all about acoustics, we have non-acoustic devices that are very important, like radar, electronic warfare, electro optical systems, also your mobility, you have to be fast and quiet. So the ship itself is important. And of course, you got to coordinate to have the connectivity necessary to coordinate all the force. We consider that FREMM gives that technological gap, And that is quite a game-changer at sea.
Naval News: We are now at the stern of the FREMM frigate Languedoc. Commander, what is this yellow sensor behind us?
Commander Le Goff: This sensor is our very-low-frequency active sonar. It’s our VDS, variable depth sonar. We call it the “fish” onboard. It’s supposed to be thrown into the water. It’s the emitter of the sonar in fact, the reception of the detection arriving on a towed array, which is just close to here. It is towed by a very long cable behind the ship. We’ve got the emission here by the yellow fish, and the reception on the towed array that is part of the detection of that kind of variable depth sonar.
Naval News: Last but not least commander. The US Navy selected the FREMM basic design as the base for its future frigate known as the Constellation-class. As a FREMM commander yourself, would you think that an efficient sonar like the CAPTAS-4 would be a great addition to this type of ship to improve it in anti-submarine warfare?
Commander Le Goff: I’ve been an ASW officer for years, for 22 years. And what I have learned that’s, you know, that on your side, but also in front of you got some countries and allies or in front of some competitors that they all have their own heritage, as far as technology, industry and knowledge is concerned. Concerning the Americans. they’ve got great hull-mounted sonars very powerful, great total raised as well. And the French got some specialization into active sonars into VDS, variable depth sonars. So it would be inaccurate or inappropriate to say that one sonar is better than another one. It’s essentially the way you use it, and where you use it in which environment. But I think that the way the French Navy is using CAPTAS-4 has proved very efficient. I think that the Hook’em award is proving that some specialists in the US Navy are also considering that this system is efficient.