French task force ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ 2022, a five-month operational deployment of a two-vessel Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), arrived in Cape Town on the morning of Tuesday 26 April.
The annual ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ mission is a French Navy (Marine Nationale) joint and allied operational deployment focused on training for cadets from the French Naval College (École Navale), allowing young midshipmen to get on-the-job training at sea.
The 2022 iteration is built around the landing helicopter dock (LHD) Mistral (L9013) and La Fayette-class frigate Courbet (F712). This is the first operation deployment of Courbet following her mid-life update.
During their five-month operational deployment, the young men and women who left their home port of Toulon naval base on 18 February are learning about the challenges of operational preparation, developing the know-how essential to their careers as naval officers, and demonstrating their ability to adapt in order to be able to operate in different environments.
In addition to its training program, the Jeanne d’Arc mission aims at ensuring France’s situational awareness in areas of strategic interest. This mission is also an opportunity for the French Navy and Army units deployed to conduct joint and combined exercises and, if necessary, specific military operations.
Whilst the 2021 ARG deployed to the Indo-Pacific, this year the ARG will deploy from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean, via the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. It will call in Jordan, Djibouti, India, South Africa, Cameroon, Gabon, Brazil and Portugal.
Having participated in a Passex (passing exercise) with Egypt, Exercise Wakri 22 in Djibouti and the maiden edition of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) Maritime Exercise 2022 (IMEX-22) off India, the ARG joined Operation Atalanta, the European counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean.
Thereafter the Jeanne d’Arc group took part in Exercise Papangue on Reunion Island, practising the evacuation of foreign nationals.
Departing Reunion, the ARG was joined by Reunion-based French light surveillance frigate Le Nivose (F732) and Patrol Vessel FS Champlain (A623) for the voyage to Cape Town.
For the “Jeanne d’Arc” 2022 mission, Tonnerre is carrying a French Navy Dauphin helicopter from the 35F squadron and Camcopter S-100 unmanned aerial vehicles.
Whilst there will not be any joint exercise between the French and the South African navies during the current port call, the two navies will partake in the customary interactions between a visiting foreign warship and local naval and government dignitaries.
South Africa already holds a regular joint maritime exercise with France, namely Exercise Oxide and the latest edition will take place in November this year.
Following their departure on Sunday 1 May, the task force heads up the west coast of Africa to Cameroon and Gabon where it will participate in counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Guinea.
However, both Le Nivose and Champlain will continue their own patrols to reinforcing the French presence around Mayotte and other French economic areas.
The ARG will then cross the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil and the Caribbean island of Martinique before heading back across the Atlantic Ocean to Portugal and finally the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean for a return to Toulon in July.
For now, 640 sailors (including 160 students) and 120 soldiers from the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment (RIMa) and Marine Infantry Tank Regiment (RICM) aboard are enjoying all that Cape Town has to offer.