US, French navies meet for second bilateral strategic dialogue

A French Navy (FN) Rafale fighter aircraft
A French Navy (FN) Rafale fighter aircraft launches from the US Navy (USN) Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush during carrier operations exercises in the Mediterranean Sea in November 2022. The strategic partnership between the FN and USN is generating integrated combined operations across the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific theatres. (Credit: US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) and the French Navy (FN) have conducted their second annual bilateral strategic dialogue, the USN has announced.

In a meeting held at the Pentagon, Washington, DC in mid-June, the USN’s Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations (DCNO Ops) Vice Admiral Gene Black and the FN’s Chief of International Relations Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey met to continue the dialogue’s discussions, which focus on the goal of enhancing high-end warfighting interoperability.

The dialogue takes place within the wider bilateral Strategic Interoperability Framework (SIF), which was established between the two navies in December 2021. The framework focuses on: core warfighting functions, including air, surface, sub-surface, and special forces operations; and core support functions, including communications/data exchange, and logistics. In a statement, the USN said “the framework aims to give fleet commanders additional operational flexibility during competition, crisis, or conflict, preparing partners to operate together.”

Vice Adm Black – who, as DCNO Ops, is responsible for USN operational planning including co-ordinating employment of naval forces around the world – highlighted the FN’s regular contributions to NATO exercises and its continued collaboration with the USN in meeting shared challenges.

Pointing to particular collaborations at sea, Rear Adm Rey highlighted the deployment of two USN Arleigh Burke-class destroyers – the Flight I ship USS Arleigh Burke and Flight IIA ship USS Truxtun – alongside the FN’s FS Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group (CSG), in a co-operative deployment between November 2022 and March 2023 that encompassed the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean.

Most recently, in June, the FN Horizon-class destroyer FS Forbin integrated into the USN’s USS Gerald R Ford CSG for operations in the Mediterranean, and the FN Aquitaine-class FREMM frigate FS Lorraine worked with the USS Ronald Reagan CSG in the Philippine Sea.

Regarding the bilateral talks, Rear Adm Rey said “Dialogues like the one we had today enable mutual understanding and make us even more capable and ready to accomplish any mission we set out to complete.” He also underlined the SIF construct’s utility in enabling more advanced interoperability objectives to be established for future collaborative deployments in the Pacific region.

Underlining the two navies’ collective focus on collaborating to address maritime matters across the Indo-Pacific region, in late May the FN’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Pierre Vandier visited US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) Commander Admiral John Aquilino at INDOPACOM, Hawaii. In a social media statement on 1 June, Adm Vandier said the two admirals discussed Indo-Pacific security and future co-operation.

by Dr. Lee Willett, London