A French carrier strike group conducted exercises with U.S. and Australian, and Japanese warships while sailing through the Bay of Bengal this week. It is the first time the four navies have exercised exclusively together. The multi-national exercise follows a U.S. submarine joining the French group to conduct an anti-submarine exercise in the Indian Ocean.
France’s Charles de Gaulle, the world’s only other nuclear aircraft carrier outside the U.S. Navy, and its four escorts, was joined by a U.S. destroyer, a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate and submarine, a Japanese destroyer, and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF) largest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo (which Japan classifies as a helicopter destroyer).
The exercise, dubbed “La Perouse,” after an 18th century naval officer whose squadron disappeared on an exploratory expedition in the Pacific, focused on interoperability, communications, formation steaming, live-fire weapons shoots, and search and rescue drills. Australia’s Defence Ministry said the exercise also practiced humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security operations, sea control, and anti-submarine and air defense exercises.
Vice Admiral Phillip Sawyer, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, said that “La Perouse shows that our maritime forces can work together well anywhere in the Indo-Pacific. It reflects our shared values, traditions and bonds as like-minded sea services.”
Earlier, a U.S. attack submarine, the USS Hawaii, conducted an anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Charles de Gaulle’s group. That exercise improved interoperability between U.S. submarines and the French navy, and helped train the French task group to defend itself from undersea threats.
Earlier this month, the U.S. destroyer, the USS William P Lawrence, and the two Japanese warships conducted a weeklong patrol through the South China Sea together with the Indian and Philippine navies.
The Charles de Gaulle and its escorts are on a rare extended deployment to the Pacific. France’s defense ministry says that the ship will work with the U.S., British, Danish, and Portuguese navies, among others, over the course of the deployment. The United Kingdom plans on deploying its new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the Pacific in 2021. European navies are increasing their presence in the Pacific in response to China’s maximalist claims in the South China Sea. Last year the French and British navies conducted a joint patrol of the South China Sea to demonstrate presence in support of international norms and freedom of navigation.