HMS St Albans finds liberté, fraternité, intéroperabilité with French carrier group

Frigate HMS St Albans has joined the fight against Daesh by taking her place with the carrier strike group of the French flagship FS Charles de Gaulles.

After spending her first month east of Suez dealing with terrorism, piracy and smuggling in the Indian Ocean, the Saint has switched focus to protecting the carrier in the Gulf.

HMS St Albans takes her place in Task Force 50 – collectively more than 80,000 tonnes of Anglo-Franco-German steel and thunder – in the ongoing fight against the forces of Daesh.

Having spent her first month east of Suez dealing with piracy, smuggling and drug running in the Indian Ocean, the Saint has switched focus to join France’s flagship Charles de Gaulle and her battle group.

HMS St Alban’s rapid integration into the French strike operations against Daesh is symbolic of the UK’s solidarity and proof of the close relationship between the two nations’ military forces.

Cdr Richard Hutchings RN

The 43,000-tonne porte-avions and her air wing of 18 Rafale and 8 Super Étendard strike fighters are conducting regular raids against Daesh targets in the Middle East as part of Operation Chammal – the French codename for a mission the UK calls Shader and the Americans Inherent Resolve.

While destroyer HMS Defender is attached to the USS Harry S Truman carrier strike group as part of the same mission – and helping both to shield the Truman from aerial threats and help direct air strikes  by providing an unparalleled radar picture of Gulf skies – the emphasis for St Albans frigate is on anti-submarine and surface protection for the French flagship (St Albans is the first RN vessel to deploy to the region with the ultimate version of the Merlin helicopter).

As well as the Saint and the carrier, the task group comprises the air defence frigate FS Chevalier Paul (similar in outline and role to our Type 45 destroyers), escort frigates Provence and Aquitaine, the German frigate Augsburg and the support ship/tanker Marne.

The British ship spent three weeks training with the French in Toulon (just before the Paris atrocities) to hone her interopérabilité then honed it again in the Gulf with a combined French/UK/US anti-submarine exercise.

“HMS St Alban’s rapid integration into the French strike operations against Daesh is symbolic of the UK’s solidarity and proof of the close relationship between the two nations’ military forces,” said Cdr Richard Hutchings, St Albans’ CO.

His ship is deployed east of Suez until the second half of this year.

Pictures: Cindy Luu, Marine Nationale