US, France And UK Navies To Work Closely Together In The Indo-Pacific Region

As reported in Naval News, the United States, the U.K. and France have signed an agreement for cooperation in technology and intelligence gathering for the next twenty years.  Given that this arrangement is specific to each country’s respective naval services, it does not extend to our other armed forces or the full apparatus of intelligence-gathering abilities of the NSA and CIA.

While the United States have been close allies for more than one hundred and twenty years, France and the U.S. have been allies at arms length for decades. France was a founding member of NATO and its headquarters was located in Paris during the 1950s and early 60s. In 1966, France pulled out of NATO’s unified command structure to retain command over its own forces while nominally remaining a member.

France Was A Self- Limiting Participant In NATO

Under these conditions, France was able to go its own way with respect to its foreign policy during the Cold War where it was not considered a reflextive belligerent to the USSR.  Following the Cold War it did commit troops and air assets to NATO operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid-1990s and again in Afghanistan and in Mali fighting terrorists.  Their military forces are generally considered to proficient with their Special Operations Forces considered to be first rate.

In 2009, France agreed to place itself again under NATO’s unified command structure while retaining discretion as to which operations it would participate in, declining membership in the Nuclear Planning Group which steers NATO policy on employing nuclear weapons, while insisting that no French forces be placed under permanent NATO command.  Finally, it refused participation in the common funding of certain NATO projects started before their return.

The Global War on Terrorism led to much closer ties between the U.S. and France, as France had taken a major terrorism fighting role in nations like Libya and Mali in Africa.

That is not to say that things have been entirely harmonious between our three countries.

Recently, the U.S. and Great Britain dealt France’s defense industries a blow when Australia voided a contract for French diesel submarines in favor of nuclear subs from the UK with U.S. made sensor suites and perhaps torpedoes as well.  France and the U.S. have had some other contentious issues in the past.

France and the UK had an ugly spat over fishing rights off the island of Jersey which is possession of the UK.  This dispute saw UK gunboats breaking a blockade of a Jersey Port by French fisherman and France threatening to cut off electrical power to the island. France controlled an electrical cable previously laid across the English Channel while the UK was still part of the European Union.

In the early 1960s, the United States shared technology with France to allow her to build nuclear ballistic missile submarines.  Much of it somehow ended up in the hands of the Soviet Union which launched it’s Yankee class SSBN which bore a striking resemblance in design to the U.S. Navy’s ‘Benjamin Franklin’ and ‘Lafayette’ SSBN classes.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Vietnam conflict left millions of dollars of American military equipment in the hands of the communists.  The expectation was that without spare parts it would be of little use to them.  In the early 1980s France was found to be ordering large amounts of spare parts from from the U.S. that was finding its way to Vietnam to repair and maintain this captured equipment.  Prior to U.S. involvement in region, France had withdrawn after a serious defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

A French Dassault Rafale M fighter jet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Ike is conducting operations in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket/Released)

As recently as June,  the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11) participated in a bilateral maritime exercise with the French frigate FS Germinal (F735) off the coast of French possession Martinique, while operating in the Caribbean Sea.

The entry of France and the U.S. into this agreement may have come as a result of Russian, Iranian and Communist China announcing that each had developed hypersonic anti-ships missiles.  During the press conference announcing this tripartiate cooperation agreement between the U.S., the U.K. and France, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday stated that countering hypersonic missiles was an exercise currently ongoing in the North Atlantic deal with the threat of these missiles, saying,

“Now, at the moment, off Scotland, all three of our navies are being involved in an exercise called Formidable Shield about how we counter some of the most dangerous threats out there with ballistic missiles and supersonic missiles.  And we’re working together to combat those threats, and we will work together to support our interests and values all around the globe.”