For the first time in 55 years, Israeli navy vessels docked in a French port and participated in joint exercises in waters off the southern part of the country.
The INS Eilat Sa’ar 5 multi-mission corvette missile boat and the INS Kidon Sa’ar 4.5-class missile boat docked in the port of Toulon on June 21 after sailing for five days from Israel.
During the exercise the ships, along with troops from the French Navy and the frigate La Fayette, conducted several drills which included a large number of scenarios. The drills saw the participation of low-flying fighter jets simulating launching missiles towards the ships. French helicopters also participated in the exercise which also included artillery fire and a multi-casualty evacuation and rescue drill.
“This is a unique collaboration which contributed greatly to the learning of the two fleets and increased the readiness of the flotilla fighters,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.
According to Col. Ronen Hajaj, the head of the Navy’s Training and Doctrine Department, the drill helped the two allies build a shared language, so that the next time Israeli ships meet a French ship at sea the communication between the two “will be a lot more open.”
“France sees Israel as a strong maritime partner in the region,” Hajaj said, adding that relations with the French navy have increased in recent years due to common interests in the Middle East.
Last year, a senior Navy officer with knowledge of international cooperation in the navy told The Jerusalem Post
that the French have increasingly docked in Israeli ports – and for the past two years have even surpassed the Americans in their visits to Israel.
“We share intelligence [and] knowledge and drill with the French,” he said, adding that the Navy is “very happy” with the increase of French visits.
The historic drill in French waters also saw a meeting between the commander of the Israeli Navy, Maj.-Gen. Eli Sharvit, with his French counterpart, Commander of the French Navy, Admiral Christophe Parzuk.
“In the current era, in which many changes are taking place, the point of view of Israel’s naval arm must be global,” Sharvit said.
“Cooperation with Western fleets is essential and necessary in order to strengthen the security of Israel’s waters. The joint exercise with the French Navy, which added both new and significant knowledge and capabilities to both sides, constitutes another milestone in strengthening the Navy in international cooperation,” he added.
On Sunday two French battleships, Dixmude
and the frigate Surcouf
, led by Captain Jean Porcher and Commander Christine Ribbe respectively, arrived in Haifa as part of the French navy’s five month long Jeanne d’Arc mission.
The two French battleships are set to participate in several joint activities with the Israel Navy and Air Force next week.
French Navy ships have also been participating with the Egyptian Navy in a Red Sea naval drill set to last several days and focus on the use of modern naval tactics to counter maritime threats, and terrorism, and protect vital targets against non-traditional security threats.
According to local Egyptian media, the drill also saw troops practice how to implement naval formations, day and night navigation signals and training to protect ships with precious cargo.
In March, Egypt and France conducted one of the largest joint marine exercises to have taken place in the Red Sea, the “Cleopatra 2018” naval exercises. As part of the drill, which aimed to strengthen training of Egyptian armed forces with allied countries, troops launched a landing operation on an island.