The Royal Navy patrol ship, HMS Tamar, was incorporated into French-led Jeanne d’Arc task group within an international naval exercise, named La Perouse in the Indian Ocean on 13-14 March.

This naval enterprise follows the Paris summit meeting on 10 March, where the UK and France agreed to strengthen their defence cooperation efforts in a range of different areas. Common intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data was discussed as well as developments in the joint Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme, among many other points for integration of their military services.

The Jeanne d’Arc task group is a naval task group in the Indian ocean exercise led by France’s Marine Nationale, while the wider exercise itself incorporated other naval forces from Australia, Canada, Japan, India and the US. The French-led task group brought together the French frigate La Fayette and the assault ship Dixmude alongside their British counterpart HMS Tamar off the coast of Sri Lanka.

Eight ships and seven aircraft came together in the Bay of Bengal to conduct a series of high-level training exercises to strengthen interoperability between partner navies the French Embassy in New Delhi confirmed.

In the space of 48 hours, about ten training sequences were carried out, including twenty cross-decks. “These numerous sequences enhanced mutual knowledge between our navies, contributing to maintaining international stability based on adherence to international maritime law and safety at sea,” the French Embassy in New Delhi added.

HMS Tamar usually operates in the British Indian Ocean territory. The Royal Navy patrol ship has now resumed her Indian Ocean patrol on the latest leg of her five-year deployment with her sister ship HMS Spey to reinvigorate the Royal Navy’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Presence and interoperability

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared in the recent Integrated Review Refresh (IRR) that the “security and prosperity of the Euro-Atlantic will remain our core priority, bolstered by a reinvigoration of our European relationships. But that cannot be separated from our wider neighbourhood on the periphery of our continent and a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Tamar’s participation in the exercise, situated around the littoral waters of the Indian ocean, seems to meet the Prime Minister’s defence and geopolitical strategy. This exercise was another opportunity to integrate upon the Anglo-French summit plans to commit a greater cooperative presence in the Indo-Pacific, including establishing a permanent European maritime presence in the region through coordinated carrier deployments the IRR stated.

The UK agreed to further enhance military interoperability in its IRR as “China poses an epoch-defining challenge to the type of international order we want to see” as it seeks to unlawfully stretch its territorial waters in the Indo-Pacific.

Practising tactical exercises to become more used to different ways of operating amongst several navies will be an important attribute to hone as the potential Indo-Pacific conflict nears. By seeking to form a basis of operational commonality – especially amongst vessels of varying sizes and armaments – the UK will continue to contribute to the deterrence policy against China in the coming years.