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French navy prepares for war – admiral

The Marine Nationale is training to face someone “who wants to destroy us,” a top naval officer has said

France has shifted its naval posture from intercepting drug traffickers and poachers to training for a conventional war, Rear Admiral Jacques Mallard has told Politico.

Mallard commands France’s only carrier battle group, built around the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle. He spoke about the changes in an exclusive interview with the EU edition of Politico, published Wednesday.

“We’re moving from a world where we were pretty free to do as we pleased to one where we feel threatened on a more regular basis,” Mallard said. “We now train for other missions, in particular what we call high-intensity warfare.”

“Naval combat is becoming increasingly likely,” he said, and the French sailors now practice fighting against “someone who wants to destroy us. Not someone who wants to do illegal trafficking, not someone who wants to steal fish.”

With the Russian navy engaged in the Black Sea and the Houthis of Yemen interdicting vessels linked to Israel, the US and the UK in the Red Sea, Western navies need to deal with “increasingly uninhibited competitors,” Mallard said.

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“That’s where we become a little more aggressive, or at least, we prepare to be,” added the admiral.

According to Mallard, the French and Italian navies will engage in a joint exercise later this spring, based on the “Polaris” program that simulates a naval battle. Introduced in 2021, the combat simulation works to “disinhibit tactical thinking,” which Mallard described as “a bit more risky but very useful.”

While the admiral did not name the expected enemy, he made it clear it was not the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

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“As long as the Chinese haven’t invaded the island of La Réunion or decided to kick us off the island of Mayotte,” he said, naming two French territories in the Indian Ocean, “there’s no reason to single out the Chinese as our main adversary.”

Mallard’s comments come after weeks of French President Emmanuel Macron floating the idea of potentially having NATO boots on the ground in Ukraine. The possibility was outright rejected by most – though not all – members of the US-led bloc.

 

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