In 2019, the General Staff of the French Navy announced the start of an experiment allowing two FREMM frigates of the Aquitaine class, the Aquitaine based in Brest, and the Languedoc based in Toulon, to be equipped with 2 crews, like what has long been practiced for its nuclear-powered submarines. The Bretagne frigate was also double-crewed in 2020, and now all FREMMs of the Aquitaine and Alsace classes will be equipped with this feature. The objective is to allow ships to maintain an activity at sea for 180 days a year, while reducing the pressure on crews to only 90 days a year, compared to 110 to 140 before that. In addition, the replacement of crews can be carried out directly in the theaters of operation, so as not to have to initiate large transits for the relief ships, which makes it possible to increase, beyond the days at sea of each ship, the number of operational sea days compared to the previous model.
The relevance of this mode of operation has become clear in recent months, particularly during the deployment of the frigate Bretagne in the North Atlantic last October to join SNMG 1 (Standing Nato Maritime Group 1) to control movements of Russian Navy ships and submarines in the North Atlantic, in particular between the Channel Islands and Iceland, but also to participate in the FLOTEX SILVER 21 exercise, which was held at the end of November in off the Norwegian coast. Indeed, after two months of intense operational activity, the A crew of Bretagne was replaced by the B crew during a stopover in the Icelandic port of Reykjavik at the end of December, allowing the frigate to resume its operational posture at the beginning of January for two additional months. This crew visibly distinguished itself since the Commander-in-Chief for the Atlantic of the French Navy, Vice-Admiral Olivier Lebas, officially addressed his congratulations to the crew of the frigate FREMM Bretagne, faced with the harsh conditions sea (the ship having crossed 17 low pressure areas during its deployment), but also for its efficiency and "its significant results against Russian ships".
We could endlessly speculate on the meaning of this last sentence, especially since the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the FREMM and their crews no longer need to be demonstrated, and numerous reports indicate that the fleet Russian submarine has undergone a significant revival of activity in recent years, especially since it now regularly receives new ships or modernized versions of its buildings, such as the new SSGNs of the Iassen and Iassen-M class, and the Modernized Antei-class SSGNs, ships renowned for being much more discreet than their predecessors. In fact, it is indeed likely that the B crew of Brittany had a lot to do during its 2-month patrol in the North Atlantic, especially since this period corresponded to the preparatory phase of the Russian attack in Ukraine. . However, it was the double-crew operation that allowed a fresh and trained crew to take over from crew A in a few days to carry out this mission, so as to allow the ship to evolve as best as possible. its performance for 4 months, in the middle of winter in one of the most trying areas for ships and crews at this time, the North Atlantic. In fact, the relevance of this approach has been largely demonstrated by this news, which only corroborates previous observations on other theaters of operation. However, another exercise, Polaris 21, which took place at the end of last year, tends to moderate the perceived benefits.
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