Amb. Delattre Welcomes French Warship to Norfolk, Va.
Norfolk, Virginia, April 5, 2013
Général Paloméros – it’s a privilege to have you with us today,
It’s a great pleasure and a true honor for our Defense Attaché Général Caïtucoli, for our Consul General Olivier Serot Alméras and for me to be here with you this afternoon and I want to express my warmest thanks to Capt. Rouvière for hosting us on board the Aquitaine.
As the world is discovering once again the importance of the seas and oceans for its development, we have experienced in recent years the emergence of new and older threats such as piracy, trafficking, pollution, terrorism, and border disputes. The number of maritime players is increasing too, as we witness the rise of future naval powers, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region and South America.
Against this backdrop, the need to secure the marine environment and our national interests at sea has never been so significant. France, with the world’s second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone, just behind the U.S., has had a particular interest in protecting and securing the seas for centuries. Today, the French Navy works very closely with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard to guarantee the freedom of access to the seas and the rule of law.
With an excellent level of interoperability, French and U.S. naval forces are capable of working together in contested environments. This was recently proven by the deployment of the French Air Defense Destroyer Chevalier Paul within Carrier Strike Group 3. Within the group, the French ship helps protect the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis, along with more than 5,000 seamen and women.
The French Navy and the French Defense procurement agency, DGA, began their effort to recapitalize France’s fleet of destroyers more than 8 years ago. The FREMM multi-mission destroyer program, a cooperative project led by France and Italy since 2005, produced the ship on which this evening’s event is taking place.
FREMM Aquitaine is the very first of a class of 11 ships to be ordered by France to become the backbone of the French Navy’s surface fleet.
She features an impressive set of capabilities to respond to threats above the surface with a range of sensors and effectors, including the “Aster” air defense missile, a comprehensive electronic warfare suite, the “MdCN”—the French acronym for naval cruise missile—for in-depth strikes, and the famous “Exocet” MM40 anti-ship missile.
She can also conduct operations undersea thanks to her complete suite of sonar systems, the new NATO Frigate Helicopter that operates from her, and the MU90 torpedo. Finally, she can support land operations as well as ship visit operations.
Operation Unified Protector in Libya proved the relevance of having a comprehensive air and sea fleet able to project forces and apply power deep into enemy territory. Operation Atalanta, off the coast of Somalia, emphasized the need to cope with asymmetric threats.
These capabilities and many others are present onboard FREMM Aquitaine.
French seamen will tell you that this ship is something they’ve never seen before, and that she is truly revolutionary.
Having visited the ship today, I can tell you that I was amazed by the level of innovative technologies used on this ship, compared to other ships I’ve had the chance to see. Everything was designed to reduce the work of the crew, so that our seamen and women can focus on their missions. This unique approach—I can guarantee you will not find it anywhere else—allows the crew to fully operate the ship with about half the size of a regular crew on other ships with similar capabilities.
In today’s budgetary environment, where every penny is accounted for, this design reduces dramatically the total cost of ownership of our fleet.
And it works, as Capt. Rouvière, Commanding Officer of FREMM Aquitaine, who has spent 2 months with his crew across the Atlantic, can confirm. While he was prepared for this before his deployment, he is still amazed by the level of readiness and flexibility he and his crew can achieve.
This is the result of French shipbuilding know-how, which was already famous around the world hundreds of years ago, and proved beneficial to the U.S. Navy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Today, our naval industry is ready to invest and bet on innovation, as DCNS did with the Gowind experimental Offshore Patrol Vessel, and as CNIM did with their L-CAT landing catamaran, which definitively impressed the U.S. Marine Corps last year during the Bold Alligator exercise.
DCNS, the leading contractor for the FREMM destroyers, along with the defense group Thales, the missile company MBDA, and the optronics company Sagem, once again marshaled their skills to build this amazing ship.
With the additional experience they acquired in this enterprise, they are willing to make their knowledge and know-how available to other navies.
Morocco, with its long Mediterranean and the Atlantic coastlines to protect, was the first country outside Europe to order a FREMM from DCNS. Discussions are going on with other navies around the world interested in the high-technology content and smart design of the FREMM.
I hope that the tour of this new ship, with her modern equipment, will also prompt new industrial and governmental partnerships in North America and around the world, for the good of our people and the safety of our seas.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The French-American friendship is at its best when it can operate on two fronts: our shared values and history on one side, and cooperation on innovation and cutting-edge technologies on the other. I believe this is one of the key messages of today’s celebration.
Let’s never forget that our two countries owe each other their very existence as free Nations and that from La Fayette and Yorktown to the battlefields of WWI and the beaches of Normandy, the United States and France have always stood shoulder to shoulder to defend and promote the values of freedom and democracy that we together gave the world.
This is the case today. Our two countries are each other’s closest allies in the fight against terrorism, as illustrated by our military operation in Mali to get rid of Al-Qaida and its affiliates there ; the U.S. and France are at the forefront of international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state ; and we are working closely together to solve the tragic situation in Syria, where Assad must go, the sooner, the better.
And these values I was referring to, that are at the core of our common DNA, are today more than ever our best tool, I would even say our best moral compass, to confront together the current challenges we face.
Alors, mes chers amis, Vive les Etats-Unis ! Vive la France ! Long live French-American friendship !