HEMEX ORION 2023 – Probation in the Mediterranean
In the multinational NATO association, the German Navy took part in a French landing operation with the frigate Saxon. Your mission in this exercise was to protect the helicopter carriers Mistral and Tonnerre.
On the morning of February 13, the frigate “Sachsen” entered the Bay of Toulon and moored at the largest French naval base on the Côte d’Azur. Once there, preparations for the HEMEX ORION maneuver began for the lead ship of the F124 class. With the participation of the nations France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Italy and UK, the last agreements were made. HEMEX (Hypothèse d’engagement majeur exercise) translates as exercise that prepares for action. ORION is the acronym for “Operation d’envergure pour des armées résilientes, interopérables, orientés à la haute intensité, et novatrices” (Operation for resilient, interoperable, high-intensity and innovative armies). All branches of the armed forces took part in this exercise together and internationally.
In the exercise scenario, the states on the Mediterranean coasts were renamed fictitious states and a simulated world order was created. Under strict military leadership, the destabilized state of Arnland was suppressed by the state of Mercure. Saxon as part of the Allied forces and part of Task Force 471 supported Arnland in maintaining his sovereignty against Mercury. Their main mission was to protect the French helicopter carriers Mistral and Tonnerre. Both had to remain unharmed for the operation to be successful. They housed the amphibious forces and command staff to conduct a landing operation in Arnland.
In the first phase, the Allied forces had to be brought together and prepared for the operation. In this increased exercises for air defense, the surface sea war, as well as the submarine hunt took place. The second part of the exercise was the so-called freeplay phase. This means that there were no more specifications and no script known to the units involved. Saxon had the task of escorting the amphibious landing ship Tonnerre and protecting it against any threat or aggression.
Subsequently, with the third part, the main element of the operation to protect and stabilize Arnland was started. A special feature of this exercise is that all the units involved were connected via a data network. Through this, the virtual world was projected onto all units, simulated attacks and damage were recorded. The units had to react to this in a targeted manner.
The maneuver started with a submarine hunt. The operator of the sonar is the key to success and for frigate “Saxony”, the eyes and ears under water. With a highly sensitive and trained eye, he searched the sea for dangers to his own unit and the association. After the submarine had been spotted, the ship’s loudspeakers rang out: “There is a submarine at bearing zero-nine-five at a distance of four nautical miles. Crew to battle stations!” The aim of the exercise was to test underwater threat management skills. The exercise was a success, demonstrating the capabilities of a Class 124 frigate that go far beyond its core mission of anti-aircraft defense.
Not only submarines were used, but also the French fighter jet Rafale, coming from the French aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle”. The bridge crew watched intently as the fighter jets raced towards the ship and flew just above the ship at low altitude. The Operations Center ( OPZOperations Center) was alerted and coordinated the use of weapons to protect the association. Frigate “Sachsen” is equipped with the latest radar and weapons technology to detect and intercept enemy aircraft. The exercise provided an excellent opportunity to challenge and hone the ship’s ability to deal with air strikes. A classification whether enemy or friend had to be done as quickly as possible. Once the planes were identified and classified, things really got going.
There was an approach to the “Saxons”, the lookouts called: “Eight o’clock – planes.” From the OPZOperations Centercomes: ” Fight for Fighter Bomber Attack!”. The command to steer the ship in the best possible way to counter a bomb threat. The officer on watch on the bridge now had to react as quickly as possible. Due to sudden maneuvers, the “Saxons” did not get into the target window and was able to use the weapons in a simulated manner to fight the fighter jet. The allied unit “Bretagne” was also approached by the bombers and tried to fight them in a simulated manner. After successfully repelling the attacks, the landing exercise took place on February 26th. The “Mistral” and “Tonnerre” landed in the area previously secured by special forces, which they had stabilized and freed from Mercure.
The landing operation was successful. This would not have been possible without the energy of the frigate “Saxony” and her crew. Hardly any sleep, always ready to fend off any threat and protect the high-value units. “The crew of the frigate ‘Saxony’ proved to be professional, resilient and flexible. I am satisfied with the result of the manoeuvre,” summed up the commander, Captain Thomas Liebert.