April 6, 2020 (Google Translation) – For three weeks, the Belgian frigate Léopold 1er actively contributed to the protection and escort of the carrier strike group (GAN) deployed around the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle during the Foch mission. The opportunity to draw up a particularly qualitative assessment of its integration for the benefit of security and the operational missions of GAN.
Having joined GAN on March 5 in the Mediterranean Sea, the Leopold 1 immediately took part in securing the environment of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle during the passage of the Strait of Gibraltar on March 7.
Its integration into GAN was all the more rapid since the Belgian ship had previously integrated GAN in 2015, during the Arromanches 2 mission to fight against Daesh, from the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.
During its three weeks of participation in the GAN, the Belgian frigate conducted several high-level maneuvers, in cooperation with the buildings of the escort of the French aircraft carrier: FREMM Brittany, FDA Chevalier Paul, FASM La Motte -Picquet, the BCR Somme, a nuclear attack submarine and the German frigates Lübeck, Spanish Blas de Lezo and Portuguese Corte Real.
The Leopold 1er has been entrusted with numerous responsibilities within the TF473. He was primarily responsible for ensuring the anti-aircraft, anti-surface and anti-submarine protection of the GAN in order to preserve in all circumstances the freedom of action of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle necessary for the implementation of the group airborne. He also had to validate certain tactical skills in an environment very close to the aircraft carrier. The Léopold 1er was thus able to provide PGS (plane guard station) situations on several occasions, consisting of placing a ship a short distance behind the aircraft carrier during the catapult and landing phases.
During the Foch mission, the Leopold 1st, in addition to its escort role, took an essential role in the operational functioning of the GAN to operate as “Pedro”. The Belgian Alouette III helicopter has indeed trained and qualified to ensure the safety of pilots of the Air Group on board during the catapult and landing phases, in order to be able to intervene quickly to the rescue of a pilot in case of ejection. Belgian helicopter pilots and divers were therefore quickly ready for this function, mastering all of the radio and specific intervention procedures.
By taking part in the escort of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the Belgian frigate will also have assumed the role of “filter”, alternating with the other buildings, by patrolling the area of the aircraft carrier, dissuading and thus removing all surface ship wishing to approach the aircraft carrier and hinder it in its maneuver.
The Léopold 1er perfectly fulfilled the missions entrusted during its three weeks of integration into the GAN, by operating quickly in a “Plug and Play” logic. Its presence will have strengthened the old ties of Franco-Belgian cooperation and the level of interoperability between the two navies, both aware of the importance of participating together in securing European aeromaritimes and territorial approaches.