Force d'action navale

The "Force d'action navale" (FAN, Naval Action Force) is the 12,000-man and about 100-ship strong backbone of the French Navy. As of 2006, it is commanded by Vice-Amiral d’Escadre Philippe Sautter.

The ships are divided into seven categories:
* The aeronaval group, which has the aircraft carrier "Charles De Gaulle" for backbone
* The amphibious group, based around the "Projection and Command vessels" ("Mistral class landing platform dock", "Foudre" and "Ouragan class landing platform dock" class ships)
* Frigates, which act either as protection for the strategic groups, or alone in monitoring, survey, presence, rescue or deterrence missions
* Minesweepers
* "Sovereignty" ships, which are deployed overseas and act as presence and prevention forces
* Support vessels
* Public service ships, and hydrographic and oceanographic vessels

The aeronaval group

The aeronaval group is the main vector for French Navy force projection. It is also one of the components of the nuclear deterrence forces, since the embarked Super Étendard and Rafale planes have nuclear capabilities.

At minimum, it contains an aircraft carrier (currently the "Charles De Gaulle"), an anti-air frigate, and a support vessel. Typically, this group also includes several anti-air and anti-submarine frigates, an nuclear attack submarine ("Rubis" class submarines and the future "Barracuda" class submarines), and possibly additional support ships.

The carrier air group can include up to 40 aircraft: Rafale, Super Étendard and E-2 Hawkeye planes, and Eurocopter Dauphin and Aérospatiale Super Frelon helicopters. This composition varies according to the mission and the tactical environment, and can include aircraft of the "Armée" or the "Armée de l'Air".

Like any naval force, the aeronaval group can be assisted by land-based Breguet Atlantique aircraft.

The amphibious group

The French Navy operates six large amphibious ships, which contain smaller landing craft. Aboard are helicopters, troops, and land vehicles ("Mistral class landing helicopter dock" ; "Foudre" ; "Ouragan class landing platform dock" class ships).

This force also operates five smaller craft which are based in Fort de France, Toulon, Papeete, Nouméa, and La Réunion.

The amphibious groups include one or several landing ships ("transports de chalands de débarquement", TCD) containing landing craft ("chalands", CDIC and CTM) which allow the projection of inter-arm groups with troops, vehicles and helicopters, and one or several light transport ships ("bâtiments de transport léger", BATRAL) which carry motorised infantry companies up to the beaches themselves. They can carry Aérospatiale Puma and Eurocopter Cougar transport helicopters or Aérospatiale Gazelle combat helicopters, the "Commandos de Marine", minesweeping units, or Army units. The four TCDs ("Ouragan" and "Orage", and "Foudre" and "Siroco") also carry field hospitals fitted with operation blocks. The "Foudre" and "Siroco" may also carry a full headquarters for any national or international command.

Frigates

The frigates are the backbone of the French surface fleet. They secure aero-naval space and allow free action to the other components of the Navy. They are specialised according to the threat, typically escorting other forces (aeronaval or ampihbious groups, submarines or civil ships).

* The eight anti-submarine frigates (F67 and F70 type frigates) are designed to protect the oceanic strategic fleet (FOST, ballistic-missile submarines) and the aeronaval group against submarine threats. They carry towed sonars and helicopters, and have anti-ship and anti-air capabilities.

* The A-69 Avisos are designed to counter conventional submarines, especially in coastal defence.

* The three anti-air frigates ("Suffren" and "Cassard" types) are designed to protect the aeronaval group against air threats and missiles with Tartar SM1 and "Masurca" missiles. They also carry helicopters which can be used for anti-submarine warfare.

* The five La Fayette class frigates are used primarily as presence ships, to patrol national and international waters, and to take part in dispute settlement outside of Europe. They can therefore act in cooperation with international intervention, protection, special operation or humanitarian missions. They carry Eurocopter Panther helicopters.

Minesweepers

The minesweepers secure major French harbours, especially for the ballistic-missile submarines in Brest, and the attack submarines in Toulon. They also stay available to secure access to Toulon, Marseille, any of the harbours of the Atlantic coast, and any Allied harbour simultaneously.

They are designed to be used within a larger group, interallied or international, in case of mine risks near coasts.

In peace time, these units can bring help and assistance to civilian ships, or search wrecks.

This force includes 1,100 men and:
* 13 minesweepers
* 3 minesweeping diver groups for shallow waters.
* Several sonar ships which secure the area around Brest harbour
* One command and support ship

Sovereignty vessels

These vessels secure access to harbours and carry out police missions.

There are six Floreal class frigates to perform these tasks, mainly by controlling the large French Exclusive Economic Zone, patrolling ocean waters, carrying out police action, and monitoring fishing activities. They are designed to operate in low-risk environments. Five are presently based overseas.

The patrol boats of the Gendarmerie Maritime carry out police actions at sea.

The five "bâtiments de transports légers" (BATRAL) are also used to carry supplies in the DOM/TOM.

Support ships

The four support ships allow the French naval forces to be present anywhere on the planet, regardless of the remoteness of their bases.

These ships are integrated into tactical groups. They shuttle between harbours and fleets, giving them months of operational capabilities by feeding fuel, ammunitions, food, water, spare parts and mail.

There is also one permanent mechanics ship, the "Jules Verne", which can repair other ships.

Hydrographic and océanographic vessels

One hydro-oceanographic and four hydrographic ships help carrying out mapping and research operations, as well as gathering intelligence which could prove useful to the deployment of naval forces and their weapon systems. They operate under the "service hydrographique et océanographique de la marine" (SHOM).

The trial and measurement ship "Monge" is used to develop new weapon systems, especially those related to nuclear deterrence.


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