French, U.S. Forces Complete Large-Scale Amphibious Exercise
The French Navy and Army participated in Bold Alligator 2012, a large-scale amphibious exercise organized by the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, off the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina, from January 30 to February 12, 2012.
This major amphibious exercise involved close to 20,000 U.S. servicemen as well as some 30 U.S. combat ships including the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Entreprise and five major amphibious ships, among them the helicopter carriers USS Kearsarge and USS Wasp.
France, the first contributing allied nation, participated with its amphibious helicopter carrier Mistral with an on-board Navy crew of 271 and a tactical group of some 370 Army personnel under the command of 40 officers from the French Rapid Reaction Aero-Maritime Force.
- The Mistral, a helicopter carrier, leaves Toulon for the American east coast (photo EMA)
The exercise relied on a scenario based on a fictitious country appealing to the international community to push back the armed forces of a neighboring country that invaded its coastal area. A coalition was formed around a U.S. amphibious force in order to regain control of the area from the sea. The Mistral played an important role in this D-Day scenario by being the first to land its troops on the day of the first major amphibious assault on the beach of Camp Lejeune, the largest U.S. Marine Corps camp on the East Coast.
On that occasion, French and U.S. equipment interoperability was successfully tested. As noted by the Commanding Officer of the French amphibious detachment following the exercise, future operations will probably take place within a coalition of nations rather than on an individual basis, therefore the ability of allied forces to work together is paramount.
Upon completion of Bold Alligator 2012, the Commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group 2, RADM Kevin Scott, USN, declared, “This was the most important maneuver of these last ten years. After eleven years of engagements on strictly land theaters, it was time to step into the amphibious area with the Navy and our major allies.” Eleven countries participated including Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands. France was the only nation to engage a large amphibious warship as well as many military assets including 80 light armored vehicles, 3 tanks and 6 combat helicopters.