On December 9, the Languedoc Multi-Mission Frigate (FREMM) of the French Navy shot down two drones that were heading straight towards it, coming from the coast of Yemen.
The interception and destruction of these two identified threats took place around 9:30 p.m. then around 11:30 p.m. (French time) 110 km from the coast of Yemen, near Al Hudaydah.
The Languedoc multi-mission frigate operates in the Red Sea under national chain of command.
Naval News reached out to the office of the Joint Chief of Staffs of the French military (Chef d’état-major des armées – EMA) to learn more about the engagement but we were told that no additional information is available at this time.
This operational engagement against two air threats is the first one in a long time for the French Navy (at least since Opération Harmattan, the French participation in the 2011 military intervention in Libya). Whether it was conducted with missiles or artillery (official details are still pending), this engagement is a testament to the abilities of the combat system and the crew of the frigate as the engagement highly likely took place in a complex setting with several civilian contacts both on the surface and in the air.
Languedoc (D653) is one of six Aquitaine-class FREMM frigates. She was commissioned in July 2017 and is homeported in Toulon. While optimized for anti-submarine warfare, these frigates are multirole and are fitted with 16x Aster 15 surface-to-air missiles, 16x land attack cruise missiles, 8x Exocet anti-ship missiles, 2x dual torpedo launchers, a 76mm main gun and 2x 20mm remote weapons stations. Languedoc won the U.S. Navy 6th Fleet “Hook’em Award” for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) excellence last year. The French Navy also has two more FREMM frigates optimized for air defense.
Languedoc reached the French Navy base in Abu Dhabi in early August is currently under the operational command of Rear Admiral Slaars, French Joint Forces Commander in the Indian Ocean (ALINDIEN) and Commander of the French Forces stationed in the UAE (FFEAU). The frigate had just performed a crew exchange on November 26 in Abu Dhabi.
Fresh crew for Languedoc
According to ALINDIEN on social media, the crew exchange took only four days. The NH90 NFH “Caïman” helicopter and its dedicated personnel were also swapped. Fresh supplied were loaded and some maintenance operations were also conducted over these four days. On-theater crew exchanges is is now a proven measure which allows the vessel to be deployed for a longer time.
The French Navy adopted the dual crew concept for some of its surface vessel in 2019. The shift to a dual crew concept increased the operational availability of the Aquitaine-class FREMM: They are able to spend 50% more days at sea (FREMM frigate typically spent 110 days at sea before the adoption of the dual crew concept). Another benefit is that the crews are more rested, therefore more operationally efficient when going back to sea (and less prone to committing mistakes in their tasks).
Languedoc then headed to the South of the Read Sea to secure commercial maritime traffic. The move came as several commercial vessels were targeted South of the Red Sea and off the coast of Yemen, on December 3rd.
Several incidents in the Red Sea
This interception by Languedoc is the latest in several incidents in the area. USNI News reported last week that guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) shot down a drone in the Red Sea on Wednesday, just days after USS Carney (DDG-64) downed three drones launched from Yemen.
Houthi forces have been targeting US Navy and commercial ships transiting the Bab-el-Mandeb strait with missiles and drones. They also boarded one commercial ship linked to Israel via helicopter. “There were four attacks against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the southern Red Sea.” US Central Command said in a statement on December 3rd.
A French Navy E-2C Hawkeye and an ATL2 Maritime Patrol Aircraft were also deployed to Abu Dhabi in November. Among other tasks, they played a key role in securing the transit of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKECSG) through the strait of Ormuz. Languedoc also was part of the IKECSG while deployed in the north of the Indian Ocean in mid-November.