Défense
Admiral Prazuck: “Our defences begin at sea”

Interview

Admiral Prazuck: “Our defences begin at sea”

Défense

Admiral Prazuck, Chief of Staff of the French Navy, explains his priorities and his vision. His top priorities, in three words, are: renewal, refurbishment and resilience. 

Admiral Christophe Prazuck, Chief of Staff of the French Navy since July 2016, has not previously spoken at any length to the media. In this interview granted to Mer et Marine, the Admiral explains his priorities and his vision, and outlines his thinking on operations, equipment replacement, human resources and other matters. The French Navy, which has been particularly busy on many fronts for several years now, operates in a complex geostrategic environment marked by rising instability and the growing importance of matters maritime in general. Against a backdrop of ever more varied threats and more countries investing in submarines and surface combatants, France can only respond by maintaining a strong fleet of technologically advanced vessels with global reach and the resources to protect French interests and territories around the world.

Mer et Marine: What are your top priorities as Chief of Staff of the French Navy?

Admiral Christophe Prazuck: Renewal, refurbishment and resilience.

The renewal of our combat and territorial fleets is a vast programme. It began in 2000, will continue into the 2030s, and will end with the delivery of the fifth FTI medium-size frigate and the sixth Barracuda nuclear-powered attack submarine, or SSN. By then, we will also have completed the renewal of our Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft and La Fayette-class frigates as well as various classes of patrol vessels, not to mention the replacement of much of the equipment used by our special forces. Overall, we need to renew all units designed in the 1970s and ensure that we are always ready to face the threats of the day. This is absolutely essential.

Assets in the highest demand will be refurbished beyond the requirements of the operational contracts listed in the government’s white paper on defence and national security (Livre blanc sur la défense et la sécurité nationale).These units must be maintained and refurbished to ensure that they remain in service until their scheduled replacement. With reliability issues becoming more frequent, we must give our maintenance teams the means to meet our many commitments.

My third priority is resilience, by which I mean the resilience of our human resources management model. Our assets, recruits, and the jobs we do are changing, but the demands of ships and the sea are not. A navy life still calls for long periods away from home, independence, and life in a close-knit community. To recruit, train and retain personnel demands constant imagination as every sailor counts.

What, in your opinion, are the main naval challenges and threats now and in the years ahead?

To my mind, the biggest challenge is the missions assigned to our combat fleet given the level of its current and anticipated commitments.

These missions are being undertaken at a time when global and regional powers are deploying larger forces — including aircraft carriers, submarines and frigates — over larger areas, with some adopting denial of access strategies incompatible with international conventions.

Our units and sailors are also heavily committed to the protection of French territories and our interests within our EEZs. Last but not least, we ensure the continuous presence at sea of the submarine-based component of France’s nuclear deterrent force.

Over the coming decade, the French Navy must prove its continuing endurance while enhancing its operational capabilities to respond wherever the nation’s power, maritime sovereignty or territories are challenged. In other words, our defences begin at sea.

Which hot spots call for an increased French Navy presence? And will Navy deployments to Asia and the Arctic continue to expand and why?

In recent years, our combat fleet has seen continuous deployment in five theatres. The ‘arc of crisis’ model encompassing the Gulf and the

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