The French Navy’s FS Mistral has hosted a deployment of Fleet Air Arm helicopters and personnel as part of a recent deployment in the Asia-Pacific. (US Navy)

Royal Navy helicopters are equipping the Marine Nationale (French Navy) ‘Mistral’ class amphibious assault ships as part of the force’s Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) annual training exercise.

Aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm’s 845 Naval Air Squadron will be a permanent presence aboard the FS Mistral as she leads the French Navy’s annual Jeanne d’Arc deployment. A total of 60 Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force air and ground crew along with two AgustaWestland Merlin HC.3 naval support helicopters joined the French task group as it sailed for the Pacific in April.

As tension rose in the Korean peninsula in March following a series of ballistic missile tests performed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regime, the FS Mistral sailed into Japan’s Sasebo naval base on the northern Japanese island of Kyushu. On 4th May, US Marines and sailors with India Company, 3rd battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division, embarked on the French ship along with 220 Japanese military personnel prior to it joining the amphibious forces of Japan, France and the United Kingdom, to take part in the annual French led JEANE D’ARC exercise aimed at strengthening strategic partnerships and exercising freedom of navigation operations across the Asia-Pacific region.

The five-month amphibious deployment will take the French naval force, which includes the ‘La Fayette’ class frigate FS Courbet, as far east as Guam, and as far south as the northern coast of Australia, with visits to Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Djibouti.

by David Oliver