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Breton seminar for the "Maritime issues and strategies" major at the national session

Heading for the Ponant on 10 December 2021 for the seminar in Brest and Lorient of the "Maritime issues and strategies" major of the IHEDN national session. The seminar focused on the challenges of understanding the seas and oceans, the major geostrategic and geopolitical challenges of the Atlantic Ocean, France's deterrence policy and the resources available to the French Navy to meet these challenges.

From the crack of dawn on Friday morning, listeners were plunged into the heart of knowledge of the seas and oceans by discovering two French nuggets in the field: the French Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) and the French Naval Hydrographic Service (SHOM). Valérie Mazauric, Director of the IFREMER Bretagne centre, gave them an overview of Ifremer's research activities.

Valérie Mazauric presenting Ifremer's range of activities
IGA Laurent Kerleguer answering listeners' questions about SHOM

During a round table discussion, listeners were also able to exchange views with Laurent Kerléguer, Engineer General of Armaments and Director of SHOM, Pierre-Marie Saladin, Director of the Ecosystem Studies research unit, and Marc-André Gutscher, Director of the GeoOcean research unit.

Listeners discovered just how little is known about the seas and oceans - much less than about the surface of the moon or Mars - and the extraordinary potential they hold, as well as their great fragility in the face of the excesses of human activity. They also realised the strategic importance of oceanography and hydrography in the defence, legal and diplomatic fields.

Pierre-Marie Saladin and Didier Flament, Director of the Laboratory of Microbiology of Extreme Environments, then plunged listeners into the world of their laboratories: the unsuspected life at the bottom of the underwater abyss. Here, strange creatures of exceptional resistance live under pressures of several hundred bars and in temperatures that can approach 1,000 degrees. The captivated listeners would have stayed longer had they not been awaited by the Maritime Prefect.

Pierre-Marie Saladin explains in his laboratory
Listeners watching Didier Flament in his laboratory
Strange creatures living in the depths of the oceans
Family photo at IFREMER

The audience then left Ifremer to be welcomed by Vice-Admiral Olivier Lebas, Maritime Prefect for the Atlantic and Commander of the Atlantic Maritime Area. He discussed with them the many issues at stake in this ocean, which has given its name to today's largest military alliance, NATO.[1]It's also where France's nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SNLE) are diluted. It is also where the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SNLE), on which France's sovereignty and the defence of its vital interests depend, are diluted.

[1] North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

After lunch, the audience had the pleasure of sailing across the harbour of Brest to Ile Longue, the sanctuary of the French deterrent, where they discussed the major issues of the French nuclear deterrent with Vice-Admiral Jean-Philippe Chaineau, Commander of the submarine forces and the strategic oceanic force (FOST). They then had the privilege of being welcomed on board the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SNLE) Le Vigilant for a fascinating tour led by Captains Cyril Badigeon and Vincent Vacqué, respectively Commander and Second-in-Command of this flagship of the French Navy.

With their heads full of images and unforgettable encounters with passionate sailors who are entrusted with the heart of France's strategic independence, the listeners ended the day on the bus that took them late in the evening to Lorient for a quick dinner and a well-deserved rest.

Early the next morning, the auditors were hard at work on their way to the Lann-Bihoué naval aviation base, where Rear-Admiral Pierre de Briançon, commander of the fusiliers marins et commandos maritime force, and then Captain Jean-Christophe Turret, the base commander, shared with them the challenges they face. Impressed by the operational level of the marine commandos, the elite troops of the French armed forces, the audience was invited to visit naval aviation aircraft.

Commanders of the 4F and 24F flotillas, Commander Alexandre Arkwright and Lieutenant-Commander Boris Wertenberg, accompanied by Lieutenant-Commanders El-Eter and Legenvre, returned to the base specially to give tours of their aircraft and explain their missions. The Atlantic 2, a recently refurbished maritime patrol aircraft, impressed the audience with its operational capabilities - in particular the weapons it uses (missiles, torpedoes, bombs, etc.) - and the wide variety of its missions, carried out both at sea and on land. In the case of the Hawkeye, it was its importance in protecting the carrier battle group, the range of its radar and the skill required to land this behemoth on an aircraft carrier that impressed the listeners. Finally, the adaptation of the Falcon 50 to maritime surveillance of large areas and its efficiency, particularly overseas, were exceptional. But above all, as on the previous day, it was the professionalism and enthusiasm of these "sailors of the skies" that impressed them the most.   

Facon 2000
Auditors and crews in front of an Atlantique 2
François Demoulin, Gaëlle Rousseau and Véronique Rolland with a souvenir from IHEDN

François Demoulin, Director of Naval Group Lorient, then welcomed the major to the production site for the Group's frigates, in particular the European Multi-Mission Frigates (FREMM). He presented the technological dimension of these vessels and the challenges faced by his teams in meeting both quality and delivery deadlines. Gaëlle Rousseau and Véronique Rolland then spoke respectively about the major challenges to be met in terms of human resources and eco-design.

This was followed by a tour of this particularly efficient site, which in just a few years has managed to drastically reduce its production times to the great satisfaction of its customers.

Finally, the auditors ended their stopover in Brittany by continuing their committee work in the Maison de l'Agglomération in Lorient, which had been made available to them for the occasion. The end of 2021 is fast approaching, and the New Year brings with it the hope that the auditors will continue to work together to discover the maritime issues that are so important for France and to reflect on the best strategies for dealing with them.

The auditors and their guests in their site clothing