World News – United States – Omniscient French frigate floats in tense Eastern Mediterranean


Deep in the bowels of a French frigate sailing the tense waters of the eastern Mediterranean, a dozen men and women scan the radar screens in the dark

Among the red squares indicating the position of the ships at sea, stand out two Turkish exploration ships, the Oruc Reis and the Barbaros

For three months, the stealth vessel La Fayette patrolled the strategic area off the Syrian, Greek and Cypriot coasts

The crew of 170 are on high alert, with geopolitical tensions boiling since the discovery of huge gas fields and Athens and Greece in conflict over their maritime borders

Since August, France has deployed more assets in the eastern Mediterranean, known as « Medor » for the navy, amid a war of words over Turkish incursions into Greek and Cypriot waters

While President Emmanuel Macron has pledged « non-negotiable solidarity » for Greece and Cyprus, Paris must closely monitor events in the region – as well as communicate clear messages to all parties concerned

La Fayette took part in the August maneuvers with Greece, Cyprus and Italy to show a united European front against Ankara

« Our primary mission is to observe everything that is going on, to offer our leaders and the political authorities our own understanding of the situation, » said the ship’s group operations chief Lt. Mathieu.

It oversees central operations, the CO or nerve center, a dark space to monitor classified information where access is strictly limited

Data is collected from surface and aerial radar, as well as an infrared camera that tracks ships « of interest » night and day, including submarines that surface

These instruments of war detect the enemy’s electromagnetic fingerprints and complement the radar to give La Fayette a detailed overview of the eastern Mediterranean basin

The screens capture a British warship in Limassol, Cyprus, Russians off the Syrian coast, and Turkey’s Oruc Reis on a controversial energy exploration mission between the Greek islands of Kastellorizo ​​and Rhodes, besides the protests in Athens

There is also the Turkish Barbaros, which conducts seismic explorations in southwest Cyprus, escorted by two civilian ships to protect its huge cables equipped with underwater microphones

« They have alleviated their presence in recent weeks. We are checking that it will not increase any more at one time or another, » said Captain Sébastien Martinot, the ship’s captain

On such a mission, « we shed light on an area where we need clear facts more than ever in order to be able to make judgments, avoid errors and not trust rumors, social networks or even information from our allies « , he underlines

For three months at sea, « We have never watched the Turks so much, » says key rate Lies, standing on the sunny deck overlooking the Lebanese coast

« We have met them so many times that we know which ships are protecting them But we don’t intervene, it’s not our role »

The Order of Combat book is next to it, dozens of pages in a plastic folder, including photos and identities of all the ships of interest that La Fayette has encountered

« We are equipped with efficient sensors that can be deployed over tens of nautical miles and transmit data to the ship, » said Lieutenant Denis, leader of the Panther group. « Our photos are often found with the staff » , he smiles

All the information collected daily is transmitted to the French command of the Mediterranean military zone (CECMED) in Toulon It is also shared with the international anti-jihadist operation Inherent Resolve for Iraq and Syria as well as the establishment of Irini in Europe to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya

However, data is not shared as systematically with NATO, of which Turkey is a member, admits the captain

In summer, Paris temporarily withdrew from NATO’s maritime security operation « Sea Guardian » in the Mediterranean, after condemning the « extremely aggressive » behavior of a Turkish warship against a French vessel during an attempt to check a cargo ship suspected of carrying arms to Libya

Martinot reflected on how things have changed since joining the navy, declaring « today the sea is seen as a place of confrontation »

« Medor is an exciting, disturbing theater We must continue to be present to assert European interests and freedom of navigation »

Greece, Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, Mediterranean Sea, Nikos Dendias

News from around the world – United States – Omniscient French frigate flies flag in tense Eastern Mediterranean


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