NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Amphibious and surface units from the U.S. and French navies completed a passing exercise (PASSEX) June 6 which honed their interoperability skills and demonstrated the close operational relationship enjoyed by the two NATO allies.
Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 8 led the exercise from aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), which participated from Naval Station Norfolk while conducting repairs. U.S. destroyers USS Laboon (DDG 58) and USS Cole (DDG 67) also participated along with Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4.
Landing craft air cushion (LCAC) operators assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 speaks with Capt. Francois-Xavier Polderman, commanding officer of the French navy amphibious assault ship FS Mistral (L9013). The event was part of a U.S. and French passing exercise which tests the interoperability and communication between two navies and prepares ships for joint wartime scenarios or humanitarian relief efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Markus Castaneda/Released) 140604-N-WI365-340
The French ships included the amphibious assault ship FS Mistral (L9013) and frigate FS La Fayette (F710).
An important part of the exercise was to complete and renew interoperability certifications which must be completed on a bi-annual basis in order for the units to remain certified for joint operations.
The week-long exercise began with French and American midshipmen swapping ships for tours of Iwo Jima and Mistral. French Sailors commented on the size and capabilities of Iwo Jima, and American Sailors enjoyed the cleanliness, very large passageways and easy-to-manage stairs of Mistral, which was commissioned in late 2005 as the first in its class.
The PASSEX included joint planning and engagement, communications exercises with all units, surface warfare and a live fire exercise where the ships jointly attacked a floating target and coordinated maneuvering and firing at different ranges and with different types of munitions.
The exercise also featured an air defense exercise where a Lear Jet tows a dummy missile toward the ships and the ships' air defense systems react to intercept the threat. The LCAC units of ACU 4 certified Mistral's ability to recover and launch the large, high-speed hovercraft units during daylight and at nighttime, and the Mistral's commanding officer rode aboard LCAC 27 during the certification.