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French Navy's FREMM DA Alsace frigate brings assistance to British tanker attacked by Houthis in Gulf of Aden.

| Naval News Navy 2024

On 26 January 2024, the French Navy's FREMM DA Alsace frigate assisted a tanker attack by Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden. The Houthis, linked to Iran, had previously warned of retaliation following American and British strikes against their infrastructure in Yemen. In response, they targeted the container ships Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake with missiles near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The majority of these attacks were intercepted by the USS Gravely destroyer.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 French Navy's FREMM DA Alsace frigate (Picture source: French MoD)

The Marlin Luandan tanker, flying the Marshall Islands flag and owned by Oceonix Services Ltd, was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile on January 26 while transporting naphtha. The Houthis claimed the attack was a response to British and American actions.

Following the attack, a fire broke out on the Marlin Luandan. The Alsace frigate, operating in the region, intervened, followed by the USS Carney destroyer and the Indian Navy frigate Visakhapatnam. The ships helped control the fire after 20 hours of fighting. The military staff confirmed that there were no casualties among the tanker's crew.

The presence of the Alsace frigate in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since January 20 is part of its efforts to maintain maritime safety and freedom of navigation in the region. France, while having frigates in the area, has not committed resources to the "Guardian of Prosperity" operation led by the United States. The Alsace and Languedoc frigates operate under national command, in cooperation with American forces for the distribution of efforts and information sharing, as explained by Vice Admiral Emmanuel Slaars, commander of the Indian Ocean maritime zone and the French forces in the United Arab Emirates.

As the FMES (Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies) recalls in one of its analyses dated December 19, 2023, the French military presence in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean, reinforced by increased cooperation with Oman, is the result of a strategic agreement established in May 2023 following a meeting between Rear Admiral Emmanuel Slaars, commander of the French forces in the United Arab Emirates, and Vice Admiral Abdullah Khamis al-Raisi, chief of staff of the Omani Armed Forces. This cooperation is particularly evident in the regular stops of the French Navy in Muscat, providing crucial logistical support for its operations in the region. This strategy aims to secure important maritime routes, strengthen regional alliances, and increase the operational reach of the French Navy, thus contributing to the stability and security of this strategic area of global trade.

The Alsace (D656), a French Navy frigate, is a notable example of the FREMM multipurpose frigate program's air-defense variant, FREMM DA. Launched on April 18, 2019, it underwent successful sea trials in October 2020 before being delivered to the French Navy in April 2021. By November 22, 2021, the Alsace had reached full operational status.

As a member of the Aquitaine class, the Alsace is a substantial vessel with a displacement exceeding 6,000 tons. It measures 142 meters (approximately 466 feet) in length, with a beam of 20 meters (about 66 feet) and a draught of 7.6 meters (nearly 25 feet).

The frigate's propulsion is provided by powerful MTU Series 4000 engines, each generating 2.2 MW, and is augmented by a CODLOG system. This combination propels the Alsace to a maximum speed of 27 knots (about 31 mph), while maintaining an efficient cruising speed of 15.6 knots (around 18 mph). At this cruising speed, the Alsace boasts a range of 6,000 nautical miles (approximately 6,900 miles).

Designed to house a crew of over 145, the Alsace is outfitted with advanced sensors and processing systems. The Héraklès multi-purpose passive electronically scanned array radar is a highlight, offering a range beyond 300 km for air targets and up to 80 km for surface targets. Additionally, the ship features the Thales STIR EO MK 2 fire control radar, CAPTAS-4 towed-array sonar, and UMS 4110 CL hull-mounted sonar.

The ship's armament includes a 76 mm Super Rapid gun, 3 20 mm Narwhal remote weapon systems, a 32-cell SYLVER A50 VLS for Aster 15 and Aster 30 air defense missiles, 8 Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missiles and 2 B-515 twin launchers for MU90 torpedoes.

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