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The Louise-Marie leaves for the campaign

(credit: Belgian army)

(BRUSSELS2) The Belgian frigate Louise-Marie is expected to leave its home port, Zeebrugge, this Wednesday (November 7). Direction: the Horn of Africa. Under the command of Frigate Captain Hans Huygens, the Louise Marie (F-931) will cruise in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy mission as part of the European operation Eunavfor Atalanta. It will be operational in the area from November 23 to February 9 for a return to Zeebrugge scheduled for the end of February 2013. The frigate spent “ passed the demanding NATO operational tests and is ready for this mission” we assure on the Belgian side. On board, a crew of 166 members, coming from different “components” of the Belgian army, contribute to this mission. In addition to the sailors, the ship has an Alouette III helicopter and five people. Vessel Protection Detachments and Boarding Teams come from the marine component and the land component. While the health service is provided by 6 doctors and nurses from the medical component.

An operational test not easy

To get there, the crew and the ship had to undergo a cycle of several examinations — the “Safety and Readiness Check” (well known to specialists as SARC). The first four tests were taken in Belgium and the Netherlands and the last two (SARC 5 and SARC6) in Plymouth, England. Two particularly trying events. SARC5, in effect, prepares the ship and crew for real work. With, among others, the weekly wars. During this fictitious war, British controllers monitored the reactions of the crew through a whole series of exercises. The variety of exercises offered “is quite impressive” testifies an officer. Alongside more classic exercises like “ damage to helm or machinery, recovery of man overboard, refueling at sea, towing, firing or navigation exercises, etc., other more original and complex exercises were carried out: combat exercises against submarines, against planes, simulation of total war, but also exercise in boarding and searching merchant ships…”. SARC6 is the final inspection where the vessel is judged in depth one last time. When the ship has passed all these examinations, it is declared “operational” for three to four years by NATO for certain missions. Good for the service in a way!

Note that during the English stay, the Louise Marie encountered a technical problem with the anchor, which immobilized it for a good week in the English port, preventing it from fully participating in certain exercises.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).