The French Navy’s amphibious assault ship, Mistral, is currently in Nigeria to participate in the joint exercises Crocodile Lift and Grand African Nemo, which commenced on Monday.
These exercises were initiated on board the Nigerian Navy ship Kada on October 9 and will continue until October 15. Nigeria has deployed five of its warships (NNS Kada, NNS Aba, NNS Udu, NNS Kano, and the DB Lagos) along with two helicopters. The French Navy is contributing the Mistral and the Ventose surveillance frigate, both already stationed in the Gulf of Guinea as part of Operation Corymbe. Additionally, France will provide a Falcon 50 maritime surveillance aircraft and an Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft.
The exercise will practice combating threats such as piracy, trafficking, illegal fishing, and maritime pollution.
Exercise Grand African Nemo involves participation from eighteen countries in the region, ranging from Senegal to Angola. The Brazilian Navy ship, OPV Amazonas, is among the participating vessels.
“Since 2018, Grand African Nemo has become the major annual meeting for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea,” the French Navy said. France organizes each year, within the framework of the 2013 Yaoundé Protocol, three to four African Nemo regional maritime exercises and a major Grand African Nemo exercise.
Exercise Crocodile Lift, an amphibious sea drill, was inaugurated for the first time in November 2023. The decision to combine these two exercises stemmed from the concurrent scheduling of both events and the necessity for a comprehensive strategy towards maritime security.
Exercise Crocodile Lift is an amphibious sea excise, first held in November 2023. The decision to merge the two exercises was driven by the overlapping timelines of both events and the need for a multifaceted approach to maritime security.
In his speech during the official exercise launch, Nigerian Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, said national and international collaboration is needed to mitigate threats facing the Gulf of Guinea, including oil theft.
“Exercises Crocodile Lift and Grand African Nemo, which have both become annual events, are some of the well thought out international exercises involving the Nigerian Navy. It is gratifying to note that these exercises have further enhanced effective collaboration against maritime insecurity such as crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, piracy, sea robbery, hostage taking as well as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing,” he said.
Since 1990, France has maintained a near-constant presence in the Gulf of Guinea through the deployment of one or two French vessels, complemented by a maritime patrol aircraft, as part of Operation Corymbe.
With an operational range of 10,800 km (5,800 nautical miles) at a speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) or 19,800 kilometers (10,700 nautical miles) at 15 knots (28 km/h), the Mistral is designed for effective long-distance travel.
For aviation capabilities, the ship can carry 16 heavy helicopters or 35 light helicopters, supported by 6 helicopter landing spots on its aviation facilities. Overall, the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship is designed for a range of missions, making it adaptable for various operations on the open seas.
The largest ship in the French Navy, the Mistral Helicopter Carrier was in Lagos Nigeria in October 2018. Escorted by a French frigate, Commandant Ducuing, both ships were in Nigerian waters for two days (October 17-17)during a Port Call stopover in Lagos.