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This visit has provided a timely opportunity to reinvigorate a most productive relationship between our two brigades, paving the way for greater integration in 2012
Brigadier Martin Smith
A Guard of Honour, part of the welcome afforded to Brigadier Martin Smith.

Commandos begin planning for major exercise with French counterparts in 201219/12/2011

Britain’s senior front-line Royal Marines commander headed across the Channel to plan a major exercise with the Corps’ French counterparts. Brigadier Martin Smith spent two days with 9e Brigade Légère Blindée de Marine as British and French marines prepare to work together on a large-scale joint war game next autumn.

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Fresh from their tour of duty in Afghanistan, the Royal Marines are gearing up for a major exercise with their French counterparts next year.

The two elite units intend to work side-by-side as the Royal Navy’s amphibious task group and France’s flagship battle group join forces in the autumn of 2012.

With that goal in mind, 3 Commando Brigade’s Commanding Officer Brigadier Martin Smith headed across the Channel to spend two days with 9e Brigade Légère Blindée de Marine (9 BLBMa) and reinvigorate the long-standing relations between the two corps which go back to the mid-90s.

The aim is to develop the two countries’ Combined Joint Expeditionary Force which will see the UK’s Response Force Task Group and Lead Commando Group link up with the carrier FS Charles de Gaulle and a French assault ship with elements of 9 BLBMa embarked.

Earlier this year, HMS Bulwark hosted 130 troops and kit from 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment (2RIMa) for exercises in and around north-west Scotland; the French marines found working with the ‘Rosbifs’ “a fantastic experience”.

There will be more link-ups in 2012 ahead of the autumn exercise. During his visit to France, Brig Smith and his French opposite number, General François Lecointre, Commandant 9 BLBMa, discussed and formalised their combined activity next year, culminating in the signing of a letter of intent.

That combined activity will include a number of training exercises at troop and company level as well as developing the two corps’ doctrines, procedures and communications leading up to the exercise for UK/French maritime and land forces during the Royal Navy’s Cougar 12 deployment.

Brigadier Smith said:

“This visit has provided a timely opportunity to reinvigorate a most productive relationship between our two brigades, paving the way for greater integration in 2012.

"General Lecointre and I recognise that the Cougar 12 deployment will give us an excellent chance to advance the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force concept, and to improve the ability of UK and French forces to operate together in the wake of successful operations off Libya.”

9 BLBMa packs a considerable punch for an amphibious formation, including an armoured regiment equipped with the wheeled AMX 10 tank, which Brig Smith inspected during his visit, and 155mm artillery.

Like 3 Commando, the French brigade has benefitted from recent experience of operations in Afghanistan, and has placed a high priority upon reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities, including fully-integrated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

The original twinning agreement between the brigades was signed in 1995, with both formations benefitting from a variety of cross training and integration opportunities over the past 16 years and the establishment of exchange officers in the respective headquarters (RM Stonehouse for 3 Commando, Poitiers for 9 BLBMa).

Those foundations leave 9 BLBMa and 3 Commando Brigade well placed to support Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy’s initiative on closer cooperation between British and French forces.


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