Royal Navy warship from Portsmouth defends French ships from boat and jet attacks

A ROYAL Navy warship from Portsmouth has defended a joint UK and French task group from attackers at sea and in the skies during an intense war game.

HMS Dragon worked alongside frigate Aquitaine, anti‐submarine destroyer Latouche‐Tréville and offshore patrol vessel Jacoubet as a task group off the coast of Brittany.

A series of exercises saw Dragon defend herself against fast, in-shore attack craft as she navigated her way out of the sheltered bay of Brest.

The Type 45 destroyer ship was then tasked to provide protection and support to Aquitaine from Rafale fighter jets, NH-90 helicopters, drones, Hawkeye tactical airborne early warning aircraft and surface threats.

HMS Dragon pictured, right, with the rest of the task force in the French port of Brest. Photo: Royal Navy

Commander George Storton, HMS Dragon’s captain, said: ‘Exercise Sky Sharks has been an excellent opportunity to once again develop UK and French integration and demonstrate the capabilities of our exceptional people working with cutting-edge technology.

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‘Despite challenging weather conditions, our teams came together to plan and execute the testing exercise scenario against the highly capable assets of the Marine Nationale. Dragon absolutely cherishes opportunities such as these and we look forward to much more in the future.’

Lieutenant Damien Tocquer is a French exchange officer from the French navy currently serving as a principle warfare officer on HMS Dragon.

A sailor from HMS Dragon prepares to defend against attack from a fast boat during a drill with French authorities. Photo: Royal Navy

He added: ‘As a French navy exchange officer on board HMS Dragon, participation to Exercise Sky Sharks has been a pleasure and a great opportunity.

‘The Royal Navy and Marine Nationale are both working incredibly hard to increase their lethality and operational efficiency by using cutting-edge technology and forefront tactics.

‘Sky Sharks demonstrated once again how this shared aspiration for excellence can lead to success when fighting together in a challenging environment.’

The exercise came came amid on-going tensions at sea between the UK and France following the seizure of a British fishing boat by French authorities.

A jet pictured buzzing HMS Dragon during a war game at sea with the French. Photo: Royal Navy

France is set to take punitive action on Tuesday as the UK refused to ‘roll over’ in a dispute over post-Brexit licences to fish in British waters.

Downing Street said it had ‘robust’ contingency plans in place if Emmanuel Macron’s government carries out threats to disrupt trade from midnight.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK would take legal action under the UK-EU Brexit trade deal, while a tit-for-tat retaliation to French action has not been ruled out.

Ministers in Paris have warned they could block British boats from landing their catches in French ports and tighten customs checks in protest at what they claim is a refusal by the UK authorities to grant licences to French boats.

But the UK insisted it would only grant licences to boats which meet the criteria set out in the Brexit deal.

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