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CNO Franchetti Participates in Paris Naval Conference Media Availability

26 January 2024

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti participates in a media availability following the Paris Naval Conference with Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key; Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy.

PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, participate in a press conference during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. The conference, jointly hosted by the French Navy and the French Institute of International Relations, was themed, “The Evolving Role of the Carrier Strike Group.” (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240125-N-UD469-1829 PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, participate in a press conference during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. The conference, jointly hosted by the French Navy and the French Institute of International Relations, was themed, “The Evolving Role of the Carrier Strike Group.” (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, participate in a press conference during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. The conference, jointly hosted by the French Navy and the French Institute of International Relations, was themed, “The Evolving Role of the Carrier Strike Group.” (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240125-N-UD469-1775 PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, participate in a press conference during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. The conference, jointly hosted by the French Navy and the French Institute of International Relations, was themed, “The Evolving Role of the Carrier Strike Group.” (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)

MODERATOR:  So let’s start.  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Following the very rich discussion held during the various roundtables during the day, we’ll now go ahead with 40 minutes’ media availability.  And for this sequence, the rules of engagement are as follow.

We will speak English, everybody.  It will be more simple and we’ll not need any translation.  When asking a question, please introduce yourself and the media you are working for.  And if applicable, please specify which of our distinguished panelists your question is addressed to.  And it will be one question at a time.

So thank you very much.  And we are – I guess that our admirals are ready for listening to your questions.


(Off-side conversation.)


Q:  (Inaudible) – from the French – (inaudible).

I would like to hear your lessons learned from the latest operation in the Red Sea.


MODERATOR:  Thank you, Paul (sp).


ADMIRAL NICOLAS VAUJOUR:  Yeah, I go.  So lessons learned from the ongoing operation in the Red Sea.  What we can say is that we have an example of what we speak this afternoon about, which is a kind of contestation of the free flow of the commerce in a strait, which is Bab al-Mandab.  And so the way we are operating is to protect ourself, of course, but also the shipping line of communication in order to maintain open – the free flow of communication in that field.

So the lessons learned – my lessons learned is that the Houthis are fighting against designated targets with UAVs – armed UAVs, anti-ship missiles, and trying to also use ballistic missiles against the shipping.  And so we are there to manage the situational awareness for the shipping so to avoid the ability of the Houthis to shut down shipping.  And so we’re trying to destroy all the threats coming up to the – to the shipping.


MODERATOR:  Yeah.  If any other admiral wishes to –


ADMIRAL LISA FRANCHETTI:  Thank you.  You know, I think another good lesson learned is as we look to uphold the rules-based international order, which is really under threat all around the world, the importance of establishing a group of people, as we have done in Operation Prosperity Guardian, to be able to have a group of likeminded nations that will work together to uphold this rules-based international order, we all have benefitted from that order really since the end of World War II as we have the free flow of commerce all around the world.  And we need to continue to work together to ensure that those that would wish to stop that flow of commerce, that would impact the freedom of seas and the freedom of navigation, understand that there are many likeminded nations that work together to uphold that rules-based freedom.


Q:  (Inaudible.)  We have three questions.  First, Admiral – (inaudible) –


MODERATOR:  One question at a time, please.  (Laughter.)


Q:  Just to – for the admiral, you stressed the importance of tradition regarding the aircraft carriers.  The U.S. has much more than the older different navies.  Do you see – how do you see the role of the different navies in order to help the U.S. to monitor and patrol liberty of navigation, as you mentioned?

And my second question.  In your speech, you mentioned also the importance of unmanned vehicles.  What’s the lessons – the lessons learned from the U.S., which had a task force dedicated to unmanned materials, how it would be used – how will it be used in the future – (inaudible)?


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  To your first question, you know, I think, as having operated with navies all around the world, that every navy has a role to play, whether it’s big or small, whatever their capabilities are, because we all operate together in the global commons.  And the way that we are stronger together is to be able to knit together the capabilities of each individual navy and form a very strong maritime chain to, again, work together to uphold those freedoms that we all enjoy of the rules-based international order.  So it doesn’t matter how big your navy is; we strive to be able to operate together with everyone.

So, again, we put together likeminded navies.  We all work together, have worked together in the past.  We look forward to working together in the future.  And again, I think that is how you defend that global commons.

On your second question, so we had the opportunity to stand up Task Force 59 in the Middle East.  It was a(n) effort to bring together, really, all of the best creative ideas out of industry to bring the different technologies to look at unmanned surface vehicles, initially – unmanned surface vessels to – in the first instantiation, to provide maritime domain awareness.  So maybe 15 to 18 different companies would bring this technology together.  The fleet commander, Admiral Brad Cooper, would put these technologies out into operation to increase maritime domain awareness, along with a mesh network where all of the things that these unmanned surface vessels were seeing then were connected into a mesh network.  And that was put into a common operational picture that all of the nations that were participating in this task force could see that picture.

So the idea is, is that you have a large area of water to patrol, and if you can have the unmanned surface vessels surveilling that space you can use them to do the laborious work of patrolling.  And then, when you see something that looks different, you see an anomaly, then you can send a manned asset to go over there and investigate it.

So that was the first part of the unmanned task force.  They’ve since evolved to different technologies.  And we have expanded that now also into our Fourth Fleet, which operates in South America, to be able to do a similar thing.

And the great news is, is you can have the companies work directly with the sailors.  So the sailors can operate the technologies, the company can learn what the sailor really needs, and that can help us learn faster.  We can iterate, bring out a new technology, a new program, and again, learn quicker.  And we hope that that will enable us to bring these capabilities to bear at scale.


MODERATOR:  Christina.


Q:  Christina Mackenzie from Breaking Defense.

This is a question for the three of you, because I think that the Indian Navy is not so much in a problem from what I’ve been told.  This problem of recruiting youngsters, I believe that in the Indian Navy you have a million applicants for 300 places in your academy or something along those lines, which is not the case elsewhere.  So is this something that you discuss amongst you ideas?  I think it’s a particular problem in the – in the British navy.  How do you get people to join?  And then once they’ve joined and you’ve trained them, how do you keep them?  Do you have sort of common ideas that you discuss, or how does – how does that work?


ADMIRAL SIR BEN KEY:  We do discuss it.  In fact, we had a discussion last night.  (Laughter.)  And what was interesting for me was to recognize that, like so many Western nations, there is a competition for talent amongst all of our societies because we are looking for people with particular – particularly technical/engineering mindsets, but so are an awful lot of other organizations.  And there is very definitely a battle to go on to attract people in when, for the first time in a long time, the kind of demand and supply is very heavily skewed in favor of the young people who have got those interests.

So some of the – some of the tools and techniques that we could afford to take risk on in the past, like not really getting at lots of advocates for what we’re doing, not making sure that our apprenticeship schemes, our college support schemes were fully understood, all of that we need to put extra effort into doing.  And certainly the efforts since the end of the pandemic the Royal Navy has been making to turn that around is beginning to have – to bear fruit.  And I look at some of the headlines we’ve enjoyed in recent months, and I’m slightly frustrated that they’re slightly detracted from the truth of the impacts we’re starting to have.  But like all of these things, because our training is extensive and it takes time, there is a difference between the numbers that we’re bringing in through the front door and the realization of that sort of talent and human capability then being deployed forward in the fleet.

So these are – it is a challenge.  But it’s a challenge that I’m excited by, because I think we, like all navies, have a really exciting story to tell.  We are technically minded.  We are innovative in our – in our bones.  We’ve got a huge range of challenges, and we’ve set that in a geopolitical context.  And a lot of the young people, when we get our stories out, become very enthused by that and wish to come and serve with us.  We just recognize the effort that we need to do and making sure that we get out there amongst everybody else, who is telling their stories in this constant competition to get the best of what each of our countries has to offer.


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  I would also offer that Admiral Credendino – no, no, no, he’s not here – we also talked with him about that last night as well.  And I think one of the things that he reminded us is that sometimes the navies suffer from something called sea blindness.  You know, if you don’t live near a naval base, you don’t live near a coast, you don’t live near an air station, you may not know a lot about what the Navy does. 

And so to, Admiral Key’s point, you know, we really have had to redouble our efforts in understanding how do we best reach people.  It has to be a mix of social media, being on YouTube, telling all those great stories, but also making the outreach into the communities to talk to parents, coaches, teachers, the people who influence people’s decisions in their lives and what they’re going to go do next.  So we want to make sure that we have a broad education campaign.  And I think many of us are also taking that same approach to do that.

I think the other thing that we’re working hard on is more a broad call to service, because I think if you look in the defense industrial base they also have a challenge in attracting people.  So really encouraging that conversation about how important it is to serve the nation, to serve something greater than yourself, and how you in turn are going to benefit from that – whether it’s only for four or six years, whether it’s, like me, for 38 years.  That you can really accelerate your life and your opportunities, get a skill that you can use the rest of your life, and encouraging people to see that.  And giving them the tools they need. 

As we go out to each state in our nation to talk about the Navy, tell those stories, you know, get our young sailors out there who can say all the positive experiences they’ve had.  We are really excited about that.  And then get them to boot camp, make sure that they have – meet all of our standards, and then bring them onto our team, 

I’d say the other part is not only recruiting, it’s retention.  And we have to work just as hard.  We’re doing really well in retention, but we cannot rest on our laurels.  We need to continue to work every day to retain every sailor, retain every civilian, and retain all of their families, and encourage them to stay as part of our Navy team.  And I think that’s been really important.  I think we’ve all been talking about good ways to do that.


MODERATOR:  Do you want to add something?  Even if it is totally different.  (Laughter.)


VICE ADMIRAL RAJESH PENDHARKAR:  Of course, it’s significant that we have no dearth of applications.  But there are other issues that we are tackling in terms of recruitment.  Of course, we need to make sure that our selection process is up to it, to make sure that we are able to select the right candidates, with the right attitude, with the right potential.  That’s one aspect.  The second aspect is also about the spread. 

And we find at times that the intake is skewed in terms of certain regions from our country, and therefore there is a conscious program to educate people from – as the U.S. CNO brought out – there are certain regions in every country where there is definitely sea blindness.  And it is our effort to educate people in those pockets of the country and make them aware of the fact that there is a navy, and that there is a requirement for protecting the national interest, and then what the Navy does.  And therefore encourage people to volunteer for the Navy from those regions.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  I will take the last.  So at the moment, of course, recruiting is a day-to-day challenge, I have to say.  Even if I’m happy, and able to recruit what I needed – I need, more or less, 3,600 sailors every year.  And so I am doing good job, and I’m happy.  But I am not resting, I guess.  I mean, I need to challenge every process on a day-to-day basis to be sure that year after year, I will be able to recruit. 

But my challenge is to retain – I mean, to keep all the guys in the Navy at a good place.  And so for that, of course, I have to do a particular job, especially with critical – especially in the Navy.  But I have to say, I am really jumping off what Ben says.  I have two example.  We recruit, you know, what we call the École des Mousses, and the school of the sailors is at the level of – (inaudible) – of France.  So it’s a low level of recruitment.  And we just admit one of the former sailors to be a technician in nuclear technology, and so what we call the superior private. 

And so it’s quite amazing when you are thinking that that guy was at the level of just the end of the college and then was able in the Navy to climb every step up to nuclear technology, and able to pilot a nuclear reactor in different – (inaudible).  I have a second example, that we have right now a captain of a nuclear submarine – attack submarine, who was a former sailor just working around sonar detection.  He was just a sailor joining the Navy.  And now he’s the captain of a nuclear attack submarine. 

So I think that we have story like this, which can prove that there is a kind of ability to progress in our Navy.  Which is not offered everywhere in the world.  And so we are able to produce that.  And so this is a way to retain.  This is a way to explain that if you want to join the Navy, please come and we will help you to progress and to stay in.  Usually, the guys are joining the Navy because the job makes a lot of sense.  And to keep them in, we have to learn them that the sense of the service of your nation is something which is even more important than the adventure you are joining at the very beginning.  And so the sense of the service of your nation is something which is really marvelous.  It’s something which we can build on.  And so they stay in the Navy for that.


MODERATOR:  Yes, please.


Q:  Ray Hudsonburg (ph) for Defense News.  Two questions, if you don’t mind.

First of all, Admiral Vaujour, you said you were already hiring for the future aircraft carrier.  Can you indicate what sort of positions you’re already trying to fill?  I mean, I think we’re a decade before, you know, we can have any view of the hull of the vessel.  And the second question is a little technical.  With the air defense threat in the Red Sea, we’ve seen quite some depletion – or quite some use, shall we say, of air defense missiles, which some analysts say raises the risks that a frigate is going to find itself with its air defense cells empty.  Where do the various navies stand on replenishing air defense missiles at sea?  Thank you.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  So for the first question, of the next-generation aircraft carrier for France, it’s included inside the budget, as you know, just signed during this term.  And so we were in the planning at the time.  But I need, of course, as the chief of navy, to anticipate a lot of things.  And especially when we are thinking about recruiting.  I am recruiting the first sailors for the new-generation aircraft carrier, because I will need to develop the skills of that crew during the next 15 years to come.  The new aircraft carrier must sail – be given to the navy in 2038.  So it’s a long way.  But, as always for the navy, it’s long-term perspective.  And so, we are building for our successors.  I mean – (laughs) – I get the navy as she – is and she is lovely, I have to say.  (Laughter.)  But I have to build for my successor and to make it better again.  And so to build, day after day, the choice for the new aircraft carrier. 

So, the way we are – we would like to do – because we are not able to fix everything right now with the – because it is a 15-years construction.  So the question is, what is the hull, what is the engine?  And so this is fixed.  And the way we are going to build the combat system, the way we are going to choose the sensors and the effectors of the aircraft carrier will be done probably more later, in order to be at a good level at the end when we receive the next aircraft carrier.  So long, long adventure facing.  (Laughs.)  But challenging, and very, very interesting too.


MODERATOR:  Admiral, you want to answer?


ADM. KEY:  Yeah.  So on logistic resupply, clearly this is something that we track all the time.  And one of the characteristics that we are – we are looking to invest in is to have a variety of operational choices as to how that logistic resupply could take place.  One of the benefits of operating in a multinational coalition, as we are at the moment, is that ships can be taken away from the operational theater before they run out and expose themselves to undue risk, because other partners will be able to take the load and the duty stations.  And then what we are doing is working with regional partners to understand what the resupply opportunities may be. 

There are a number of really effective ports around the Red Sea region, both within it – partners in Egypt and Saudi Arabia immediately spring to mind as most approximate, but there are others as well.  We’ve got long-established partnerships with Oman, for instance.  And so these are all means by which you can achieve the resupply that we require, whether that’s missiles, whether that’s, you know, engineering support, or, dare I say, even picking up some fresh food before you go back on station.  But the trick is for us – operating as an international community of navies – is to ensure that we are balancing a constant operational presence whilst ensuring the sustainment of the operation over time.


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  Just picking up on the expedition – on the ordnance question.  So, you know, I think another one of the things that we’ve recognized and done, you know, a lot of wargaming on is thinking about the requirements for logistics and logistics resupply.  So I would just offer that, you know, we spend some good time thinking about expeditionary reload capabilities.  So if you think about what Ben said about being able to leverage different ports, different opportunities to be able to reload from an expeditionary capability, this is something that we’ve been working on this.  And we’re really pleased to have those expeditionary reload capabilities and the teams that can do that.

I think Secretary Del Toro, who’s our secretary of the navy, he’s challenged us to develop a reloading at sea capability.  He and I got to see a prototype that is from many, many years ago, when they were working on it a long time ago.  And he’s charged us to continue to evolve that and see if we could put together an experiment to see what that would look like going forward. So –


Q:  And what’s the timeline for that?


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  He would like us to have an experiment sometime this summer.  So we’re all working pretty hard to see if we can put that together.  It works on the land but, you know, there’s a little bit of different dynamics at sea – (laughter) – especially due to the sea state and some of the challenges that we have.  But, you know, this is something that we need to think about and we really need to work towards as we look at evolving our weapons systems as well, to look for both kinetic and non-kinetic effects, that we can all work together on, again, to develop those capabilities that we need for the future.


MODERATOR:  OK.  Dr. Willett?


Q:  Good afternoon.  Dr. Lee Willett from Naval News.  A question for the CNO, please.

Admiral Franchetti, I wanted to ask a bit about the role of the carrier strike group and how we deal with a modern situation.  You know, this time last year’s conference we were talking about sea warfare.  This time, now we’re talking about air defense against Houthi missiles.  You talked in your remarks very eloquently about the mobility of a carrier strike group physically.  And we’ve seen the Eisenhower come in and go to the Eastern Mediterranean, down through Suez, round to the northern Gulf, and back on station off of the Gulf of Aden – the Gulf of Aden, doing – getting involved in the operation against the Houthi – the Houthi targets.

So there’s very clear physical mobility in what you can do with a carrier strike group.  And it’s also done different things in all of those places, so it has very clear – contributes different roles.  With the return of the high-end threat, and the challenges that all navies face with a lack of assets – even though the U.S. does have a lot of carriers – do you see the U.S. Navy having to focus the role of an aircraft carrier more specifically on the higher-end threat, or can it continue to – continue to bring that full range of capabilities?  Thank you.


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  Well, thank you for that question.  I think, you know, the aircraft carrier really brings the benefit of all of the airwing.  It brings the benefit of the destroyers, because it is so flexible.  And I think being able to always offer those options to our nation’s decision makers, that’s really what my job is, you know, as the CNO – is to be able to provide, man, to train, to equip our Navy to be able to service all of those different missions.  And then we can offer up the options to our secretary of defense, and he can offer them up to the president.

So I think it’s important that our carrier can operate wherever it needs to, whether it’s in the type of situation that it’s in now, whether it’s to get after the high-end threat.  The most important thing is we train all the time for the high-end threat, understanding that we will be able to do all of the other missions we may be tasked to do, but that needs to be our primary focus for training.  But then when it comes to operating, we need to be able to answer the bell whenever and wherever we need to do it.


MODERATOR:  Yeah.  Thank you.


Q:  John Acres (ph), Reuters.  Just two questions.

What – on different subjects – but what plans do you have to better secure undersea infrastructure after the Nord Stream blast?  And what do you think actually happened?

And – (inaudible) – the conflict in Ukraine, I mean, what’s your assessment of the Russian naval force in the Black Sea following Ukraine’s efforts to target Crimea?


ADM. VAUJOUR:  Undersea infrastructures first.  You’re right; when we say that we need to fight from seabed to space, the seabed warfare is something which is critical.  Probably we face now – and we have some good example(s).  Of course, Nord Stream is a good example, but we have also cables – internet cables in the seabed, and we know that competitors are able to do something on the seabed waters.  So our first answer is to make a kind of situation awareness of what’s going on and where are our critical infrastructures in order to protect them.  Because, of course, if we cut internet cables from the U.S. to Europe, you will have probably financial issues when you are dealing with – (inaudible) – between the two banks, and something like this.

So we need to have a very sharp look on that.  And we are working with partners to see how we can coordinate with, of course, navies, but also with civilian operators to see how to detect, how to see if there is a threat.  I mean, if you are the competitor ship staying a long time around the place where there is a cable, you can ask yourself that something is happening.  So you can go to the cable just after to see if there’s something happened.  And so that’s the first step, of course.  And then you have to build capabilities able to intervene and to see what’s going on, on the seabed.  And so it’s quite challenging, because it’s not an easy place to be, if you have to go up to 4,000 meters down in the sea.  And so, we are developing that kind of assets in order to be able to first detect, elaborate the situation, number one, coordinate the action between the actors, and then be able to intervene if something has been detected.


ADM. KEY:  And on your second question, around the state of the Black Sea fleet, I really applaud what the Ukrainians are achieving at the moment.  And I looked at that in a number of ways.  Firstly, that we’ve seen the Black Sea fleet move ever further east as it has felt threatened.  And so further and further away.  And if we recall, in those very early days after the illegal invasion by the Russians, you know, the Black Sea Fleet closed very close to the Ukrainian coastline.  And was definitely trying to impose sea control of their own, and sea denial on the Ukrainians.  And the Ukrainians pushed back.  And they have reclaimed some 25,000 square kilometers of their own sea space, and more.

And then that was very much the story of 2022.  And then through 2023, what we’ve seen is some really innovative ways of putting pressure and risk against the Russian fleet, not only at sea but also alongside, in Crimean ports, which has led to them being pulled further back to the east.  And so I really admire that, the inventiveness of a navy which, in the early days of that war, took a lot of damage itself, has found some very innovative and asymmetric ways of playing forward. 

And as was recently announced, there’s now a maritime capability coalition been established.  It’s co-led by the United Kingdom and Norway, but with a number of partner navies and nations also involved, which is a means by which we continue to support the Ukrainian Navy not just now, but also into the medium term as they build the sort of capabilities that are required with a – you know, with a great ambition for them to become, you know, a regional navy of capability. 

But what they’re demonstrating to us is that the innovation, courage, and tenacity that they’re showing at the moment means that this is very much a partnership.  It’s not a one-way movement of us helping them out.  It’s very much a shared learning activity, with much for us to observe and bring back into our own thought processes as well.


MODERATOR:  Cindy (sp)?  Oh, sorry.


Q:  Sorry.

Q:  Zach Yaver (ph) – (inaudible) – Naval News.

First question.  Can each one of you please briefly, like in one sentence, share your – the best counterarguments you got to people saying that aircraft carriers are things of the past because of, you know, hypersonics and so forth, or (killers ?) from China and Russia?  Admiral, you shared one – a great one this morning already.  You may share another one if you have one.

And the second question is for Admiral Vaujour and Admiral Franchetti.  Both your predecessors, Admiral Vandier and Admiral Gilday, on a number of occasions in the past couple of years raised the issue of interoperability between the fourth-generation and fifth-generation fighters, so Dassault Rafale and F-35, because in an operational context the two aircraft will not be able to share data.  They said there were discussions Navy-to-Navy in order to address those issues.  Are those discussions ongoing?  And have you found a solution?


ADM. KEY:  So I’ll quote my line again so it’s on the record.  (Laughter.)  If carrier killer missiles are so good, why is China building and operating three aircraft carriers themselves?  And I think that leads to the more productive centers, which is for all the challenges of operating in the contemporary, contested environment we find ourselves in – and everybody finds themselves in that same environment – we have not yet come up with a better way of delivering mobile expeditionary strike force protection and force protection from the sea, than you find in a carrier strike group.  Because I haven’t seen anybody else come up with it yet in that same way that we can offer assistance, agility, mobility, and choice.  All the features that were laid out this morning, full stop.  (Laughter.)


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  Can I just say what he said?  (Laughter.)  I would just say, targeting is hard, and speed and mobility matter.  And an aircraft carrier has speed and mobility.  And that’s its advantage. 

I think on the discussion about the aircraft, we’re continuing to have conversations about this.  And my view, and I think your view is, we are very old allies.  And we have worked through many things in the past.  And I know we’re going to be able to work through many things in the future.  And that we will continue to work together.  And that’s what I – that’s what my commitment is.  We’re going to be able to continue to work through anything that comes our way.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  Just to jump back on the answer, we have a good example right now in the Red Sea – Houthis trying to use ballistic missiles against ships, without very good success at the time.  And it due to one thing – mobility, definitely.  And so I don’t think – I don’t know if in the future ballistic missiles will be efficient, accurate against a ship for us.  And we have to prepare that probably in the future.  The way we are working right now is to increase the way of detecting new threats, facing new threats, and so on.  And I think we are, at that time, better on the threats.  So we will see – we will see in the future.  We will continue to increase the shield.  (Laughs.)  But our best way of doing is to be (allied ?), for sure.  For sure.


VICE ADM. PENDHARKAR:  Just this one comment on that.  And I think – I think plenty has been said about the aircraft carrier and the capabilities that it brings about.  And there’s no doubt about it.  And, to be very honest, there’s really no alternative if you really look at it.  Now, if you’re going to be basing your perceptions on the threats, the emerging threats to the aircraft carrier in terms of hypersonic missiles or other capabilities that are coming up, I think that would be fully applicable to all kinds of platforms, including land platforms or aerial platforms.  And that cannot be the justification for having a review and a rethink on whether we need the aircraft carrier and the carrier group or not.

And I think the second aspect is that the carrier is not a single platform.  We are always talking about it as a group.  And therefore, it is the sum total of the capabilities of the group that we need to factor before we even think of a question debating the relevance of the aircraft carrier.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  Just two things, because I have not finished this.  Second thing for the aircraft carrier.

At that time, we saw that some nations are closing themselves.  And so one of the question when you want to intervene on a crisis is the access.  And when you have no access, you have still the carrier strike group.  If you have access at airport or seaport, you can produce some military effect.  If you do not have, you still have the carrier strike group and you are able to produce some effect.  So that’s one of the main issue for the carrier strike group, is to be able to produce something even if everything is closed.

And going back to interoperability, yes, we are working hard with U.S. to do it together.  I mean, we are fighting together for years.  And each time, and it is the – at the same time, I had the honor to work with Admiral Franchetti.  (Laughs.)  It was in the Black Sea, when you were in the Sixth Fleet.  When I was a CDO, she was the G-5 in Washington.  And right now, we are both chief of our navy.  And so, really, the trust we build together is the best way to find the solution, because when we will need to fight together we will find the good solution at the time.


MODERATOR:  And last question from Mrs. – (inaudible).


Q:  Hi.  Cindy Buruz (ph) from The National (sp).  It’s a question for all of you.

One hour ago, the U.S. and U.K. issued sanctions against all Houthi officials for supporting or directing attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.  I was just wondering if you could tell us if you think those sanctions will have an impact on Prosperity Guardian.  And, more broadly, moving forward, what should be done to better counter the Houthi attacks, since they don’t seem to want to stop?


ADM. KEY:  So, for the record, I was in here when that announcement was made.  So you’re first – new news.  But a broader – I’m going to answer your question more broadly.  It has always been made really clear, through all of the actions, that there’s – that there is no one single thing that will persuade the Houthis to desist.  It has to be part of a strategy, a number of factors, both external persuasion, an indication of the fact that the international community will not put up with this threat to the rules-based international system, as Admiral Franchetti described so eloquently earlier, the risk to economic lifebloods, and also then the stuff that happens behind the scenes.

Where I am absolutely sure – I do not know, so this is nothing happening – but I’m absolutely sure that regional partners and a lot of diplomatic effort is taking place behind the scenes to talk to the Houthis, and to lay out to them the risks and jeopardy that they are currently facing if they continue this sort of disruptive activity.  And so no one single thing is going to be seen as the point.  The Houthi behavior over the last few years in the civil war within Yemen, when they’ve threatened the legitimate government of Yemen, in the actions against Saudi Arabia, all of that have given a good indication to the disorganization and the character of them.  

And so it has to be a multifaceted response that we undertake.  And that is what the international community, as described by all of our respective leaders, is undertaking at the moment.  And therefore, sanctions that have been announced against these individuals will be part of that solution space, I’m sure.


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  And, just to echo, it really does have to be a full court press, whether it’s diplomatic, it’s in the information space, military, and economic.  You know, we need to – the collective “we” – can use all those levers of national power to really make them understand exactly the impact they’re having, and that it needs to stop right now. 


MODERATOR:  The time is over.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, ma’ams.  Thank you, sirs.  And have a good evening.



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