Don’t worry, the FS Garonne hauled HMS Albion to assess its pulling strength and abilities as part of a testing exercise.
The Garonne is one of four new specialist Loire-class support ships built for the French Navy designed to provide a multitude of services, from supporting diving operations and dealing with pollution in the aftermath of a spillage at sea, to assisting submarines and surface ships, including salvage operations.
According to the Royal Navy:
“With HMS Queen Elizabeth deployed and her sister Prince of Wales undergoing maintenance in Portsmouth Naval Base, the next largest British warship HMS Albion – 18,500 tonnes, 176 metres long, 29 wide – acted as the ‘breakdown victim’ to test the Garonne’s towing ability.
The Plymouth-based amphibious assault ship pretended to be dead in the water in the Channel – with the Garonne throwing her a line, figuratively and physically. From the British side, the complex seamanship exercise was overseen by the MoD’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) team which provides salvage, towing, and heavy lift capability.”
Commander James Walton, HMS Albion’s Second in Command, was quoted as saying:
“Our French Naval counterparts are highly skilled and professional – it was a delight working with them. The ability to integrate quickly and effectively with international partners is a key component to operating as a global navy, supporting global Britain.”
Before participating in the Towing Exercise, Garonne carried out intensive trials and training to prove her ability to work with NATO’s Submarine Rescue System (NSRS). The jointly owned UK, French and Norwegian system is capable of diving down to a submarine in distress, docking with the escape hatches and carrying out an evacuation.