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France adopts a new seabed control strategy

The French Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled a new strategy to control the seabed.

Announced on 14 February by French defence minister Florence Parly, the new ‘Seabed Control Operations' strategy intends to equip the French Navy with the ability to protect the country's strategic interests to a depth of 6,000 m.

“The seabed constitutes a new field of conflict in the same way as exo-atmospheric space, cyberspace, and the information sphere,” the French MoD said in a statement. “With the second [largest] exclusive economic zone in the world, France wants to be able to guarantee the freedom of action of its forces and protect its sovereignty, resources, and infrastructure – even in the deep ocean.”

Efforts will be focused on improving knowledge of the undersea environment, and on expanding surveillance and action capabilities to deep waters.

This will be facilitated by the development of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) through both existing and future programmes, which the MoD aims to do in partnership with the French Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) defence procurement agency and industry partners.

To this end, the seabed strategy has outlined a capability development process that will be conducted along two lines, beginning with the development of one AUV and one ROV that can be used in an exploratory capacity for testing and assessment purposes, followed by incremental capability building that will culminate in the launch of an AUV and ROV that can operate down to 6,000 m by 2025.

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