French Navy

French Navy
Marine Nationale
Naval Ensign of France

Naval Ensign of France
Active 1624 - present
Country France
Size (2011)[1]

37,000 regulars
7,000 civilian reserves
180 ships

Garrison/HQ Main: Brest, Ile Longue, Toulon.

Secondary: Cherbourg, Lorient, Bayonne. French overseas territories: Fort de France, Degrad des Cannes, Port des Galets, Nouméa, Papeete. Overseas: Dakar, Djibouti, Abu Dhabi.

Nickname La Royale
Motto Honneur, Patrie, Valeur, Discipline
("Honour, Homeland, Valour, Discipline")
Colours Blue, white, red
Ships Current Fleet
Chief of staff Admiral Pierre-François Forissier
Major-Général Admiral Benoît Chomel de Jarnieu
Insignia Ranks in the French Navy
Aircraft flown
Attack Super Étendard, Rafale
Fighter Rafale
Helicopter NH90, Eurocopter Lynx, Panther, Dauphin
Utility helicopter Alouette III
Patrol Atlantique 2, Falcon 50, Falcon 200
Trainer Mudry CAP 10, MS-88 Rallye, Falcon 10, Xingu

The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale ("National Navy") and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military[2]. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles. The total displacement of the navy (2002) is approx. 490,000 tons,[3] making the French navy one of the largest in the world.

Its motto is Honneur, Patrie, Valeur, Discipline ("Honour, Fatherland, Valour, Discipline") and these words are found on the deck of every ship in the fleet.



The French navy is affectionately known as La Royale ("the Royal"). The reason is not well known; some theorise that it is for its traditional attachment to the French monarchy, some others said that before being named "nationale" the Navy had been named "royale", or simply because of the location of its headquarters, "rue Royale" in Paris (similar metonyms include Matignon for the French Prime Minister, Quai d'Orsay for the French Foreign Ministry, La Coupole ("The Dome") for the Académie Française, etc.). The navy did not sport the royal titles common with other European navies like the British Royal Navy.

Middle Ages

Medieval fleets, in France as elsewhere, were almost entirely composed of merchant ships enlisted into naval service in time of war. But the roots of the French Navy can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when, in its first battle, it defeated the English Navy at Arnemuiden,[4] on 23 September 1338. This battle was also the first naval battle using artillery.[5]

17th Century

The Battle of Beveziers.

The Navy became a consistent instrument of national power around the seventeenth century with Louis XIV. Under the tutelage of the "Sun King," the French Navy was well financed and equipped, managing to score several early victories in the Nine Years War against the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy. Financial troubles, however, forced the navy back to port and allowed the English and the Dutch to regain the initiative. Before the Nine Years War, in the Franco-Dutch War, it managed to score a decisive victory over a combined Spanish-Dutch fleet at the Battle of Palermo

18th and early 19th centuries

French Navy ships of the line in the Battle of the Chesapeake.
French Navy 120 cannon warship L'Océan. 1st Empire.

The eighteenth century saw the beginning of Royal Navy domination, which managed to inflict a number of significant defeats on the French. However, the French Navy continued to score various successes, as in the campaigns led in the Atlantic by Picquet de la Motte. In 1766, Bougainville led the first French circumnavigation.

During the American Revolutionary War the French Navy played a decisive role in supporting the American side. In a very impressive effort, the French under de Grasse managed to defeat a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, thus ensuring that the Franco-American ground forces would win the ongoing Battle of Yorktown. French warships participated in the battle by bombarding British ground forces.

In India, Suffren waged campaigns against the British (1770–1780), successfully contending for supremacy against Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes. In the Mediterranean, the French Navy waged a naval campaign during a 1798 French invasion of Egypt. Evading a pursuing British fleet under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson, French fleet, consisting of hundreds of ships and carrying 30,000 troops, captured Malta before continuing to Egypt, where the French took Alexandria. French troops subsequently marched inland while the fleet anchored in Aboukir Bay. When Nelson discovered the French fleet's location, he set sail for Aboukir Bay and ordered an immediate attack. In the subsequent Battle of the Nile, the French were defeated, ending French naval power in the Mediterranean and encouraging other nations to join the Second Coalition and go to war with France.

From 1798 to 1800, France and the United States engaded in the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval war. Prior to the war, France had been outraged over US trade with Britain and the refusal to repay war debts from the Revolution on grounds that they were owed to the French crown, not Revolutionary France. French ships began seizing American merchant ships trading with Britain, inflicting substantial losses on American shipping. As a result, the United States Navy fought a series of largely successful naval engagements with the French. By the autumn of 1800, the US Navy and Royal Navy had reduced the activities of French privateers and warships.

The French Revolution, in eliminating numerous officers of noble lineage (among them, Charles d'Estaing), all but crippled the French Navy. Efforts to make it into a powerful force under Napoleon I were dashed by the death of Latouche Tréville in 1804, and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where the British all but annihilated a combined Franco-Spanish fleet. The disaster guaranteed British naval superiority throughout the Napoleonic Wars, up until World War II.

In 1810 the French Navy won an important victory against the British during the Napoleonic Wars, the Battle of Grand Port, a frigate action in the Indian Ocean won by Admiral Guy-Victor Duperré.

The French Navy proved vastly inferior in tactics to the Royal Navy throughout the Napoleonic Wars. The French Navy, even with the help of Allied navies, was smaller: In 1812, the Royal Navy, consisting of 600 cruisers and some smaller vessels, was the size of the rest of the world's navies combined. During the Napoleonic Wars, most of its engagements with the British ended in defeat. Between 1793 and 1812, the French Navy lost 377 ships to the British, while the British lost 10 ships. In fourteen major engagements between 1794 and 1806, the French Navy suffered 23,000 casualties while the Royal Navy suffered 7,000 casualties. One in four British casualties were deaths, while more than half the French were. The lopsided casualty figures were due to the fact that the French sought to disable and capture enemy ships, while the British sought to kill or injure enemy gun crews. French gunners were told to fire as the ship began its up roll, and shoot high to disable the masts, spars, and rigging. British gun crews were taught to fire on the down roll, and to fire straight at the hull.[6] The French Navy was unable to prevent a British naval blockade of France during the Napoleonic Wars, and spent much of the war blockaded in port.

19th century revival

Abel Aubert Dupetit Thouars taking over Tahiti on 9 September 1842. July Monarchy.

Global interventions

In a speech in 1852, Napoleon III famously proclaimed that "The Empire means peace" ("L'Empire, c'est la paix"), but actually he was thoroughly determined to follow a strong foreign policy to extend France's power and glory. Around that time, the French Navy was involved in a multitude of actions around the world.

Oceania (July Monarchy)

In 1842, the French Navy took over Tahiti under Admiral Abel Aubert Dupetit Thouars. French activity in those parts would continue throughout the 19th century, as his nephew Abel-Nicolas Bergasse Dupetit Thouars went on pacifying the Marquesas Islands in 1880.

The Crimean War

Napoleon III's challenge to Russia's claims to influence in the Ottoman Empire led to France's successful participation in the Crimean War (March 1854–March 1856). During this war Napoleon successfully established a French alliance with Britain, which continued after the war's close.

Conquest of Cochinchina
The ironclad floating battery Lave in 1854 during the Crimean War.

Napoleon III took the first steps to establishing a French colonial influence in Indochina. He approved the launching of the Cochinchina Campaign in 1858 to punish the Vietnamese for their mistreatment of French Catholic missionaries and force the court to accept a French presence in the country. An important factor in his decision was the belief that France risked becoming a second-rate power by not expanding its influence in East Asia. Also, the idea that France had a civilising mission was spreading. This eventually led to a full-out invasion in 1861. By 1862 the war was over and Vietnam conceded three provinces in the south, called by the French Cochin-China, opened three ports to French trade, allowed free passage of French warships to Cambodia (which led to a French protectorate over Cambodia in 1867), allowed freedom of action for French missionaries and gave France a large indemnity for the cost of the war.

The French frigate Guerrière commanded by Admiral Roze was the lead ship in the French Campaign against Korea, 1866. Here the ship is photographed in Nagasaki harbour, circa 1865.
Second Opium War

In China, France took part in the Second Opium War along with Britain, and in 1860 French troops entered Beijing. China was forced to concede more trading rights, allow freedom of navigation of the Yangzi river, give full civil rights and freedom of religion to Christians, and give France and Britain a huge indemnity. This combined with the intervention in Vietnam set the stage for further French influence in China leading up to a sphere of influence over parts of Southern China.


The French Navy conducted a successful blockade of Mexico in the Pastry War of 1838. It was then heavily involved in French intervention in Mexico (January 1862–March 1867). Napoleon III, using as a pretext the Mexican Republic's refusal to pay its foreign debts, planned to establish a French sphere of influence in North America by creating a French-backed monarchy in Mexico, a project which was supported by Mexican conservatives tired of the anti-clerical Mexican republic.

Korea, Japan

In 1866, French Navy troops took part in the French campaign against Korea. The French Navy also had a significant presence in Japan with the Bombardment of Shimonoseki in 1863. In 1867-1868, some level of presence in Japan was maintained around the actions of French Military Mission to Japan, and the subsequent Boshin war.

Sino-French War

The projection of French naval power in the Far East reached a peak in the first half of the 1880s. The Far East Squadron (escadre de l'Extrême-Orient), an exceptional naval grouping of two (subsequently three) naval divisions under the command of Admiral Amédée Courbet created for the duration of the Sino-French War (August 1884 to April 1885), saw considerable action during the war along the China Coast and in the seas around Formosa (Taiwan). Besides almost obliterating China's Fujian Fleet at the Battle of Fuzhou (23 August 1884), the squadron took part in the bombardment and landings at Keelung and Tamsui (5 and 6 August 1884 and 1 to 8 October 1884), the blockade of Formosa (October 1884 to April 1885), the Battle of Shipu (14 February 1885), the so-called Battle of Zhenhai (1 March 1885), the Pescadores Campaign (March 1885) and the 'rice blockade' of the Yangzi River (March to June 1885).

Technological innovations (19th century)

Le Napoléon (1850), the first steam battleship in history.

In the nineteenth century, the navy recovered and became arguably the second finest in the world after the Royal Navy, albeit very much smaller. The French Navy, eager to challenge British naval supremacy, took a leadership role in many areas of warship development, with the introduction of new technologies.

  • France led the development of shell guns for the Navy, with its invention by Henri-Joseph Paixhans
  • In 1850, Le Napoléon became the first steam-powered battleship in history.
  • La Gloire became the first seagoing ironclad in history when she was launched in 1859.
  • In 1863, the French Navy launched Plongeur, the first submarine in the world to be propelled by mechanical power.
  • In 1876, the Redoutable became the first steel-hulled warship ever.
  • In 1887, the Dupuy de Lôme became the world's first armoured cruiser.

The French Navy also became an active proponent of the "Jeune École" doctrine, calling for small but powerful warships using torpedoes and shell guns to attack the British fleet.

French warship construction proved attractive to the newly industrialising Japan, when the French engineer Émile Bertin was invited to assist in warship design for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

20th century

The development of the French Navy slowed down in the beginning of 20th century as the naval arms race between Germany and Great Britain grew in intensity. As a result, it was outnumbered not only by the Royal Navy but also by the Imperial German Navy and United States Navy, which were also technically superior. It was late to introduce new battleships - dreadnoughts and light cruisers and it entered World War I with relatively few modern vessels.

The Entente Cordiale ended the period in which Britain was seen as a potential enemy, reducing the need for a strong navy. Although there was no formal military alliance, there was a de facto agreement that France would play a leading role in the Mediterranean and Britain would protect the Northern coast of France against a possible German attack. During the war, the main French effort was on land, so not many new warships were built.

The first task of the Mediterranean battle squadrons was to escort transport ships carrying troops from French North Africa to France to join the Battle of the Marne. By the end of August 1914, French battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines were conducting patrols in the Adriatic Sea to prevent any attacks by the Austro-Hungarian Navy. The most important operations of the French Navy were conducted during the Dardanelles Campaign. The French Navy also played an important role in countering Germany's U-Boat campaign, with warships patrolling the seas and escorting convoys. In December 1916, French warships arrived off Greece, bombarding Athens and landing sailors, forcing the pro-German Greek government to change its policies. A number of Greek Navy warships were seized and commissioned into the French Navy, and later played an important part in the anti-U-Boat campaign. The most significant losses sustained by the French Navy during the war were three pre-dreadnought battleships, one semi-dreadnought, four armored cruisers, one protected cruiser, twelve destroyers, and fourteen submarines.[7]

A number of major ships of the French Navy at the outbreak / end of World War I[8]

The first proto-aircraft carrier

Seaplane carrier Foudre

The invention of the seaplane in 1910 with the French Le Canard led to the earliest development of ships designed to carry aeroplanes, albeit equipped with floats. In 1911 appears the French Navy La Foudre, the first seaplane carrier. She was commissioned as a seaplane tender, and carried float-equipped planes under hangars on the main deck, from where they were lowered on the sea with a crane. La Foudre was further modified in November 1913 with a 10 metre flat deck to launch her seaplanes.[9]

In spite of proposals of the French inventor Clément Ader in 1909 to build a ship with a flat deck to operate aeroplanes at sea, similar to modern aircraft carriers, the French Navy built its first aircraft carrier only in 1920s and did not go further in developing aircraft carriers before World War II. In 1920, Paul Teste achieved the first carrier landing of the history of the French Navy, aboard the Béarn.

Fleet construction between the World Wars

After World War I, the French Navy remained the fourth largest in the world, after the British, US and Japanese navies, but the Italian Navy, considered as the main enemy, was almost as large as the French one. This order of fleets, with the French Navy equal to the Italian Navy, was sanctioned by the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. Every naval fleet consists of a variety of ships of different sizes, and no fleet has enough resources to make every vessel supreme in its class. Nonetheless, different countries strive to excel in particular classes. Between the World Wars, the French fleet was remarkable in its building of small numbers of ships that were "over the top" with relation to their equivalents of other powers.

For example, the French chose to build "super-destroyers" which were deemed during the Second World War by the Allies as the equivalent of light cruisers. The Fantasque class of destroyer is still the world's fastest class of destroyer. The Surcouf submarine was the largest and most powerful of its day. The Dunkerque class battleships, designed specially to fight the German so-called pocket battleships, were, in spite of their relatively small size, very well-balanced designs and precursors of a new fast battleship generation in the world. The Richelieu class full-size battleships are considered by some experts as the most successful battleships built under displacement limits of Washington Treaty in the world.[10]

Minelaying cruiser Emile Bertin reached 40.5 knots at sea trials.

Major ships of the French Navy at the beginning of the German attack in May 1940:[11]

  • modern battleships: 3
  • old battleships - dreadnoughts: 5 (Bretagne, Provence, Lorraine, Paris and Courbet)
  • aircraft carriers: 1 (Béarn, and one planned)
  • seaplane carriers: 1
  • heavy cruisers: 10
  • light cruisers: 10
  • large destroyers: 32 (Contre-Torpilleurs)
  • destroyers: 38
  • submarines: 80 (and two dozen in various stages of completion)
  • sloops and escorts: 65 (with over twenty in various stages of completion and several in reserve)

Apart from these, there was one modern battleship advanced in construction; the second battleship, one aircraft carrier, numerous submarines and several destroyers were in different stages of construction.

Second World War

FNFL Submarine Rubis, laid mines that sank or damaged at least 14 ships.
Battleship Richelieu
Light cruiser Georges Leygues provided fire support during Normandy and French Riviera landings.

At the outset of the war, the French Navy was involved in a number of operations against the Axis Powers, participating in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allied campaign in Norway, the Dunkirk evacuation and, briefly, the Battle of the Mediterranean. However, Pétain's armistice terms completely changed the situation: the French fleet immediately withdrew from the fight.

The British perceived the French fleet under the Vichy government as a potentially lethal threat. This threat would be made all the more real should the French somehow become formal enemies or, more likely, should the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) gain control of French ships. It was essential that the French Navy be put out of action. Some vessels were in port in France, while others escaped to Britain or British-controlled Egypt. The British boarded all French ships in their hands, with many sailors re-joining the Allies as part of the Free French Navy (Forces navales françaises libres, FNFL) because of General de Gaulle’s growing influence. Although the boardings were conducted relatively peacefully, there was resistance on the Surcouf, then the largest submarine in the world, resulting in a skirmish in which one French and three British naval personnel were killed.

However, the most powerful concentration of the French fleet remained in Mers-el-Kébir or Dakar. A Royal Navy squadron delivered an ultimatum to the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. The ultimatum demanded that the ships and their crews either join the war effort or sail with reduced crews to a British port, promising that the ships would be repatriated at the end of the war or compensation paid for damages to them, and giving them the option of sailing to a French port in the West Indies where they could be demilitarized or temporarily given to the United States until the end of the war. If the French refused these offers, they had to scuttle their ships or be fired on. On 3 July 1940, the British opened fire after an agreement proved impossible (Operation Catapult). One French battleship was sunk, and two battleships and four destroyers were knocked out. A British submarine also sank an aviso. Six British naval aircraft were shot down. A total of 1,297 French sailors and 2 British airmen were killed.

Though the Free French Naval Forces continued to fight alongside the allies, the rest of the French fleet became hostile as a result of this action. Many senior members of the French Navy considered Britain and France effectively at war. The French Air Force repeatedly bombed Gibraltar, and throughout the war, there were instances where the French Navy came close to engaging the Royal Navy. In November 1942, for example, Admiral Jean de Laborde refused to use the remained of the French Navy to support Operation Torch, arguing that French ships should instead be attacking the British and Americans.[12]

In September, an attempt to take Vichy-held Dakar ended with the Battle of Dakar and a victory for the Vichy forces. In addition, the Allied attack on Dakar led directly to the Vichy bombing of Gibraltar. These actions soured Anglo-French relations, but did not inhibit further defections to the Allies. The subsequent Battle of Gabon, the Syria-Lebanon Campaign, and the Battle of Madagascar ended in Vichy defeats. During Operation Torch in November 1942, the Allies invaded French North Africa, leading to a large naval battle at Casablanca, but the Vichy forces quickly turned sides. In response, the Germans launched Case Anton and occupied the Vichy-held portion of Metropolitan France. The German occupation included the French naval port of Toulon where the main part of the surviving French fleet lay. This was a major German objective and forces under SS command had been detailed to capture them (Operation Lila). This eventually resulted in French sailors sinking their own ships to save them from falling into German hands (scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon). No French capital ships and few others were taken in reparable condition.[13] A few ships fled Toulon and joined the Allies. Five submarines tried to escape. Three of them were successful, the Casabianca, Glorieux and Marsouin. Following "Torch", remnants of the French Navy moved to the Allies, including ships interned in Egypt, and then there were FNFL warships supporting the Allied landings in Normandy and southern France (Operation Dragoon).

The conquest of the European harbours put an end to the combat operations of the Navy, which spent the rest of the war clearing mines and repairing port installations. On the Pacific theatre, the French Navy was present until the Japanese capitulation; Richelieu was present at the Japanese instrument of surrender. At the end of the war, the weight of the French navy was 400,000 tonnes (800,000 in May 1940).

The French navy ships Béarn, Fantasque, Triomphant, Duquesne, Tourville, and Emile Bertin helped transport the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to French Indochina in 1946.

The French Navy today

The chief of the naval staff is Admiral Pierre-François Forissier.[14]


The Navy is organised in five branches:

  • The "Force d'Action Navale" ("Naval Action Force"), surface fleet
  • The "Forces Sous-marines" ("Submarine forces"), strategic nuclear deterrent fleet based at Île Longue
  • The "Aviation Navale" ("Naval air force"), ground and sea-based planes and helicopters
  • The "Fusiliers Marins" ("Naval fusiliers", ground forces used to secure naval installations) and "Commandos de Marine" (amphibious assault and other special operations), collectively known as FORFUSCO.
  • The "Gendarmerie maritime", police operations and coast guard

Note that the Troupes de Marine ("Naval Troops"), which comprise the Régiments d'Infanterie de Marine (the famous elite RIMa) are the modern name of the Troupes Coloniales ("Colonial Troops"), and are not part of the Navy, but of the Army.


French naval doctrine calls for two aircraft carriers, but the French only have one, the Charles de Gaulle. The order for the Future French aircraft carrier based on the design of the British Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier (under construction as of 2009) has been delayed several times for budgetary reasons, priority being given to the more easily exportable FREMM project; the decision on whether to build the second carrier has now been delayed until 2012.

The navy is in the midst of major technological and procurement changes; newer submarines have been ordered as well as new jet fighters, the Dassault Rafales.

Currently (2010) major ships in service are:

  • The naval action force (FAN) : 115 ships and 12,000 persons.;
  • The submarine force (FSM): 10 ships and 3,300 persons;
  • The naval aviation (AVIA): 147 aircrafts and 7,300 persons;
  • The marines and the commando force (FORFUSCO): 2,000 persons distributed in 16 units.


Atlantique 2

Currently (1 January 2011) aircraft in service are :[15]

Shipborne aircraft

Maritime patrol aircraft

Surveillance aircraft

Support and training




  • 16 AS 365 Panther (36F)


  • 11 SA 365 Dauphin+ 3 Alouettes III Aérospatiale(35F)
  • 2 EC 225 Eurocopter (32F)

Support and training

  • 15 Alouette III Aérospatiale (22S)


As of 2009, the naval bases in use are :

Metropolitan France

Frigate division of the French Navy in Toulon harbour
  • Toulon, home of the Force d'action navale, the Charles de Gaulle, the tactical nuclear submarines, of a large part of the surface fleet and the special commando of combat swimmer : the commando Hubert.
  • Brest, home of the part of the surface fleet tasked to protect the FOST, the mine warfare force, the GEAOM (Training Squadron for Naval Officers), hydrographic and oceanographic fleet and a flotilla of patrol boats, intervention tugs, and training ships.
  • Ile Longue (near Brest) home of the strategic nuclear arm of the fleet (FOST).
  • Cherbourg, home of a flotilla of patrol craft, intervention tug and a mine clearance diving unit with support ship Vulcain (M611).

Overseas departments and territories

The French Southern Indian Ocean force based at La Réunion.

Regional presence bases :

On foreign territories

LPD Foudre at Dakar.
  • Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates's first foreign forces deployed on its soil
  • Dakar, harbours the landing craft Sabre, support of the temporarily deployed ships (6 ships in 2007).
  • Djibouti the home port of the flagship of ALINDIEN, the French naval task force in the Indian Ocean, with Command and Replenishement Tanker Var (A608), 2 stationed frigates detached from Toulon, a detachment of commandos (commando Arta) supported by landing craft Dague (L9052).

The naval air stations in use are :

active bases of the French naval air arm (status 2009) .

Metropolitan France

  • BAN Landivisiau 4F, 23F, 24F
  • BAN Lann-Bihoue 4F, 23F, 24F
  • BAN Lanvéoc-Poulmic 32F, 34F, 22S, 50S
  • BAN Nîmes-Garons 21F, 28F
  • BAN Hyères 31F, 35F, 36F, 57S

Overseas departments and territories

  • BAN Tontouta (New Caledonia) 25F

Other establishments:

Metropolitan France

  • Aspretto
  • Bayonne, home of three patrol ships and craft for surveillance duty of the missile launch range of Biscarosse.
  • Lorient, headquarter of FORFUSCO, naval fusiliers college, training center, commando units "Jaubert", "Kieffer", "de Montfort", "de Penfentenyo", "Trepel" and the "ECTLO".
  • Marseille, the fire department of Marseille is a part of the French Navy: the Marseille Marine Fire Battalion.

Overseas departments and territories

Future developments

The French Navy is undertaking a significant reinforcement, both in modernising and in number, under the Projet de loi de programmation militaire 2003–2008 ("Military programme law project 2003–2008"),[16] which notably calls for:

  • 11 FREMM multipurpose frigates—eleven have so far been ordered, the first eight vessels were ordered in November 2005 and three more on 30 September 2009. Aquitaine, the first ship of the series built for the French Navy was unveiled during a ceremony at the DCNS shipyard in Lorient, France on May 4, 2010. The Aquitaine (D650) is due to be delivered during 2012 and the FREMM program is planned to continue until 2022.[17][18] The first eight ships are to be supplied in an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) configuration, two further ships are to be configured in AAW(anti-air warfare)role and one other in ASW. Deliveries are scheduled over a five-year period from 2011 to 2016. The first delivery is scheduled for mid-2011, the second delivery, Normandie is scheduled for delivery 13 months later, followed by a delivery rate of one ship every seven months. Construction of the Aquitaine began in March 2007.[19]
  • Six nuclear attack submarines of the Barracuda class—the first commissioning (the Suffren) being expected for 2017.
  • Four Engin de débarquement amphibie rapide (EDA-R) L-CAT (CNIM's new Landing craft) were also ordered.

The equipment will also be modernised, notably

Ranks of the National Navy

Shipmen parading in Nice

The following are the ranks of the French National Navy, showing the French rank, the English translation, and the equivalent in the Royal Navy and the English language rank system of the Canadian Navy.


French Rank (in French) French Rank (in English) Equivalent RN Rank Equivalent USN Rank
Amiral de France Admiral of France (7 Stars) No Equivalent No Equivalent
Amiral Admiral (5 Stars) Admiral of the Fleet (5 Stars) Fleet Admiral (5 Stars)
Vice-amiral d'escadre Squadron Vice-Admiral (4 Stars) Admiral (4 Stars) Admiral (4 Stars)
Vice-amiral Vice-Admiral (3 Stars) Vice-Admiral (3 Stars) Vice-Admiral (3 Stars)
Contre-amiral Counter Admiral (2 Stars) Rear Admiral (2 Stars) Rear Admiral Upper Half (2 Stars)
No Equivalent No Equivalent Commodore (1 Star) Rear Admiral Lower Half (1 Star)
Capitaine de vaisseau Ship-of-the-Line Captain Captain Captain
Capitaine de frégate Frigate Captain Commander Commander
Capitaine de corvette Corvette Captain Lieutenant-Commander Lieutenant-Commander
Lieutenant de vaisseau Ship-of-the-Line Lieutenant Lieutenant Lieutenant
Enseigne de vaisseau de première classe Ship-of-the-Line Ensign First Class Sub-Lieutenant Lieutenant, junior grade
Enseigne de vaisseau de deuxième classe Ship-of-the-Line Ensign Second Class Acting Sub-Lieutenant Ensign
Aspirant Aspirant Midshipman Midshipman


Officers mariniers / Non-commissioned Officers

French Rank (in French) French Rank (in English) Equivalent RN Rank Equivalent USN Rank
Maître Principal Principal Master Warrant Officer Master Chief Petty Officer
Premier Maître First Master Chief Petty Officer Senior Chief Petty Officer
Maître Master Petty Officer Petty Officer First Class
Second-Maître Second Master Petty Officer but more junior Petty Officer Second Class

Militaires du rang (équipage)- Junior ranks

French Rank (in French) French Rank (in English) Equivalent RN Rank Equivalent USN Rank
Quartier-maître de première classe Quarter-master First Class Leading Seaman Petty Officer Third Class
Quartier-maître de deuxième classe Quarter-master Second Class Able Seaman Seaman
Matelot breveté "Certified Mate" Ordinary Seaman Seaman Apprentice
Matelot Sailor / Seaman Seaman Seaman Recruit



The French Navy does not use prefixes of the names of its ships (such as the Royal Navy uses HMS, for instance). Foreign commentators sometimes use the prefixes "FS" (for "French Ship") or FNS (for "French Navy Ship"); these are not official, however.

Addressing officers

Unlike in the French army and air force, one does not prepend mon to the name of the rank when addressing an officer (that is, not mon capitaine, but simply capitaine).[20]

Addressing a French Navy lieutenant de vaisseau (for instance) with a "mon capitaine" will attract the traditional answer "Dans la Marine il y a Mon Dieu et mon cul, pas mon capitaine !" ("In the Navy there are My God and my arse, no 'my captain'!").

Notable French naval officers


Heroes of the First Republic


Other important French naval officers


See also

French Armed Forces
Armoiries république française.svg

French Air Force
French Army
French Navy
Ranks in the French Army
Ranks in the French Navy
History of the French Military
Military History of France
La Grande Armée
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  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ World Navies Today: France
  4. ^ Jean-Claude Castex, Dictionnaire des batailles navales franco-anglaises, Presses de l'Université Laval, 2004, p. 21
  5. ^ Jean-Claude Castex, Dictionnaire des batailles navales franco-anglaises, Presses de l'Université Laval, 2004, p.21
  6. ^ Budiansky, Stephen: Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War With Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815
  7. ^
  8. ^ S. A. Balakin: VMS Francyy 1914-1918, Morskaya Kollekcya 3/2000 (in Russian)
  9. ^ Description and photograph of Foudre
  10. ^ W. H. Garzke, R. O. Dulin: Battleships. Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II, Naval Institute Press, 1985, ISBN 0-87021-101-3
  11. ^ Louis Nicolas : Histoire de la marine française, Presse universitaires de France in French)
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "DCNS presents the frigate Aquitaine at ceremony attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy". 05-05-2010. 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  18. ^ "France unveils first FREMM frigate 'Aquitaine'". BNS. 2010 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  19. ^ "FREMM - European Multi-Mission Frigate, France / Italy". Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  20. ^ Rapport sur la féminisation des noms de métier, fonction, grade ou titre - La diversité des usages

Further Reading

  • Randier, Jean (2006). La Royale : L'histoire illustrée de la Marine nationale française. ISBN 9782352610229. 
  • Maria Petringa, Brazza, A Life for Africa, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006. ISBN 978-1425911980. A biography of French naval officer, explorer of Africa, and human rights activist Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, including a detailed description of his years on the training ship Borda, and his experiences at the French Ministry of the Navy on rue Royale, in Paris.

External links

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