Massive military exercise to take place on beaches in south of France

7,000 soldiers to train based around a hypothetical invasion scenario

The exercise will include more than 7,000 soldiers
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More than 7,000 soldiers are set to take part in a massive military exercise on beaches in the south of France, including a landing and mock high-intensity fight training, starting this week.

These exercises will take place in Occitanie, starting in Hérault, going from the Lot to Corsica, passing along the length of the Mediterranean coast.

The théâtre de la Mer in Sète, which is normally used for festivals, will be used as a military base due to its visibility over the sea, and proximity to the Sète semaphore.

ORION 23: A massive operation

The mission is called ORION 23, named for Opération de grande envergure pour des Armées Résilientes, Interopérables, Orientées vers le combat de haute intensité et Novatrices (this translates as ‘Large-scale operation for resilient, adaptable, high intensity combat-oriented and innovative armies’).

ORION 23 is a four-part project, which began back in May 2022 and will end in May this year.

This landing is to be an important training mission for troops who would, in a warzone, mount an assault on the enemy. The sixième brigade légère blindée de Nîmes (the sixth light armoured brigade), which specialises in these water-and-land operations, is also likely to take part.

The operations are part of ORION 23’s second phase, and are set to last until March 10.

ORION 23 is a massive operation due to its geographical scope, time investment, and soldier involvement. It will include Army units and Navy ships, as well as Air Force and Space Force bases.

Hypothetical conflict with international support

The area covered has been renamed ‘Arnland’ (an imaginary territory), which is being attacked by an imaginary neighbour, Mercure.

In this hypothetical scenario, Mercure is trying to re-establish its regional influence by financing a militia to destabilise the south of Arnland, deploy military forces, cut off communications, and send out a disinformation campaign.

From this weakened position, Arnland will receive the support of France, which will deploy its ‘national joint emergency force’:

The operation will also include air and land operations with involvement from personnel from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the UK, USA, Greece, the Netherlands and even the UAE.

The project will take into account multiple types of threat in today’s world, including the information wars, cyber-cells, and even intervention in the atmosphere and Space.

The aim is to test and maintain the forces’ reaction capacity and their ability to respond to the goals set.

On its Twitter account, the French Army published a video montage giving an idea of the scale of the operation set to be deployed for phase 2, with the caption: “In a few days, the armies will launch the major exercise of the year 2023".

Army general and state chief major of Armies, Thierry Burkard, said: “I want our armies to be permanently ready to face a major conflict, acting in all environments and fields of confrontation to ‘win the war before the war’ from the stage of competition, which is the normal state of the world based on an international order governed by law.”

The exercise marks a return of military training in public areas in France, after decades of absence. The army is seeing this as “a unique occasion to go and meet our population” and to strengthen the “army-nation link”.

The army said that in case of a conflict or operation to protect national sovereignty, the support of the population in France will be one of the keys to success.

Phase three of the project involves Assessing internal command capabilities for a major operation.

Phase four of the project is set to begin in mid-April, and will include 12,000 soldiers in operations in the east and centre of the country, as well as in Brittany and the Aquitaine coast.

For more information about the missions, consult the ministry of armies government website (in French).

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