‘Orion’ military exercises: A fictitious war, but a real test for French troops

© Sylvain Thomas, AFP

Last week France launched Orion 23, months-long military exercises involving thousands of troops, naval and land vehicles, aircraft and an aircraft carrier. The joint military exercises had been in the works since 2020, but as Western powers learned the lessons of the Ukraine war, Orion 23 grew bigger, more ambitious, multidimensional and has drawn in France’s main allies.

It was barely 5am on a Sunday morning when the southern French town of Frontignan was flooded with troops as amphibious military craft landed on its beaches, unleashing hundreds of soldiers and tonnes of heavy equipment.

“It’s definitely a French military landing, which is reassuring right now,” said a resident on an early morning walk. “It creates a bit of a strange atmosphere, which we wouldn’t want on a regular basis,” said another with a nervous smile.

The residents of Frontignan had nothing to fear. The landing on the Mediterranean town was just one part of France’s biggest war games in decades, involving around 12,000 troops including those from NATO allies, being conducted across the country.

The joint exercises, called Orion 23, comes as the Ukraine war enters its second year, with Western nations drawing sobering lessons on military preparedness after decades of defence cuts since the end of the Cold War.

Arnland, weakened and on the verge of collapse, has turned to its allies for help.

(with AFP)

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