Technical availability is the first key element of readiness. That’s the reason why funding maintenance is one of my resource priorities. Innovative efficiencies in this domain have already been established through improved ship technical availability by the involvement of industrial players within our maintenance process:
• New contracts have been signed with industrial incentives for each ship-availability day.
• Maintenance is now planned from the point of conception for new-built ships.
• Sharing experience with civil shipyards is improved.
• Military personnel are exchanged with those from industry.
Furthermore, we are testing a new concept, the “reach back,” on our new frigates. With about two-to-three times fewer sailors on board new-generation ships, ashore teams—equivalent to one crew for three ships—are dedicated to maintenance. We expect to increase productivity in this way.
The second key element is individual and collective competencies. Personnel capacities have been increased by using simulation and experience-transfer ashore. During “reach back” assignment, sailors are trained using virtual-reality tools, working closely with seasoned seamen so they may learn from the latter’s experiences. At sea, realism is increased by using civilian aircraft and small ships as opposition forces to simulate surprise, and by joining other assets for large training exercises. Operational lessons, such as those from the Libyan conflict, are implemented into the scenario.
But most of all, force readiness depends on the crew’s willingness to fight and overcome. Combat is a matter of endurance, tenacity, and enthusiasm. Those qualities have to be maintained in spite of financial reduction and media pessimism. In that context, the sailor’s morale is paramount, and that is why I give it so much attention: we ensure that sailors don’t have to worry about their personal situation. We prioritize providing them with the means to perform the tasks asked of them. Moreover, we train them to rely on each other to overcome adversity by presenting them with difficult training conditions that require close, joint efforts. I’m convinced that crew spirit is the most important enabler to victory.