CANADA EXTENDS NAVAL OPERATIONS TO INDO-PACIFIC REGION, AFRICA
BY DAVID PUGLIESE, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
This year is shaping up to be a busy one
for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as it
expands its efforts to develop new maritime
partners and establish a global presence in
areas it has not operated in extensively.
For the first time in more than a decade, the RCN
is sending ships to operate off the coast of Africa. In
addition, in late March it was to send two frigates into
the Indo-Pacific region.
“2017 is shaping up to be a good year operation-
ally,” Vice Adm. Ron Lloyd, head of the RCN, told
Seapower. “We’re going to have a task group in the
Indo-Pacific, we’re going to have units deployed off of
Africa, we’re going to be in the Caribbean and we’ve
got another unit just coming out of the Black Sea.”
Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Summerside
and Moncton left Halifax on Feb. 18 to sail to West Africa
to take part in a mission the RCN is calling Neptune
Trident. The two maritime coastal defense vessels, or
MCDVs, will conduct training with the navies of West
African nations to support joint operations and foster
relationships in the Gulf of Guinea region.
In addition, the Kingston-class MCDVs, along with
a detachment of personnel from the Maritime Tactical
Operations Group (MTOG), an enhanced naval boarding
unit, also will participate in Obangame Express 2017.
That is an at-sea maritime training event led by U.S.
Naval Forces Africa, Lloyd said.
That exercise is designed to foster cooperation
among nations, with the aim of improving maritime
safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. It focuses on
maritime interdiction missions.
Twenty African countries are involved, including
Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cape
Verde, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bassau,
Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal,
Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Principe, and Togo.
Lloyd said the MTOG will conduct training on shore
and at sea, working with regional partners on tech-
niques for maritime interdiction such as boarding and
seizing vessels. Also included will be small unit tactics
and small arms training.
The genesis of the African deployment started when
Canadian naval commanders were examining regions
where the RCN had not operated previously or had not
visited in some time. The last time Canadian warships
had been to the Gulf of Guinea area was about 10 years
ago to support drug-interdiction operations.
Originally, there were discussions about sending an
RCN frigate to Africa, but Lloyd said deploying smaller
vessels would make more sense, at least initially.
“We decided we’d start small with some of our
MCDVs to gain a better understanding as we go for-
ward,” he said.
Both vessels are expected to return to Nova Scotia
sometime in May and the mission could set the stage
for future deployments.
“Our instincts are that this will be very successful
and the ships’ companies who will return will have
hopefully been useful in terms of sharing their expe-
riences with other navies and making a difference,”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement
that the deployment shows Canada’s ongoing com-
mitment to conduct international multiship readiness
RCN Rear Adm. John Newton, commander, Maritime
Forces Atlantic, pointed out that the RCN already has
learned a great deal from the planning of the deployment and through staff visits with African counterparts.