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Esquimalt-based submarine makes debut at international super-drill

Jul 04 2012

The arrival Tuesday of Canada’s only functioning submarine at the world’s largest naval exercise off Hawaii marks the first time a Victoria-class sub will participate in the international drill.

The ability of HMCS Victoria, the CFB-Esquimalt based submarine, to train with 40 surface ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft is an opportunity “you can’t replicate through simulation,” said Commodore Peter Ellis, the Commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific.

The six-week Rim of the Pacific exercise, or RIMPAC, also marks the first time the United States has handed over control of key operations to Canadian officers.

The exercise, which began June 29 and ends Aug. 3, includes 25,000 personnel from 22 nations.

Ellis and two other Canadian officers leading operations during RIMPAC spoke to the Times Colonist on a conference call Tuesday from Pearl Harbour.

After a decade spent mostly in dry dock, HMCS Victoria completed the first part of its work up and fired an exercise version of the MK48 torpedo in March. The boat will complete its high-readiness certification during the exercise, which Ellis called “a huge milestone.” 

“Victoria’s crew will really benefit from the entire experience and I dare say the surface ships [and other submarines] will benefit from having Victoria as an opponent,” Ellis said. “Everyone can learn from each other here.”

The super-drill, which is held every two years, is aimed at building relationships between Pacific nations, considered key to keeping the Asia-Pacific corridor safe.

Ellis compared some portions of the exercise to a pick-up hockey game, where players swap teams in order to understand how others operate. “We’ll do that during the exercise to enhance the ability to work together but also to show off [our navy’s] independent capabilities.”

CFB Esquimalt-based war ships HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Ottawa are also participating, as are the base’s fleet diving unit and a Sea King helicopter from 442 Squadron at CFB Comox.

The first week starts with myriad safety meetings and communications tests before the ships start more intense live training, including missile trials, aircraft landing and anti-warfare drills.

The exercise ends with a fast-paced, four-day “real world” scenario that incorporates land, sea and aircraft capabilities, said Ellis, who is the commander of combined task force 176, an amphibious group led by USS Essex. 

This year marks the first time Canadian officers have been given senior leadership positions in the exercise, which is typically dominated by the United States.

“The fact that Canada is playing a key role speaks to the size of our contributions to RIMPAC, which is second to the United States in this case,” said Brig.-Gen. Michael Hood, the combined forces air component commander for the exercise.

Rear-Admiral Ron Lloyd has been assigned deputy commander combined task force, the command structure in charge of the exercise.


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