HMCS Charlottetown’s embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter reaches 100 hours of deployed flight
By Lt(N) Meghan Jacques,
Operation REASSURANCE Maritime Task Force UPAR
Since HMCS Charlottetown departed Halifax, Nova Scotia, on August 8, 2017 for Operation REASSURANCE, it has regularly participated in single-ship and task group training. It has worked with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) to demonstrate NATO and Canada’s ongoing commitment to international security and cooperation.
Along with participating in naval communications exercises, integrated warfare drills, and practice maneuvering for replenishments-at-sea, Charlottetown has focused on training and operations for its integrated Air Detachment, flying an embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter. The Air Detachment comprises 19 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. This includes eight members and one technician for each of the two aircrews. They joined the ship as part of its high readiness training program and deployed with it when it departed Halifax.
The role of an embarked helicopter Air Detachment is diverse. “Osprey is an extension of the ship’s sensors, integrated into the weapons systems,” explains Maj Rene Laporte, the Air Detachment Commander aboard Charlottetown. “The Air Department is proud to be embarked as part of the ship’s company and adds value whenever we can—and the crew has certainly greatly contributed to accepting the Detachment as part of the team.”
The reason for this integration is clear: the helicopter and the crew and technicians who operate and repair it contribute directly to the ship’s operational capability.
To date, the Air Detachment has completed a wide array of both exercises and real-world operations. These include cross-deck training with Her Majesty’s Norwegian Ship (HNOMS) Otto Sverdrop, an anti-submarine exercise with the Polish navy, and air mobility support for personnel. From embarking imagery technicians to photograph the task group, to embarking crewmembers from Charlottetown and other NATO ships for day flights, the aircrew and maintainers consistently work to provide increased visibility of NATO operations to our allies and partner nations.
In 17 days at sea as part of Charlottetown’s Tiered Readiness program, the Air Detachment flew 39.5 hours in order to meet training objectives for regular flight operations and emergency responses. In comparison, in Charlottetown’s first 22 days at sea as part of Operation REASSURANCE, the helicopter has already logged over 100 hours. It has conducted day flights for 25 crewmembers from Charlottetown and five from the SNMG1 flag ship, HNOMS Otto Sverdrop. These flights improve awareness and understanding of flight operations in a maritime environment.
Ultimately, whether helping to enhance SNMG1’s tactical view of maritime traffic patterns or interacting with non-allied air forces in the Baltic as part of routine operations, Charlottetown’s Air Detachment is an essential part of Charlottetown’s ship’s company and deployed capability. Supporting readiness and interoperability, the inclusion of such a successful Air Det speaks to the teamwork and dedication of all the crew of Charlottetown and the ship’s commitment to full employment as an integrated member of a deployed NATO task group.