Departure for Op REASSURANCE

Families watch from the jetty as HMCS Ville de Québec fades into the fog while departing Halifax on July 18.

HMCS Ville de Québec departs with embarked Cyclone for Op REASSURANCE

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

A new milestone for Canadian maritime aviation was reached on July 18, as HMCS Ville de Québec set sail for Op REASSURANCE along with an embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter and Helicopter Air Detachment. The departure marks the first operational deployment for the new helicopter, and the result of more than three years of testing, evaluation, and training.

Col Sid Connor, Wing Commander at 12 Wing Shearwater, was on hand to speak with the air crew and support staff at the jetty before they left for the roughly six-month deployment, which will focus on supporting NATO assurance measures in Central and Eastern Europe.

“This is an amazing change for our air crews, and this is the start of the next chapter in maritime helicopter operations, working with the Navy wherever Canada chooses to send us. It’s a very exciting time,” Col Connor said.

The Cyclone, manufactured by Sikorsky, comes with numerous technological improvements compared to the CH-124 Sea King fleet, including flight speed, distance, sensors and communications. The Cyclone flies from a frigate with the same four-person air crew as the Sea King, but with many tasks now being automated, personnel are free to do more to support the ship.

“What’s changed is the types of tasks they’ll do, the range of tasks they’re able to do, and the amount of effectiveness the crews will get out of the equipment,” Col Connor added.

While there was plenty of excitement around the departure, with a highly-capable crew deploying with a new piece of military kit for the first time, it was also an emotional day at the dockyard. Hundreds of families and friends were on hand to see the crew off, and there were lots of hugs and tears prior to Ville de Québec making its way out of the harbour.

Cdr Scott Robinson, the ship’s Commanding Officer, is father to a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, and said being separated from family is always tough, adding that missing milestones, like his son’s first day of school this coming September, adds to the difficulty.

“This is hard on our families, and without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we’ve achieved so far, or what we will ultimately accomplish over the next six months.”

While overseas, the ship’s company will continue to count on their family back home for extra support, he added.

“I’d ask all the family members here today to continue sending positive support to their loved ones on board Ville de Québec, because their love will contribute to the success of our mission and allow us to focus on the job at hand.”

That mission will mainly involve supporting NATO assurance and deterrence measures in the Baltic and Mediterranean. The ship is set to join Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, a naval force composed of ships from various allied countries, in the coming weeks, continuing in the role most recently filled by HMCS St. John’s. Ville de Québec  and its embarked Cyclone will conduct surface patrols and subsurface surveillance, while also participating in training exercises meant to keep crews at high readiness and ensure the task group is combat capable.

“We want to maintain our proficiency as much as we can, at the very highest level, in case the government of Canada calls on us to do something or react to some sort of real-world event,” Cdr Robinson said.

He also thanked those who helped his team reach their current readiness level, including personnel from Sea Training (Atlantic) and FMF Cape Scott, as well as the crew themselves, for putting in long hours and overcoming obstacles as they prepared to deploy.

“The ship and crew have come a long way since I took command almost a year ago. We’re ready to help, ready to lead, and ready to fight.”