HMCS Charlottetown to join largest NATO exercise in decades
By Trident Staff
HMCS Charlottetown has left Halifax to take part in the ship’s first major exercise with its current command team and crew, which also happens to be one of the largest NATO exercises in nearly 35 years.
Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 will see HMCS Charlottetown join roughly 90,000 participating troops from all 31 NATO member countries, plus Sweden. Charlottetown’s involvement is described as being part of Canada’s maritime contribution to NATO’s deterrence plans to counter threats in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Charlottetown will be one of approximately 50 participating naval vessels, including the ships of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 as well as additional American and Spanish Task groups along with a British carrier strike group.
“Steadfast Defender 2024 represents an outstanding opportunity for us to integrate into and operate with our allies,” said Commander (Cdr) Nicholas Buxton, HMCS Charlottetown’s Commanding Officer. He added the exercise will be great preparation for the ship’s planned deployment later this year as the flagship for Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 in the Mediterranean Sea.
“The sail itself also represents the first opportunity for many of our young sailors to be able to participate in such a group, to cross the Atlantic, and to truly experience naval operations. They’re excited and they’re going to learn a lot during this operation and this exercise,” Cdr Buxton added.
But even some of those with plenty of seagoing experience are finding new opportunities as Charlottetown joins the exercise. Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Banks, the ship’s Chief Engineer, spent the majority of his career on the west coast, and said he’s excited to work with new partners in new surroundings.
“This will be my first big deployment with a NATO task group, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” he said.
“It’s a vastly different environment, and the countries that we’ll be working with and the allies within NATO will all be a new and interesting facet for me.”
The exercise will run until June, with two distinct phases. HMCS Charlottetown will be participating in the initial phase, which will be mainly maritime based, focusing on the defence of Arctic and North Atlantic Waters. The full scope of the exercise, according to a NATO press release, will demonstrate the Alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America and elsewhere in defense of Europe, and will stretch across thousands of kilometers, from the Arctic through to Central and Eastern Europe.
NATO says the Alliance’s last exercise of a comparable size took place in 1988, when approximately 125,000 personnel participated in the former annual Exercise Reforger.
Charlottetown is expected to be deployed for about seven weeks, returning to Halifax in mid-March as the initial phase of Steadfast Defender wraps up.