Navy ships leave for exercise off California

Navy ships carrying nearly 500 sailors left Esquimalt Harbour on Monday, bound for the world’s largest international maritime exercise, off the coast of Southern California.

Naval officers and family gathered at Duntze Head on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt to salute and bid farewell to the Halifax-class frigates HMCS Calgary and Vancouver.

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The ships are set to test electronic systems and weapons, including heavyweight torpedoes, and fire Evolved Sea Sparrow and Harpoon missiles.

Next week, another 80 sailors will depart on the Kingston-class defence vessels HMCS Saskatoon and Yellowknife.

The ships are going to the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a gathering of international navies hosted by the U.S. every two years.

Twenty-seven nations will participate in the maritime exercise and training from June 30 to Aug. 4 around the California coast and Hawaiian Islands.

“Participation in RIMPAC allows the Royal Canadian Navy to work together with our partner nations while providing unique training opportunities for our sailors to maintain and enhance operational readiness,” Commodore Jeff Zwick, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific, said in a statement.

“These opportunities allow our sailors to continue to develop and deepen partnerships with countries from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”

The Royal Canadian Navy works with navies around the world to secure the coasts, intercept narcotics shipments and support counter-terrorism patrols.

At the last RIMPAC in 2014, HMCS Calgary was involved in incidents of bad behaviour by Canadian sailors that led to charges of misconduct and drunkenness, another ship being sent home and the eventual banning of alcohol on navy ships.

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