Three navy ships sail out of CFB Esquimalt on missions

Three Royal Canadian Navy ships left CFB Esquimalt Wednesday for operations in the Pacific and the Middle East.

The frigate HMCS Ottawa will accompany HMCS Regina and MV Asterix, the new combined navy/civilian supply vessel, as far as Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and then break off. The Ottawa crew will conduct anti-submarine exercises with the U.S. navy and return to Esquimalt in about one month.

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HMCS Regina continues on for a seven-month deployment, travelling first to Asia-Pacific waters for Operation Projection, a series of exercises with friendly navies and diplomatic visits.

In March, HMCS Regina heads for the Middle East on a different mission. Operation Artemis is a Canadian-led task force of 33 nations meant to deter and deny terrorist and criminal groups the use of the seas in some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. HMCS Regina will then return to the Asia-Pacific region. It is expected back in Esquimalt in August.

Commander Jacob French, HMCS Regina’s captain and commanding officer, said the mission will be the first chance for Canada’s Pacific navy to show off the new CH 140 Cyclone helicopter deploying from the stern deck of the frigate.

The Cyclone is the replacement for the 1960s-era Sea Kings. The Cyclone brings new high-tech digital surveillance, search and detection capacities to the navy.

The exercise will be one of new mission independence for the frigate as it operates with MV Asterix, the former merchant ship converted to a naval replenishment vessel. In December, Asterix completed its first Pacific mission, a five-month deployment with HMCS Calgary.

MV Asterix carries fuel, machine parts, stores, supplies and a fully stocked medical clinic to help keep Regina operating at sea longer.

It replaces the navy’s replenishment capabilities lost in 2014, when HMCS Protecteur caught fire and was damaged beyond repair.

“This is going to be a great deployment for HMCS Regina,” French said. “There is a lot of new capabilities we are bringing.”

Rear Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, commander of Canadian Maritime Forces Pacific, said HMCS Regina’s mission is a demonstration of Canada’s interest in the Asia-Pacific region and its willingness to stand with its international friends there.

“Us being there shows and signals on behalf of the Government of Canada that we are interested in that region and we want to be a reliable partner,” Auchterlonie said.

Throughout its seven-month deployment, HMCS Regina will be sailing through some waters whose control and boundaries are under dispute — the South China Sea, for example.

“It’s going to transit a lot of that part of the world where there are a lot of contested areas,” Auchterlonie said. “That’s important for Canadians to know.

“So Canada operates under international law in those parts of the world, as we normally do,” he said. “We conduct routine and military operations in international waters.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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