HMCS Charlottetown participates in NATO surface exercise

Nisida – Success in operations comes from skilful control of many moving pieces, and it takes time and training to master the skills of understanding, visualizing, describing and processing complex situations.

ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle launched from HMCS Charlottetown
Source: NATO
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These skills were recently applied in the Mediterranean Sea as HMCS Charlottetown conducted a surface exercise (SURFEX) with the ships of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) during Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR. With four ships from three different countries, one helicopter and one ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle, the SURFEX required synergy and cohesion to pull things together.

„We conducted a SAG [Surface Action Group]. This is when you take part of a formation and you detach ships to pursue a contact,” said Lieutenant (Navy) Damien Ciotti, an Above-Water Warfare Officer serving in HMCS Charlottetown. „During warfare training using live assets, the Operations Room goes into simulation mode, but the beauty of the system is that all of the symbols on our equipment look the same — as if it was actually happening — so, to the operator, it’s real.”

Another key element of the exercise was the ScanEagle UAV. „Once launched, the UAV acts as the long-range eyes of the ship,” said Lt(N) Ian Bilodeau, another of Charlottetown’s Above-Water Warfare Officers. „Although we are still conducting test flights, the UAV has the potential to open up the battle-space. My sensors in the Ops Room are limited by the line of sight, but with the UAV our range is greatly increased and we get a true bird’s-eye view of the situation.”

HMCS Charlottetown embarked a ScanEagle UAV detachment for trials to assess its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities at sea, and to explore the feasibility of equipping Canadian warships with UAVs.

Throughout the SURFEX, Charlottetown acted as the Surface Warfare Commander, carrying Commodore Ben Bekkering, commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1. „Charlottetown did an excellent job to bring together all the moving pieces throughout the scenario.”

„It’s all about building a picture,” said Lt(N) Ciotti. „Being able to coordinate the flow of information from multiple assets and integrating it all together.”

HMCS Charlottetown is currently deployed on Operation METRIC, Canada’s participation in international efforts to enhance security in and around the Mediterranean Sea. Since mid-January, the Halifax-based frigate has been integrated into Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 and assigned to Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR.

Allied Command Operations

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