HMCS Toronto strengthening NATO relationships on Op REASSURANCE

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Navy News / April 18, 2019

By Ryan Melanson, Trident Staff

As HMCS Toronto continues its Op REASSURANCE deployment in support of NATO assurance measures in Central and Eastern Europe, the ship recently began a three-week period involving patrols and exercises in the Black Sea with Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) colleagues, as well as a special port visit to Odesa, Ukraine.

Commander (Cdr) Martin Fluet, Toronto’s commanding officer, described the visit to Odesa as one of the most significant accomplishments for Toronto on the deployment so far. The ship spent three days alongside in Ukraine, along with the Spanish Navy ship Santa Maria, with a busy schedule of engagement activities.

Thousands of members of the public were welcomed onboard for ship tours, groups of naval cadets were given insight into ship operations, a diplomatic luncheon was held that included the head of the Ukrainian Navy as well as the ambassadors of Canada and Spain, and the ships’ commanding officers took part in a large press conference attended by media outlets from around the world.

Cdr Fluet added that the work done alongside was an important extension of the military-level relationship building that’s been taking place among allies at sea.

“The visit leveraged great strategic effect and was a valuable opportunity to engage Ukraine both as a partner in Canada’s commitment to stability, peace, and freedom of navigation but also as an aspiring member of NATO,” he said, adding that his sailors also benefited from the interactions with community members and other visitors to the ship.

Following the stop in Odessa, Toronto and Santa Maria reunited with the other ships of SNMG2 to take part in SEA SHIELD 2019, which was hosted and coordinated by Romania in the Black Sea and also involved ships from Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey. The four-day training event focused on interoperation among the various navies, and included communications, maneuvering, and gunnery scenarios.

As HMCS Toronto conducts this work at sea, it’s benefiting from the added capability of sailing with the CH-148 Cyclone Helicopter. They’re the second crew to take the new platform to the Mediterranean, and lessons learned from last year’s deployment with HMCS Ville de Quebec have been used to get the most out of the aircraft.

“This is felt particularly in terms of maintenance routine improvements. Toronto’s air detachment has been able to build upon that foundation to improve efficiencies and get more out of the helicopter. These efficiency improvements have resulted in over 250 flight hours on this deployment so far,” Cdr Fluet said, adding that 10 hours of flight per day has become common.

The Cyclone’s updated range and sensor suite has also greatly improved situational awareness and the ship’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions, he added.

“On recent patrols, the helicopter has been a true force multiplier.”

The crew is approximately halfway through its six-month Op REASSURANCE deployment, having left Halifax in mid-January, and the commanding officer credited his sailors for the high morale and work ethic on the ship despite operational challenges and the long stretch of time away from home.

“Over the course of the deployment they have developed excellent team spirit and have learned to rely on one another to accomplish the tasks at hand,” he said.

“We all miss home quite a lot, and look forward to returning home in the summer to be with our families again.”

HMCS Toronto is due to return to Halifax in June, with HMCS Halifax set to replace it as the next ship on Op REASSURANCE. Seven different RCN ships have supported the mission since it began in 2014.