SNMG1 trains with German Navy

Navy News / February 12, 2021

By Lieutenant-Commander Mark Fifield, SNMG1 Senior Public Affairs Officer

Late last month, the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) – led by flagship Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Halifax – conducted a series of passing training exercises with the German Navy in the North Sea.

A Passing Exercise, or PASSEX, refers to training with national navies of our NATO Allies and partners when transiting through or nearby their territorial waters. In this particular case, SNMG1 was transiting through German waters and had a scheduled port visit at the naval base in Wilhelmshaven.

This PASSEX was the first among many that will be conducted during this semester and was executed well, providing the group with a solid foundation to build upon in the coming months.

“The multinational vessels that comprise SNMG1, including their embarked air assets, have an intensive program of operational patrols and training exercises scheduled with various NATO Allies and partners in our designated Area of Operations,” said Commodore (Cmdre) Bradley Peats, Commander of SNMG1.

Conducting frequent military-to-military interactions and high-intensity training activities among naval forces increases  the common knowledge and familiarity of each other’s maritime platforms, capabilities, tactics, techniques and procedures.

As such, this PASSEX presented great opportunities to enhance joint operational readiness and interoperability among participating naval forces for the mutual benefit of all involved.

These efforts pay future dividends by improving NATO’s collective capability to respond in a timely and effective manner to threats to maritime security and commerce in the region and around the world across the full spectrum of operations.

 “This PASSEX was the first among many that will be conducted during this semester and was executed very well, providing us with a solid foundation to build upon in the coming months,” said Cmdre Peats.

SNMG1 vessels HMCS Halifax and German tanker Spessart, as well as German Navy frigates Baden-Württemberg and Bayern, participated in the exercise series. PASSEX highlights included officer of the watch manoeuvres, embarked helicopter cross-deck evolutions, a replenishment at sea, as well as various other operational training serials.

“SNMG1 is one of four NATO Standing Naval Forces that provide the Alliance with a continuous naval capability and presence which forms the core of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Maritime),” said Cmdre Peats.

“A task group’s level of readiness to conduct high-intensity naval operations at sea is fundamentally a product of the state of personnel, materiel and collective team training resident within it. This PASSEX with our German Navy friends provided excellent high-intensity training and allowed us to enhance or otherwise maintain currency in a number of critical warfighting skill sets and capabilities.” 

 
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The frigate’s extended work period started at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards nearly two years ago. It was returned to the Navy November 16, 2020, when the ship’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr) Matthew Arthur, and approximately 30 crew members took possession of the ship from the Government of Canada’s Assistant Deputy Minister Materiel. 

However, the extended work period isn’t completed quite yet.

The restoring process is now under way with ship’s staff and contractors returning supplies, equipment and furnishings to the ship.

After the extended refit period is complete in May 2021, warship and crew will conduct basic single-ship readiness training during the summer.

“Moving forward, we also hope to commence sea trials in autumn of next year,” said LCdr Arthur. “Then next up in the spring of 2022, Vancouver is scheduled to complete intermediate multi-ship readiness training with an eye towards high readiness in the summer of that year.”

The refit of the Navy’s 12 frigates ensures they remain the backbone of the Fleet until the delivery of the new Canadian Surface Combatants.

“It also ensures our ability to defend Canadian sovereignty, project Canada’s foreign policy, and aid civil power and law enforcement including fishery, shipping, search and rescue, and border protection,” said LCdr Arthur.

The lion’s share of the work was completed by Seaspan Victoria Shipyard, but ship’s staff and Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton workers also worked on the ship over its two years in refit.

There were numerous hull and deck plate replacements, including large sections of the hull below the waterline in the ship’s engine room. Also, a full cleaning of the ventilation system was completed and an entire refurbishment of its low-pressure air system. Repairs were made to the rudder and rudder post, and to cracks that had developed in the air intake for the ship’s gas turbine engines following initial repairs to the engines.

New technological upgrades were also installed. Vancouver is now equipped with the new Naval Remote Weapons System. This system offers remote firing capability of .50 calibre and 7.62 mm rounds, eliminating the need for a sailor to be outside at the ship’s mounts if it comes under attack.

Also installed were new Caterpillar diesel generators, a new chilled water system and an update to the ship’s Integrated Platform Management System.