Sea King air detachment has flown almost 400 hours during Operation REASSURANCE

The flight crew onboard a ship manages to stand straight while the ship sails at an angle. A helicopter sits on the ship’s deck.
The air detachment crew members aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Charlottetown prepare the recovery of the CH-124 Sea King helicopter into the hanger during Operation REASSURANCE on October 6, 2017. Photo: Corporal J.W.S. Houck, Formation Imaging Services

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By: Lieutenant (Navy) Meghan Jacques

The CH-124 Sea King air detachment onboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown has flown almost 400 hours while deployed on Operation REASSURANCE. This is a testament to the dedication of the aircrew and technicians alike who have worked diligently throughout the deployment to plan and execute the daily flying and maintenance program.

“Being able to make significant contributions to NATO exercises and operations has given us motivation to go the extra mile and get the helicopter flying early and often,” says Major Rene Laporte, the Air Detachment Commander aboard HMCS Charlottetown. “Having such a dedicated team makes it easier to meet the missions head on,” he adds.

The air detachment is comprised of 19 Royal Canadian Air Force personnel from 443 Marine Helicopter Squadron in Victoria, BC, and 423 Squadron from Shearwater, NS.

The importance of ensuring that the CH-124 Sea King remains fully mission capable is evident in everything the air detachment does to support the ship. As an integrated extension of the ship’s weapons and sensor suite, the CH-124 Sea King offers the ship additional surveillance, reconnaissance, replenishment, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. The helicopter, and the crew and technicians who operate and repair it, contribute directly to the ship’s operational capability—and they are proud of it.

Among the largest successful maintenance tasks of this deployment so far was the aircraft transfer from Air Craft 417 to Air Craft 414. An aircraft transfer is when one aircraft returns home and is replaced with another. The air transfer kit was completed in Marseille, France, between September 29 and October 2. The transfer ensured that the air detachment would remain able to provide critical mission capabilities to HMCS Charlottetown in advance of NATO Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017 and upcoming support to Operation SEA GUARDIAN in the Mediterranean Sea.

This task required extensive coordination from squadrons ashore. A CC-177 Globemaster aircraft flew from Canada with the new helicopter, commanded by the Aircraft Commander Captain Craig Hughes from 429 Transport Squadron out of 8 Wing Trenton.

The air detachment’s team of maintainers worked to prepare the aircrafts for the transfer. They ensured that once the new helicopter arrived in France, it was properly serviced and all systems were functioning properly before flying to meet HMCS Charlottetown at sea.

When asked about the work ethic of the technicians on his team aboard HMCS Charlottetown, Master Warrant Officer Ghislain Paré had nothing but praise. “The team was very dedicated and focused on the task-at-hand. Their expertise, professionalism and problem solving skills made the process smoother and the asset was back in service in no time.”

While deployed on Operation REASSURANCE, HMCS Charlottetown has regularly participated in single-ship and task-group training and operations with Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) to demonstrate NATO and Canada’s ongoing commitment to international security and cooperation. HMCS Charlottetown participated in Exercise NORTHERN COAST 2017 and Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017, and continues to operate in associated support to Operation SEA GUARDIAN in the Mediterranean.

Since joining the ship, the new airframe facilitated reaching both the 200 and 300 hours milestones for deployed flight hours, and completed multiple long hours of deck cycles—making HMCS Charlottetown’s Sea King the most capable and utilized aircraft in the SNMG1 fleet.

As part of Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017, the embarked air detachment participated in surface surveillance and control, reconnaissance missions, and anti-surface and sub-surface warfare exercises. These exercises confirmed HMCS Charlottetown’s role as a multi-role patrol frigate and overall asset to NATO.

Daily, in support of Operation SEA GUARDIAN, the CH-124 Sea King conducts reconnaissance flights in order to identify the unique maritime traffic patterns in the Mediterranean. This supports increased maritime security awareness.

The air detachment is an essential part of HMCS Charlottetown’s company and deployed capability.

Image gallery

  • A helicopter can be seen preparing to land on a ship’s deck from the ship’s window.
  • The flight crew onboard a ship stands back as the helicopter prepares to take off.
  • The flight crew onboard a ship manages to stand straight while the ship sails at an angle. A helicopter sits on the ship’s deck.
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