Canada's participation during the exercise will be significant. The Navy will contribute the HMCS Algonquin, Vancouver and Regina. Along with these ships, CH-124 Sea King's of 443 "Hornets" Sqn. from Pat Bay, will deploy on the ships and be the extended eyes of the fleet.
The Airforce will be represented by two CP-140 Aurora's to perform Maritime Patrol, a CC-130 Hercules from 435 Sqn. in Winnipeg and six CF-18M's of 425 "Alouette" Sqn. from Bagotville, Quebec.
The CF-18's from Quebec are a long way from home, the opportunity to train over the Pacific Ocean is a first for this eastern based unit. Some of the highlights the pilots are looking forward to during RIMPAC 2006
- a six hour oceanic crossing from Comox to Hawaii, that will include an air to air refueling from two USAF KC-135 tankers.
- live fire missions with AIM-9 Sidewinders and AIM 7 Sparrow missiles against remote control drones.
- inert MK.82 dumb bomb drops against a decommissioned U.S. Navy ship.
- the opportunity to train with the Canadian Navy and other participating nations of RIMPAC.
I had the opportunity to talk with Major Scott "FROG" Greenough of 425 Sqn, during their refueling stop at 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, on their way to Hawaii. He explained to me that 80 members from the squadron will be deployed to Hickam AFB, Hawaii during RIMPAC. They will have the responsibilty of maintaining the six Hornet's that will be flying two missions a day - 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. The CF-18's will be given the role as Blue Air(good guys) and Red Air(bad guys) during differnt times of the exercise.
Hornet with a Greater "STING"
It has been 10 years since the last time CF-18's took part in RIMPAC, the Hornet's that are being deployed this time are much different than in 1996. A fleet of 80 CF-18's have undergone the first phase of a two phase upgrade, these Hornet's are more capable with new radars, mission computers and jam resistant radio's to name a few of the enhancements. Frog, commented that the CF-18 is now able to operate on a level playing field with the other allied aircraft during multi national exercises.
The upgraded CF-18, now know as the CF-18M, has the ability not only to simulate the AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile) but can now carry and shoot the weapon. Although no AMRAAM's will be used during the live missile shoots at RIMPAC, 425 Sqn will be the first CF-18 squadron to shoot an AMRAAM at exercise Combat Archer in January 2007. No decision has been made yet on the new air to ground weapons, but a good guess would be the precision guided munition, JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) that uses GPS co-ordinates to find its targets instead of the older smart bombs that needed to be seen using a targeting pod. These upgrades will drastically enhance the CF-18 capabilities until 2017 when the Hornet is scheduled for replacement.
Exercises like RIMPAC offer the Canadian Forces the opportunity to train with its allies as a multi-national force involving different branches of the military. The experience gained through large scale exercises, enhances tactical profiency and interoperability between the Navy and Air Force. In the end, the men and women of the Canadian Navy and Air Force will talk the same "language" and have a better understanding of how each branch operates in a real world conflict.
I would like to thank 19 Wing PAO Captain Cheryl Robinson, Lt(N) Heather Blandford and Major Scott "FROG" Greenough for all their support during this photo op.