Sunday, April 20, 2008

HMCS IROQUOIS leaving harbour

Perhaps not for a final cruise:
When HMCS Iroquois pulls out of Halifax Harbour today [April 19] for a six-month stint overseas, it won’t necessarily be the last kick at the can for the 38-year-old destroyer.

Canada’s three destroyers, which are used to command naval task groups and defend against air attacks, are slated to be decommissioned within the next five years. But according to the head of the East Coast fleet, this might not be the last dance for the warship launched the same year Simon & Garfunkel had a No. 1 hit with Bridge Over Troubled Water.

"I’d hate to say that that’s necessarily true," Commodore Bob Davidson said Friday.

"One or more of these platforms will run all the way up until around 2013, so there may well be another opportunity."

The navy doesn’t believe the destroyers will be replaced for another decade.

"We probably are going to face a gap in capability there in terms of area air defence and that’s just unavoidable at this particular point," Commodore Davidson said. "It’s not a simple process to build a new ship."

The navy’s Halifax-class frigates can’t take on the role of protecting ships from aerial attack, he said.

"But the frigates can do some command and control for us — not as well as the destroyer, but well enough to get through the transition period."

The navy will still be able to deploy task groups without the destroyers, but only for humanitarian missions, not to potential hot spots.

"You’ve got to have air defence to go into contested waters with a task group," Commodore Davidson said. "It’s like a big umbrella that protects all of the units that are inside the umbrella. That’s what a destroyer can do for you."

The federal government has yet to approve the navy’s $8.5-billion destroyer replacement program [actually not destroyers, but a "Single Class Surface Combatant" to replace both the frigates and destroyers].

"It’s not ideal," the commodore said. "It would have been better if we’d had a destroyer replacement by now, but the public coffers are not bottomless."..

Commodore Davidson, who has spent 31 years in the navy, will eventually take command of a task force of ships from the United States, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Pakistan. There will be about 850 sailors on the three Canadian warships. Added to those on board seven coalition ships, the task force will include about 2,500 sailors.

"It gives Canada the opportunity to perhaps influence the way the mission may go in the future as well as reinforce amongst our allies and in the region that Canada is indeed interested in what’s going on over there and is willing to do its fair share of the heavy lifting, much as we’re doing in Afghanistan," he said.

Canada’s navy has deployed task groups before in response to events, including hurricanes and the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

"But this is the first time where we’ve planned to go to a mission where it wasn’t actually a crisis that we were responding to," Commodore Davidson said. The fleet he will control, dubbed Task Force 150, is responsible for policing 2.1 million square kilometres of ocean from the Strait of Hormuz, along the coast of Pakistan down through the Arabian Sea to the Horn of Africa and up through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal [more on the mission here; it's part of Canadian Operation ALTAIR]...
The CDS speaks, in typical fashion, at the departure:
The country’s top military commander said HMCS Iroquois’s 300 crew members who left Halifax for the Arabian Sea on Saturday are "national treasures" as he paid tribute to them and their families at HMC Dockyard.

Gen. Rick Hillier, who announced last week that he’ll step down as chief of defence staff on July 1, said the young people he commands have a special place in his heart.

"I can’t tell you how proud I am of you," he told the crew and their family members gathered on the jetty beside the warship.

"You know, you allow me to speak truth to power when I say that the national treasures in our country wear Canada’s national uniforms and a flag on their left shoulder."..

Gen. Hillier said he understands how tough it is for the families left behind.

"I know that you serve our country in an entirely different manner from what we in uniform do," he said.

"Your emotions are perhaps very different from ours as we get ready to go off in those kind of deployments here, but you serve nonetheless, and without what you do and without your support, we simply can’t do our job.

"God bless you for what you do for our country."

The Iroquois will meet the frigate HMCS Calgary and supply ship HMCS Protecteur — both West Coast ships — in the Caribbean. They’ll head east, joining seven ships from other countries in Task Force 150...


Blogger RedFridayGirl said...

It doesn't matter if you are Navy, Army, or Air force deployments are hard on all families.

Saying goodbye to HMCS IRO. was hard, especially knowing they won't receive HLTA. We would like to extend lots of strength to all those family members left behind. May the time fly and the parties happen.

10:02 a.m., April 28, 2008  

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