HMCS Charlottetown's CH-124 Sea King helicopter
Nisida, Naples 21 February 2012: The Operations Room is the nerve centre of a ship. It contains equipment for monitoring and controlling electronic warfare, fire control, sonar, radar – the full spectrum of detection and analytical sensors. Under the distinctive red-colored lighting, there is constant activity that continues 24/7 while the ship is sailing. It's here, in the ops room of HMCS Charlottetown – over continuous crackle of the radio and flicker of radar screens – that sailors participate in NATO's largest Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise.
Eleven NATO nations are providing five submarines, 15 aircraft (including shore and ship based helicopters) and 12 surface ships (including two Auxiliary ships from Italy and one NATO Research Vessel) to take part in PROUD MANTA 12.
Charlottetown is participating in Exercise PROUD MANTA 2012 from February 14-23 in the Ionian Sea to the southeast of Sicily.
"Canada's role throughout the exercise is to support NATO forces as an effective ASW platform,” said Lieutenant (Navy) Mark McShane, Under Water Warfare Officer on HMCS Charlottetown. "In particular, Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 has utilized Charlottetown as a Towed Array Sonar Unit, to sweep and sanitize waters well ahead of the main body in protection of mission essential units.”
Along with Canada, other forces contributing include France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Canada's air detachment aboard HMCS Charlottetown will also have an active role throughout the exercise. Canada's ship-borne maritime helicopter – the CH-124 Sea King – was originally designed as an ASW helicopter. It, along with the helicopter air detachment, provides Charlottetown with an extended range to its ASW platform.
"During PROUD MANTA 2012 Charlottetown's air detachment will be on a 30 minute standby to launch,” said Captain Chris Cole, pilot with Charlottetown's air detachment. "When called upon, we will be asked to use the helo's variety of sensors – such as sonar; Forward-looking Infra-Red; radar; sonobuoys; and its latest addition, an augmented surface plot – to search, localize, detect and track five submarines involved. The helo will work in conjunction with the ship's sensors and operators to accomplish the various tasks the exercise may present.”
"This is a challenging exercise for both surface and subsurface contacts,” said Lt(N) McShane. "There are five very effective subs participating and all provide significant challenges to the fleet, as both individual units and more so during coordinated attacks. The sheer number of surface and air assets provides a very demanding environment.”
Overall the exercise is challenging, but it demonstrates NATO's determination to maintain proficiency and improve interoperability in coordinated anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, coastal surveillance and other maritime operations using a multi-national force of ships, submarines and aircraft.
by Lieutenant, RCN Jessica MacDonald