HMCS St. John’s to head to Mediterranean Sea to participate in NATO operation

HALIFAX — A Canadian naval frigate left Halifax Tuesday to continue Canada’s commitment to Operation Reassurance, a NATO standing force meant to deter Russian activity in central and eastern Europe.

It’s the eighth rotation for the navy, which began its commitment in 2014 — and the second deployment within a year for HMCS St. John’s and its 240-member crew.

The ship will replace HMCS Charlottetown serving with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 in the Mediterranean Sea.

“This mission is very important from a deterrence aspect, it’s very important from a training aspect,” Rear-Admiral Craig Baines told a gathering of family members at the ship’s departure ceremony.

“It’s very important that all of our (NATO) nations be able to operate together, if and when required in the future.”

HMCS Charlottetown, which is expected to return to Canada within the next few weeks, took part in a NATO training exercise in the Mediterranean last September and October. Dubbed “Brilliant Mariner,” the exercise assessed the crisis response of the 11 countries that took part.

Weeks earlier, the ship was in the Baltic Sea, where it took part in coastal defence and anti-submarine warfare exercises.

“This has made a huge difference, in that it shows that Canada stands with their NATO partners,” Baines told reporters.

“It allows us to do very important training and to work on our tactics and procedures. It makes sure we are present in very important parts of the world.”

Baines said warships like HMCS St. John’s are at their “absolute highest level of readiness” when they are deployed on operations like the NATO mission, because of ongoing training.

“That training program is quite lengthy and hard,” he said, adding that it’s been a busy few months for the crew of St. John’s.

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