Canadian Sea Combat Commander’s RIMPAC role

RCN Halifax-class frigate HMCS Calgary steams alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis during RIMPAC 2016. Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sierra D. Langdon

RCN Halifax-class frigate HMCS Calgary steams alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis during RIMPAC 2016. Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sierra D. Langdon

Lt(N) Stuart MacDonald, SCC Battle Watch Officer ~

RIMPAC 16 provided an opportunity for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to achieve an historic first by assuming the role of Sea Combat Commander (SCC), embarked in HMCS Calgary with its integrated command suite, from July 11 to Aug. 2.

During the world’s largest maritime exercise, the SCC led by Capt(N) Jason Boyd, Director New Capability Introduction, and supported primarily by Canadian Fleet Pacific staff was given the responsibility for defending the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis from surface and sub-surface opposed units, as well as planning and executing offensive strikes both on the surface and in the air.

“It was an honour to fulfill the role of SCC and act in the capacity of Destroyer Squadron Twenty-One for USS John C. Stennis,” said Capt(N) Boyd.

The SCC had the opportunity to assume the role of Commander Task Group 170.1 consisting of nine ships divided in two separate Surface Action Groups, from several countries including the U.S., Australia, Korea, Singapore, Chile and India.

Over the course of the exercise French and Indonesian warships were also attached, along with other allied nations, swelling the number of ships to 15, all integrated into a single Carrier Strike Group supporting Stennis.

Unlike Destroyer Squadron staff, which conduct their leadership from the Carrier, the smaller-in-numbers RCN staff would further be challenged by being separated from Stennis to execute its role as SCC from onboard Calgary.

The command suite integrated into Calgary through the Halifax Class Modernization refit provided multi-function consoles and large screen tactical displays. They allowed SCC and the Battle Watch Officers and Chiefs to maintain full situational awareness of the exercise and provide the necessary direction to the Task Group.

This was additionally aided by the multi-link 11 and 16 capability built into Halifax Class Modernization that allowed a shared common operating picture to be disseminated throughout the Task Group, along with a robust communications suite that allowed SCC to remain in constant contact with the Strike Group, ensuring unity of purpose.

Despite the majority of personnel in the SCC staff originating from Canadian Fleet Pacific, under the direction of the former Commander Maritime Forces Pacific, RAdm Gilles Couturier (now Deputy Commander RCN), the already talented staff was reinforced with Liaison Officers from the USN and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. These officers greatly contributed with a myriad of sage advice on carrier and destroyer squadron warfare tactics and planning considerations, long range patrol aircraft capabilities and command and control considerations, as well as advise on the best employment of the Japanese unit, JDS Chokai, in the Commander Task Group.

Working together, SCCs multinational staff was able to utilize key enablers to greater efficiency to coordinate this complex exercise and execute its primary mission of providing protection to Stennis, thereby allowing the Carrier to exert force projection in the maritime environment.

Excellent coordination with Calgary’s experienced and knowledgeable team was the final lynchpin enabling SCC staff to perform their duties.

“Working with Calgary exemplified what can be achieved when a talented team in an extremely capable platform support a dedicated staff,” said Capt(N) Boyd.

RIMPAC 16 proved to be a solid success that demonstrated Canada’s continued ability to integrate within a USN Carrier Strike Group, lead a multinational Task Group of warships, and prove the HCM frigate as a command platform capable of deploying anywhere in the world conducting or even commanding multi-threat theatre level operations.

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