Canada Department of National Defence, October 19, 2011 - By MCpl Terrance Chenard, Lead AES Op, HMCS VancouverAir Det - Somewhere off the coast of Libya, the sun begins to break the morning sky, casting its glow off the mirror of the Mediterranean Sea. The Air department of HMCS Vancouver and its embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter prepare for another day in support of Operation MOBILE, Canada’s contribution to Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR; the United Nations authorized NATO-led mission enforcing an arms embargo and no-fly zone in Libya.
“TROJAN 51” is the call sign for HMCS Vancouver’s CH-124 Sea King helicopter from 443 Squadron in Patricia Bay, British Columbia. Named for the large wooden horse that allowed the Greeks to enter the city of Troy and end the Trojan War, this “horse” has a prototype system known as ASP, or Augmented Surface Plot, to refine the helicopter’s radar returns and allow the tracking of small contacts such as fishing boats, which are plentiful in the Mediterranean Sea.
“We are very proud of what this airframe brings to the mission,” says Major Don Phillip, HMCS Vancouver’s Air Officer. “Having ASP allows us to build an excellent Recognized Maritime Picture that not only benefits the operations of the ship, but also provides detailed situational awareness for our NATO partners.”
Vancouver’s helicopter is also equipped with the latest version of the Self Defense Suite (SDS), a system that detects incoming threats such as missiles with electro-optic sensors and dispenses flares to increase survivability. The ASP system, combined with the SDS, makes TROJAN 51 the most technologically advanced Sea King to ever deploy.
Flying operations onboard HMCS Vancouver commence long before the aircraft leaves the flight deck. The maintenance section of the Air Department is always working hard to ensure the aircraft is always ready to respond whenever called upon.
Once airborne, the helicopter can be employed in a multitude of tasks, whether it extends the radar range of the ship over the horizon or identifies and classifies radar contacts already held. The helo can also act as “top cover” for a naval boarding party while they board a Vessel of Interest.
“There is no doubt our embarked helicopter is a force multiplier,” says Commander Bradley Peats, HMCS Vancouver’s Commanding Officer. “It gives the ship the flexibility to quickly respond to developing situations and gives us ‘eyes on’ whenever we need it.”
HMCS Vancouver will continue her mission to protect civilians, ensure legitimate traffic flow in and out of Libya, and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need and TROJAN 51 will continue to play a crucial role in supporting this important mission.