Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rumour: Canadian warship may be deployed to Georgia

It's just a rumour at the moment but it's gaining momentum. Here's the layout:

HMCS Ville de Quebec (FFH 332) was assigned to Operation Sextant as a part of the Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) in July. That would put her in the Mediterranean. In August, Ville de Quebec, at the request of the International Maritime Organization, was reassigned to escort World Food Program ships to Somalia in an effort to stem the piracy of WFP ships off the Somali coast. That puts SNMG1 in a slight ship deficit right at the time that Georgia is waving a flag asking for help from both the US and NATO.

Today warships from SNMG1 entered the Black Sea. This was actually a long planned event ostensibly to conduct exercises with Romania and Bulgaria.
They are "conducting a pre-planned routine visit to the Black Sea region to interact and exercise with our NATO partners Romania and Bulgaria, which is an important feature of our routine planning," said Vice-Adm. Pim Bedet, deputy commander at allied maritime headquarters in Northwood, England.
Right. Except things have changed a little in the Black Sea.
However, the move risks increasing tensions with Russia which has deployed ships from its Black Sea fleet to the Georgian coast.
Hmmm. And all this is happening while Canada's contribution to the NATO squadron is keeping pirates at bay off the coast of east Africa.

Then we have CTF 150, a combined naval force operating in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the northwest quadrant of the Indian Ocean. CTF 150 has a larger than average Canadian component and is under Canadian command until September. The destroyer HMCS Iroquois (DDH 280), the frigate HMCS Calgary (FFH 335) and the replenishment ship HMCS Protecteur (AOR 509) are currently assigned to CTF 150.

The assignment of Ville de Quebec to the Kenya/Somalia run is a bit of a head scratcher. That area would be the responsibility of CTF 150; not SNMG1. The decision to short SNMG1 and not use Calgary would be a bit baffling if it were not for the fact that the Canadian ships in CTF 150 are nearing the end of their deployment.

The US is already sending aid to Georgia using the destroyer USS McFaul and the coast guard cutter USCGC Dallas. Then the US announced that USS Mount Whitney, based in Gaeta, Italy would be loading supplies and departing for Georgia at the end of the month.

USS Mount Whitney is the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet. She's well suited to carry relief supplies with loads of capacity, but there's something else about Mount Whitney that makes this move a little curious: she is the command ship for Commander Strike Force NATO.

Then the rumour started making its way through the bazaars. With Ville de Quebec able to handle the CTF 150 task off east Africa for the next six weeks the commander TF 150 can detach Calgary to accompany Mount Whitney. without extending her deployment too radically.

It's just a rumour at the moment, but it will be worth watching what those ships are up to. And I just can't imagine Junior MacKay and Steve passing up an opportunity to get their penises all tingly with yet another chance at a parade.

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