Canadian Sailors support security and stability in the Middle East

A military member looks at a map on a table outside.
A Royal Canadian Navy officer deployed on Operation ARTEMIS in Bahrain studies a map. Photo: RCN

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By: Sub-Lieutenant S. Mairi Anderson, Public Affairs Officer, Combined Task Force 150

The Naval Warfare Lieutenant* was quietly sitting in his office at Naval Fleet School in Esquimalt, British Columbia, when he saw the email asking for an available Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) officer to go to Bahrain. Right away, he knew that this was an opportunity to have an effect in an important area of the world.

“I volunteered for Operation ARTEMIS,” said the Future Operations Coordinator for Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) as he reflected on his journey from Canada’s West Coast to the Arabian Gulf. “In addition to the invaluable professional experience a deployment brings, Operation ARTEMIS has a significant impact on international waters of the Middle East. The area of operations covered by CTF 150 is an area of great global significance; I felt it was my chance to really make a difference.”

Operation ARTEMIS is Canada’s direct contribution to CTF 150, one of the three naval task forces working under the 32-nation coalition of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

Promoting security and stability across six million square kilometers of ocean, CTF 150 coordinates ships and surveillance systems to intercept shipments of narcotics and weapons in the international waters of the Middle East. Together, the nations that contribute to CTF 150 are keeping some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes safe for global commerce.

Eight sailors from the RCN are deployed to CTF 150 headquarters in Bahrain. The headquarters is currently under the command of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), supported by a combined Australian and Canadian staff. This is the fourth time that Australia and Canada have shared responsibility for CTF 150, and the Canadian sailors fill roles from watch keeper to Chief of Staff for the headquarters.

In addition to the RCN sailors, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) continues to deploy the Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness (URSA) system to support CMF. URSA is a Canadian-developed system that downloads imagery directly from commercial satellites, providing up to the minute imagery of an area of operations.

“Having Canadians on the team has been a real asset to our rotation,” said Commodore Mal Wise, the RAN Commander of CTF 150. “The close relationship between Canada and Australia is demonstrated through the interoperability at our headquarters; working together, we can accomplish much more than would be possible individually. In addition, the unique capacity provided by URSA increases our effectiveness, giving us better situational awareness of what is going on at sea.”

The interoperability valued by Commodore Wise was one of the reasons that the Future Operations Coordinator volunteered for Operation ARTEMIS. “This deployment was a chance to work as part of a multinational headquarters, coordinating assets from multiple partner navies to do the business of maritime security.”

The combined Australian and Canadian team took the helm of CTF 150 in December 2017, and direct multinational assets from partner nations like Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In the last three months, CTF 150 has seized over 16 tonnes of hashish and 1.5 tonnes of heroin, valued in excess of $1 billion USD. While the Naval Warfare Officer is excited to return home to his family on the West Coast, this deployment has been a highlight in his career with the RCN. “Professionally, I have learned so much, putting my training to use in an international environment. Personally, working with Australia and other nations means that I now have sailors that I call friends from around the globe.”

*Due to operational security requirements, CAF members deployed on Operation ARTEMIS are not named.

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