Canadian Armed Forces concludes Operation ARTEMIS

Photo has been digitally altered for operational purposes. HMCS REGINA's crew and Naval Tactical Operations Group board a Dhow during Operation ARTEMIS in the Pacific Ocean on April 21, 2019. Photo: Corporal Stuart Evans, BORDEN Imaging Services XA01-2019-0035-450 ~ Cette image a été modifiée numériquement pour des raisons de sécurité opérationnelle. L’équipage du NCSM REGINA et le Groupe des opérations tactiques maritimes montent à bord d’un boutre au cours de l’opération ARTEMIS, dans l’océan Pacifique, le 21 avril 2019. Photo : Caporal Stuart Evans, Services d’imagerie BORDEN XA01-2019-0035-450

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By: Lt(N) Linda Coleman, Public Affairs Officer

The seas are unbelievably calm at this time of year in the Arabian Sea along the “Hash Highway,” a historical shipping route through the Indian Ocean that’s been known for smuggling for centuries.

This is where HMCS Regina and Naval Replenishment Unit (NRU) Asterix operated for the past two months as part of Operation (Op) ARTEMIS, the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) ongoing contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations in the Middle East and East African waters.

The aim of the operation is to work with Combined Task Force (CTF 150), a Task Force under Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) that works to deter and deny terrorist organizations any benefits from employing the high seas for smuggling illicit cargo including narcotics, UN embargoed weapons, and Somalian charcoal. Profits from drug trafficking in the region are a known source of funding for terrorists and criminal networks. This represents a common threat to the security and prosperity of the region, further de-stabilizing regional countries. The mission also ensures that the legitimate global trade that Canada and the world depend on for their respective economies can proceed without threat of terrorism and illegal activities.

HMCS Regina, along with its embarked Cyclone helicopter, Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG), NRU Asterix, and a CP-140 Aurora aircraft joined CTF 150 at the end of March. At the time, it was the CAF’s third largest operation, next to Op IMPACT and Op REASSURANCE, significantly increasing the CAF footprint in the Middle East and East Africa region.

For the first two weeks of Op ARTEMIS, the CAF assets were operating under the command of a Canada-led CTF 150 Task Force, supported by the Royal Australian Navy. The mission started off with a drug bust early on when on April 7, 2019, HMCS Regina seized and destroyed 2,569 kg of hashish.

On April 11, Canada handed over command of CTF 150 to Pakistan, completing Canada’s fourth command of this multinational counter-terrorism Task Force.

As HMCS Regina continued operating under the Pakistani-led CTF 150, the successes continued with three more illegal narcotic seizures. In total, Regina seized and destroyed 9,155 kg of illegal narcotics, worth just over $4.7 million (USD) regional wholesale value.

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“I’m extremely proud of the hard work and professionalism demonstrated by all Canadian Armed Forces units and members working together in the region during Operation ARTEMIS,” said Cdr Jake French, Commanding Officer HMCS Regina and Op ARTEMIS Task Force Commander. “As a team, we contributed to maritime security in the region by disrupting the use of the high seas as a passageway for illicit activities that’s used to fund terrorist and criminal networks, while supporting the free-flow of international trade and commerce in some of the world’s busiest waterways. That’s $4.7 million dollars that will not be making it into the hands of those wanting to do harm around the world.”

Throughout the two month operation, the embarked NTOG team conducted a total of 10 boardings, providing them with valuable experience in the region.

“The RCN has a proud history of conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations, Canadians should feel very proud of the effect delivered by NTOG and HMCS Regina,” said Jacob Kilawee, NTOG Officer in Charge. “Each one of our operators understand that when we are conducting these boardings that we are representing Canada and her interests, even when dealing with drug smugglers. The lessons learned during these boardings will be captured and actioned to ensure that the RCN is only more effective and prepared when conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations.”

Some of these boardings were also approach and assist visits – an element of maritime security operations which help generate support and awareness amongst vessels in the region to ensure a secure maritime environment. They provide CTF 150 coalition forces face-to-face interaction with local fishermen and valuable information on patterns of life within the region, further supporting coalition goals of security and stability in the Middle East, and ensuring the free flow of legitimate trade and commerce.

Op ARTEMIS also provided HMCS Regina with valuable training opportunities with naval partners. On April 23, Regina conducted a cooperative deployment with Task Force (TF) 473, a Carrier Strike Group with nuclear-powered French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The cooperation included an Air Defence exercise and helicopter deck evolutions with the goal of enhancing interoperability and improving communications.

NRU Asterix also saw a significant amount of interoperability by conducting Replenishments at Sea (RAS) with the French, Dutch, and Spanish, demonstrating Asterix’ abilities to support our partners and allies.

“Overall, this was an excellent Op ARTEMIS, providing our CAF members with valuable training and experience,” added Cdr French. “This knowledge will ensure that when we return to the Middle East, we understand the region, its challenges, and how our partners and allies operate regionally, so we can continue to be a strong ally prepared to continue the CTF 150 mission.”

Canada is a member of CMF and has been contributing to CTF 150 through Royal Canadian Navy warships, Royal Canadian Air Force maritime surveillance, and staff to operate at CMF Headquarters since the beginning of the partnership in 2001.

Now that Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Regina has completed its deployment on Operation ARTEMIS, the ship is transitioning to Operation NEON. It’s our support to United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea.

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