Japanese defence force visits Canadian Forces base in Nanoose

NANAIMO – Japanese antisubmarine warfare crew watches how Canadian forces deal with underwater threats during visit to Area Whisky Gulf.

Naval aviators from Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force paid a visit to Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges Wednesday for a first-hand look at where and how Canadian and U.S. military forces train to seek and destroy potential underwater threats.

The skies and waters of the torpedo test range off Nanoose known as Military Exercise Area Whisky Gulf was a busy patch of the Georgia Straight as five aircraft operating from CFB Comox and at least as many surface vessels from CFMETR worked together to launch training torpedo attacks against a Mk-30 remotely controlled underwater target.

Japanese observers from VP-2, a P-3C Orion antisubmarine squadron, watched, were given a tour of the facilities and oriented with the Mk-30 target and Mk-46 training torpedo before they were taken to the Range Operations Control Centre on Winchelsea Island to watch a Canadian Armed Forces Aurora aircraft track and drop a MK-46 torpedo on the target. That exercise was followed up with a second torpedo “attack” by a Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter.

VP-2 Squadron’s P-3C Orion didn’t drop any training torpedoes, but its aircrew flew the range by following the Aurora’s flight pattern, but at a higher altitude, as its crew also watched the performance of the training torpedoes from the aircraft’s onboard monitoring system.

The P-3 Orion originated as the Lockheed L-188 Electra, a four engine turboprop commercial airliner dating from 1955. The P-3 Orion – the Royal Canadian Airforce’s variant is the CP-140 Aurora – was first developed into an antisubmarine warfare and surveillance aircraft in the 1960s and remains in service with Canadian, U.S. and other military forces around the world.

VP-2 Squadron is on a month-long tour of Canadian and U.S. military installations throughout the Pacific. At CFMETR they learned more about how the range operates. The visit was also intended to enhance the working relationship between Japanese and Canadian forces.

“They’re on a larger Pacific Rim visit,” said Capt. Jeff Manney, CFMETR’s project officer of critical infrastructure. “They’re going to Hawaii and (Naval Air Station) Whidbey Island and they’re looking at other Allied facilities. They fly the same aircraft we do and the Americans do right now. They do a very similar job and it’s basically a chance to see how your allies are working and to get a little familiar with your operations.”

Interviews with squadron members – who were also keen to see how spent torpedoes and targets were recovered – were unfortunately not possible since the only English-fluent members were aboard their aircraft. Several members on the ground had a working understanding of English, but were not comfortable enough speaking it to conduct interviews. An English to Japanese interpreter with the group was able to relay information from Manney and other CFMETR personnel hosting the visit to his squadron mates.

CFMTRE was created in 1965 and is jointly paid for and operated by Canada and the U.S., but U.K, Australian and Japanese naval forces have also conducted tests and training at the facility.

The area was chosen for its depth, about 400 metres, and flat seafloor, which allows for easy tracking and data collection through the use of hydrophone array on the seabed and presents few obstacles for training torpedoes and targets.

No live munitions are ever deployed on the range.

“It was up here in the Strait of Georgia that both sides had arguably the best conditions and waters, for the kind of testing and evaluation that was needed, that was present on the whole west coast of North America,” said Cmdr. Gerry Powell, CFMETR base commander.