By Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Scott Bishop
Deputy Commander Combined Task Force, RIMPAC 2016
The sun crests the horizon of the Pacific Ocean and fills the bridge of your warship with warm morning light. Salt on the reinforced glass window you are looking through diffuses the light, causing it to jump and play over the faces of the sailors standing behind you. Looking from the bridge-wing, past the bow of the ship, you see 20 warships from a myriad of nations fanned out in formation, all steaming under orders to engage an enemy that uses ships, submarines, aircraft and tactics similar to your own.
The call comes in from your Operations Team that there is an inbound enemy torpedo…
I have been that young naval officer standing watch on the bridge of a Canadian warship. This is the sort of experience that will stay with you for life; it sticks with you and helps shapes how you think and learn throughout your career.
RIMPAC is an exceptional exercise. One of the key elements that sets RIMPAC apart from other multinational exercises is its size. This is just such a huge exercise. We are talking about 26 countries, 45 warships, five submarines, more than 200 combat aircraft and 25,000 people. You don’t get an exercise of this magnitude very often.
For RIMPAC 2016, I have the honour to have been appointed deputy commander of the Combined Task Force. I work for Vice Admiral Nora Tyson. It’s a really exciting job: I essentially run the day-to-day operation of the entire exercise. Of course, I get a lot of help from U.S., Australian, New Zealand, and Japanese flag officers, as well as personnel from across the rest of the nations participating in RIMPAC. This will be a learning experience for me as well. Just like that young officer on the bridge, I am going to get to do many things that I don’t get to practice very often. It is going to be a great experience.
This is the 25th time Canada has participated in RIMPAC. In fact, you could say we are charter-members because we have participated in RIMPAC since the first one in 1971 when it was just five nations: Australia, Canada New Zealand, United Kingdom and the U.S. For me, this is the sixth time I’ve been a part of RIMPAC.
RIMPAC gets bigger and better all the time and Canada’s leadership role has grown too. This year, we have some Canadian officers in key command positions. Brigadier-General Blaise Frawley is serving as the coalition air component commander; he runs the entire air war, including all of the 200 combat aircraft. We also have Navy Captain Jason Boyd, who is the sea-combat commander, and he’s directing the naval warfare for an entire aircraft carrier strike group. These are really incredible leadership positions Canada has in RIMPAC, and those officers are going to learn a tremendous amount.
RIMPAC provides an opportunity for Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Calgary and Vancouver to practice operations across the full spectrum of conflict with other nations from search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, all the way up to joint and combined missile and torpedo firings – some of which will be conducted in very challenging tactical scenarios. These training events will push the ships and their warfare teams to practice very specialized skills that they rarely get to do at this level. In fact, there are many training goals at RIMPAC, from sailors and aircrew achieving personal qualifications, to teams working together in order to achieve team-level qualifications.
Finally, the Royal Canadian Navy has a lot of new procedures and drills that we will be practicing on the exercise – some of which are experimental and include the testing of new technology. Anytime you get an opportunity like RIMPAC to work on sophisticated practice ranges with the latest testing and evaluation equipment, you get excited. This is a great opportunity to test new things.
This truly is an exceptional exercise and, ultimately, every Canadian Armed Forces member deployed to RIMPAC will come out of the exercise at a level of readiness that is far, far higher than when they started. I encourage each person involved in RIMPAC to take every opportunity to absorb as many experiences as they can while they are here.
Ready Aye Ready
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