Vanguard Magazine

Feb/Mar 2015

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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6 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015 S Sit REp Much like taking a new high-end car out for a test drive, once you've put it through its paces, it's hard to consider climbing back into your old clunker. So Commander Jeff Murray's reaction to HMCS Fredericton is hardly a surprise. "If someone gave me the choice...[between] the keys to the legacy frigate or the new one, it is a pretty easy decision – I'll take the keys to Fredericton, thank you very much." Murray is the first captain to take command of a modernized Halifax-class frigate on operations. Deployed into the Mediterranean under Operation Re- assurance, Maritime Task Force, as part of an eight-ship task group known as Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, Fredericton has been conducting patrol and security operations since early January. A key to its task is building and contributing to a comprehensive maritime picture. Murray says the ship's enhanced capabilities, which include new combat management, electronic warfare and communications systems, as well as radar, have already proven their worth. "I was extremely impressed with the system," he said in a recent inter- view, noting that new processing power and radar capability have signifi- cantly increased the speed and clarity of the picture. "We've got the ability to put a picture up quickly that shows us large scale movements of what is going on in the area and integrate with the rest of the task group to get the full picture, from air and surface assets. The system's ability in that combat scenario to operate without supervision and control and avoid human error is fantastic." The Fredericton has yet to fire her upgraded Evolved SeaSparrow missile system on this deployment, but missile exercises in November as part of her work up gave Murray a firsthand look at the full scope of the new combat management system. The modernization program has also delivered a communications system with better and more reliable bandwidth, allowing the crew to share informa- tion across multiple networks within the task group and reach back to Cana- da for intelligence support and access to a variety of resources, Murray said. "We are flipping through networks and having reliable access to signifi- cant bandwidth. That is an impressive piece of the project." The commander has also seen his operations room transform from a "Commodore 64" to a smartphone. "If you go into a legacy ops room, you would see additional laptops strapped down all over the place in order to provide that communication," he explained. "In the modernized operations room, that is all integrated into the systems." New frigate systems deliver better maritime picture The introduction of Bill C-51, the federal government's proposed anti-terror- ism legislation, has renewed calls for greater oversight of Canada's intelli- gence agencies. At present, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's activities are reviewed by the Security Intelligence Review Committee while a lone commissioner over- sees the work of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). For the past decade, however, opposition parties, academics and pundits have been arguing for parliamentary review of intelligence activities similar to that adopted by Canada's Five Eyes allies in the United States, United King- dom, Australia and New Zealand. Declining trust suggests need for intelligence oversight Although less glamorous than the combat and communications systems, the new Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) and battle damage control system might be the most significant changes on the frigate. Murray said the instant display of vital battle damage information, includ- ing the status of personnel during, for example, a flood means everyone can now input and share a common picture, rather than relying on a "grease pen- cil and an erasable board" and good communications between sections of the ship to track developments. Likewise, IPMS might be a game-changer for how crews manage and repair the ship, providing a heightened level of redundancy and diagnostics. "Any time you are running machinery, there are always issues. It doesn't matter if it is brand new or 100 years old. And the diagnostic capability that comes with IPMS gives the technicians a really good way of figuring out what happened in a far faster timeframe." While he could not speak specifically to ISR capability and the use of an unmanned aircraft, Murray said: "I have the ability to do everything we have done in the past." In previous deployments, the frigates carried a ScanEagle UVA. The RCN is currently evaluating options for its Maritime Intelligence Sur- veillance Tracking Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) initiative, and will likely begin deploying the RQ-21A Blackjack in conjunction with the Canadian Army in the near future. This first deployment of a modernized frigate might not be pushing the new systems to their limits – the ship is still under provisional acceptance – but Murray says the six-month lead up to deployment was unlike anything he's experienced before and gave his crew plenty of appreciation for its full capability. "We got run through the paces like I don't think I have been run through the paces before."

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