The mountains were a beautiful orange as the CP-140 Aurora climbed out of Comox into the evening sky to begin an eight-hour mission to find, track and attack a submarine lurking off the coast of British Columbia. Crew Three, from 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron was about to take part in Exercise Trident Fury, the largest Canadian-led multinational air, land and air sea exercise to take place off the West Coast of Canada.
Checks were done quickly as the exercise area was only about 20 minutes away. Our crew was prepared, checks were complete and we had time to spare. After having checked in with the controller on board one of the Canadian ships, we descended to our operating altitude over the Pacific Ocean, west of Vancouver Island.
The scenario for our mission in this part of the exercise included a simulated enemy submarine in the area that we and the Sea King shipborne maritime helicopters were to find, track, and attack. The simulated submarine was actually a small tube that looks like a torpedo. This device follows a pre-programmed course for a number of hours underwater and gives off noises and signals similar to a real submarine; a very cost-effective way of getting training without employing a real submarine.
Shortly after the simulated submarine was launched, our crew detected it and dropped more sonobuoys to continue with tracking. We contacted the Sea King crew on the radio and called them in for assistance, giving them the latest position, course and speed of the target. They flew into position and also quickly gained contact. The game of cat-and-mouse went on for a couple of hours until the ships deemed that the “submarine” was getting too close to the ships. An attack was ordered and our crew went through all the motions of dropping a torpedo, including opening the bomb bay and initiating the weapon release procedures.
After carrying out a second “attack”, the target was declared destroyed, and the scenario progressed to another submarine coming in to attack the surface fleet. This time we were not successful in the mission; however, all was not lost, as the primary objective was met. All participants received valuable training working with other units in co-ordinated integrated operations and underwater surveillance.
A third, similar scenario was run, and this time victory went back to the aircrew. Then, with fuel expended, our weary crew three headed home as the sun began to rise behind the Eastern mountains.
Sub-surface surveillance is a perishable skill and unless practised often, the skills necessary to successful detect and prosecute underwater targets will wither. Exercises, such as Trident Fury provide a tremendous opportunity for aircrew to hone these important skills. As Canada’s only maritime patrol squadron on the west coast, 407 Squadron is called upon to conduct surveillance over Canada’s Pacific area of responsibility.
Source: Canadian forces - 19 Wing
By Capt Dion Spencer - 17 Wing Mission Support Squadron
Picture: Capt Bowell aboard the multi-engine CP 140 Aurora is a pilot with Crew 3 of 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron. Photo: Colleen Dane, reporter with Comox Valley Record
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