Canada’s West Coast military joins advanced war-fighting event

Rim of the Pacific world's largest multinational biennial exercise

Submarine HMCS Victoria arrives at Pearl Harbor

CFB Esquimalt personnel are among more than 1,400 Canadian military members in Hawaii participating in the Rim of the Pacific biennial exercise.

The mass training manoeuvre involves 22 nations, 25,000 personnel, more than 42 ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft.

It is designed to put militaries from Pacific Rim nations through advanced warfare scenarios, allowing them to strengthen their ties and their ability to respond to evolving situations, in a region considered critical to the global supply chain.

Canada, including the West Coast navy, will experience a number of firsts during this year’s exercise, the world’s largest of its kind.

CFB Esquimalt submarine HMCS Victoria arrived in Hawaiian waters Tuesday and is gearing up to reach additional milestones on the road to becoming fully operational.

It is the first Victoria-class submarine to take part in RIMPAC, which began in 1971.

Victoria, among several other vessels, will get the chance fire live ammunition at surplus vessels.

“We want to expose as many (personnel) to the actual process of a live firing. That is really a huge team- and confidence-building exercise into the technical readiness and accuracy of the team,” said navy Capt. Luc Cassivi, Maritime Forces Pacific chief of operations. “It’s not an opportunity that presents itself all the time.”

In another RIMPAC first, Canada’s navy brass are serving important leadership roles.

Commodore Peter Ellis, fleet commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, is commanding an amphibious task force of 12 ships from seven countries, and 1,700 soldiers, including 150 from Canada.

Ellis will plan and direct operations that run the gamut, from providing humanitarian assistance and conducting evacuations from combat or disaster zones, to suppressing terrorist and piracy activities.

“It’s not just a first in terms of Canadians, it’s also a first in terms of the Americans allowing non-Americans to exercise those roles,” Ellis told the News via phone from Pearl Harbour in Honolulu. “It’s an incredible milestone, and I think it’s a great compliment to us that we’ve been offered those roles.”

emccracken@vicnews.com