How the RCN delivers an Expeditionary Force – then and now

By Peter Sanderson, 13 April 2023.

The early 1950s were a busy time for the Canadian Forces. As a founding member of NATO, the Army sent 27 Brigade and the Air Force provided an Air Division. Then there was the Korean War with 25 Brigades on the ground and elements of the RCN and RCAF which all saw action.  Canada was classed as ‘middle power’ on the strength of CF which allowed Canada’s leaders to take an active role in world events.  

1956 SUEZ CRISIS & UNEF. Canadian UN Representative Mike Pearson gets the belligerents to accept an UN Peacekeeping Force. The Canadian Forces played an important role in UNEF. While the troops flew on RCAF Transport Command, stores and vehicles were put aboard the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent for the trip to Egypt. The carrier was used to accommodate a small hospital and force headquarters, and to provide a communications link to Ottawa. 

1964 CYPRUS CRISIS & UNFICYP. Violence had broken out between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Turkey threatened to invade the island if the UN didn’t quickly send in a Peacekeeping Force.  Once again a Canadian, Minister of External Affairs, Paul Martin, soon corals the stake holders and gets an UN Peacekeeping Force approved. Canada was now part of UNFICYP. While the troops flew on RCAF Transport Command, stores and vehicles were put aboard the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure for the trip to Cyprus.                                                                                           

THE AMPHIBIOUS SHIP. If Canada wants to get out of the ‘garrisoning Europe’ trap and move to a ‘reinforcing Europe’ model, it will need a LHD or LPD. If the Mistral is chosen, it is a dual use ship since its hospital allows it to be used as Humanitarian Assistance ship. The LHD needs a similar facility that you would find for a car transport ship – a long berth adjacent to a large secure car park. When the Army seconds the LHD for an amphibious exercise, the ‘default load’ of emergency construction equipment must be unloaded to free up the vehicle deck. The Battalion Battle Group equipment from Gagetown, would arrive on a long train of flat cars loaded with tanks, TAPVs, LAVs, artillery and engineer vehicles, CPs, field kitchens, fuel bowsers, recovery and maintenance and trucks loaded with ammo and rations. These vehicles need to be unchained and driven onto the LHD and re-chained. The troops would arrive in buses.  Four weeks later the process is reversed.

LANDING IN EUROPE. The ‘Unopposed Amphibious Landing’ still requires a ‘foot-on-the-ground.’ Since the beach head and surrounding area would has been monitored all night by a Gargoyle, the Venoms can take off at first light, with their first load of infantry, who will secure and guard the beach head perimeter.  As the Venoms fly single file towards land, they are guarded from marauding fighters by the flanking Vipers. The Viper, unlike its big brother the Apache, can carry and use 2 full size anti-aircraft missiles. Meanwhile in the well deck, the L-CATs are being loaded the TAPVs, NEMO LAVs and Caesars. When the TAPVs reach the beach, they will race off with their accompanying drones, to conduct their Route Recce; while the 155mm guns of the Caesars 6x6 Mk 1 will provide a 3 to 40 km umbrella for the beach head. The 120mm NEMO mortar system has a 0 to10 km reach and will provide Final Protective Fire (FPF) if withdrawal is necessary. Over the day, each of the 3 Combat Teams will be completed and will then move out on its road move. Our Expeditionary Force has been delivered in about 12 to 14 days from start to finish.

NATO READINESS TASKING. Once the LHD arrives, Canada can apply for a ‘Battalion Battle Group’ Readiness Tasking since it can be delivered in less than 30 days. The unit would first have to be certified and then attend an annual NATO exercise to retain it.                                      

France calls the Mistral BPC a “command and power projection” ship which is exactly what Canada did in 1956 and 1964 and what it would be doing when reinforcing Europe.

REFERENCES:

1. Pp 248-251, 258-261 The Armed Forces of Canada, 1867-1967 - LCol D J Goodspeed, CD DHist CFHQ 1967                                                                        -                            

2. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/119353.htm                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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