HMCS Harry DeWolf embarks on maiden operational deployment

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Navy News / August 10, 2021

By Ryan Melanson

Years of preparation and training were brought to bear on August 3 in Halifax, as The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) newly commissioned Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf, set sail on its first operational mission to Canada’s North.

The ship will begin the four-month deployment with participation in Operation Nanook in the Arctic region, and will carry on by sailing through the Northwest Passage, something that hasn’t been done by a Canadian warship in more than 60 years. From there, Harry DeWolf will complete the circumnavigation of North America while supporting Operation Caribbe in the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea.

“This is a mission that fully demonstrates the capabilities of our ship and the new capabilities of the RCN. This goes far beyond just focusing on sovereignty in the North – we’ll be doing all that this class of ship can do,” said Rear-Admiral (Radm) Brian Santarpia, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic (JTFA), as he saw the ship and crew off from the jetty in Halifax.

Testing and trials over the past year for Harry DeWolf have demonstrated that the ship can successfully operate year-round, in both the frigid conditions of the arctic and in warmer southern waters, which is a unique feature.

“HMCS Harry DeWolf now has thousands of miles on its odometer, and we’re about to embark on a patrol that hasn’t been done in more than 64 years. It’s no small feat,” said Commander (Cdr) Corey Gleason, the ship’s Commanding Officer.

Op Nanook is a signature annual exercise focused on preparing Canada to respond to any crisis situation or security issue that may arise in the North, and Harry DeWolf will be conducting surveillance patrols and other activities alongside HMCS Goose Bay as well as US Coast Guard partners. Once the mission transitions to Op Caribbe, the ship will continue working with the US Coast Guard to disrupt the flow of controlled narcotics and other illicit cargo.

Along with the more operational components of the mission, Cdr Gleason said he and his crew are particularly excited to continue highlighting the ship’s affiliation with the Indigenous communities of the North. Each of the RCN’s six Arctic vessels will be affiliated with different regions of the Inuit Nunangat, with HMCS Harry DeWolf tied to the Qikiqtani region, which includes Nunavut’s capital city of Iqaluit.

Interacting and building ties with the communities of the region will be a key component of Harry DeWolf’s arctic operations, beginning right away on this maiden deployment, building on the official visits and dialogues with local leaders that have already taken place.

“I really look forward to expanding those relationships, and I personally have some very big ambitions when it comes to expanding the range of military programs in the region,” Cdr Gleason said, describing a future scenario that could see locals on board RCN ships, providing input as the RCN traverses their territorial waters. The region isn’t well surveyed, which can lead to tense situations for navigators.

“We like to look at charts with numbers and depths; when we go north, we don’t have that. Our Inuit partners know those bodies of water and they can help us operate much more safely,” he added.

The ship’s company of HMCS Harry DeWolf is 100 percent vaccinated against COVID-19, and as always, extensive testing was done prior to the departure from Halifax with help from Canadian Forces Health Services staff. Tests will also be administered ahead of any port and community visits to ensure all interactions are safe.