The Royal Canadian Air Force has begun returning home the aircraft it had deployed to Italy in support of operations against Libya.
On Wednesday the seven CF-18 Hornets deployed to Trapani Air Base as part of Operation Mobile returned to Canada, flying to Scotland for an overnight stop before crossing the Atlantic the next day. Accompanying them were the two CC150 Polaris aircraft that had supported them during the deployment, together with a CP-140A Aurora.
Canadian aircraft flew around 10% of NATO sorties over Libya. Between the start of operations in March and October 28, Hornets flew 946 sorties, CC-150 Polaris tankers flew 250, CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft flew 181, CC-130J Hercules airlifters flew 23 and CC-130 Hercules tankers flew 139 sorties.
On October 28, the Government of Canada announced that Operation Mobile would come to an end as NATO agreed to end Operation Unified Protector, the NATO-led effort to impose on Libya the arms embargo and no-fly zone authorized by the United Nations Security Council, on October 31.
“Operation Mobile has been a significant RCAF effort because we’ve been able to do it pretty much all ourselves,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Major James Kettles, who flew 50 combat missions aboard the CF-18. “We used the CC-150 tankers to get our jets here. Our CC-150s and the CC-130 Hercules tankers, as well as other nations’, have fuelled our CF-18s throughout the operation. The CP-140 Auroras have provided intelligence products favoured by NATO, while the CC-177 Globemaster III has been huge in delivering everything from aircraft parts to equipment, which has allowed us to sustain our operation. These capabilities have allowed us to have a huge impact within the coalition.”
“The rapid and successful deployment of the Canadian Forces (CF) in support of Operation Unified Protector has once again confirmed the leadership role of Canada and the Canadian Forces in today’s global security environment,” said Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “The professionalism and dedication of our Canadian Forces personnel demonstrates to the world what our country can achieve when working with our allies. I wish our men and women in uniform a safe return to their families and friends in Canada.”
“Canada will continue to support Libya in the post-Gaddafi era as it takes steps toward freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law for all Libyans,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
“Throughout this deployment, our personnel demonstrated flexibility and professionalism by successfully conducting integrated air to air operations with our NATO Allies, supporting mid-air refuelling, and patrolling off the shores of Libya,” said General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “The successful deployment of CF personnel, and air and naval assets to Operation Mobile confirmed the leadership role of the Canadian Forces within NATO and gave Canadians one more reason to be proud of their military.”
Operation Mobile comprised two task forces – Task Force Libeccio and Task Force Vancouver – deployed in the central Mediterranean region.
Task Force Libeccio, the air component of Operation Mobile, was composed of the task force headquarters, based in Naples, Italy; the air coordination element, based in Poggio-Renatico, Italy; and the Sicily air wing, based out of two locations in Sicily, Italy. There were approximately 350 personnel deployed to Italy as part of Task Force Libeccio.
The Sicily Air Wing was made up of four air operations flights and two close support flights, which included: a CP-140 Aurora flight, based at Sigonella, Sicily as well as a CF-18 Hornet flight, a CC-150T Polaris flight, a CC-130J Hercules flight, and an operational support flight and a mission support flight, all based at Trapani-Birgi, Sicily.
Task Force Vancouver’s purpose was to enforce the arms embargo against Libya. HMCS Vancouver, a Halifax-class multi-role patrol frigate with an embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter and air detachment, deployed from Esquimalt, B.C., on July 7, bound for the central Mediterranean Sea. The Vancouver replaced the HMCS Charlottetown off the coast of Libya in August.
Taskings for Vancouver included escorting and providing air defence for vulnerable vessels such as mine-countermeasures vessels and replenishment ships, and patrolling the embargo zone to gather information and ensure that prohibited materiel did not enter Libya.
It could take up to a month for HMCS Vancouver and its crew of 250 to return to Canada as it must replenish supplies before the trip, and it may make several stops in foreign ports.
Other nations that have transferred or finished transferring their aircraft back from Libya include Sweden, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.