The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) deployed to Romania as part of NATO’s enhanced air policing.
The Canadians sent a contingent of 6 CF-188 (F18A/B) Hornet aircraft to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta. Deploying along with the fighters were about 150 personnel from the RCAF, most belonging to 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron which is home based at 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta, along with their F18s.
This deployment to Romania as part of the NATO enhanced air policing mission marks the RCAF’s 6th deployment to the former Eastern Bloc country. Despite COVID-19 and the strict restrictions in Canada, the RCAF deployed last year as well, demonstrating their commitment to the mission.
With the proximity to the Black Sea coast, the detachment conducts air policing operations on a very intense scale in comparison to what is common to regular ops in Cold Lake. The Hornets also conducted training missions with the Romanian Air Force, the US Air Force, NATO ground forces, as well as with the Ukrainian military during their tasking. As opposed to several other missions, the RCAF has not disclosed if and how many times they were scrambled over the course of their deployment.
Personnel are deployed for three months this time around, vs the usual four months that previous deployments were scheduled for. NATO is re-aligning the scheduling due to various logistical requirements.
Along with the RCAF pilots is one USAF exchange pilot. These exchange programs provide both the squadron, as well as the foreign aviator, with an educational tool as well as an experience meant to strengthen the bond between allied forces.
Lieutenant Colonel (LCol) Corey Mask of 409 Squadron stated that he saw the deployment as a great instrument in providing deployment experience and operational training to the younger professionals of the squadron, both the pilots and maintainers. The deployment provides these young members of the sSquadron the opportunity to learn the various challenges that might occur in the field and which aren’t an issue when stationed in Cold Lake.
With a decision on Canada’s next fighter jet looming, Canada’s F18s are proving their worth even in the fourth decade of their service. Various upgrades recently completed in 2015 were key in keeping the aircraft within NATO standards for interoperability. The aircraft carry the Sniper Targeting Pod which allows for a more enhanced and capable fighter, providing the aircraft with an acquisition tool that provides the ability to strike targets with greater accuracy.
With the conclusion of the deployment, the RCAF will head back to Cold Lake for winter with its personnel, looking forward to 2022 after another successful year.
Special thanks to Capt. Christine Macneil and the RCAF PA Department for facilitating our work with the RCAF and the RoMAF.