The CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft has evolved from not only being a premier Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) platform but also to one the most versatile aircraft in the Canadian Forces. Within the last few years the aircraft and crews have conducted sovereignty missions to the north, fishery patrols on the three coasts of Canada, search and rescue missions, drug interdiction operations with federal and international authorities, civil aid missions, participated in major Canadian Forces operations and of course ASW.
405 Long Range Patrol (LRP) Squadron (Sqn) has throughout its history has had many first’s. In WWII the squadron was the first and only Canadian Sqn to become a member of the elite PATHFINDER Sqn’s. These Sqn’s, including 405 Sqn; often lead the way for others to carry out their missions against the enemy forces. More recently, we were the first to operationally fly the newly fitted Block 2 CP-140 Aurora while conducting drug interdiction flights in South America. Now as the lead Vanguard crew we will fly the first Aurora missions in support of Operation (Op) ATHENA in Afghanistan. Events such as this solidify the Sqn’s motto: DUCIMUS - WE LEAD.
The operational tasking is to provide high quality image mapping of Afghanistan, which will provide significantly updated geographical and structural information to strategic and tactical commanders located in the Afghan theatre of operations. This will ultimately aid the troops on the ground in the success of their missions. Two Block One Aurora’s from Comox and two crews, one from 405 Sqn located here at 14 Wing Greenwood and the other from 407 Sqn 19 Wing Comox, British Colombia have deployed to South West Asia to join the Theatre Support Element of Op ATHENA.
As with any deployment, the required aircraft maintenance support elements are in place. Technician crews from 14 Air Maintenance Sqn in Greenwood and 407 Sqn Comox have the demanding role of keeping the aircraft serviceable so the aircrew can carry out the thirty planned missions to meet the mapping requirements of Op ATHENA commanders. If the aircraft became unserviceable then repairs would have to be conducted in 30 C to 50 C temperatures. With this mission we are working very closely, for the first time, with military and civilian personnel from the Canadian Forces Mapping and Charting Establishment (MCE) located in Ottawa. This group of professional, dedicated personnel are responsible for the overall operation of the high tech camera on board the aircraft as well as the precise development and reconstruction of all the images produced from the missions.
Training for this operation began well before the scheduled deployment dates. Initially the Vanguard aircrews and technicians from both Wings had to complete the readiness training requirements needed by all personnel prior to deploying overseas. As well each of the aircrews had to complete a series of crew qualifications as directed by 1 Canadian Air Division before their departure date. With the new Applanix camera on board, crews then had to familiarize themselves with the camera operation and how to best navigate the aircraft to ensure accurate, precise imagery. This training was conducted in Ottawa using an Aurora from 19 Wing Comox. Aircrews and technicians met, worked and flew with for the first time with the MCE personnel, developing procedures and fine tuning all aspects of operations for the planned imagery missions.
Upon return to their respective Wings and Sqn’s both crews had a myriad of planning and confirming to finalize prior to their departure. Flight profiles, airspace requirements, airdromes within the area of operations, radio frequencies and call signs, aircraft parts, survival gear, medicals, dentals, clothing requirements and a long list of other items which certainly included time with family and friends. During this same time period endless emails, phone calls and conferences were held by senior personnel to ensure all the logistical and administrative support required for the detachment was secured, not an easy task. The detachment advance party departed one week before the next group arrived and worked endless hours to ensure a smooth transition from operations in Canada to operations from our host nation.
Sixty eight personnel, under the command of 405 Sqn Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Irvine, were in place by early May. The two CP-140 Aurora’s with the Applanix cameras installed were flown to our location by support crews from 405 and 407 Sqn’s. The first mission of a projected thirty in the Aurora’s role of Op ATHENA was successfully flown May 13th by 405 Sqn Crew 1. Excellent imagery was captured and the tireless effort put forward by all members of the detachment had been finally substantiated – another operational success for the CP-140 Aurora, 405 Sqn and the entire detachment. DUCIMUS - WE LEAD