Five pilots from 409 Squadron and their five CF-18 Hornets departed 4 Wing Cold Lake Wednesday, Aug. 16 for Romania.
Part of the mission will include air policing while the other part will focus on training and engagement with the Romanian Air Force (RoAF). These duties will alternate on a weekly basis.
Wing Commander Col. Paul Doyle commented that this deployment is related to Russian activity in the Black Sea.
“The Black Sea is an active area and it’s active because of the events that transpired in Crimea with the NATO response to the illegal annexation of Crimea on the part of the Russians,” Doyle said. “We stand together as an alliance towards this. We see the Russians are flying in the Black Sea because there are NATO ships that are in the Black Sea.”
Doyle explained that the role of the pilots while conducting air policing missions will be to demonstrate a presence in the area and escort Russian planes back to their air space.
“It’s a presence to show that we have the capacity and the capability to be there close to what’s going on,” Doyle explained. “We don’t do anything aggressive. You maintain a decent amount of separation from the aircraft and it’s understood what we’re doing when we do that.”
The pilots will be flying with the Romanians that are based out of Constanta, located on the Black Sea coast. It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania, founded around 600 BC.
The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force has been in Romania since April and 409 Squadron will be relieving them.
One of the pilots explained that this is a NATO commitment through Operation Reassurance meant to reassure Canada’s allies of NATO solidarity.
The total number of Canadians in Romania will be 130.
The trip to Romania began with a flight to Bagotville, Que., where the pilots will spend one day. Then they fly to Prestwick, Scotland, and finally over to Constanta, Romania. Given the stops in each city to become accustomed to the time change, and in case of poor weather, the pilots expect to arrive Aug. 20.
Mayor Craig Copeland and Member of Parliament David Yurdiga were present to wish the pilots well before they deployed.
“What the base here is all about is not only protecting Canada but to go over where there’s issues in the world,” Mayor Copeland said. “We’ve got the best pilots in all of the world right here in Canada so we’re proud and you know our thoughts and prayers are with them when they’re there overseas, no matter what mission they’re on.”
The mission itself begins Sept. 1 and will continue until Dec. 31.