Hundreds of miles from Nova Scotia’s coastline lies a floating world of navy crews that are working together in a simulated war zone environment.
Cutlass Fury is an multinational training exercise underway in Atlantic Ocean waters.
Participating in the exercise are five NATO allies — Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Spain and France.
“We’re working with other NATO nations from multiple countries and we’re here to train together to get better at operating together in the complex environment that it is at sea,” navy Capt. Craig Skjerpen said.
Skjerpen is one of two Task Group Commander’s working under the Canadian Fleet Atlantic Commander, Commodore Craig Baines.
Commodore Baines is overseeing the entire Cutlass Fury exercise that will conclude off the waters of St. John’s, Newfoundland on Sept. 29.
The massive naval exercise has taken two years to plan and involves more than 3,000 navy personnel.
Canada alone has five ships participating, the command vessel of the exercise is Halifax-based frigate HMCS Fredericton.
The primary focus of Cutlass Fury is centered around anti-submarine warfare.
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“We’re lucky enough to have three submarines, one from Canada, one from the U.S. and one from France participating with us,” Capt. Skjerpen said.
Canada’s submarine is CFB Halifax’s own HMCS Windsor.
The diesel-electric submarine is the only of its kind in the exercise and creates an added element of difficulty when it come to tracking her.
“The diesel-electric sub is incredibly quiet and they’re difficult to find. I’m not saying the nuclear submarines are easier to find but there are different levels and things you need to look for to try and defeat them or defend against them,” Skjerpen said.
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Tracking submarines in Atlantic waters can be tricky due to the acoustics that are specific to this ocean.
“We have a lot of marine mammals in our ocean, which adds to the challenge of finding submarines with our sensors. We also have different sea-states and adverse weather, that all adds to the ambient noise,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Swinimer, underwater warfare director for Cutlass Fury.
The level of difficulty will progress as the exercise continues, the early stages involve tracking the submarines and identifying them.
The final stages involve a large scale simulated war zone environment.
“This is an awesome experience for us to be able to operate in Canadian waters and bring our allies here to experience the adversity in our waters that we experience with our marine life and adverse ocean conditions, it’s a great experience,” Swinimer said.