Operation PROJECTION and Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS

PROJECTION is a continuing operation of the Canadian Joint Operations Command under which mostly naval and maritime air forces conduct training, exercises and engagements with foreign navies and other international security partners (e.g., coast guards), with the aim to make the world more secure and enhance relationships with Canada’s allies and partners.  (http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/operations-abroad-current/op-projection.page)  In early 2018, two Kingston-class patrol vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) deployed to West Africa as part of Op PROJECTION.  In addition to extensive diplomatic and community relations activities ashore, the ships participated in Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS, an US Naval Forces Africa “at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. It focuses on maritime interdiction operation, as well as visit, board, search, and seizure techniques.” (http://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/exercises/obangame-express)  After noting that a Nigerian news article about OBANGAME did not mention Canadian participation, RUSI(NS) staff made a query to RCN public affairs.  The following information was received in return.

“The coverage that you’ve noted highlights elements of Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS that are occurring near to Nigeria, but this is actually only a portion of the entire exercise area.  The overall exercise runs in from Angola in the south to Senegal in the north, and is divided into five zones.  While Nigeria is in Zone ‘E’, Canadian participation is concentrated in zone ‘F’, which includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

In addition to providing the two Kingston-class ships for this exercise, the Royal Canadian Navy has the lead for the exercise in zone ‘F’, and is providing advisors to the Maritime Operations Centres in this zone.  This is a critical piece for enabling the exercise objectives, and for improving regional capacity for maritime domain awareness and such capabilities as counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, and counter-smuggling operations.  Canadian contributions to OBANGAME EXPRESS also notably included the deployment of members from the Maritime Tactical Operations Group to provide specialized training for maritime interdiction (e.g., boarding and search) operations.

Prior to the launch of the exercise, the Canadian ships conducted a series of port visits with countries in the West African region, including countries in other exercise zones, supporting regional projects recommended by Canadian embassies and commissions.  These visits were a smashing success and resulted in the barrage of social media imagery evident on a variety of social media platforms from different accounts.

As part of one of these port visits, the Canadians made it as far south as Nigeria and facilitated some training between Nigeria and the United Kingdom (Canada provided a ship for the Nigerians to practice boarding after they received training from the UK).  So, whilst viewers may have seen recent imagery of Canada working with Nigeria, this footage was actually shot during the ramp-up to exercise play.  The port visit the RCN had in Nigeria went very well, included participation of the Commander of the RCN, and did generate local coverage.

Two examples of local reporting are:

Canadian Warships Arrive Nigeria For The First Time In 108 Years http://www.informationng.com/2018/03/canadian-warships-arrive-nigeria-for-the-first-time-in-108-years.html

Canadian War Vessels Make Historic Visit To Nigeria http://saharareporters.com/2018/03/12/canadian-war-vessels-make-historic-visit-nigeria

Operation PROJECTION is an example of classic employment of a navy in support of national objectives.  Canadian diplomatic offices received support from their Navy, and Canadian sailors were tremendous ambassadors of our country, by all accounts winning the hearts and minds of many Africans, especially children.  The operation is also a demonstration of the RCN’s capabilities as a ‘blue water navy,’ able to deploy and sustain what are really regional patrol ships for an extended period of time at an extended range from home port.  There are many messages, to friends around the world, to potential adversaries, and to Canadians, in this operation, that Canada’s navy is capable and will be globally engaged.

RUSI(NS) Staff

Editorial Staff at RUSI (NS). This work is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia.