The modern battlespace is evolving rapidly and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is adapting to keep pace. As part of their participation in RIMPAC 2022, HMCS Vancouver spent over a week trialing various electronic warfare (EW) tactics that culminated in the ship being the first RCN vessel to tactically launch a surface offboard passive decoy (SOPD).
The SOPD is one component of the Halifax-class Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) Defence Suite. A spherical inflatable decoy, it is launched from the ship and floats on the surface of the ocean attracting Radio Frequency Missiles towards it and away from the ship.
Over the course of eight days, Vancouver was home to a number of subject-matter experts from the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre who led the team through various tactics trials as part of the Technical Cooperation Program Anti-Ship Threat Project Arrangement (TAPA). TAPA is a Five Eyes cooperative series of EW exercises to test current and future non-kinetic defensive tactics and procedures. RCN ships take theoretical tactics and test them in real time using real missiles and ammunition to prove their viability – and there’s no better place to test these tactics than during RIMPAC, where TAPA trials have been a regular component since 2006.
“TAPA22 with HMCS Vancouver was extremely successful and a huge step forward for RCN Electronic Warfare tactics and procedures,” said trial staff member Lt Adelaide Hawco RCN. “There were some significant milestones and successes that were achieved during the week: an effective hard-kill/soft-kill combination solution was identified and confirmed for specific current threat anti-ship missiles; and sophisticated jamming techniques were refined.”
EW is different from traditional kinetic warfare and hard-kill tactics – it doesn’t involve the use of munitions to destroy a target. Soft-kill tactics are used to disable an enemy without destructive force, this is done through distraction and seduction to divert an attack.
The launching of the SOPD was just one of the many sophisticated EW tactics trialed while Vancouver supported TAPA22. Over the week, the ship also tested and fine-tuned its multi-ammunition soft-kill system (MASS) capabilities. MASS is an automated decoy system that fires a wall of chaff to confuse sensor-guided missiles and disguise a vessel. Vancouver was also able to fire its Dueras rocket system, which is built onto the ship’s MASS launcher. The Dueras fires a decoy rocket with the aim of protecting the ship from Anti-Ship Missiles and infrared threats in an asymmetrical threat environment.
“Electronic Warfare is important to the RCN for various reasons. EW is by far the most effective defensive method against Anti-Ship Missiles,” added Hawco.
For Master Sailor Matthew Cormier, Fire Control Supervisor in HMCS Vancouver, TAPA22 was a chance for him to see the growth of his team’s skills in the EW environment.
“TAPA was extremely busy but very rewarding as it not only honed our skills as a team, but provided an excellent opportunity to contribute critical data to the teams ashore working to develop new and innovative tactics for us to employ in the future,” he said.
TAPA is conducted every two years in conjunction with RIMPAC. Twenty-six nations, 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 30 unmanned systems, approximately 170 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel will train and operate in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, June 29 to Aug. 4. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
Royal Canadian Navy photo by Sgt Ghislain Cotton