Category Archives: canada

The C20, sure you’ve seen it Before (Probably not)

From the Great North this week comes images of a rarely-seen designated marksman rifle, frolicking in the snow.

The C20 DMR was made in low numbers by Colt Canada of Kitchener, Ontario. Using an 18-inch chrome-lined barrel with a 1:10 RH twist, the 7.62 NATO semi-auto is outfitted with an LMT adjustable stock, a free-floating M-LOK handguard with a full-length top Pic rail, and a Geissele SSA two-stage trigger.

Probably less than 500 of these have been made, all for service in the Canadian and Danish military. (Photo: Colt Canada)

The funny thing is, the gun actually owes its lineage to the equally elusive Colt Modular Carbine of more American extraction.

This thing.

More in my column at

Montreal with a Bone

In the great image below, recently released by the Royal Canadian Navy, you see the 5,000-ton Halifax-class patrol frigate HMCS Montréal (FFH 336) flanked by her embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter (Sikorsky S-92) while on NATO Op Reassurance.

You gotta love a great “bone in the teeth” shot

Commissioned in 1994 and based at CFB Halifax in Nova Scotia, Montreal and her companion Cyclone are currently assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 along with a single shore-based Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora (P-3C Orion with the ASW gear of an S-3A Viking) detached from No. 405 Squadron RCAF out of CFB Greenwood.

Bison spotting!

Black Creek Labs in Canada a few years back designed a handy little bolt-action rifle envisioned to be “comfortable in its scabbard on the side of a horse, packed, slung or mounted onto a Utility Vehicle for ranch, range or backcountry duty.”

Dubbed the MRX Bison, it runs a Remington 700 chassis with a 16.5-inch barrel, accepts AR15 mags in 5.56 and .300BLK variants and AR10 mags in .308 and 6.5CM, uses AR pistol grips and stocks, and weighs under 7 pounds.

Now that looks handy.

The good news, that I learned firsthand from the company, is that the MRX Bison is headed to the U.S. and will be available via ATI this fall at a price under $1K.

More in my column at

Hoth, but with 155s

My family hails originally from the Harz Mountains region of Saxony-Anhalt Germany, from the little towns of Quedlinburg and Wernigerode. Following the Soviet occupation in 1945, many members chose to skip town and head west, with one branch settling outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba as the climate was very similar and there was a large German colony there. Hence, I have Canadian cousins with names like Dieter and Wolfgang (or just Wolfie to his friends).

Speaking of cold, the historic 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA) –which was formed originally in 1898 and has a long lineage that includes the Boer Wars, both World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan– has its garrison at CFB Shilo, Manitoba. The typical weather there this time of year has highs in the teens even with Spring just on the horizon, and flurries.

As exemplified in the below in Excercise Frozen Gunner 22:

Via Canadian Forces PAO:

1 RCHA is deployed on exercise in Shilo MB to confirm its ability to fight and win in the cold weather environment. Temperatures were dipping close to -35C with the windchill. In addition to Regt assets, 38 Artillery Tactical Group, 5 Fd Regt, and 15 Fd Regt, deployed to support with an additional firing unit.

The RCHA is the primary Canadian unit fielding the M777 155mm light towed howitzer, obtaining its first battery of still warm “broke in” guns from the U.S. Marines in 2005. Since then, the Canadians have built up a collection of 69 M777s and upgraded them with the DGMS digital management system, which ups the accuracy significantly. RCHA used them to great effect around Kandahar in 2006-07, delivering fire missions danger close to allied troops without breaking hearts.

Note they seem to be practicing direct-fire straight-line cannon work as well. A 155 will certainly ruin the paint job of a T-90 if needed.

I can’t help but wonder if some of their members are first or second-generation German-Canadians.


Via Forces Canada, the ASW frigate HMCS Halifax (FFH 330) completes a snowy replenishment at sea with Naval Replenishment Unit (NRU) Asterix “just in time to watch the sunset” earlier this month.

Photo by Lt(N) Laura Virgin

Note the orange-stocked C7 line thrower. Photo by SLt Stephanie Nicol

Asterix is a converted 23,792 DWT container ship Canada purchased in 2015 to fill in until an AOE could be built from the keel up. Photo by SLt Stephanie Nicol

Now go get warm!

It’s That Time of Year Again! ICEEX 2022 Is Here

ICEEX 2022 has begun in the Arctic Ocean on Friday, 4 March after the building of Ice Camp Queenfish and the arrival of two U.S. Navy fast-attack submarines, the aging (awarded in 1982!) Cold Warrior that is the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752) and the much more modern Virginia-class attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786).

Welcome to the Order of the Blue Nose!

BEAUFORT SEA, Arctic Circle (March 5, 2022) – Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea, kicking off Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2022. ICEX 2022 is a three-week exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mike Demello/Released)

BEAUFORT SEA, Arctic Circle – Virginia-class attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea March 5, 2022, kicking off Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2022. ICEX 2022 is a three-week exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations. (U.S. Navy photo 220305-N-ON977-1158 by Mike Demello/Released)

More here.

Happy IWD! Meet Helen Harrison

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the “social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.”

With that, I give you Canadian Second Officer Helen Marcelle Harrison of the Air Transport Auxiliary in November 1943 with a Spitfire IX.

Helen was a pioneering Canadian female civil aviation instructor and the first Canadian Air Transport Auxiliary ferry pilot during WWII.

After the war, she worked as a demonstration pilot for Percival Aircraft Company, flying a single-engine airplane across Canada in 1946. In 1968, she was awarded the B.C. Aviation Council’s Air Safety Trophy, after logging 14,000 hours as pilot-in-command of numerous aircraft types, without injury to passenger or crew.

Inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974, she passed in 1995, aged 85, when she got her final set of wings.

Canadian U-Boat Ensign Preserved

U-889 in U.S. service before she was scuttled. The Navy was very interested in her snorkel, as numerous images of it are in the archives. However, before she flew a U.S. flag, and after she flew a German one, she wore an RCN ensign. NH 111270

We covered the saga of Canadian-flagged U-Boats in 1945 in a past Warship Wednesday, so this is an interesting development.

Via The Lookout:

HMCS U 889’s ensign being handed over. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout Newspaper

A white ensign, once flown atop a captured German U-boat, has been returned to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

Second World War veteran Able Seaman Bob Haden of Victoria had kept the ensign as a war trophy for more than 75 years. The ensign was hoisted a top former German U-boat 889 following its surrender in May 1945, becoming HMCS U-889.

On Sept. 13, at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91 in Langford, the 97-year-old presented the ensign as a gift to the Commander Canadian Submarine Force, Captain (Naval) Jean Stéphane Ouellet, and his Chief, CPO1 Paddy McGuire.

“This is truly amazing,” said Capt(N) Ouellet while graciously accepting the flag. “Thank you very much. I promise you we will take great care of it.”

More here.

Kingstons Growing Up to Fill the Role(s) After 25 Years

This week in 1996, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Kingston (700) was commissioned to Canada’s Atlantic Fleet.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE on November 8, 2016. Photo By: 12 Wing Imaging Services XC03-2016-1002-566

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE on November 8, 2016. Photo By: 12 Wing Imaging Services XC03-2016-1002-571

With the motto: “Pro Rege et Grege” (For Sovereign and People), HMCS Kingston was the first of 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV).

For the maximum price of $750 million (in 1995 Canadian dollars), Ottawa bought 12 ships including design, construction, outfitting, equipment (85 percent of Canadian origin), and 22 sets of remote training equipment for inland reserve centers.

These 181-foot ships were designed to commercial standards and intended “to conduct coastal patrols, minesweeping, law enforcement, pollution surveillance and response as well as search and rescue duties,” able to pinch-hit between these wildly diverse assignments via modular mission payloads in the same way that the littoral combat ships would later try.

That is one chunky monkey. These boats, despite the fact they have deployed from Hawaii to the Baltic and West Africa, are reportedly slow and ride terribly. I mean, look at that hull form

Like the LCS, the modules weren’t very good and are rarely fielded because they never really lived up to the intended design. In all, the RCN has enough minesweeping modules to fully equip just two Kingstons as minehunters and partially equip four or five others. 

When it came to MCM, they were to run mechanical minesweeping (single Oropesa, double Oropesa, or team sweep) at 8 to 10 knots, Full degaussing (DG) capability was only fitted in three ships, although the cables were fitted in all vessels. The route survey system– of which only four modules were ever procured– was to be capable of performing at speeds of up to 10 knots with a resolution as high as 12 centimeters per pixel in any ocean of the world.

It is joked that the bulk of the force could act as a minesweeper– but only do it once.

Armed with surplus manually-trained Canadian Army Bofors 40mm/L60 Boffins (formerly Naval guns leftover from HMCS Bonaventure), which had been used for base air defense in West Germany for CFB Lahr/CFB Baden during the Cold War, they never had a lot of punch. Later removed, these WWII relics were installed ashore as monuments, and the Kingstons were left with just a couple of .50 cal M2s as topside armament.

Manned with hybrid reserve/active crews in a model similar to the U.S. Navy’s NRF frigate program, their availability suffered, much like the Navy’s now-canceled NRF frigate program. This usually consisted of two active rates– one engineering, one electrical– and 30 or so drilling reservists per hull. Designed to operate with a crew of 24 for coastal surveillance missions with accommodation for up to 37 for mine warfare or training, the complement was housed in staterooms with no more than three souls per compartment. 

With 12 ships, six are maintained on each coast in squadrons, with one or two “alert” ships fully manned and/or deployed at a time and one or two in extended maintenance/overhaul.

Canadian Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Saskatoon (709), note 40mm gun forward, bridge wing .50 cals, and CEU container– the hallmark of “modular” designs. They could accept three 20 foot ISO containers.

Intended to have a 15-year service life, these 970-ton ships have almost doubled that with no signs of stopping anytime soon. They have recently been given a series of two-year (and shorter) refits that included upgrades to their hull, galley, HVAC, and fire fighting systems while the RCN is spitballing better armament to include remote-operated stabilized .50 cal mounts. Notably, they are getting new degaussing systems. 

Canadian Kingston class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel with remote 50 cal that may replace the old 40mm mounts that were removed.

With all that out there in the sunlight, these shoestring surface combatants have been pushed into spaces and places no one could have foreseen and they have pulled off a lot– often overseas despite their official “type” and original intention.

Besides coastal training and ho-hum sovereignty and fisheries patrols, the ships of the class are tapped to deploy regularly as part of narcotics interdiction missions in Operation Caribbe in the Caribbean and the Central American Pacific coast, with they work hand-in-hand with SOUTHCOM and the U.S. Fourth Fleet.

About half of Caribbe deployments have been by the Kingstons. Note that this chart is from 2016, and at least a dozen more deployments have been chalked up since then

They also regularly deploy to the Arctic as part of the annual Operation Nanook exercises.

HMCS Summerside Kingston-class coastal defense vessel. While not robust ice-going vessels, the ships are nevertheless built to operate safely in 40 centimeters of first-year ice, which puts them capable of summer cruises in the Arctic. 

With a small footprint (just 25~ man typical complement, mostly of naval reservists on temporary active duty) they often deploy in pairs.

Recently, they have been experimenting with UAV operations from their decks, as well as working closely with USN and USCG helicopter detachments for HOISTEXs and HIFR while, especially in Caribbe deployments, with embarked USCG Law Enforcement Detachments.

One could argue that these “coastal defense” vessels have spent more time off the coasts of other countries than their own.

Some highlights:

Kingston, in company with HMCS Anticosti and her sister-ship HMCS Glace Bay (701), in 1999 was deployed to the Baltic Sea to participate in Exercise BLUE GAME, a major minesweeping exercise with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) units. They were the smallest Canadian warships to cross the Atlantic since the Second World War. In 2003, Kingston spent 144 days at sea, sailing over 19,000 nautical miles in SAR missions, training Maritime Surface Operations Naval cadets, operating with the RCMP, and, with sister-ship HMCS Moncton, plucked two Marine Corps F-18 pilots from the Atlantic after the two Hornets collided in an exercise. In 2014, Kingston was part of the expedition that searched for and found one of the ships that disappeared during Franklin’s lost expedition. In 2018, she and sistership HMCS Summerside sailed for West Africa to take part in Obangame Express 2018 with the U.S. Navy and several African navies, a trip that was repeated in 2019 for Operation Projection.

Glace Bay (701) has also helped after the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia in 1998 and, with MCM gear, was part of a team searching in Lake Ontario in 2004 for some of the last remnants of the legendary CF-105 Avro Arrow. In 2014, she seized $84 million worth of drugs with working as part of Operation Caribbe. In 2018, she pulled down a Baltic minesweeping deployment. In 2020, Glace Bay and sistership HMCS Shawinigan departed Halifax as part of Operation Projection off West Africa.

Northern Lights shimmer above HMCS GLACE BAY during Operation NANOOK 2020 on August 18, 2020. CPL DAVID VELDMAN, CAF PHOTO

HMCS Nanaimo (702) has been part of two RIMPACs and, while deployed on Caribbe in 2017, made two large busts at sea with a USCG LEDET aboard, seizing almost three tons of blow. She doubled down as a narco buster in her 2018 Caribbe deployment.

HMCS Edmonton (703), and participated in RIMPAC 2002. This voyage to Hawaii was the longest non-stop distance traveled by vessels of the Kingston class at that time, and they acted in route clearance roles for the larger task force. She has also had three very successful Caribbe deployments. From August to September 2017, Edmonton and sistership Yellowknife sailed to the Arctic Ocean to perform surveillance of Canada’s northern waters as part of Operation Limpid.

HMCS Shawinigan (704) has operated alongside Canadian submarine assets, been part of NATO international mine warfare exercises, and was the HQ platform for the Route Halifax Saint-Pierre 2006. In 2014, Shawinigan’s Operation Nanook deployment set the record for traveling the furthest north of any ship in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy, reaching a maximum latitude of 80 degrees and 28 minutes north. She went to West Africa in 2020 and down to SOUTHCOM’s neck of the woods twice.

HMCS Whitehorse (705) has survived a hurricane at sea and, in 2006, while conducting route survey operations, rescued a group of local teenagers from the waters in the approaches to Nanoose Harbour B.C. then rescued another group stranded on Maude Island. She has participated in at least two RIMPACs and three Caribbe deployments. One of the latter, with sistership HMCS Brandon in 2015, made seven different seizures from smugglers, totaling 10 tons of cocaine.

HMCS WHITEHORSE conducts weapon maintenance during Operation CARIBBE on February 10, 2020

HMCS Yellowknife (706) earned a Canadian Forces Unit Commendation for saving the F/V Salmon King in 2001. In 2002, she and three of her sister ships deployed to Mexico and for the first time in 25 years, conducting two weeks of operations with the Mexican Navy. The next year, she joined a task force of French and Canadian ships in the Pacific and joined a U.S. task force in 2014. She has taken part in at least three RIMPACs and, during her 2019 Caribbe deployment with sistership Whitehorse, seized three tons of coke.

HMCS Goose Bay (707) in 2001 accompanied by sister ship HMCS Moncton, took part in the NATO naval exercise Blue Game off the coasts of Norway and Denmark. The next summer, along with sister HMCS Summerside, marked the first Arctic visit by RCN naval vessels in 13 years as part of Operation Narwhal Ranger, an area that later became her regular stomping ground in successive Nanook deployments. She has been to warmer waters with Caribbe and deployed with the USCG for their Operations Tradewinds through the Caribbean for training with local forces there.

HMCS Moncton (708) besides multiple Nanook and Caribbe deployments, has been very active in the Baltic as part of Trident Juncture. She has also worked off West Africa in Neptune Trident. In 2017, with sistership HMCS Summerside, conducted missions against pirates and illegal fishing off the African coast, along with making port visits to Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, and Ivory Coast. She has recently been sporting a North Atlantic WWII scheme. 

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (708) with her Atlantic WWII camo, 2019

HMCS Saskatoon (709) in addition to Nanook and Caribbe, she has been in at least one RIMPAC and Pacific Guardian exercise, the latter with the USCG “involving various scenarios focused on drug or immigrant smuggling, pollution detection, marine mammal sightings, shellfish poaching, illegal logging, and criminal activities,” along the Pac Northwest coastline.

HMCS Brandon (710) has been in several Caribbe deployments.

HMCS Summerside (711) the newest Kingston, is still 21 years old. Her credits include a Narwhal Ranger deployment, followed by later Nanook trips, at least four Caribbe deployments, NATO exercise Cutlass Fury (North Atlantic) and Trident Juncture (Baltic), as well as a Neptune Trident cruise to West Africa which notably involved joint training exercises with naval vessels from Morocco and Senegal.

One could spitball that, when you calculate the bang for the buck that penny-pinching Canada has gotten from these humble vessels over the past quarter-century, perhaps the U.S. Navy should have gone with a similar concept for the LCS and put the billions saved into, I don’t know, actual frigates.

Since you came this far, the RCN offers a free paper model for download, should you be interested. 

Armored Recce Ridealong

In an unburnished look at what life is like in a Canadian Army reserve armoured recon (cavalry scout) unit, the service released a really well-done 15-minute short featuring a corporal in The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) talking about a route recce excercise.

The “Dukes” of the BCR use the new Textron TAPV (Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle), fundamentally a Canadian variant of the M1117 Armoured Security Vehicle, armed with an HK GMG 40mm grenade machine gun (C16 in Canadian parlance) and a C6 (M240) 7.62 mm GPMG coax on a remote weapon station.

“The Dukes” date back to 1883 and, currently part of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group after amalgamation with the Irish Fusiliers of Canada (The Vancouver Regiment), have battle honors for both world wars– including for Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele, and the Falaise– and Afghanistan.

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