Ship of the Week: HMCS Halifax

Today’s ship of the week is a more personal mention for me. This ship was launched when I was four years old, and commissioned when I was eight – I was there for the latter ceremony. She isn’t a flagship, nor historically significant (not yet), but she is one of the best frigates in the world, pound-for-pound. This is the ship that took my father to war after September 11th, 2001 changed the world forever:

HMCS Halifax

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Halifax was commissioned on 29 June, 1992. I was seven years old at the time, and she was absolutely gorgeous. I’ll never forget seeing this particular ship for the first time, complete, flying all the semaphore flags and the Maple Leaf and the Canadian Naval Ensign snapping in the brisk breeze, and 230 men in their dress whites aboard. If I could scan dad’s wall, I’d show you, but he’s like…in Ottawa or something.

Halifax was the first of her class of twelve commissioned between 1992 and 1996 and that are now around halfway through their service life. As a modern ASW vessel, Halifax has performed a vital role in any number of NATO fleets over the last 17 years. As an anti-air weapons platform she is well-armed with sixteen Sea Sparrow anti-air missiles and a Phalanx cannon (which I have played with!), though it’s not her primary function. Halifax (and all ships of her class) embark a CH-124 Sea King flying wreck.

Hey, that’s no helicopter! It’s 10,000 parts flying in loose formation!

Since being launched, Halifax has been at the head of her class in performance. She’s been called on in every major operation we’ve done since then, including Operation Apollo, Canada’s contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 (I hate those cheesy US names). Dad’s served on her twice – once as Commissioning Crew, and once from 2000-2003ish, and he was overseas with a NATO task force when the Twin Towers were struck on 9/11, and deployed to the Persian Gulf immediately.

Halifax is a fine ship. I’ve been on her, so I can say with some accuracy that she sails smoothly. Her engines are one of the first combined diesel or gas turbine systems with Integrated Machinery Control. This computer-controlled mixture device is now standard on Arleigh Burke-class ships in the USN and stands to be NATO standard in all modern fossil fuel-powered warships. Halifax makes thirty knots as her official full speed, but I am quite sure she can develop a fair bit more.

The Halifax-class ships are designed to last at least 30 years; the first refit will last the Halifax through till around 2023, and it is entirely possible that the versatile ship will be extended for another 20 years. I think she is majestic in the Canadian manner – she’s quiet and doesn’t drip of power like an American carrier or cruiser, but she looks competent. Halifax is a ship you call on to get the job done.


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