HALIFAX — A senior officer on the newest and most advanced aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy's fleet says the ship's stop in Canada signals the value of working closely with allies in times of international tension.
Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, the commanding officer on the USS Gerald R. Ford, said the flagship carrier completed training exercises in the North Atlantic with NATO warships during its inaugural mission at sea.
As he spoke on the ship's deck on Saturday with the Halifax cityscape in the background, Lanzilotta said the nuclear-powered vessel "represents power projection."
"The physical presence of the ship, along with our allies, shows our partnership. It shows how tight we are," he said. "It's a visible reminder of that."
"Partnerships go a long way when it comes to setting the conditions for peace and stability."
Capt. Daryl Trent, the carrier's wing commander, said the mission has also provided a chance to test key capabilities, such as rapidly bringing bombs to the carrier's main deck and loading them onto fighter aircraft.
"Our capacity to do that is going to be unmatched," he said.
"If you look at our advanced weapons elevators and our ability to load and refurbish our aircraft with ordinance over and over again, that is a significant difference and it's a capability that hasn't been tested up until this point."
He estimated the carrier had loaded and delivered about 68,000 kilograms of live munitions using the new systems.
Weighing in at more than 100,000 tonnes, the warship has been described as the world's largest aircraft carrier, capable of carrying more than 75 aircraft and with a crew of about 4,500 personnel.
During the NATO exercises, the ship has hosted a number of liaison officers from Canada, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.
Cmdr. Kaper Munksgaard, the liaison officer on-board the carrier for the Danish navy, said in an interview the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need for Western allies to train together.
"If you're from a small navy like the Danish, every time we go out with our ships, we go out to be in some sort of coalition with our allies and partners," said Munksgaard.
"It's important to be able to strengthen each other, and that takes training."
"Going through the 1990s and the early 2000s, we thought we were going in the right direction. Of course, we tried to get closer to the Russians and tried to evolve that partnership, and it seems now we must go in another direction and be prepared for that," he said.
Asked if there is a greater sense of urgency, he replied, "there's a new attitude now … most of the armed forces in Europe are getting ready for a new world order."
The last time an American aircraft carrier visited Halifax was in June 2017, when the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in time to mark Canada Day.
Admiral Daryl Caudle, the commander of U.S. fleet forces command, said during a news conference that the world has seen a series of destabilizing events since then, including the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chain disruptions and Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine.
"Together, we face persistent, direct threats across the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Pacific from malign actors who seek to undermine our national interest and who challenge us in all domains, from sea to air, from space to cyberspace," he said.
Caudle said the Russian invasion has disrupted energy flows and commerce, and the United States wants to "provide certainty … that we firmly support Ukraine and we're going to back them on this."
"Canadians shouldn't be worried about this … We have some great forces here as is being demonstrated here in the harbour, to provide deterrence to the Russians from doing anything against our homelands."
Meanwhile, the carrier's visit has provided a huge boost to Halifax's hotels and hospitality industry.
Thousands of sailors, most of them from the carrier, filled city streets through the weekend in numbers unseen since before the pandemic.
Canada's participation in the joint exercises includes the HMCS Montreal, a Halifax class frigate, and MV Asterix, the Royal Canadian Navy's supply ship.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2022
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press