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The Canadian Forces' Contribution to the International Campaign Against Terrorism BG–02.001m - August 6, 2003

On the morning of September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four American commercial passenger aircraft. Two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City; the third struck the Pentagon in Washington D.C.; and the fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. No one aboard the aircraft survived.

The United States launched an international campaign against terrorism, to which the Canadian Forces (CF) is making a significant contribution. 

Operation SUPPORT

Operation SUPPORT was Canada’s first response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Its first priority was to provide for the passengers and crew of aircraft diverted to Canadian airfields when civil aviation was grounded all over North America. Re-routed travellers and flight crews were hosted at Canadian Forces (CF) facilities in Goose Bay, Gander and Stephenville, Newfoundland; Halifax, Shearwater and Aldershot, Nova Scotia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Its second priority was to increase the level of emergency preparedness so the CF could respond quickly to requests for humanitarian assistance. The replenishment ship HMCS Preserver, the destroyer HMCS Iroquois and the frigate HMCS Ville de Québec were placed at a heightened state of readiness and prepared to sail to any U.S. port if required to help victims of further attacks. The Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which is trained and organized to provide emergency humanitarian support in the event of a disaster, was made ready to deploy from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. Canada’s NORAD commitment was increased by the addition of CF-18 fighter aircraft placed at strategic locations throughout the country. Finally, CF intelligence capabilities were made available to the United States.

Operation APOLLO

How It Began

Operation APOLLO, Canada’s military contribution to the campaign against terrorism, was a significant manifestation of our commitment to our allies, and to international security.

  • September 12: The UN Security Council issued Resolution 1368, condemning the attacks of September 11, offering deepest sympathy to the American people, and reaffirming the right of member nations (expressed in Article 51 of the UN Charter) to individual and collective self-defence. It also urged the world community to suppress terrorism and hold accountable all who aid, support or harbour the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist acts, and stated that the UN was prepared to combat all forms of terrorism.
  • September 20: Minister of National Defence Art Eggleton authorized more than 100 CF members serving on military exchange programs in the U.S. and other allied nations to participate in operations conducted by their host units in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
  • September 28: The UN Security Council issued Resolution 1373, setting out the methods by which member states were to root out terrorists and terrorist organizations, and deprive terrorists of the funds and materials necessary to conduct their operations.
  • October 4: NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson announced that, in response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S., the North Atlantic Council (NATO’s senior advisory body) was invoking Article 5 of the Treaty of Washington, which states that any attack on a NATO nation launched from outside that nation shall be interpreted as an attack on all the NATO nations.
  • October 7:
    • Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced that Canada would contribute air, land and sea forces to the international force being formed to conduct a campaign against terrorism.
    • General Ray Henault, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), issued warning orders to several CF units.
    • Op APOLLO was established in support of the U.S. initiative code-named Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
  • October 8: Minister Eggleton announced the first CF commitments under Op APOLLO, which involved about 2,000 CF members. Navy ships were the first CF units to participate in the campaign against terrorism, and they began deploying immediately.

Command and Control in Operation APOLLO: Canadian Joint Task Force South West Asia (CA JTFSWA)

The CF units and formations committed to Op APOLLO are organized under the Commander, Canadian Joint Task Force South West Asia (CA JTFSWA). The headquarters of the CA JTFSWA is the Canadian National Command Element (NCE), employing approximately 60 CF members, co-located with U.S. Central Command (CENCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida. The NCE links the Chief of the Defence Staff with U.S. CENCOM and the various CF units assigned to Op APOLLO.

By end-August 2003, following the re-alignment of Canadian activities in southwest Asia, the NCE will be reduced to a liaison staff.

Changes of Command

October 2001–April 2002: Commodore Jean-Pierre Thiffault
April–November 2002: Brigadier-General Michel Gauthier
November 2002–May 2003: Brigadier-General Angus Watt
May 2003–present: Brigadier-General Dennis Tabbernor


Canada was the first coalition nation after the U.S. to deploy a naval task group into the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, which stretches from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia. At its peak in January 2002, the Canadian Naval Task Group comprised six warships and about 1,500 Navy personnel.

Chronology of Ship Deployments

October 8, 2001–February 11, 2002: HMCS Halifax
December 5, 2001–May 27, 2002: HMCS Toronto
September 4, 2001–March 4, 2002: HMCS Charlottetown
October 17, 2001–April 27, 2002: HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Preserver
November 12, 2001–May 28, 2002: HMCS Vancouver
February 17–August 17, 2002: HMCS Ottawa
March 23–October 14, 2002: HMCS Algonquin
May 1–November 14, 2002: HMCS St. John’s
May 22–October 21, 2002: HMCS Protecteur
September 9, 2002–April 2, 2003: HMCS Montreal
September 16, 2002–April 7, 2003: HMCS Winnipeg
February 2–May 19, 2003: HMCS Regina
February 24–July 5, 2003: HMCS Iroquois
March 5–Aug 4, 2003: HMCS Fredericton
August 1, 2003-present: HMCS Calgary

Changes of Command

February 7, 2003–June 15, 2003: Commodore Roger Girouard commanded Coalition Task Force 151.

Key Operational Focuses

The Canadian ships deployed on Op APOLLO participate in force-protection operations, fleet-support operations, leadership interdiction operations, and maritime interdiction operations. On arrival in the north Arabian Sea, they are integrated into a coalition formation.

  • Force-protection operations: Heavily armed, manoeuvrable warships such as Canada’s destroyers and frigates provide defensive capabilities to the more vulnerable specialized vessels in the multinational coalition fleet.
  • Fleet-support operations: The replenishment ships HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur have both cruised the Arabian Gulf and the Arabian Sea at different times to replenish ships of the coalition fleet at sea. Replenishment ships are crucial to sustaining coalition naval operations; as well as food and essential materiel such as fuel, ammunition and replacement parts, they provide the other ships of the fleet with specialized services such as health care and engineering expertise. During their time in theatre, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur conducted more than 200 replenishment at sea (RAS) operations.
  • Leadership interdiction operations: To prevent Al-Qaeda and Taliban members from escaping the area of operations in merchant ships and fishing boats operating from Pakistan and Iran, Canadian ships hail vessels, identify them, pursue and board them when necessary, and search them for material and activity indicating the presence of Al-Qaeda or Taliban members.
  • Maritime interdiction operations: Since the beginning of Op APOLLO, Canadian ships have hailed more than 21,800 vessels. To date, Canadian ships have performed more than 50 percent of the 1,100 boardings conducted by the multinational coalition fleet.
Significant Events
  • Patrolling Canadian ships are sometimes called on for humanitarian interventions. HMCS Vancouver came to the aid of a disabled dhow carrying 45 dehydrated people who had been adrift at sea for about a week with nothing to eat or drink. After receiving first aid, food, water and engineering assistance from the frigate, passengers and crew were able to resume their journey in the dhow. In March 2002, the crew of HMCS Preserver also saved lives when they rescued two severely dehydrated Arab sailors found adrift in a disabled vessel.
  • In July 2002, HMCS Algonquin co-operated with CF marine patrol aircraft and a French warship to apprehend four suspected Al-Qaeda members. On July 13, 2002 and July 17, 2002, boarding parties from HMCS Algonquin detained suspects and handed them over to U.S. forces.
  • On October 31, 2002, HMCS Montréal intercepted and boarded a cargo vessel bound for Iraq. On searching the cargo, the boarding party discovered suspicious materiel, including five 24-metre patrol boats that appeared to be in violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions against Iraq. The vessel was turned over to another coalition ship in the region for a thorough investigation.
  • On May 23, 2003, HMCS Fredericton rescued two crewmen from the fishing vessel Al Safa who had been severely burned in a galley fire. The burned men were stabilized aboard the frigate by the physician’s assistant, and taken ashore to hospital in the frigate’s Sea King helicopter.


Deployment of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group

In mid-November 2001, the U.S. asked its coalition partners (including Canada) to provide ground troops for a stabilization force to be deployed in areas secured by the Northern Alliance to facilitate distribution of humanitarian relief and supplies to the people of Afghanistan. Canada immediately placed 1,000 members of the Immediate Reaction Force (Land) (IRF(L)) on 48 hours’ notice to deploy. The IRF(L) is highly suitable for evolving operations; it is a light, fully mobile force designed to respond quickly to overseas missions. At that time, it was drawn mostly from the highly trained Edmonton and Winnipeg-based battalions of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan changed significantly during November and December 2001; consequently, Canada’s troop commitment was revised to a contingent of about 750 soldiers to deploy to Kandahar as part of a U.S. Army task force built around the 187th Brigade Combat Team. In January 2002, Canada agreed to deploy the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) Battle Group, which included a reconnaissance squadron from Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) (LdSH(RC)), and combat service support elements from 1 Service Battalion. During their six months in Afghanistan, the soldiers of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group performed tasks ranging from airfield security to combat.

The deployment of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group significantly increased the number of CF personnel directly involved in Op APOLLO. It also represented another important contribution of direct support to Op ENDURING FREEDOM, and demonstrated yet again the importance of interoperability with our allies.

The LdSH(RC) reconnaissance squadron was equipped with Canadian-made Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles, which our U.S. allies specifically requested for this mission. With a top speed of 100 kilometres per hour and the ability to climb a 60-degree slope, the Coyote is well suited to terrain such as that of Afghanistan. It also has high-technology surveillance and long-range detection systems comprising state-of-the-art optics, thermal imagery, image intensifiers, surveillance radar, and laser range-finders.

The 3 PPCLI Battle Group returned home after six months of service in Afghanistan. The redeployment was announced on June 21, 2002, and the troops arrived back in Canada in two contingents on July 28 and July 30. This troop movement was co-ordinated with the scheduled rotation of American troops to permit the 3 PPCLI Battle Group to travel by American airlift.

Security Platoon

On March 14, 2003, a platoon of about 35 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, Alberta, deployed to the Arabian Gulf region to provide local security to CF units deployed on Op APOLLO. The deployment of the security platoon is part of a Force Protection Plan. In July 2003, soldiers from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery based at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, Manitoba, replaced the Patricias.

Significant Events

  • Operation ANACONDA: During March 2002, members of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group were in the mountains of Paktia Province east of Gardez on Op ANACONDA, a U.S.-led coalition effort to search the mountains for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, capture them, and destroy their shelters. The Canadian contingent comprised 16 soldiers, including six snipers and an emergency extraction force of medical, security and transport personnel with vehicles specialized for winter operations. These soldiers came under fire and engaged the enemy; as a result, some Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters were killed. The coalition force met with determined resistance, and the enemy demonstrated that they were well organized and well supplied. Throughout Op ANACONDA, the Canadian sniper teams were noted for the deadly accuracy with which they suppressed enemy mortar and heavy machine-gun positions. They are credited with preventing or stopping attacks that could have taken the lives of many coalition soldiers.
  • Operation HARPOON: In the early hours of March 13, 2002, the coalition launched a separate offensive operation in roughly the same region as Op ANACONDA. This new mission, called Op HARPOON, was a joint Canadian-American assault using land and air forces to eliminate a specific pocket of Taliban and Al-Qaeda resistance. The land component was a battalion-sized mixed Canadian and American force under the tactical command of Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran, the commanding officer of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group. On March 14, 2002, LCol Stogran’s Canadian reconnaissance troops led one of his American platoons to a cave-and-bunker complex where the Americans proceeded to destroy several bunkers. Op HARPOON was completed on March 19, 2002.
  • The Tarnak Farm Incident: After Op HARPOON, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group returned to camp at Kandahar International Airport to resume their security duties and train for other taskings. On April 17, 2002, an aerial bomb was accidentally dropped during a live-fire exercise at Tarnak Farm, a designated training area about 5 km south of the Kandahar airfield. Four 3 PPCLI soldiers were killed and eight others were injured. The Minister of National Defence convened a Board of Inquiry to investigate the “Tarnak Farm incident”, as it is now known, and portions of the Board’s final report are now public.
  • Operation TORII: On May 4, 2002, the coalition forces in Afghanistan launched Op TORII, a three-day operation in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan conducted by LCol Pat Stogran in command of an international task force that included about 400 Canadian soldiers Their mission was to find Taliban and Al-Qaeda cave complexes, gather information about terrorist operations in the area, and destroy the cave complexes to prevent terrorists from using them in the future. Burial sites discovered during Op TORII yielded DNA evidence with potential intelligence value.
  • Zobol Province: Between June 30, 2002, and July 4, 2002, most of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group was deployed in Zobol Province, about 100 km northeast of Kandahar, to establish a coalition presence there for the first time. During this deployment, the Canadians and the Afghan National Army conducted a sweep operation in the Shin Key Valley that produced information about recent Al Qaeda and Taliban activities. They also recovered several rockets, fostered relations with the governor of the province, and distributed humanitarian aid (e.g., blankets, food, school supplies) to local people.
  • Repatriation: On July 13, 2002, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group ceased operations and began preparing to return to Canada. Following a brief stay in Guam, part of the planned reintegration process, the soldiers arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, on July 28, 2002, and July 30, 2002. The soldiers not based in Edmonton then continued on to their homes in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Kingston, Ontario; and Trenton, Ontario.
Air Force

Strategic Airlift Detachment

On November 16, 2001 the Strategic Airlift Detachment deployed from 8 Wing Trenton with one CC 150 Polaris (Airbus A310) long-range transport aircraft and about 40 CF members, including three flight crews and one air-cargo handling team. Initially based in Germany, the Strategic Airlift Detachment later moved to the Arabian Gulf region.

The main purpose of the CC-150 Polaris is long-range transport of personnel and equipment, and the Strategic Airlift Detachment logged about 600 flying hours moving approximately 3.5 million kg of cargo and more than 2,300 passengers. Its tasks included medical evacuation, sustainment and re-supply, rapid delivery of operationally required items, and movement of personnel into the theatre of operations.

On May 20, 2002, the Strategic Airlift Detachment ceased operations and returned to 8 Wing Trenton, arriving home on May 21, 2002. The CC-150 Polaris continues to support Op APOLLO by carrying out regular sustainment flights from Canada to the Arabian Gulf region.

Long Range Patrol Detachment

On December 27, 2001, the Minister of National Defence announced the deployment to the Arabian Gulf region of two CP 140 Aurora long-range surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft with about 200 Air Force personnel, including flight crews and support personnel, from 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia.

The mission of the Long-Range Patrol Detachment (LRP Det) was to deliver reconnaissance and surveillance support to the maritime coalition forces. The CP 140 Aurora extended the surveillance range of maritime coalition forces to areas not accessible to ship-borne radar, and Aurora crews typically gathered information well before ships’ radar operators could. Aurora crews also contributed to the security of coalition forces by watching for vessels of interest.

The LRP Det had a secondary mission in the area of operations: search and rescue. If a ship had sunk, or an aircraft crashed at sea, the crew of a patrolling Aurora could have located the emergency site and airdropped survival kits (including an inflatable dinghy and water-purification equipment) to help sustain the survivors until a surface ship could reach them.

The CP-140 Aurora has been Canada's multi-mission reconnaissance and antisubmarine aircraft for more than 20 years. The Auroras are equipped with a sensor array that includes forward-looking infrared cameras, digital cameras and conventional radar. With speed, endurance and range of coverage, the Auroras and their crews kept a watchful eye on the myriad of surface vessels operating in the Arabian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

On June 19, 2003, the LRP Det conducted its last mission in support of the coalition fleet, having completed 500 missions and logged more than 4,300 flying hours on Op APOLLO.

Tactical Airlift Detachment

On January 21, 2002, the 35-strong advance party of the Tactical Airlift Detachment (TAL Det) departed Canada for the Arabian Gulf region to prepare the infrastructure required to operate three CC 130 Hercules transport aircraft. On January 25, 2002, the main body of the TAL Det deployed with the aircraft and about 180 Air Force personnel, most of them from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario.

The mission of the TAL Det is to support coalition forces by transporting military personnel, equipment and cargo between destinations in the theatre of operations, including Afghanistan. The versatile CC 130 Hercules is ideal for this mission: it can lift a 16,000-kg payload, and land safely with a full load on a basic airstrip only about as long as three football fields. It can also be loaded and unloaded quickly with simple equipment. The flight crews and ground personnel of the TAL Det are equally well suited to the mission: in recent years, they have delivered military supplies and humanitarian aid to Somalia, Kosovo, Eritrea and other troubled areas.

Two CC-130 Hercules aircraft from Op APOLLO were assigned to Op CARAVAN, from 7 June to 6 July, to assist in the airlifting of a UN peacekeeping mission into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since their arrival in the Arabian Gulf region, TAL Det crews have conducted more than 800 sorties and flown about 5,800 hours to deliver about 7 million kilograms of cargo and 6,100 passengers. They will remain in the Arabian Gulf region to support Op ATHENA, performing the same mission as in Op APOLLO.

Helicopter Detachments

The CH-124 Sea King helicopter detachments that serve aboard HMC ships belong to 12 Wing, an Air Force formation divided between Shearwater, Nova Scotia (to support Maritime Command Atlantic, based at Halifax) and Patricia Bay, British Columbia (to support Maritime Command Pacific, based at Esquimalt). Ship-borne helicopters perform a wide range of tasks- including reconnaissance, replenishment, transport and escort- that are essential to the operations of a naval task group.

Each Canadian frigate normally carries one helicopter, with maintenance personnel and flight crews. Each Canadian replenishment ship carries two helicopters, with flight crews and sufficient maintenance personnel to support other helicopter detachments in the task group while keeping their own aircraft flying. The ships currently serving with the Canadian Naval Task Group in the Arabian Gulf region each have an embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter, with flight crews and maintenance crews comprising about 20 Air Force personnel.


“Logistics” is the essential business of providing deployed forces with everything they need to live, move, work and fight in the theatre of operations, including food, water, clothing, equipment, ammunition, shelter, transportation, and essential services such as health care. The key aim of logistics is sustainability, which is especially critical for deployed ships and aircraft.

During its deployment in Afghanistan, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group was supported by the Strategic Line of Communication (SLOC) Unit, made up of 50 soldiers from 1 Service Battalion in Edmonton and support personnel drawn from other bases. It comprised a headquarters, two movements sections, a supply platoon and a transportation section. The movements sections provided traffic control and services such as aircraft loading and unloading. Supply Platoon provided shipping, receiving and warehousing services. Transportation Section provided integral support to “carry equipment” — that is, all forms of transport vehicles and load-handling equipment—and offered first-line maintenance of vehicles belonging to units of the Battle Group. The SLOC Unit returned to Canada by the end of August 2002.

Because of the complexity of Op APOLLO, the logistic units originally deployed to support the Air Force detachments, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group and the Canadian Naval Task Group were consolidated on April 17, 2002, to form a National Support Unit (NSU).

With the realignment of forces in southwest Asia, the NSU has received a new name and a new mission. Canadian Forces Southwest Asia Theatre Support Base will become an integral part of Op ATHENA on August 16, 2003. This change indicates the key role this unit will play in supporting the 1,900-strong Canadian contingent that will serve with Op ATHENA, the CF contribution to the International Stabilization Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Although Op ATHENA will be its primary focus, the Canadian Forces Southwest Asia Theatre Support Base will continue to provide some support to units deployed on Op APOLLO, specifically the frigate HMCS Calgary.


In May 2002, the National Command, Control and Information System Squadron (NCCIS Sqn) was created to organize communications for the CF personnel and units deployed on Op APOLLO. The NCCIS Sqn provides the Canadian Joint Task Force Commander and the commanders of deployed CF units with national communications and information system capabilities. The personnel of the NCCIS Sqn build and maintain the computer and telephone networks that link the units deployed in the Arabian Gulf region to their headquarters in North America.

At its peak, NCCIS Sqn strength stood at about 90 all ranks; it now comprises about 30 CF personnel. The core membership of the NCCIS Sqn comes from the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment in Kingston, Ontario, and from communications units at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. The mission of this unit, too, is changing to focus on Op ATHENA.

Information on other CF operations is available at