Six CF-18s and hundreds of Canadian Forces personnel left for Romania today to assist NATO forces in Eastern Europe amid uncertainty over the length and scope of the mission.
"There is a lot of uncertainty about what we're going to be doing over there," Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin said, as the jet fighters left Bagotville, Que., for Romania Tuesday morning.
The CF-18 pilots are trained to perform air defence, air superiority, aerospace testing and evaluation and tactical support missions and are trained to engage both aerial and ground targets.
Blondin said the CF-18s will likely be taking part in routine training exercises.
"We're going to go to Romania. When we get there, it's going to be day-to-day flying like we do in Bagotville, except it's going to be training with Romanian and other NATO countries from day to day. And then we'll see.
"We're not sure how long we're going to be staying, but we'll be staying until the government tells us it's time to come back," Blondin said.
He made the comments at a press conference with Defence Minister Rob Nicholson in Bagotville, where the CF-18 Hornets are based.
More than 200 will be part of mission
The six fighters were accompanied by a C-17 cargo plane carrying spare parts, tools and mechanical equipment. Two Airbuses took off, one carrying fuel and the other with 50 to 80 personnel. Blondin confirmed that between 220 to 250 military personnel will eventually be deployed for this NATO mission.
The military will fly four hours to Keflavik, Iceland and wait for further directions from Department of National Defence's Central Command. It is expected they will learn their exact destination in Romania later tonight.
Blondin said most of the troops will be deployed in that country, which borders Ukraine.
Fifteen Canadian forces personnel have been sent to NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in the Belgian city of Mons. These officers are augmenting the current staff and will be a part of operational planning.
"We are sending out a message to Russia and we are reassuring our allies that we are taking steps and making a point consistent with what NATO has been saying, the actions so far are unacceptable by Russia and we are sending out a very clear message," Nicholson said.