HALIFAX -- Canada's last Cold War-era destroyer was towed out of Halifax harbour Thursday, headed for Cape Breton where it will be scrapped.

Athabaskan, flanked by tugboats as it left the harbour that was its home port for almost 45 years, will be recycled by Marine Recycling Corporation in Sydney.

The 129-metre warship was one of Canada's largest fighting ships, built for operations in the North Atlantic as a helicopter-carrying submarine hunter with a crew of more than 250.

Commissioned in September 1972, the ship was decommissioned or "paid off" last March after a final tour around the harbour, which featured several thunderous blasts from its main gun.

The Iroquois-class ship was deployed during the first Gulf War in 1990, delivered aid after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and Haiti's 2010 earthquake.

It was also dispatched to handle fisheries and sovereignty patrols, as well as missions to fulfil Canada's NATO obligations under the ship's motto "We Fight As One."

A new class of 15 combat ships is to replace Canada's destroyers -- there were four -- and its 12 Halifax-class frigates.