Six CF-18 fighter jets have deployed from Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Quebec for Romania, as part of Canada's contribution to a NATO operation to promote security in eastern and central Europe.

At CFB Bagotville for the jets' departure Tuesday morning, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the pilots and support staff that they were being sent in response to the crisis in Ukraine.

"Soon you will join our allies as part of Canada's contribution to NATO's efforts to reassure our allies in central and eastern Europe," Nicholson said. "The work will be key in supporting international efforts to find a solution that respects the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people, and the territorial integrity of their country in the face of foreign aggression."

Here's what we know so far about Canada's role in the operation:

  • The jets are part of Canada's contribution to NATO reassurance measures, which are intended to reassure allies and promote stability and security in central and eastern Europe.
  • The planes, along with support staff, will be stationed in Romania, and will take part in NATO air patrols of the Baltic region and training activities. The air patrols operate on a rotational schedule, and the six Canadian CF-18s will be rotating in.
  • The Canadians and the jets will join Romanian and U.S. air force assets, which are currently operating in the region.
  • Along with the planes, 15 Canadian military advisers have already been deployed to one of NATO's military command centres in Casteau, Belgium.
  • The jets come from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, based out of 3 Wing in Bagotville, Que.

The CF-18 Hornet is Canada's frontline multi-role tactical aircraft. According to the jet's maker, Boeing, the aircraft can be used in several different types of assignments including fighter escort, suppression of enemy air defences, reconnaissance forward air control and close air support.

The Canadian pilots leading the mission in central and eastern Europe are trained to perform air defence, air superiority, aerospace testing and evaluation, as well as tactical support missions, the government said in a statement.