Thursday, March 28, 2019

Questions Loom for Used F-18 Fleet with Budget Officer Report

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

The Defence department’s procurement chief says the Royal Canadian Air Force might not need the seven used Australian F-18 aircraft being purchased for parts afterall.

The first used Australian F-18 arrives at CFB Cold Lake earlier this month. It appears that not all 25 procured used jets will even be used. Australia has even asked for some of the engines be returned as a result of a shortage. 

Canada is buying 25 used F-18s from Australia, with 18 of those to be flown and seven to be either stripped down for parts or used for testing. The aircraft to be flown will augment the existing RCAF CF-18 fleet until a new generation fighter jet can be purchased.

But Pat Finn, the Department of National Defence’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Materiel, said there may be no need for the seven F-18s. “The seven, whether or not we actually take them at this point, we’re still looking at that,” Finn recently told the Commons defence committee. “What we’re actually finding is the number of spares that they’ve been able to provide to us is more than adequate. Rather than take aircraft apart and go through that cost, we’re taking the spares. We may not, in fact, at this point look at any of the seven.”

It is unclear whether there will be a reduction in the cost of the purchase or the overall project cost if the seven airframes are not acquired.

The DND also clarified what is happening with the engines on the Australian F-18s. Rumours have been circulating in the retired military community that the engines are being stripped out of the planes and given back to Australia.

“Only the engines from the first two Australian F-18s (four engines total) are being returned to Australia, at their request,” explained DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier. “Australia needs those engines to meet their own operational requirements.”

In order to take advantage of an advanced delivery date for the first two Australian aircraft, Canada agreed to return those aircraft’s engines to Australia, but the plan is to get an equivalent number of engines back at a later date, he added.

“Canada has sufficient engines in reserve to support this plan and this will have no impact on operations,” Le Bouthillier stated. “We therefore found this to be a reasonable request, and agreed to it.”According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s recent report provides more details about the used Australian F-18s that Canada is purchasing. Eighteen of the 25 will eventually be flying, while the other seven will be used for spare parts and testing.

Here are details taken from the PBO report:

According to PBO calculations, the Canadian fleet is both slightly older and has experienced more usage than the Australian fleet. The average Canadian F-18 had accrued over 6,000 flying hours by the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year. These calculations are supported by media reports indicating that by 2014, the CF-18s had accumulated over 5,700 flying hours on average, with over a third of the fleet already having flown over 6,000.

Canada’s Department of National Defence has stated that the aircraft being purchased from Australia’s F-18 fleet are very similar to those currently in operation within the RCAF.
The fleet arrival profile consists of 2 aircraft in 2018-2019, 2 aircraft in 2019-2020, 8 aircraft in 2020-2021, and 6 aircraft in 2021-2022;
The aircraft will enter service approximately 6 months after being received;
The aircraft will each accumulate about 160 flying hours per year, in accordance with the recent experience of the Canadian CF-18 fleet;
Each Australian F/A-18 has accumulated an average of 6000 flying hours over the course of its operational history with the Royal Australian Air Force;.

Canada extends Iraq and Ukraine military missions to 2021 and 2022

By: The Canadian Press

Canada is extending its military missions in Ukraine and Iraq, both of which were due to expire at the end of the month.

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The extensions shore up Canada’s contributions to the global effort to curb Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and to the fight against Islamic militants in the Middle East.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland say the mission of about 200 Canadian Forces personnel in Ukraine will be extended to the end of March 2022.

The Forces have been involved in Ukraine since September 2015, helping train the country’s military, which is battling Russian-backed separatist forces.

Canada will extend the Canadian Forces’ contribution to the Global Coalition Against Daesh and the NATO mission in Iraq, until the end of March 2021.

Canada has about 500 military members in Iraq, including 200 who are part of a NATO training mission and 120 special forces who have been helping Iraqi forces root out Islamic State insurgents around the northern city of Mosul.

Those are parts of Canada’s larger Middle East strategy, which also includes humanitarian assistance and diplomatic engagement in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region.

The decision to extend Canada’s commitment in Ukraine will be welcome news to that country as it continues to cope with Russia’s annexation of its Crimea region in 2014, and the continuing unrest in its eastern Donbass region, which is plagued by separatist rebels backed by Moscow.

“The people of Ukraine know they can count on Canada,” Freeland said in a statement. “We are steadfast in our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as it works toward a stable, democratic and prosperous future.”

Ukraine is bracing for Russian interference in its upcoming presidential election on March 31.

Former foreign-affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy is leading a delegation of Canadian election monitors to Ukraine.

Freeland said Canada will host an international conference on Ukraine’s economy and political reforms in July that will include foreign ministers from the European Union, the G7 and NATO countries.

CSOR Concludes Ex. FLINTLOCK 2019

A member of Canadian special forces conducts training with African forces during Exercise Flintlock. CANSOFCOM photo 
By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

Earlier this month Canadian special forces were in Africa taking part in the annual U.S.-led Exercise Flintlock.

Canada’s participation in Flintlock 2019 started in Burkina Faso on Feb. 18 and went until March 1.

Elements of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) from Petawawa participated in the exercise, which is part of Canada’s commitment to counter-terrorism and capacity-building in the Sahel region.

CSOR personnel worked with the Forces Armées Nigeriennes in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkino Faso. CSOR also had a staff officer working in the Joint Military Headquarters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The Canadian Forces Health Services Group also sent a mobile surgical resuscitation team to provide primary medical support to the exercise.

In total, around 50 Canadians took part in the exercise.

Like in previous years, CSOR focused on providing training in firearms, patrolling and night operations and the Law of Armed Conflict

Canada-UN at Odds on Restrictions for C-130 Deployment to Africa

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press 

OTTAWA — The United Nations is pushing back against restrictions Canada wants to put on the use of a military transport plane it promised to deploy in Africa.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced in November 2017 that Canada would send a C-130 Hercules to Uganda as part of a larger package of pledges to the UN.

The idea at the time was for the plane to ferry troops, equipment and supplies from the UN's logistics hub in Entebbe to different peacekeeping missions around the region.

Multiple sources say the offer of the plane came as a surprise to the UN, and the plan has run into numerous snags as Canadian, Ugandan and UN officials wrangle over the details.

One UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities, says Canada recently provided a list of conditions about where and when the plane can be used.

Those included a stipulation the plane only fly in daylight and only between Entebbe and five locations that, according to the UN official, either don't have any peacekeeping units or are easily accessible by road.

As a result, the UN told Canada the arrangement did not meet its needs.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan spokesman Todd Lane would not comment specifically on the concerns raised by the UN, but both sides say they continue to talk about the aircraft.

"We continue to be in discussions with the UN on how we can deliver on this pledge in a way that best fits the UN's current requirements," Lane said in an email.

News of the back-and-forth comes just ahead of a major peacekeeping summit in New York Friday, the first since Canada hosted a similar gathering in Vancouver, where Trudeau pledged the Hercules plane.

It also coincides with the UN pressing Canada to extend its mission in Mali by two-and-a-half months to prevent a gap in lifesaving medical evacuations.

Canada has eight helicopters and 250 peacekeepers in Mali providing medical evacuations to injured UN troops and workers. Operations are due to end on July 31, though Romanian replacements won't arrive until mid-October.

Both episodes speak to the UN's apparent frustration with Canada, said University of Montreal peacekeeping expert Jocelyn Coulon, who served as an adviser to then-foreign affairs minister Stephane Dion.

"What I can't understand from the Canadian government is why it is so complicated to negotiate with the UN," Coulon added in an interview from France.

"Canada seems to be dragging its feet every time the UN is asking something, and it doesn't seem to be complicated with NATO when you have to provide troops and material for Latvia or even to renew our commitment in Ukraine."

The Trudeau government announced last week that it was extending Canada's military missions in Ukraine and Iraq by several years, but has yet to respond to the UN's request on Mali.

The problem is that there's no champion for peacekeeping at the top levels of government, said Walter Dorn, a peacekeeping expert at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

That extends to Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who Dorn said are preoccupied with Russia and the U.S., while defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance has been very particular about where to send troops.

"So it just leads to all these delays."

Canadian Peacekeepers Evacuate Wounded French Soldiers in Mali

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press 

Canadian peacekeepers were called upon to evacuate several wounded French soldiers in Mali earlier this month after their patrol was ambushed while hunting for militants along the border with Niger.

The previously unreported incident marks the first time the Canadians have been asked to help non-United Nations forces in Mali, where the French have been conducting counter-insurgency operations since 2014.

READ MORE: Canadian peacekeepers in Mali challenged by geography, shifting violence

Canada has eight helicopters and 250 military personnel in Mali, where they have been providing emergency medical evacuations and transporting troops and equipment across a large swath of the remote African country.

The Canadians have conducted seven other medical evacuations since August, all of which involved injured UN troops and workers.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, the commander of Canada’s task force in Mali said the UN and France have agreed to help each other in extreme circumstances and that his peacekeepers did their jobs by helping save lives.
Prime Minister Trudeau visiting CAF members in Mali earlier this year. 
“I wouldn’t want people to presume or assume that we’re supporting counterterrorism efforts,” said Col. Travis Morehen. “But it’s really at this point about saving allied lives.”

News of the French evacuation comes as the federal government is contemplating a formal UN request to extend its peacekeeping mission in Mali, which is currently set to end at the end of July.

France has about 3,000 heavily armed soldiers in Mali and the surrounding region hunting militants linked to al-Qaida, the Islamic State and other extremist groups through what is known as Operation Barkhane.

While Operation Barkhane has been credited with keeping the numerous Islamic extremist groups in Mali off balance, it has also been accused in some corners of contributing to instability in the region.

READ MORE: Canada’s on a new kind of mission in Mali — mixing peacekeeping with counterterrorism

According to media reports, a French patrol was operating near Mali’s border with Niger on March 10 when they were ambushed by a vehicle packed with explosives and a group of militants on motorcycles.

Fifteen French soldiers were reportedly injured, two seriously before the militants fled.

The Canadians first learned about the attack when a French officer at the Operation Barkhane camp in Gao called while it was still happening and indicated an emergency medical evacuation might be required, said Morehen.

The French counter-terror mission operates largely independently from the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, but Morehen says there is a good working relationship between the two.

Many critics have raised questions about Canada's mission in Mali - even asking if it is considered as Counter-Terrorism? 

That includes the French providing air-traffic control services to the UN around Gao, the northern Malian city that is home to several military bases, including one belonging to Barkhane and another where the Canadians are located.

The French also boast a more capable hospital than the UN, Morehen said, which is why the Canadians often end up bringing any wounded peacekeepers that they pick up in the field to the Barkhane camp.

“So our pilots go over there and make sure that we have our flying procedures correct and we have a technical arrangement with them as well for medical support,” Morehen said.

“There’s lots of sharing between us, which is all blessed by our governments.”

READ MORE: UN reports sharp deterioration in Mali since Canadian peacekeepers arrived

Three Canadian helicopters were quickly deployed with approval from the UN mission commander in Bamako, Morehen said, and arrived at the scene about two hours later, at which point the fighting was over.

Because of the distance, the two smaller Griffon escorts were redirected to a nearby town to refuel while the larger Chinook, which is configured like a flying hospital, continued back to Gao alone with the injured French soldiers.

“It does increase the risk,” he said, “but we balanced it against the need to get those wounded back to medical facilities as soon as possible.”

While he agreed that it was “the right thing to do,” Walter Dorn, an expert on peacekeeping at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, said the evacuation nonetheless risked linking the UN and French missions in some minds.

“The risk is that we are associated with Barkhane and we then become subject to more attacks and the line between peacekeepers and counter-insurgency fighters is blurred,” Dorn said.

Morehen pushed back against such suggestions, insisting the evacuation was an extremely rare circumstance and that anyone who wants to target the UN – which has suffered dozens of casualties in Mali – will do so no matter what.

“The people that want to do people harm here, they’ve already got it formulated in their mind,” he said. “I don’t see how fathomable it is that we would be targeted because we gave a medevac to French forces.”