Monday, November 20, 2017

Rise in Russian Threat to North Atlantic

© 2017 FrontLine Defence (Vol 14, No 4)

The rebuilding of Russia’s Northern fleet and its defense bastion built around the Kola Peninsula creates a direct challenge to the Norwegian area of interest. Clearly, the expanded reach of Russia into the Arctic also affects the nature of the air and sea domains of strategic interest to all of the Arctic Council States.

In its Long Term Plan (issued on 17 June 2016), the Norwegian Ministry of Defence notes that “the most significant change in the Norwegian security environment relates to Russia’s growing military capability and its use of force. The military reform in Russia has resulted in a modernization of Russia’s conventional forces as well as a strengthening of its nuclear capabilities.”
Dark areas above represent sea oil and natural gas reserves of the Arctic region. It is estimated that approximately 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves are located under the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean.
It goes on to mention Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and the continued destabilization of Eastern Ukraine. Both “constitute violations of international law, which have had a dramatic effect on European security,” the document asserts. “Russia has repeatedly proven itself willing to use a wide range of measures, including military force, to sustain its political dominance and influence.”

Even though Russia is not considered a military threat to Norway, the combination of military modernization and the will to exert military power is a “central factor” in Norwegian defense planning.

The country recognizes that areas in Norway’s immediate vicinity are also “central to Russian nuclear deterrence,” and that “Russia’s military presence and activities in the North have increased in recent years.”

The High North, it asserts, continues to be characterized by stability and cooperation, and Russian strategies for the Arctic still officially emphasize international cooperation. However, as the report notes, “we cannot rule out the possibility that Russia, in a given situation, will consider the use of military force to be a relevant tool, also in the High North.”
The Royal Norwegian Navy has six of these superfast, stealth missile Skjold-class corvettes in its fleet. (Photo: Forsvaret)

Allied Interoperability

The United States, the UK and Norway are all bringing new capabilities to bear on maritime threats in the North Atlantic. The commitment to the new maritime surveillance and strike aircraft, the Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (P-8), and the introduction of the new Triton UAV are part of refocusing attention on the North Atlantic.

The Norwegians are procuring the P-8 in part to deal with this challenge and are looking to collaborate with both the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Navy in the region as British and American P-8s (and in the American case, the Tritons) come into the region for maritime defense.

Major General Skinnarland, Chief of Staff of the Norwegian Air Force, commented that “with the P-8s operating from the UK, Iceland, and Norway, [the Allies] can shape a maritime domain awareness data capability which can inform our forces effectively as well, but again, this requires work to share the data and to shape common concepts of operations.” She noted the importance of exercising “often and effectively together” to shape effective concepts of operations. This, she says “will require bringing the new equipment, and the people together to share experience and to shape a common way ahead.”
During a February 2017 Norwegian ­Airpower Conference, a Norwegian officer highlights, from a threat perspective, the Russian bastion built around the Kola Peninsula.
After the last RAF Hawker Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft was retired in 2011, the challenge became how to keep those key skill sets alive. NATO exercises provided interim opportunities, however in 2016, the MoD announced a decision to purchase nine Boeing P-8s. I visited RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland earlier this year, where the Brits are standing up their new P-8 base. The new base will also allow Norwegians to train, and the U.S. to operate as well.

Indeed, what was clear from discussions at “Lossie” is that the infrastructure is being built from the ground up with broader considerations in mind, notably creating a 21st century maritime domain awareness information and strike network. The RAF is building capacity in its P-8 hangers for visiting aircraft such as the RAAF, the USN, or the Norwegian Air Force to train and operate from. In many ways, the thinking is similar to how building the F-35 enterprise out from the UK to Northern Europe is being shaped.
Boeing P-8 aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth. (MoD photo: LAC Charlotte Hopkins) 

Flying the same ISR/C2/strike aircraft will create synergies with regard to how best to share combat data in a fluid situation that demands timely and effective decision-making.

The UK is clearly a key player in shaping the way ahead on both the P-8 and F-35 enterprises, not just by investing in both platforms, but in building the infrastructure and training a new generation of operators and maintainers as well.

At the heart of this learning process are the solid working relationships among the professional military in working towards innovative concepts of operations. This is a work in progress that requires infrastructure, platforms, training and openness in shaping evolving working relationships.
Northrop Grumman Triton UAV. (photo: Todd Miller)
Having visited Norway earlier this year and having discussed among other things, the coming of the P-8 and the F-35 in Norway, it is clear that what happens on the other side of the North Sea (the UK) is of keen interest to Norway. In talking with the RAF and Royal Navy, it is evident that changes in Norway are part of the broader UK consideration when it comes to the reshaping of NATO defense capabilities in a dynamic region.

To lay down a foundation for a 21st century approach, the U.S. Navy is pairing its P-8s with the Triton – a new high altitude, long endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman– and is working an integrated approach between the two.

In a very narrow sense, the P-8 and Triton are “replacing” the P-3. However, the additional ISR and C2 enterprise being put in place to operate the combined P-8 / Triton capability is a much broader capability than the classic P-3. Much like how the Osprey transformed the U.S. Marine Corps prior to flying the F-35, the P-8/Triton team is doing the same for the US Navy as the F-35 comes to the carrier air wing.
RCAF Commander LGen Michael Hood (Photo: Sgt Paz Quillé, RCAF PA Imagery)
The team at Naval Air Station Jacksonville is building a common Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Combat Culture and treats the platforms as partner applications of the evolving combat theory. The partnership is both technology and aircrew synergistic.

It should be noted that the P-8 and the Triton (which draws heavily on F-35 systems) as well as the F-35 are a new generation of software-upgradeable aircraft, whose software will be reworked in interaction with the sharing of data and the reworking of core platform capabilities.

It is about shaping a combat-learning cycle in which software can be upgraded as the user groups shape, in real time, the core needs they see, to rapidly deal with a reactive enemy.
July 2017 – MCpl Kevin Hardy, lead Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator (AESOP); Patricia DeMille, Fishery Officer for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and Cpl Brett Galliford, AESOP and the Non-Acoustic Sensor Operator for the CP-140 Aurora, work together to identify possible vessels of interest engaged in illegal fishing during Operation Driftnet. (Photo: Sgt Shilo Adamson, CFB Borden)
As the COS of the Norwegian Air Force put the challenge: “We should plug and play in terms of our new capabilities; but that will not happen by simply adding new equipment – it will be hard work.”

Canadian Perspective on Maritime Threats
I recently had a chance to talk with the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, about the Canadian approach and contribution to the evolving threats and challenges in the North Atlantic to maritime defense and security. Obviously, Canada is a key partner and occupies key geography as Russia returns to significant maritime operations from the Kola Peninsula into the High North as well.

As the Brits, Norwegians and Americans build new capabilities to operate in the North Atlantic, what is the Canadian approach and contribution? And what new investments and capabilities might be offered by Canada to the coalition effort?

Canada’s current anti-submarine warfare capabilities are built around an upgraded CP-140 Aurora, a new CH-148 Cyclone ASW helicopter developed by Sikorsky (although grounded earlier this year due to a “momentary change in descent rate”), and frigates recently modernized by Lockheed Martin Canada – all integrated into coalition ASW operations.

“Out of all the NATO ASW platforms in there,” says LGen Hood, “the most effective one has been our CP-140. I am exceptionally proud of our ASW capability, and when I couple it with the new advanced capability on our upgraded frigates, I see us a backbone of NATO’s ASW capability.”

Over the decade ahead, as the maritime domain awareness and strike enterprise is reworked with the coming of the P-8 and the Triton (among other assets) Canada will add an unmanned capability, continue upgrading the CP-140, and work closely with allies in reshaping the maritime domain awareness and strike networks. New satellite sensor and communications systems will also be added.

According to LGen Hood, this will allow the RCAF to leverage developments in the next decade to determine what needs to be put on their replacement manned air platform and to determine which air platform that would be. “The government’s new defence policy lays out a 20-year funding line that recapitalizes our air force.”

He acknowledges that the eventual replacement of the CP-140 is funded in that policy but explains that this is not a near term need. “We have better capability from an ASW perspective in the CP-140 than comes off the line presently in the P-8. We have just gone through a Block III upgrade that has completely modernized the ASW capability as well as adding an overland ISR piece. We have replaced the wings on many major empennage [tail assembly] points and the goal is to get our CP-140 out to about 2032 when we’re going to replace it with another platform.”

He notes that next year, the CP-140s will receive a Block IV upgrade which will include new infrared counter measures, a tactical data link 16 to complement link 11 and full motion video, imagery, email, chat, and VOIP.

Canadians have also contributed to keeping the RAF in the game prior to the P-8 acquisition. “We have been flying two members of the RAF crews on our ASW aircraft in the interim between the sunset of Nimrod and the sunrise of the P-8.” Canadians have helped manage the “GIUK gap” by operating from either Lossiemouth in Scotland or Keflavik in Iceland. The Greenland-Iceland-UK “gap” is an area in the northern Atlantic Ocean that forms a naval choke point between the three landmasses.

The General also notes that the new defence policy has authorized adding a unmanned aerial systems capability for the ASW effort as well. “In the next three years, we’ll be under contract for a medium altitude UAS that is going to have both domestic and coastal abilities as well as expeditionary strike capabilities.
12 Jul – The ground crew for the CP-140 Aurora prepares the aircraft for its daily mission on Operation Driftnet in Hakodate, Japan. (Photo: Sergeant Shilo Adamson, CFB Borden)
LGen Hood confirms that Canada is among the allies funding the NATO AGS (Alliance Ground Surveillance) programme to acquire an airborne ground surveillance capability on five remotely-piloted Global Hawk aircraft. NATO will operate and maintain them on behalf of all NATO member countries.

There is a satellite component to ASW, and Canada’s new RADARSAT Constellation (planned to launch in 2018) will provide enhanced sensor coverage. There are also plans to launch a polar constellation satellite system to provide for High North communication needs. “That is actually going to finally allow us to operate UASs up above 70° North.”

The evolving maritime domain awareness network and the reshaping of its capabilities as new sensors, platforms and C2 systems come on line adds new opportunities. The integration of new UAS capabilities with manned capabilities will reshape expectations of the platforms, and it is from this context of evolution that the head of the RCAF sees the question of a replacement aircraft for the CP-140.

“Canadian industry has played a key role in shaping capabilities onboard the CP-140 and I would see that role continuing on our replacement manned aircraft. It’s less about the platform, [and more about] the brains of that platform.”

Robbin Laird is an international defense analyst based in Virginia.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Canada Suspends Aid to Iraq and Kurdish-Peshmerga

By: David Pugliese, The National Post 

Canada has suspended the assistance its special forces were providing to Iraqi security forces as Iraqi and Kurdish forces battle each other.

Canadian commandos have been working with the Kurds and some assistance has been provided to the Iraqis.
Canadian special forces look over a Peshmerga observation post, Monday, February 20, 2017 in northern Iraq.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

But, “given the fluidity of the current situation, Canada’s Special Operations Task Force has temporarily suspended the provision of assistance to various elements of Iraqi security forces,” Canadian Forces spokesman Col. Jay Janzen said Friday.

“Once more clarity exists regarding the interrelationships of Iraqi security forces, and the key priorities and tasks going forward, the Task Force will resume activities,” he said. “In the interim, they will continue to monitor the situation and plan for the next potential phases of operational activity.”

The Ottawa Citizen reported Wednesday that Canada is also reviewing its program to supply the Kurds with small arms.

Canadian special forces have been providing assistance to the Kurds and Iraqis in their war against ISIL. But with ISIL in retreat, Iraqi and Kurdish forces are now fighting each other. The Kurds want to separate from Iraq and, during the war against ISIL, they seized large portions of the country. That included the city of Kirkuk and nearby oil fields, which hold an estimated 40 per cent of Iraq’s oil.

The Iraqi government declared the recent Kurdish referendum supporting independence illegal and sent troops to retake Kirkuk and other territory.

The Kurds offered on Wednesday to put any drive towards independence on hold, but that was rejected by the Iraqis.

However, on Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a 24-hour ceasefire. That “should allow a joint technical committee to work on the deployment of federal Iraqi forces in all disputed areas, including Fish-Khabur, and the international border,” Abadi said in a statement.

The Kurds have welcomed the pause in fighting.

Janzen said the Canadian Forces will continue to support the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIL. That includes the provision of transport helicopters, a medical facility and surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities.

“Only the provision of assistance to various elements of Iraqi security forces has been temporarily suspended,” Janzen said.

The previous Conservative government sent Canadian special forces to northern Iraq to train the Kurds starting in 2014. That program was continued by the Liberals.

But the issue of training and arming the Kurds has been highly controversial from the start. Kurdish leaders openly acknowledged their intent was to eventually create an independent state. The arms were needed both to fight against ISIL and to defend an independent state, they said.

The Kurds say at least 30 of their soldiers have been killed and another 150 wounded in ongoing clashes.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurds’ top diplomat in Washington, said it’s past time the international community end its “laser focus” on ISIL and begin to address Iraq’s many underlying problems.

“’We are laser-focused on (ISIL).’ That has been the mantra of the past few years,” Abdul Rahman told The Canadian Press. “But to continue to say we’re laser-focused on (ISIL) is missing the obvious truth of what is happening in Iraq.”

Quebec Wants More Federal Shipbuilding Contracts

By: ANDREA GUNN, The Chronical Herald

Quebec is formally calling on the federal government to rejig its massive shipbuilding strategy in order to give the province a bigger share of the multibillion-dollar pie.

Members of the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a motion Wednesday requesting that the federal government adjust Canada’s national shipbuilding strategy so Quebec gets what it believes is its fair share of federal contracts. The motion also asked Ottawa to “grant Quebec the contracts necessary” for the replacement of coast guard and Royal Canadian Navy ships, including the acquisition of a second Resolve-class tanker.

Responding to the motion, the province’s major shipbuilder, Chantier Davie Canada Inc., issued a news release commending the Quebec government.

“The federal government is going to invest almost $100 billion over the next 20 to 30 years on its fleet renewal,” Alex Vicefield, chairman of Davie Shipyard, said in the release. “Quebec represents 50 per cent of Canada’s shipbuilding capacity and 23 per cent of Canada’s tax base, yet it is receiving less than one per cent of federal spending on shipbuilding.

“Today, Quebec is at risk of losing a significant number of middle-class jobs due to bureaucratic intransigence and road-blocks within a broken procurement system, despite the clear and obvious need for Canada to urgently renew the entirety of its fleet.”

Bloc Québécois MP Michel Boudrias sought to put forward a similar motion in the House of Commons on Wednesday but was denied the unanimous consent required for the point of order.


Retired navy commander and defence analyst Ken Hansen said, looking at the historical context it’s easy to see why Quebec is miffed: Previously all shipbuilding for the government was done on a regional apportionment basis. But, he said, that was inefficient and contributed to the “boom and bust” cycle the government was trying to avoid by developing the national strategy.

“The strategy was designed to provide continuous work so that they wouldn’t go through these startup and shutdown cycles which cost money and cause chaos in the workforce,” he said.

After initial analysis, Hansen said, Ottawa concluded there wasn’t enough money or work to sustain long-term employment at more than two shipyards, so the national strategy approach was born, and Davie did not make the cut.

In 2011, Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax was named prime contractor for the combat portion of this strategy and is building six Arctic and offshore patrol vessels, the first to be delivered in 2018, and up to 15 Canadian surface combatants to be built in the 2020s.

The contract is expected to cost around $60 billion and create hundreds of long-term, well-paying jobs in Halifax

Seaspan on the West Coast was awarded the non-combat portion of the shipbuilding strategy and is building a number of science vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard as well as two joint support ships, the first to be delivered in 2020.


Though Davie was in bankruptcy when the national shipbuilding strategy contracts were awarded to the other two yards, the company is now solvent and is in the process of converting a commercial container ship into an interim auxiliary naval replenishment for the Canadian navy.

The MV Asterix has been hailed as a success and is expected to be delivered before the end of the year.

Known as Project Resolve, Davie pitched the idea to the previous Conservative government as a way to bridge the gap in tanker capabilities from the loss of the Protecteur class while Seaspan completes its support ships. The Tories accepted the bid and the Liberals considered reviewing it when they took power in 2015, but ultimately the contract remained in place. The vessel will be leased to the federal government for five years at a cost of about $700 million, with an option to renew for an additional five years.

On Wednesday, the federal Conservatives issued a release urging the government to accept Davie’s proposal to build a second Resolve-class interim vessel.

Davie has also pitched a series of other unsolicited bids to the Liberal government — in 2016 the company offered to deliver icebreakers and support ships, claiming they could do so faster and cheaper than what is already planned, but those bids were rejected by the government.

As for whether Quebec has a leg to stand on with new demands to Ottawa, Hansen said it depends on political pressure.

“The big concern is the Liberal caucus from Quebec and how much pressure they can bring to bear on the prime minister and cabinet about this issue, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

Central Nova Liberal MP Sean Fraser told The ChronicleHerald he cannot see a realistic scenario where the government changes the shipbuilding strategy to favour Quebec because of political pressure from a provincial legislature.
“We’ve got 32 Atlantic Canadian MPs who are great advocates for their region, and we have the expertise and technology capacity to win any merit-based competition,” he said.

In an emailed statement, Christine Michaud, spokeswoman for federal procurement minister Carla Qualtrough, said the Liberal government remains committed to the shipbuilding strategy.
“As set out in the National Shipbuilding Strategy, $2 billion in small ship construction is set aside for competitive procurement amongst Canadian shipyards other than the yards selected to build large vessels. Chantier Davie is eligible to compete for small ship construction projects (under 1,000 tonnes), as well as ship repair, refit and maintenance requirements,” she said. “Our government is committed to consulting the marine industry on other requirements that may arise following an open and competitive procurement process.”
Irving Shipbuilding declined comment on the Quebec motion or the statement by Davie, but a spokesperson provided some information about economic benefits the strategy is already leveraging across Canada via major suppliers, including more than $250 million in Quebec.

For Canada's SAR Planes 'tactical grey' is the new yellow

By: David Pugliese, The National Post

Canada’s new search-and-rescue aircraft will abandon their familiar yellow paint scheme, instead getting a makeover that will allow them to be used in other missions, including combat.

The Royal Canadian Air Force has requested that its new fleet of 16 search-and-rescue planes be painted tactical grey and have asked for a change in the original contract which stipulated a yellow colour scheme.

The C-295W, being built by Airbus, will replace the main search-and-rescue fleet of six Buffalo aircraft as well as the Hercules transport planes which are also used at times in a search-and-rescue role.

The Buffalos are painted yellow, as are Canada’s other fully dedicated search-and-rescue aircraft such as the Cormorant helicopters.
Royal Canadian Air Force staff board a Brazilian C-295W plane Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at CFB Trenton, Ont. Luke Hendry/Belleville Intelligencer/Postmedia Network

“The RCAF has made the decision to use a grey colour scheme for the C-295W fleet to enable surging flexibility for the very wide range of missions the RCAF is required to conduct, from humanitarian and disaster relief missions, to security missions with partners, and all the way to full spectrum operations,” Department of National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said Thursday.

He noted that the Hercules used in the search-and-rescue role are painted grey so they can be used in missions other than rescue.

Sources inside DND, however, have raised concerns about what they say is a unilateral decision by the RCAF leadership. They worry the RCAF used the opportunity to replace the search-and-rescue aircraft as a way to instead outfit itself with a new fleet of multi-mission transport planes.

They said at the time that it provided the high visibility needed for search-and-rescue, both for those in the air and on the ground

When the Liberal government awarded the contract to Airbus in December 2016, cabinet ministers highlighted the importance of having the right aircraft for the search-and-rescue job. “With this technology, we are giving our women and men in uniform the tools they need to continue to deliver effective and essential search and rescue operations,” defence minister Harjit Sajjan said at the time

RCAF insiders defended the change in the paint scheme, saying any aircraft can be called upon to be used in a variety of missions, including in an overseas war zone.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick said it was the Canadian Forces that decided to switch to the yellow paint scheme in the 1970s because it aided in search-and-rescue. “They said at the time that it provided the high visibility needed for search-and-rescue, both for those in the air and on the ground,” said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University.

The Buffalos, first purchased in 1967, are key to search-and-rescue on the west coast and in parts of the Rockies and the yellow paint scheme was deemed to be an advantage in those situations.

Shadwick said the decision to have the new fleet of planes available for potential overseas missions raises new questions. Under the existing contract, private-sector employees are going to play the main role in maintaining the planes.

“So, if you are now going to use the C-295 in a front-line role, maybe even as combat transport, does that mean your private-sector workers go along on the overseas mission?” Shadwick said.

The project to buy new search-and-rescue planes took more than a decade. In 2004 the then-Liberal government announced the program as a priority. The project was re-announced by the Conservatives in 2006; the contract was supposed to be awarded in 2009 but continued being delayed for years.

Other questions have also been raised about the purchase. After the contract was awarded, it emerged that the Canadian government made a last-minute change to the amount of money available to spend on its new fleet, but didn’t bother informing the bidders trying to win the contract. Though the program’s budget jumped from $3.4 billion to $4.7 billion, the losing bidder, Italian aerospace firm Leonardo, was still under the impression Canada could only afford to spend the lesser amount and cried foul after tailoring its bid based on that information.

Monday, November 6, 2017

RCAF CF-18s to Fly past 2030?

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

Image result for RCAF CF-18

Some sources in industry as well as at the Department of National Defence are now suggesting that the country’s CF-18 fleet could be flying until 2030.


The purchase of interim Super Hornets from Boeing is stalled, if not dead in the water. That is the result of Boeing’s decision to go after Bombardier on its C-Series commercial aircraft and the resulting duties from the U.S. of almost 300 per cent.

The potential acquisition of fighter aircraft from Australia is a possibility. But that won’t happen overnight. Australia will respond by the end of December but that is just the beginning of the process, if it does proceed.

The CF-18s will be upgraded to allow them to keep flying to at least 2025.

But even Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has acknowledged in the past that the planes could remain in the air much longer. In November 2016 on CBC Radio’s As It Happens, Sajjan said the jets might be required to keep flying until 2032. (And that was before the issues emerged with the purchase of interim Super Hornets from Boeing).

This is all despite the fact that DND stated, "An ELE extension to 2030 is assessed as a high risk option in terms of cost, schedule and technical factors" in its now Archived CF-18 Hornet Estimated Life Expectancy document.