Thursday, May 24, 2018

GoC Still Considering Spare Helicopters for Mali Mission

By: Lee Berthiuame, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is keeping the door open to sending more helicopters to Mali to ensure the Canadian Forces can provide round-the-clock medical evacuations in what is expected to be a harsh operating environment.

Canada is preparing to send two Chinook transport helicopters and four armed Griffon escorts to the African nation this summer as part of a commitment to support the UN mission there.

Those helicopters and about 250 military personnel are scheduled to leave in July and begin work on Aug. 1, Col. Chris McKenna, the commander of the helicopter detachment, told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

While the detachment will likely be called upon at times to move troops and equipment across the arid landscape as required by UN officials, their primary mission will be evacuating injured peacekeepers and others.

That will entail having one Chinook and two Griffons on "perpetual standby, 24/7," McKenna said, "so our crews are essentially sleeping almost beside the aircraft ready to launch.

"We are focused on getting to an incident site as quick as we can to be able to provide lifesaving interventions for both soldiers and anyone else that the UN would choose to medevac."

Such medical services are especially important given the nature of the UN mission in Mali, which has seen dozens of peacekeepers killed or injured in ambushes and roadside bomb attacks by local militants.

While that high tempo alone could be expected to put a heavy burden on the detachment, the extreme heat and dust at the UN mission in Gao, where the Canadians will be based, isn't expected to make life any easier.

Both the Germans and the Dutch have lost helicopters in the area over the last couple of years in crashes blamed on technical problems caused by the environment. The accidents killed four peacekeepers.

McKenna, whose detachment recently wrapped up several days of training at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright in Alberta, described the environment as "the biggest enemy."

"We're talking about operating state-of-the-art helicopters in the sub-Saharan Sahel region where the temperatures can reach 50-plus degrees and you see an enormous amount of dust," he said.

"And as you know from our experience in Afghanistan, that can be quite tricky from a helicopter point of view."

There are ways to manage those challenges, McKenna said, including making sure crews are familiar with the environment and setting up a stringent and efficient maintenance regime.

But the question of whether to send spare helicopters to Mali, either now or at some other point during the 12-month mission, is also on the horizon.

"I've been given leeway (to ask) for spares if we so think that that is required," he said. "And it is still being determined by government whether or not we'll be able to bring spares."

The Canadian helicopters and military personnel will replace counterparts from Belgium and Germany, the latter of which has been operating both transport and attack helicopters in Mali for several years.

Canada's arrival in Mali comes only months after the UN Security Council authorized the peacekeeping mission there to provide medical evacuations and transport services to a multinational counterterror mission in the country.

When asked whether that means his force could be called upon to support the so-called Group of Five Sahel force, McKenna would only say that his role will be to support the peacekeeping mission's mandate.

"We are having essentially no caveats going in," he added, "so we work for that force commander and we execute what he asks us to do as long as it's within our capabilities and our risk."

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

DND Planning $1 Billion Additional HQ Building Near Nortel Site

By: David Pugliese, The National Post 

The Department of National Defence is planning a new $1.1 billion building in Ottawa’s west end, even while employees are settling into its $800-million headquarters complex at the former Nortel campus.

The department has set its sights on what it calls a new operational headquarters, which it expects to host 4,500 civilian and military personnel. That facility will be in addition to the headquarters at what was once the technology company’s campus on Carling Ave. which will house almost 9,000 employees. DND also intends to keep its massive complex at 101 Colonel By Drive in downtown Ottawa.

The new operational headquarters, to be constructed in the mid-to-late 2020s, will be located close to the Nortel site and will be home to various commands including the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command and the Canadian Joint Operations Command, DND spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed.

The office of the vice-chief of the defence staff will also be located in the new building. “In order to centralize these efforts, the Department of National Defence requires a modern facility that enables secure joint operational command, control, communications, coordination and capabilities for operational planning and control of Canadian Armed Forces operations domestically, continentally and globally,” said Le Bouthillier.

The plan will see employees moving into the new operational headquarters starting around 2029, after which DND would vacate its facility at Star Top Rd. in Ottawa’s east end. It is not clear whether another department would move into that building, which is owned by a private company and leased by the federal government.

The government announced last week it wants to hire an architectural and engineering firm to design the new 75,000-square-metre facility — an advance notice so interested parties could apply for the security clearances necessary to bid on the contract.

In making a case to spend the original $800 million on the Nortel complex, senior DND officials claimed there would be substantial savings from consolidating employees in the one location, arguing that the 42 DND and Canadian Forces office locations in Ottawa and Gatineau would be reduced to seven or fewer, leading to savings of $750 million in office rent alone over the subsequent 25 years. No mention was ever made of the need for an additional purpose-built facility.

Former Nortel campus off of Carling Ave in Ottawa, Ontario on Monday Sept. 26, 2016. Tony Caldwell / PostmediaFormer Nortel campus off of Carling Ave in Ottawa, Ontario on Monday Sept. 26, 2016. Tony Caldwell / Postmedia
But Le Bouthillier said the Liberal government’s new defence policy outlined the need to have a single operational hub to enable the key military commands to produce accurate and timely advice, improving command and control for military decision makers, increasing information sharing and boosting the protection for key military personnel in case of a natural disaster or other security incidents. The specific location of the new headquarters will be determined during the options analysis phase of the project, but it will be in close proximity to the Carling site, he said.

Between the Nortel campus and the new headquarters, more than 13,000 of the 20,500 DND employees and Canadian Forces personnel working in locations throughout Ottawa and Gatineau will eventually be concentrated in Ottawa’s west end. To date, only 3,600 of the planned 9,000 staff have moved into the former Nortel complex, the relocation process running about two years behind schedule.

Some DND employees and Canadian Forces personnel have voiced concern over the move to the Carling Ave. site, pointing out that many live in Orléans and the commute will be long. A June 2011 briefing note prepared for then-deputy minister Robert Fonberg described the Carling site as a “relatively remote location.”

Some DND civilian employees have opted to take jobs with other federal departments rather than work in the west end of Ottawa, but the government was unable to provide details about exactly how many have done so.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

BAE Type-26 GCS to be operational in 2027; Still considered a top contender for CSC Fleet

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

One of the top contenders in Canada’s new frigate program – a ship now being built for the United Kingdom – won’t be operational for the Royal Navy until 2027.

BAE’s Type 26 frigate has been ordered by the United Kingdom and the cutting of steel started last year.

But the United Kingdom’s defence procurement minister Guto Bebb has told parliamentarians that the first of those frigates won’t be delivered until 2025. Because of testing it won’t become operational until 2027, the minister added.

Artists Rendition of the BAE Type-26 Global Combat Frigate. 
The Type 26 design has been submitted to Canada for its Canadian Surface Combatant program and is one of three contenders. Construction on the Canadian frigate program to start in the early 2020s.

That raises the possibility, say industry insiders, that Canada could be the first nation to acquire the Type 26 and put it to sea.

Being the first to deploy a new class of warships, however, comes with associated issues of working through the initial problems of new vessels.

That, however, is what the Canadian government had hoped to avoid with its CSC program. It originally stated that only mature ships or proven designs would be considered.

But the Liberal government inexplicably retreated on that stipulation and allowed the Type 26 design to be entered even though the vessel had not been built yet.

That, in turn, sparked a belief in some quarters of industry that the fix is in for BAE’s Type 26. The federal government has denied that.

Lockheed Martin Canada is leading the consortium that has proposed the Type 26. A company spokesperson said the progress of the British program will not have an impact on CSC.

“Our CSC bid meets or exceeds all requirements and this does not impact our bid in any manner,” the spokesperson noted in an email to Defence Watch. “Our CSC bid does not rely upon the T26 becoming operational before 2027.”

Some industry officials have also suggested that the 2027 date won’t be an issue because they expect the CSC to fall significantly schedule. By the time CSC gets really underway, the Type 26 will be ready.

The Canadian Surface Combatant program will cost between $55 billion and $60 billion. Fifteen ships will be eventually built. Three consortiums have bid on the program.

A contract for the CSC is expected to be awarded by the end of this year, said Pat Finn, assistant deputy minister for materiel at the Department of National Defence.

About half of the cost of the surface combatant price-tag is for systems and equipment that will go on the 15 ships, according to federal documents obtained by Postmedia through the Access the Information law. “Approximately one-half of the CSC build cost is comprised of labour in the (Irving’s) Halifax yard and materials,” the documents added.

Last year, Jean-Denis Fréchette, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, estimated the CSC program

would cost $61.82 billion. He also warned that every year the awarding of the contract is delayed beyond 2018, taxpayers will spend an extra $3 billion because of inflation.

RCN iAOR M/V Asterix Refuels Two US Navy Vessels

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch

MV Asterix, accompanying Royal Canadian Navy ships, replenished two US Navy vessels at the same time in the North Atlantic this week. The USN ships are USS Bainbridge and USS Mitscher. Davie, the shipyard that converted the Asterix into a resupply vessel, released photos of the event. See photo below:

The refueling operation comes the same week Vice Admiral Mark Norman’s case is back in court. Norman is charged by the RCMP with one count of breach of trust. The police force alleges Norman released information that the Trudeau government wanted to derail the Asterix project. That information eventually found its way into the news media, forcing the Liberal government to back away from its plan.

Norman says he did nothing wrong and he looks forward to proving his innocence.

Snowbirds and A-10 to Highlight Anderson Airshow

By: Charles Atkeison, AvGeekery Blog

ANDERSON, SC — America’s Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt and Canada’s Air Force Snowbirds are a few of the top performers at the Bill and Jo Trent Anderson Regional Air show this weekend as they help bring the thrust and excitement to upper South Carolina.

he Canadian Royal Air Force Snowbirds will perform above Anderson, S.C. this weekend. (RCAF)
The U.S. Army paratroopers known as the Black Daggers, the A-10 nicknamed the Warthog, and aerobatic pilots Scott Francis in his MXS aircraft and Clemens Kuhlig aboard his award winning Pitts S1S, will perform during the two-day show on May 19 and 20. On Saturday, the U.S. will observe Armed Forces Day.
The Air Force A-10C Warthog will demonstrate low and high speed maneuvers this weekend. (Atkeison)
“The Bill and Jo Trent Anderson Regional Airshow is unique in that it is a totally free airshow — free parking and free admission,” Butch Jones, Anderson Regional Air show director of operations said on Monday. “There will be plenty of food and drinks, a kids zone, vendors of all types, helicopter rides, Stearman rides all set in a family friendly environment.”

The pilots of the Canadian Snowbirds perform in Canadian-built C-114 Tutors jets which provide an individual thrust of 2,700 pounds. During a show, the guests will see the squadron perform with seven or nine jets in a close formation flight demonstration.

This weekend will mark the Snowbirds third appearance at Anderson. “This appearance is special in that they called us and asked us if they could come back,” Jones added. “Our reputation for a class airshow, family environment, and southern hospitality was not forgotten.”

The Anderson air show will mark the Snowbirds third show of their 47th anniversary season. These warriors of the air are a crowd favorite during each event they attend performing tight aerobatic maneuvers performed by Canada’s own Air Force.

“The Snowbirds’ show is the result of six months of intensive preparation and training and consists of over fifty different formations and maneuvers,” Snowbirds spokesperson LT Michèle Tremblay said. “Serving as Canadian ambassadors, the Snowbirds demonstrate the skill, professionalism, and teamwork inherent in the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Clemens Kuhlig is known across the growing air show community as ChefPitts. The name he describes as a combination of his two favorite hobbies — cooking and flying. As he spent three years building his Pitts S1S, he was working as a professional chef. His lightweight IO-360 engine provides about 200 hp, combined with specially designed wings featuring longer ailerons.

“My parents took me to an air show when I was eight and the hook was set,” Clemens acknowledged as he stood near his popular red biplane. “It has taken about forty years, on a fairly circuitous path, to achieve my childhood goal of being an air show pilot.”

ChefPitts paused and then said with a firm tone, “If you never lose sight of a dream, it can be achieved.”

A growing air show crowd favorite, the Anderson show will be Clemens Kuhlig third of the season. He carries a fondness for the South Carolina community and the air show producers.

“This will be my second year flying in Anderson,” Clemens said with a big smile. “Gotta love a show that’s funded by the community for the community! Just goes to show what can be done when people get together to organize an Event that is not only fun for the family, but honors all those who serve the community and the country as policemen, firemen, and military.”

The air show entry and parking are free, however show organizers look to donations in support of aircraft fuel, food, and other costs of the performers and the airport itself. Donations of any size can be made by visiting this link or as you arrive at the air show each day. A free air show with several of North America’s top aviation performers is a true treat for everyone.