Friday, November 27, 2015

Canada and Iraq: Polaris and Aurora Aircraft Likely to continue in Fight against ISIS

Written by David Pugliese 

The Canadian government is leaning towards keeping a military refuelling aircraft and Aurora surveillance planes overseas and allowing them to continue taking part in the war against the Islamic State.

The move would placate coalition allies, particularly the United States, who view the refuelling plane and the surveillance aircraft as valuable contributions to the ongoing air campaign.

The move would also allow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to continue to say he is keeping his election promise of withdrawing Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets. Trudeau promised to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria by bringing the CF-18s home before March. Although Trudeau surprised many in his interview with BBC, when he told the reporter, "I am not opposed to bombing ISIS," but believes Canada can play a better role. ( ie. training)

Discussions about the fate of the Polaris refuelling aircraft and the two Auroras are still ongoing, but it is likely they will stay, sources say.

Trudeau has faced criticism for continuing to vow he will bring the CF-18s back to Canada even after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. The Islamic State (ISIL) has taken responsibility for those attacks.

While the U.S. has large numbers of fighter jets available and has been doing the bulk of the bombing missions in Iraq and Syria, American commanders have said they need more aircraft capable of gathering intelligence.

The Auroras, originally designed for a maritime surveillance role, have been modernized to also collect intelligence about activities on the ground, as well as provide targeting information for warplanes.

It is not clear when an official decision on the Auroras and the refueller will be made. “There has been no decision taken to leave the non-combat assets in theatre,” Tina Crouse, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, said Thursday.

Keeping the refuelling and surveillance aircraft in the war would open the Liberals up to criticism that they are still taking part in the combat mission since the role of such planes is to support fighter jets conducting airstrikes.

Trudeau has appeared to be easing up on his views about the role of air power in the war. He told the BBC he’s not opposed to the current bombing mission against ISIL, but believes Canada can contribute more effectively in other ways.

Canada’s options for a ground training mission in Iraq include possibly putting regular forces into the country to help instruct troops, or overseeing the creation of a Kurdish special forces unit to battle ISIL.

Over the years, the Canadian Army trained Afghan troops and Sajjan has pointed out that it has developed a reputation and skill for such missions. The drawback, according to some officers, is that it could take the Canadian Army up to seven months to field a significant training unit to Iraq.

Canadian special forces are continuing to train Kurdish troops in northern Iraq. One potential new mission could involve Canadian personnel helping oversee the creation of a Kurdish special forces unit. The Kurds currently do not have such a capability, which could be used for quick strike raids and covert operations against the Islamic State.

Members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment in Petawawa have helped train Afghan special forces previously so such a mission would be a familiar one for that unit as well as for the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 counter-terrorism unit.

Sajjan noted that without the proper training of Iraqi troops to take and hold ground, the effect of the bombing campaign is limited.

In an interview last week with the Citizen, Sajjan said the government will not be rushed into its commitment for training troops in Iraq but will instead ensure that whatever personnel are provided will have a positive effect on the battlefield.

He would not put a timeline on any option. “I don’t want to make this into a political expedient decision knee-jerk,” he added.

The Canadian Forces currently have around 69 special forces personnel in northern Iraq training Kurdish troops.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fighting ISIS: UK PM Cameron Tries to Push for Expansion into Syria

While Canada is planning on withdrawing from the Coalition Airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the UK is looking to expand their attacks into Syria. Although  Canada has expanded into Syria, the RCAF CF-18s have only targeted ISIS in Syria twice since March it is hardly the expansion the former Conservative Government was looking for. 

Written by Jill Lawless, The Associated Press Published Originally by CBC

Prime Minister David Cameron tried to persuade reluctant lawmakers to back airstrikes on the Islamic State group in Syria, saying Thursday that the Paris attacks have given the fight new urgency and Britain owes it to key allies to act.

Cameron told the House of Commons that U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande had urged Britain to join the military campaign in Syria.

"These are our closest allies and they want our help," he said.

Cameron said if Britain didn't act after ISIS-claimed attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, friendly nations might well ask, "if not now, when?"

The Royal Air Force is part of a U.S.-led coalition attacking the militants in Iraq, but not in Syria. Cameron has been reluctant to seek backing for strikes in Syria since lawmakers voted down his 2013 plan to launch RAF strikes against the forces of President Bashar Assad.

Earlier this month Parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee urged caution, saying British airstrikes would be "incoherent" and ineffective without a plan to end Syria's four-year civil war.

Cameron replied Thursday with a 36-page letter, arguing that Britain should act to deny the Islamic State group a "safe haven" in Syria from which to plot mass-casualty attacks around the world.

He said airstrikes should be part of a "comprehensive overall strategy" to destroy IS, end the Syrian war and help rebuild the country.

Attempting to allay legislators' concerns, he argued that military action is legal under the UN charter's right to self-defence. And he said that while ground forces would be needed as well, they would not be British.

Cameron said airstrikes will not increase the danger of attack in Britain, already considered high. He said British authorities have foiled seven attacks in the past year either planned or inspired by ISIS.

Cameron wants to hold a vote in Parliament, but said he would only do so if "there is a clear majority for action, because we will not hand a publicity coup to ISIL" — another acronym for the militant group.

He's likely to decide after Thursday's Commons debate whether to hold a vote next week.
Cautious reaction

Initial reaction from opposition lawmakers was cautious. Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said military action could have "unintended consequences" — as it did in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.

Angus Robertson of the Scottish National Party said his legislators would not support "a bombing campaign without effective ground support in place or a fully costed reconstruction and stability plan."

The debate is shadowed by the legacy of Parliament's divisive 2003 decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. That decision was made on the basis of flawed intelligence about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction, and in the absence of an adequate plan for postwar reconstruction.

"This is about learning the lessons of Iraq," Cameron said, stressing that "we are not in the business of dismantling the Syrian state or its institutions."

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strike ISIS Position near Ramadi

On 25 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes to increase Iraqi security forces' freedom of movement in the region, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions. 

Meanwhile, the Canadian Armed Forces is reviewing information about a Nov. 19 airstrike, which is alleged to have caused civilian casualties. It is unclear which air force may have been involved.

The CAF originally noted that it was confident that its bombs did not injure or kill civilians.

Local Iraqi media reports indicate that bombs hit both an Islamic State facility in Mosul as well as a nearby dairy. Between five and 13 people at the dairy were reportedly killed.

“Whenever we obtain new information regarding potential allegations of civilian casualties, we conduct a review of all available information,” according to Capt. Kirk Sullivan in a note to Defence Watch. “The CAF, in conjunction with U.S. CENTCOM, is currently reviewing all available and credible information regarding the potential allegations of civilian casualties as a result of this airstrike. No additional information is available at this time.”

“The airstrike by CF-18 Hornets on November 19 served to increase Iraqi security forces’ freedom of movement in the region by eliminating an ISIS Improvised Explosive Device factory, reducing the threat posed by ISIS to civilians and members of the Iraqi security forces,” Sullivan added.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Project Resolve: CEO says Seaspan could Supply iAOR Cheaper/Faster

By Jonathan Whitworth,

Chief Executive Officer, Seaspan ULC

Let’s give the new Liberal government in Ottawa credit for taking a deeper dive into the reported costs associated with Canada’s search for an interim capability to support the Royal Canadian Navy’s supply ship needs in the aftermath of the unanticipated retirement of HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver. This interim capability would provide a needed bridge to the greater capability of the future Joint Support Ship (JSS) to be built at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyard.

Notwithstanding the indignation of certain commentators from Quebec, the Davie Shipyard-controlled Shipbuilding Association of Canada (neither Seaspan nor Irving are members of this organization) and some in the media, at the heart of the issue is whether Canada will get value for the reported $750 million it would be spending on a sole-source contract with Chantier Davie. Taxpayers should expect our federal government to have confidence in the answer they give to that question and one clear way of determining best value is through a fair, open and transparent competition.

Since Seaspan’s name has found its way into media articles related to this issue over the past week, I offer facts for the public record.

– Seaspan believes in competition and are proud to have won the federal government’s competition to build the next generation of vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Joint Support (supply ships) for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS).

– With no financial support from either the Province of British Columbia or the federal government we have invested $170 million of our own money to build North America’s most modern shipyard through which we have begun to produce the vessels that make up our initial inventory of work;

– The first of those vessels – the Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard – began construction in June and has 15 of 37 blocks presently under construction and is on plan;

– The engineering and planning phases are well underway on the next two classes of ships to be built in Vancouver. The Offshore Ocean Science Vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard and JSS for the Royal Canadian Navy are both benefiting from the world-class expertise that has been built at the Vancouver Shipyard under NSPS;

– This level of effort is currently providing employment to over 650 people at the Vancouver Shipyard and has resulted in contracts valued at over $321 million being awarded to some 140 Canadian suppliers. These numbers will continue to climb as our NSPS build program increases;

– Project delays that are often attributed to JSS are related to a failed procurement back in 2008 which predates NSPS and is unrelated to our current program. We are currently working to schedule and to budget with our JSS deliverables;

– We have formally expressed interest to Canada, at its request, to support the RCN’s interim capability need with a converted containership, similar to that offered by Davie but at a significantly lower price and faster, through our Victoria Shipyards. The work would be performed without compromise to our capacity at Vancouver Shipyards which will deliver JSS to Canada, in 2020;

– Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards, and its trades-men and women, have enjoyed a very successful long-term relationship with the RCN including our delivery next summer of the fifth of five extensively refit Halifax Class frigates, each delivered to Canada on-time and on-budget. If Canada opens the interim supply ship project to best value competition, it is the Victoria Shipyard that stands ready to offer a winning, low-cost interim solution as a bridge to the much more capable Joint Support Ship.

We invite journalists and those who comment through the media to come and visit us at Seaspan, in both Vancouver and Victoria, to see with their own eyes why we are bullish on the future.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Project Resolve: Shipbuilding Association Fires back at Irving

Originally Published by David Pugliese,

Now this statement was issued Monday by the Shipbuilding Association of Canada after Irving put out a statement that suggested it would have been in a position to build the interim supply ship:

In December 2014, Canada sought proposals for the provision of At-Sea Support Services. These were published on the government’s procurement portal, where the entire Canadian and international marine industry were invited to offer solutions to Canada’s urgent operational requirement for an interim Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship service.

Subsequently, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Department of National Defence, and Public Works and Government Services Canada issued a detailed set of requirements from which bidders would present their proposals. Multiple Canadian and international proposals were received. Following an extensive consultation period lasting for six months and subsequent evaluations by those departments, Canada selected the Davie proposal on its merits ahead of other domestic and international bids.

The Resolve-Class AOR design will provide a full replacement of the legacy Protecteur-class AORs. At a reported build cost of around $400m, the Resolve-Class AOR represents great value-for-money compared to a new ship at around $1.5bn. Davie’s pan-Canadian supply chain provides significant economic benefits for the entire shipbuilding industry, including Aecon Pictou, a first tier subcontractor who will build multiple sections of the ship in Nova Scotia.

This was a fair process open to all industry, which followed common sense and resulted in one of the most successful shipbuilding procurements for decades. It demonstrated that Canada is indeed able to fast-track programs when vital for national security. The urgency of the situation required the Department of National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada to react expeditiously, efficiently and fairly which they did during the six months of deliberations and evaluations prior to contract award.

The Shipbuilding Association of Canada is surprised and disappointed at claims emanating from certain shipyards – which claim to be at maximum capacity with their federal shipbuilding programs – that they could in some form contribute to the solution in a timely manner and which would not impact further their existing programs.

With claims of being at maximum capacity, Seaspan Ferries placed an order for two ferries for use in Canadian waters, to be built in Istanbul, Turkey. Similarly, Atlantic Towing – a JD Irving company – has recently resorted to building their own ships, for use in Canada, in Galati, Romania.

The association strongly recommends that the government do not delay the signing of the contract for this urgent operational requirement. It has been awarded fairly and with due process.

The association is encouraged by statements from the new government of Canada, late on Friday, that there would be no delay and a positive outcome is expected according to the relevant agreement.

HMCS Halifax and Irish Coast Guard Evac RCN Sailor

By Lieutenant (Navy) Kelly Boyden
Irish Coast Guard helicopter
Irish Coast Guard Helicopter while Medically Evacuating a member of the RCN
News Release: November 19, 2015.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Halifax joined forces with the Irish Coast Guard to airlift an injured sailor to a nearby hospital on October 15, 2015, while at sea in the North Atlantic.
HMCS Halifax put out a call to the Irish Coast Guard after a sailor suffered an upper body injury while training on board the ship. The ship’s medical staff immediately tended to the sailor but deemed the injury required care best offered at a nearby hospital.

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew quickly responded to the call and lowered a rescue worker and a stretcher to the ship. Together with HMCS Halifax medical staff, the sailor was secured in the stretcher, raised into the helicopter, and taken to a nearby hospital in the Dublin area. The sailor was released from hospital later in the day, and returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the following day, where he is expected to make a full recovery.

Meanwhile, for HMCS Halifax and the Irish Coast Guard, the incident provided a great example of Canadian and Irish interoperability in action.

This interoperability has been fostered in recent years through a program known as Regulus, which facilitates exchanges with partner navies from around the world. This past summer, Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, was in Cork, Ireland, to meet with Irish Navy officials regarding the program. Since 2010, the program has seen over 150 Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) members serve with foreign navies, including the Irish Naval Service, and aboard warships, research vessels, and coast guard cutters.

The program provides RCN participants with real-world operational experience, and a greater understanding of life in a foreign culture. In turn, the RCN sends training teams to other nations’ naval schools and accepts their members into technical and operational courses in Canada. The aim is to promote greater relationships and overall interoperability between Allied partners.

This has also been HMCS Halifax’s goal during the course of its current deployment. The ship recently worked with Allied forces to enhance overall mission preparedness during Exercise JOINT WARRIOR and Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE, NATO’s largest exercise in more than a decade. These shared skills can be called upon anywhere and anytime, whether it be working together to care for an injured colleague or partnering to bring safety and security to our world.

Project Resolve: Irving Claims to have Cheaper/Faster Solution for iAOR

In the drawn out saga-drama that has been the Royal Canadian Navy's attempt top build a new surface fleet - we have hit yet another delay.

Irving was awarded the billion dollar contract to build the Canadian Surface Combatant  (CSC) Fleet, the new Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, and new Coast Guard Ice Breakers - yet they are upset that they were not chosen to build the interim Auxiliary oil replenishment vessel (iAOR) for the RCN.

The new Queenston-Class AORs are not set to be complete (being built by Irving) until 2021/22. Until then the RCN has no AOR capability and has been leasing Spanish and Chilean AORs to fill the role.

Davie Shipbuilding in Levis, Quebec; one of Canada's largest shipbuilding companies (who built most of the previous RCN fleet) was selected to convert a boxship into an AOR for the Navy. Davie would maintain ownership of the vessel and lease it to the RCN for a period believed to be 7 years, at a cost of $700 million.

Irving sent a letter to the new Liberal cabinet last week and asked them to stop the program and review it. Here is what Irving said:

The letter, obtained by the National Post, is dated Nov. 17. It asks for a pause and review. Two days later, last Thursday, cabinet ordered the pause and review.”In October 2014 Irving Shipbuilding was asked by the Royal Canadian Navy to propose an interim refueling and resupply capability. We assembled an international team of naval and commercial shipping experts to tackle the problem. This included my own experience as a former Vice Admiral in the United States Navy responsible for all ship design, construction, maintenance and conversion in a Navy of almost 300 ships and submarines.

"Our focus was on providing maximum capability with minimum risk, cost, and completion schedule by limiting the amount of conversion required for an existing ship. Early on, we rejected a container ship as too expensive and too risky to convert especially in the relatively short time requested by the government for rapid reconfiguration to meet the immediate needs of the Royal Canadian Navy. The Roll On–Roll Off (RORO) ship selected by Irving Shipbuilding for conversation starts with the right ship to provide tremendous capability, adaptability, and best value to Canada.

"Our proposal includes the ability to refuel two ships simultaneously; land, refuel and maintain helicopters; resupply dry stores and ammunition at sea; and supports modular medical, command and control, and berthing capability. Most importantly, we provide tremendous additional capability that is already inherent in our RORO ship that allows numerous large trucks, military vehicles, and emergency response vehicles to rapidly roll on and roll off via a large stern ramp and vehicle bays. This allows rapid response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief emergencies at home and abroad, and provides logistics support to military forces ashore. A large open payload volume also already exists to allow for rapid, low cost reconfiguration of the ship to meet future mission needs.

"Our request has and continues to be for an open, merit-based evaluation of all proposals to ensure the best solution for the Navy and best value to Canadians." 

It sounds to me like Irving is upset that it did not get the additional $700 million when it already received the $26.2 Billion contract for the CSC Fleet. In my opinion, if the Queenston-Class AORs are not going to be ready until 2021 why would you further delay them buy building iAORs first? Irving should just get a move on building the Queenston-Class AORs. 

Project Revolve is officially on hold at the government level, but Davie is still working on converting the Asterix into an AOR - and will be owed $89 Million on December 1st if the final contract is not signed; as the previous government entered into an initial agreement, which allowed Davie to begin working while the final contract was finalized. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Project Resolve: Navy's iAOR on HOLD

According to CBC's James Cudmore - the Liberal government has chosen to delay approval for the final contract to Davie Shipbuilding for the Asterix boxship to be fully converted into an Interim Auxiliary Oil Replenishment Vessel.

According to the CBC, the potential 7-year lease is estimated at $700 million, where the RCN will be given the option to purchase the Asterix at the en of the lease agreemnt.

The Liberal Cabinet commitee decided to delay the decision on whether or not top proceed with with the Project - a delay of possibly 2 months - all while Davie is already doing work.

If the government does not sign the final contract before November 30th, they will owe Davie $89 Million - as it was written into the original offer of intent signed by the Conservative Government.

Davie has already purchased the Asterix and had it delivered to its shipyard in Levis, Quebec earlier this year, and has already begun work.

The big question is whether or not the delay will scuttle the project - and leave the RCN without AOR capabilities until beyond 2021.

The Shipbuilding Association of Canada announced that they are surprised and disappointed in the delay being caused by the Government - saying the delay will only cause more cost to Canadians (as per the $89 million owed to Davie on December 1st if the final contract is not signed, and the potential legal ramifications if the government withdraws from the project - Davie has planned to invest close to $400 million.

According to Davie  they are still moving forward. Project Revolve released this statement:

"The[initial] agreement enabled Davie to commence the build program while the final details of a services agreement (relating to when the vessel enters service following the build) were being concluded and several independent auditors were engaged to assist the Government of Canada with its due diligence.

"We have now agreed all terms and conditions, all audits have been successfully completed and we expect the services contract to be signed before the end of this month.

"In the meantime, work continues onboard m/v Asterix"

CBC sources indicate that Irving Shipyards is to blame for the delay - sending letters to the Liberal Government - asking it to reconsider their initial options for iAORs for the RCN.

There are also allegations from different high-level sources in those same corners that Irving Shipbuilding Inc., a longtime competitor of Davie, meddled in the decision by sending letters to several cabinet ministers about the deal, an event that in the words of one defence source "tipped over the apple cart."

Davie, based in Lévis, Que., has long done government work, but was frozen out of the government's $39-billion National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Irving was that strategy's key beneficiary, winning the lion's share of the work available. The lesser portion of the work, the so-called non-combat package, was awarded to Seaspan in Vancouver.

New supply ships are part of that deal, but none are expected to be operational until 2020 at the earliest, leaving Canada with a significant gap in capability.
Liberal ministers were warned Thursday that without guaranteed access to a supply ship, Canada will have "dramatically diminished capabilities to defend Canada" and to go abroad in support of coalition operations, or to aid in natural disaster or support humanitarian missions, CBC News has also learned.

Davie created the idea of the interim supply ship deal in 2014 and pitched unsolicited to government.

Several sources say the idea was viewed with suspicion by bureaucrats inside the government's shipbuilding offices who worried the proposal would undermine or threaten the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

The Irving and Seaspan yards subsequently offered their own interim proposals, leading to the bizarre situation of NSPS shipyards offering to build an interim supply ship for Canada that was only necessary because the NSPS program had yet to deliver supply ships.

Whatever those yards offered, the Davie deal appeared to win the Conservative government's favour.
Irving letter to ministers

It's that decision that the Irving team complained about in its letter, obtained by CBC News, and addressed to new Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote. The letter was also sent to President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In his letter dated Tuesday, James D. Irving, the firm's co-chief executive officer, accused the government of pursuing a sole-source contract with Davie, despite an offer from Irving and Maersk Lines to provide a lower-cost option.

"This was done on a non-competitive basis without transparency and without a full evaluation of cost, delivery schedule, capability and risk associated with the Irving-Maersk proposal.

Irving requested its proposal be evaluated once more, before the government signs off on the Davie deal.

Emails to several Irving staff went unanswered Thursday.

The Davie deal is, indeed, a sole-source arrangement as Irving complained. But cabinet was told Thursday the deal had won an exemption to the government's contracting regulations and that there was little risk it could be successfully challenged.

Davie has already bought the ship it is to convert and has brought it to its yard on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City.

In a statement, Davie said it had an agreement with the government.

"All audits have been successfully completed and we expect the services contract to be signed before the end of this month."