Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Canada in Iraq: CAF Looking to Deploy Griffons to Iraq

Written by: JDM, Canadian Forces Dispatch author
Last Updated: February 9, 2016 - 1:44 pm

With the dramatic shift in the Government of Canada's policy towards ISIS, and the change to Canada's contributions to the US-led Coalition against ISIS, Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance provided some details in a technical briefing.

The total number of military personnel deployed will increase from the currently authorized 600, to 850. This adjustment will be seen in the required ground crew required for the CF-18s, which will be returning home, and the increase in the number of Special Forces trainers in Iraq.

While specific numbers of Special Forces have not been released, it is assumed that close to 200 Canadian Special Forces members will be in Norther Iraq working with the Kurdish Peshmerga within the coming months, as both Prime Minister Trudeau, and Minister of Defence Sajjan said clearly that the training commitment would triple.

For the Special Forces in Iraq, reporters asked the Prime Minister if the CAF will still be on the front lines of the fight against ISIS, and if they would still be marking targets for the remaining coalition partners in the air campaign. General Vance responded, "I want Canadians to know that we will be involved in engagements as we defend ourselves or those partners who we are working with.” Vance also indicated that Special Forces will continue to "mark ISIS targets" for the coalition. This is something that the US Special Forces members in Iraq are not currently able to do.

Minister Sajjan echoed Vance's statement, when he told CTV's Canada AM program, " This is a conflict zone - it comes with risks." 

In yesterday's Press briefing the Prime Minister said that as part of Canada's new advise and assist role, Canada would be sending small arms and ammunition to Iraq. Vance indicated that Canada would be supplying machine guns and riffles to Iraqi forces, but did not specify who in particular. He also could not indicate how the arms will be sent legally to Iraq; as Iraq is not approved for arms export under the Automatic Weapons Country Control List.

A CAF Door Gunner mans his machine gun aboard a CH-146 Griffon over the desserts of Afghanistan (Undated DND Photo)
To help mitigate some of the risks, the DND Spokesman was quoted as indicating that, the CAF is looking at deploying 4 CH-146 Griffon Helicopters to Iraq. Daniel Le Bouthier, was quoted to Defence Watch as saying, "options are being explored to enhance in-theatre tactical transport, further analysis, coordination and discussions with our coalition partners is required before details regarding the deployment of Griffon helicopters can be finalized, though the current plan calls for 4 airframes."

No specifics as to what the Griffons would be used for. CANSOFCOM has their own Griffon Helicopters, but there is no public information as to what vehicles CANSOFCOM has deployed in theater already.  The Griffons are expected to be used for Troop Transport, as well as Medi-Vac Capabilities within Norther Iraq.
Image result for Black 427 SOAS Griffon
Chief Instructor, Major Alain Matteau walks away from one of the Griffon helicopters of the 427 SOAS (Special Operations Aviation Squadron). At Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa, members of the ultra secretive Canadian Special forces (CANSOFCOM) go through a variety of training exercises.  (RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR)

In Afghanistan, the CAF deployed RCAF Chinook and Griffon Helicopters. The Griffons were often used as gunships while the Chinooks took over the role as Troop Transport. There is no current plan to deploy Chinooks to Iraq. For a short period of time, the RCAF also piloted and leased Russian Mi-17-V5 Helicopters (known in the RCAF as CH-178's) while waiting for the Chinooks to be delivered. The RCAF added Armour plating and Gatling-guns to the Griffons that served in Afghanistan.

According to the RCAF; the Griffon aircraft can carry up to 13 people (two pilots, a flight engineer and 10 passengers) and has a maximum gross weight of nearly 5,400 kilograms. The Griffon can reach speeds up to 260 kilometres per hour.

There has been some backlash over the Governments commitment to withdraw Canada's CF-18s, even many calling the new mission a form of backing down to ISIS, and letting our allies down. That is not necessarily the case. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Canada is "Doubling Down."  The article continues saying, "The Canadian government announced Monday its six CF-18 fighter planes would end their bombing runs on the Islamic State by Feb. 22 and come home. But don’t count Canada out. A close look at what Ottawa is doing in Iraq actually reveals a growing mission that may increase the dangers for Canadian troops." 

Even the US Ambassador, Bruce Heyman agrees with the new mission outline. He indicated that Canada's new plan amounts to a "significant contribution to the coalition," and is "in line with the coalitions current needs." He went on to say, "The commitments that Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet ministers announced today are in line with the coalition’s current needs, including tripling Canada’s training mission in northern Iraq and increasing its intelligence efforts throughout the region. Canada remains an essential partner in the counter-Da’esh mission and we will continue to discuss with all coalition partners additional ways to intensify our efforts. The United States, Canada, and the rest of our coalition partners remain unwavering in our commitment to degrade—and ultimately destroy— Da’esh and we look forward to continuing that mission together.”

The Liberal Government's new ISIS plan goes beyond military contributions. The government will enhance measures focused on stabilization, counter-terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security programming in the region, dedicating $145 million to unnamed initiatives in these areas over the next three years.