Friday, February 26, 2016

Canada in Iraq: Government to Vote on New ISIS Mission, March 8

By TIM NAUMETZ | The Hill Times 
Published: Friday, 02/26/2016 1

A House of Commons vote on the Liberal government’s decision to pull Canadian fighter planes out of air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria while tripling the number of Canadian soldiers near front lines with Iraqi security forces is set to be held on Tuesday, March 8, according to a schedule all sides agreed to this week.

A motion from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) calling on the Commons to support the government’s renewed Iraq mission is bound to pass with the Liberal majority.

The decision to withdraw Canada’s six CF-18 fighter planes from U.S.-lead coalition air strikes against ISIL fighting positions and other targets while beefing other military components, including helicopter transport support for Canadian special forces soldiers advising Kurdish Peshmerga troops, dominated most of the opposition arguments in the extended debate.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) declared at the outset on Wednesday, Feb. 17, that his MPs would vote against the motion on grounds Canadian soldiers are taking part in ground combat by serving close to frontlines with the Peshmerga soldiers and having exchanged fire with ISIL soldiers, targeted air strikes against ISIL targets along front lines of battle and taken part in defending a Peshmerga compound against a major ISIL assault last December.

A Canadian CF-18 fighter jet, along with two French warplanes, helped to repel the attack.

Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose (Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta.) has made it clear the Conservative party is likely to oppose Mr. Trudeau’s motion, after she moved an amendment on the first day of the debate calling on the Commons instead to urge the government to “re-establish Canada’s influence within the international decision-making process in the fight against terrorism and rebuild the trust Canada has lost with its allies by reversing its decision to withdraw, which essentially removes Canada from any combat role.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.), however, told the Senate this week the government plan will maintain the close relationship between Canadian special operation troops and Peshmerga security forces they are currently with, including to the point Iraqi security forces begin a ground offensive to re-capture the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, overrun by ISIL fighters after they began attacks against Iraqi government and military positions in 2014.

“As the Iraqi security forces take cities, the U.S. was already there for a significant amount of time. We need to be able to train the Iraqi security forces, because if you realize how the problem happened in the first place, they weren't able to hold ground, and Daesh [ISIL] was able to take over,” Mr. Sajjan told Senators on Wednesday when he appeared for a special Question Period.

“As we re-take those cities, keep in mind we need to leave troops on the ground in the cities as you go to the next one. You need to train a significant number of troops to be able to have an eventual defeat,” Mr. Sajjan said in response to questions. “You cannot defeat an enemy like this from the air, so we have adjusted our mission to be more suited towards defeat of Daesh alongside our coalition partners, making sure a critical piece in the north, where we're at, remains stable, and that we have trained the right security force, not just external, but internal as well.”

He added: “As the Iraqi security forces make their way up, coming up to Mosul, we will be very close to that line. It's part of a wider plan to make sure of the eventual defeat of ISIL. I am not talking about our CF-18s or air strikes or dropping bombs. I am talking about the defeat of the enemy, which is Daesh. The only way we can do this is by making sure that we train the Iraqi security forces to be able to hold their ground, and, more importantly, to keep the ground and the gains after the defeat is complete. When they can maintain the stability in that nation, then we can work on the political piece as well to keep the entire region stable.”

Mr. Sajjan said Thursday the reference to Canadian soldiers being close to the front line when Iraqi security forces eventually attack ISIL troops holding Mosul is consistent with the existing “advise and assist” role for the Canadians. “The training mission as it stands, as it always ways, does not change,” Mr. Sajjan said in response to a question about his statement in the Senate. “Our troops are providing the Peshmerga the advise and assist function, making sure that they are able plan their defences and making sure that they can adjust to the needs of the threat, but we also do a lot of work for the internal security as well, so there’s a lot of moving parts, but the advise and assist mission, from as it was, does not change.”

Conservative MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, Man.) told The Hill Times he believes the debate in the House on the motion was worthwhile, even though the result of the vote has been known from the start. “We knew what the outcome was going to be, but at least everybody has had a chance to voice their opinion. I’m satisfied that we’ve had enough time to have that debate and that our position was put out there clearly, that the CF-18s need to be in the fight,” Mr. Bezan said.

Mr. Trudeau made a point of noting, when he announced the renewed Canadian mission, which includes more than $1-billion of humanitarian and civil society development in the war-torn region, and confirmed the plan would go to a motion and debate in the Commons, that Cabinet has the authority to make decisions over international treaties and combat operations without the consent of Parliament.
The Hill Times

4 RCAF CF-18s head To Romania from Iraq

Written by JDM, CAFDispatch Author
Published February 26, 2015

While the Liberal government has decided to end the RCAF's CF-18 participation in the US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria; their tour of duty is not complete; at least for four of the six CF-18s that were deployed to Kuwait in October 2014.

Lithuania. 20 November 2014 – A CF-188 Hornet from the Canadian Air Task Force Lithuania flies side by side with a Portuguese F16 Fighting Falcon over Lithuania on November 20, 2014 for the NATO Baltic Air Policing Block 36 during Operation REASSURANCE. (Photo: Air Task Force — OP Reassurance, DND)
An RCAF CF-18 flies with a Portuguese F-16 over
Lithuania in November 2014. 

As part of Exercise RESILIENT RESOLVE; four of the RCAF CF-18's will depart Kuwait on March 1, 2016 and head to Constanta, Romania for bilateral training with the Romanian Air Force. 

In addition to the four CF-18s, approximately 100 members of the RCAF, mainly from CFB Bagotville, Quebec will deploy as ground crew.

The deployment will be Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel David Turenne. The Air Task Force personnel for this exercise will be from 2 Wing and 3 Wing. The four CF-18s are from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at 3 Wing Bagotville. This same squadron previously deployed to Câmpia Turzii, Romania, in the spring of 2014 as part of NATO’s assurance measures of OP REASSURANCE.

The Task Force was also previously part of  NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission from September to December 2014 and was based in Siauliai, Lithuania.

More details released from the RCAF:  “2 Wing will provide a scaled and tailored Airfield Activation Surge Team as part of the Air Task Force that will include personnel from 2 Air Expeditionary Squadron and 8 Air Communications and Control Squadron. 2 Wing is the RCAF’s air expeditionary wing, which exists to rapidly deploy either in whole or in part as a self-contained unit, employing air power and providing associated support wherever needed, throughout Canada or around the world.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Canadian Army to train in Norway with NATO partners

Published by: Frontline Defence 

Several hundred Canadian Army soldiers from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2 CMBG) and 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR) from Petawawa, Ontario, will conduct winter warfighting training in Norway with 13 NATO Allies and partners during Exercise COLD RESPONSE 2016 (Ex CR 16) from March 1-9, 2016. In order to ensure successful training, numerous soldiers have already deployed overseas in preparation for this multinational exercise.

“Exercise COLD RESPONSE presents a great opportunity for Canada to engage with our NATO Allies and closest partners and further supports our excellent relations with Norway," said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. "It also allows the Canadian Armed Forces to enhance its operational effectiveness in challenging winter conditions.”

This Norway-led exercise includes approximately 15 000 soldiers from various countries including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway. The aim of Ex CR 16 is to retain and further develop military capabilities in high-intensity, joint and combined ops in a challenging environment.

The Canadian Army is contributing an Infantry Battalion Headquarters, a Company Group as well as staff officers to the Swedish Multi-National Brigade Headquarters. Canadian soldiers will exercise joint and combined operations under an extremely challenging cold-weather scenario, with the goal of developing their ability to operate with international partners in arctic conditions.

Ex CR 16 is a multi-national, joint and combined exercise featuring land, air and sea elements.

It provides an arena for participating forces to enhance warfighting skills and exercise all aspects of winter warfighting, including offensive and defensive operations, patrols, surveillance, reconnaissance, and battlespace management.

Ex CR 16 is taking place in the Trondheim region in Norway, approximately 500 kilometres north of the capital, Oslo.

Canada and Norway enjoy a long tradition of cooperation on regional and global security issues.

Canada to Remain as part of JSF F-35 Consortium

The move raises questions about whether the Liberal government is reconsidering its ban on purchasing the controversial F-35 jet. (UNCREDITED/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Undated/Uncaptioned photo of F-35 from The Associated Press
Published by: Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail 

The Canadian government intends to make a payment this spring to remain part of the consortium of F-35 Lightning fighter-jet buyers, despite a Liberal election promise to exclude the aircraft when selecting this country’s next warplane.

The move raises questions about whether the Liberal government is reconsidering its ban on purchasing the controversial F-35 jet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party announced during last year’s election campaign that it “no longer makes sense” to buy a fighter with the F-35’s stealth, first-strike capability, citing skyrocketing costs for a plane that has been plagued with development problems. The Liberals vowed instead to buy a “lower-priced” aircraft and funnel the money saved into the Royal Canadian Navy.

This week, however, Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said Canada plans to pay the latest required annual instalment to the Joint Strike Fighter program. She said the upcoming payment is estimated to be $32.9-million (U.S.)

The contribution would maintain Canada’s membership in the F-35 buyers’ pool. This gives Ottawa the right to buy F-35s at a discount and allows Canadian companies to continue to bid on supply contracts for the plane.

Asked why Canada remains in the Joint Strike Fighter program when the Liberals have eliminated the plane as an option, Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan said the government is still reviewing how it should proceed on replacing the country’s aging CF-18 fighters.

“We can’t just make a very quick decision on something like this. We want to make a responsible decision as we move forward. We have to go through the proper requirements. Once we go through a proper process, decisions will be made at that,” he said.

The annual required contribution to remain in the Joint Strike Fighter program, alongside allies such as the United States and Britain, has varied between $21-million and $48.5-million over the past five years.

Conservative Senator Daniel Lang said the federal government’s decision to stay in the program is puzzling.

“Why would anybody spend millions of dollars to stay in a program they’re not going to participate in?” said Mr. Lang, who chairs the Senate national security and defence committee.

Leaving the Joint Strike Fighter program would hurt Canadian business because companies would no longer be able to bid on contracts to supply parts and software for the plane.

Canadian companies have won more than $750-million in contracts related to the F-35 because Canada has been a partner in the program for decades. Should the Liberals exit the program, Canadian firms’ contracts will wind down and they will not be eligible to bid on further work.

“At this time, Canada remains in the Joint Strike Fighter program, which ensures Canada can continue to benefit from economic opportunities resulting from the partnership while we work to determine the way forward,” the Defence Department’s Ms. Lemire said.

One procurement expert working for the federal government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it’s unclear whether Ottawa could successfully defend against legal action should it bar jet maker Lockheed Martin and its F-35 plane from a competition. “They will have to decide whether they want to run a competition or face a lawsuit.… The easiest option for a variety of reasons is to run a competition and run it fairly.”

The Liberals inherit a military purchasing effort plagued by delays and cost overruns, from shipbuilding to aircraft.

“I will be honest with you. Our procurement system is not providing capabilities to [Canadian Forces] members in a timely manner,” Mr. Sajjan told the Senate on Wednesday.

The Trudeau government has created a cabinet committee to oversee defence procurement that will be headed by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who previously served as president and chief executive of the Business Council of Manitoba.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cyclone Lands at sea on HMCS Halifax for First Time

Written by: JDM, CAFDispatch Author, 
Published February 24, 2016 

The RCAF says it has reached a milestone for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter project. The Cyclone fort the first time was fully manned by RCAF personnel, landed on a Canadian warship at sea. This took place on Jan. 27 with HMCS Halifax off the coast of Nova Scotia.

HMCS Halifax also participated in “ship helo operating limits” (SHOL) trials last year. Those tests went for five months. The SHOL trials  this year restarted in January.

One of Canada's newly acquired CH-148 Cyclone helicopters practices landing procedures on HMCS Halifax off the coast of Nova Scotia on 28 January 2016.

Photo: Ordinary Seaman Raymond Kwan, Formation Imaging Services
A photo by a member of the Royal Canadian Navy, captures the Cyclone landing on the deck of HMCS Halifax.
Photo: CAF Combat Camera 
The Royal Canadian Navy, according to a Press Release from DND, says that HMCS Halifax will continue to operate with the Cyclone helicopter fleet for the remainder of the winter, conducting SHOL trials and furthering the ongoing integration of the Cyclone helicopter into naval operations. 

These updates were written by Sub-Lieutenant McCarthy, a member of HMCS Halifax’s crew, who provided updates on the program on DND's website.

Canada in Iraq: U.S. General sad to see CF-18s leave Mideast

Written by Matthew Fisher, National Post 

US General would welcome back Canadian fighter jets if they returned.


The American general running the coalition air campaign against ISIL jihadists in Iraq and Syria says Canada’s CF-18s, which the Trudeau government ordered home last week, are welcome to return to the fight at any time.
Photo: Getty Images / Don Mackinnon

While Belgium and Denmark brought their fighter jets home, they did so for financial reasons, Matthew Fisher writes. Canada pulled its jets because of a campaign pledge.

“Ideally, I would like the Canadians to come back at some point, but I know that there are local decisions that have to be made in Canada for that to happen,” Lt.-Gen. Charles Brown told the National Post from his headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

“It is kind of sad to see them go. I realize that for your operators who fly the F18s, your pilots, I think they are a little disappointed because I know if I was one of them at the squadron level and much younger, I would probably be feeling the same way.”

The three- star U. S. air force general, who commands several hundred attack aircraft, spy planes and in-air refuellers spread across half a dozen countries in the Middle East, found out Canada’s new government intended to withdraw its jets from Kuwait while watching CNN.

“It was kind of news to me. I wasn’t watching the campaign to understand all the dynamics,” the former F-16 fighter pilot said. “But I understand. We welcome them back if the opportunity presents itself, if the minds there change and the political leadership changes its mind.”

Judging by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent statements, there is virtually no chance of that happening. But Brown noted Canada was not the first country to bring its fighter jets home. Other countries, such as Belgium and Denmark, had done so because of the size of their air forces or for financial reasons.

While it was not “a foregone coalition” that they would return, “it was their intent to come back,” he said.

Canada’s decision to withdraw its fighters was not based on financial considerations. Rather, it was to honour a Liberal campaign pledge to end the combat mission. But having fighter jets drop precision-guided high-tech weapons is a hugely expensive undertaking.

Without saying which countries he was talking about, Ashton Carter, the U. S. secretary of defence, said in January some U.S. allies were “free-riders” in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant because of their unwillingness to commit combat forces to the fight against Islamic extremism.

But he might as well also have been speaking about how deeply disappointed the U.S., Britain and France are at how little Canada spends on defence.

NATO’s target for defence spending is two per cent of gross domestic product. Canada spends less than half that, the least of any major nation in the 28-country alliance. With a budget deficit that will likely grow from nearly zero to as much as $30 billion this year, it is highly unlikely Canada will increase what it spends on defence any time soon.

Nonetheless, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s modest contribution of six CF-18 Hornets has been useful because Canada was “one of a handful of countries” to allow its aircraft to launch airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria, Brown said. “Because of their flexibility ... we were able to act on specific targets and in specific areas.”

It was good for the coalition Canada was keeping two spy planes (CP-140 Auroras) and an in-air refueller (a CC-150 Polaris) in the Middle East and increasing the number of its trainers in Iraq.

“With time we understand this adversary (ISIL) more and more,” Brown said.

“We have gone very hard against them here the past several months at their ability to resource themselves, hitting some of their oil facilities as well as some of their bank facilities and cash collection points. I know for a fact from the ‘intel’ that this is hurting them. When they have difficulty paying their fighters, their morale gets lower.”

Canadian and other coalition aircraft have been “pounding these guys so hard,” ISIL has been unable to launch any major offensives since last spring and is slowly losing territory in Iraq, he said, adding as a result resistance on the ground has been less than had been expected.

CAF To Expand Arctic Training Centre

Written by David Pugliese, Defense Watch 

As Russia continues to boost its military presence in the Arctic, the Canadian Forces is planning to expand its Arctic training centre, turning the remote installation into a hub that can support operations, both defence- and science-oriented, year-round if needed.

Canada opened the centre in 2013, with the military sharing the Resolute Bay facility with Natural Resources Canada (NRC), which uses the site for polar research. The centre was originally a NRC facility that was expanded to house and support 120 soldiers. Training exercises, such as the recently finished Arctic Ram, are held in the winter months.

But now the Forces wants to provide more space for equipment and to allow for operations year-round. “We need to build (on) what we’ve got right now in terms of capacity,” said Lt.- Col. Luc St-Denis, who co-ordinates training at the centre.

“January to April is a small season. There is potential for more than that, especially in the springtime and summertime.” Other countries are also expanding their presence in the Far North. Russia’s defence ministry recently completed a military base on an island in its territory in the Arctic Ocean.

That installation, the second one in the Arctic to be built by the Russians, is designed to operate year-round and house around 150 soldiers. Russia also plans to eventually build 13 airstrips and six smaller bases in its Arctic territories as it looks to exploit minerals, gas and other natural resources in the region. St- Denis said the Canadian military also wants to develop additional training locations, such as small-arms ranges, in the Resolute Bay area, with the agreement of the local community and the government of Nunavut. entre would see “more storage, more capacity to get more equipment in, pre- positioning more equipment so we don’t spend a fortune on airlift or chartered aircraft,” St-Denis explained. “It is very expensive to bring stuff here.”

The centre is currently equipped with trucks and tracked vehicles for over-snow travel. St-Denis said incinerators could also be built to dispose of waste and keep the environmental impact on the area to a minimum. “We support scientific research,” he explained. “We want to do more with that. It is a logistics capability. We’ve got the warehouse and the kit.” But any expansion could take years because of the short construction season in the region.

It’s also unclear how the new Liberal government will proceed with defence policy in the Arctic.

Under former prime minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative government put much emphasis on expanding the military’s presence in the Far North. It announced a number of projects, although not all have proceeded smoothly. The construction of a new icebreaker hasn’t yet begun, falling behind schedule. So has the construction of a fleet of Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships. A proposed naval facility at Nanisivik, Nunavut, has been downgraded in scope because of a lack of money. And the purchase of new aircraft to replace the RCAF’s 40-year-old Twin Otter planes used in the Arctic has also been delayed.

But a number of Conservative government initiatives for the Arctic, including the expansion of the Canadian Rangers and the creation of Arctic Response Companies, have proceeded. In addition, it was the Conservatives who developed the Arctic training centre, which opened in August 2013.

Government to Adjust CSC Fleet Design Process for Speedier Delivery

Written by David Pugliese, The National Post 

The Canadian government is looking at changing course on the largest shipbuilding program in Canadian history and will now examine combining bids for new warships into one package in the hopes that will allow vessels to be constructed more quickly.

The $26-billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project will see a new fleet built to replace the navy’s destroyers and frigates. The plan established by the Conservatives was to have companies submit design bids and to consider separate bids for the integration of the various systems on board those vessels. But the federal government will now look at combining those two processes, with a designer and integrator submitting a combined bid.

The government will decide in a few months on how it wants to proceed.

“One competitive process versus two is much faster,” Lisa Campbell, assistant deputy minister for acquisitions at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said in an interview Tuesday. “It takes out a whole bunch of the design technical risk of trying to fit together a combat systems integrator with a warship design that possibly was more customized.”

The warship designs will be off the-shelf vessels, she added. “We’re talking about existing designs,” Campbell said. “That eliminates a lot of technical risk and will get us to building ships sooner.”

The first of the Canadian Surface Combatants were supposed to be delivered around 2026. But Campbell said this new process would allow for the first ship to be delivered in the early 2020s.

She said Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding will still be prime contractor for the surface combatants, but the government will ensure there is maximum use of other Canadian firms on the program.

A retired Rear Admiral of the Royal British Navy will be a lead adviser on the Canadian Surface Combatant program.

As many as 80 domestic companies could potentially provide equipment, and the bids from the warship designer and integrator will be evaluated in part on how well those firms are represented.

“We decide the evaluation process,” said Campbell. “They (Irving) execute it.”

Government officials are now talking to industry representatives about the changes. Two variants of the new ships are expected to be built. One type will provide air defence and command and control, while the other will be a general purpose type to do the jobs now handled by Canada’s Halifaxclass frigates.

The CSC project has been dogged with controversy and concerns about delays and increasing costs.

Last year Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, head of the Royal Canadian Navy, acknowledged the project’s cost would be well above its $26-billion budget.

The Liberal government has committed to moving ahead with the surface combatant program, putting emphasis on the number of jobs it could create.

During the election campaign, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pledged to pull Canada out of the U.S.-led F-35 stealth fighter program and select a less costly jet to replace the military’s CF18s. Those savings would be pumped into the shipbuilding program, which the Liberals contend is not properly financed.

Defence analysts, however, have suggested the Liberals will be hard-pressed to find many savings from the jet replacement program.

Campbell said the shipbuilding strategy is now proceeding well. “The shipyards had to get to a certain industrial capacity before we would let them start building ships,” she said. “They are exactly at the point in time we thought they would be right now.”

On Monday, Public Services Minister Judy Foote announced that Steve Brunton has been selected as “expert adviser” to assist the government on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Brunton is a retired rear admiral from the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy with experience in overseeing shipbuilding programs and naval acquisitions.

Campbell said Brunton is one of several independent advisers brought on board.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Canadian LAV's Appear to have made an Entrance into Saudi-Yemini Conflict


Canadian-made armoured vehicles appear to be embroiled in Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemeni-based Houthi rebels – caught up in cross-border hostilities that critics say should force Ottawa to reconsider a $15-billion deal to sell Riyadh more of these weapons.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis – who are aligned with Iran – has already been accused by a United Nations panel of major human-rights violations for what its report called “widespread and systematic” air-strike attacks on civilian targets. Along the Saudi-Yemen border, constant skirmishes pit Houthi fighters against Saudi ground forces such as the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

The Saudi Arabian National Guard, a buyer of many Canadian-made light armoured vehicles (LAVs) in the past decade, has published photos on its official Twitter account showing how in late 2015 it moved columns of combat vehicles to Najran, a southwestern Saudi town near the border with Yemen that is in the thick of the conflict.

The Saudi Arabian National Guard, a buyer of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles, posted this photo on Twitter in November, 2015. It shows combat vehicles being moved to Najran, a Saudi town near the border with Yemen.
A photo posted to Twitter by thee Saudi National Guard shows what appear to be Canadian made LAVs being delivered to the front lines of the Saudi-Yemini Conflict. 
A significant number of vehicles in the photos have the triangular front corners, the eight wheels and the headlamps fixed above these triangles that are familiar features in earlier LAV models made in Canada.

Neither the Liberal government nor LAV-maker General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ont., would confirm these are Canadian machines.

But a retired Canadian general consulted by The Globe and Mail, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the LAVs being transported to Najran as fighting vehicles made by General Dynamics Land Systems. Stephen Priestley, a researcher with the Canadian American Strategic Review, a think tank that tracks defence spending, also identified the LAVs as Canadian-made.

Critics say having Canadian-made arms enmeshed in a conflict that has claimed more than 2,800 civilian lives should prompt Ottawa to rethink the recent $15-billion deal to sell hundreds or thousands more to the Saudis.

Canada’s export control rules for weapons shipments are supposed to require Ottawa to restrict arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia, that have “poor human-rights records.” Saudi Arabia, regularly ranked among the “worst of the worst” on human rights by Freedom House, qualifies for special scrutiny.

The same federal weapons export controls also say Canada should “closely control,” or be very discriminating, about shipments to countries “that are involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s department refused comment Monday when pressed on whether it is concerned about the armoured vehicle shipments, saying it’s bound to secrecy on anything to do with arms sales to the Saudis.

“In regards to your request, please see our response: For reasons of commercial confidentiality, specific contractual details cannot be shared,” Tania Assaly, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs said in a prepared statement.

The Trudeau Liberals keep trying to dissociate themselves from the increasingly controversial deal. Last week, Mr. Dion argued his government merely inherited the contract and that cancelling it would cost taxpayers huge penalties. Pressed on this, Mr. Dion’s department refused to provide details to back up the Foreign Minister’s assertion, citing the need to keep the commercial pact with Riyadh secret.

General Dynamics Land Systems Canada of London, Ont., which employs about 2,100 people, did not respond to a request for comment about whether it is concerned about the LAVs caught up in the Saudi-Yemen conflict.

Ken Epps with the anti-war group Project Ploughshares, which tracks arms sales, said the Liberal government should rethink the latest $15-billion contract with Saudi Arabia. Ottawa, not General Dynamics Land Systems, is the prime contractor in this deal, which was also brokered by the federal government.

The Trudeau government still has power over the deal. It can suspend exports of these combat vehicles.

“Given a UN report accused the Saudis of war crimes because of their bombing of civilians, then clearly our concern must be that since they are involved in war crimes there, it should give the Canadian government additional pause in shipping these kind of weapons to them,” Mr. Epps said.

The $15-billion Saudi LAV deal will provide Riyadh with weaponized armoured vehicles in what is the largest manufacturing export contract in Canadian history – but one that doesn’t garner significant public support. A recent Nanos Research poll found nearly six out of 10 Canadians surveyed feel it is more important to ensure arms exports go only to countries “that respect human rights” than it is to sustain some 3,000 jobs by selling combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

A new report says Saudi Arabia was the second-largest arms importer in the world between 2011 and 2015 after India as Mideast countries upped weapons purchases significantly. Shipments to Saudi Arabia rose 275 per cent in those years, by value, compared with the earlier 2006-10 period, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.

At least one wartime footage video posted on YouTube on the Houthi-Saudi conflict also shows what appears to be a disabled Canadian-made LAV, presumably abandoned by Saudi troops as their enemies approached.

Mr. Priestley said this December, 2015, video, purported to be shot near the southern Saudi town of Al Raboah, shows a National Guard LAV-AG model, made in London, Ont., being looted by combatants.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Libya must be next front in the war against ISIS

Written by: Matthew Fisher, National Post 

Canada’s larger training mission with the Peshmerga in northern Iraq will not get underway until the back half of May, but preliminary discussions are already underway about what must come next.

Photo: CAF Combat Camera: OP IMPACT
The U.S. has performed airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Libya, and Italian, British and French forces are planning an international mission there, but Ottawa has said little about Canadian involvement in the country.

And what must come next is Libya.

Turning the Islamic State group back in Mesopotamia is the first part of a larger battle to rein in this gang of murderous religious zealots whose ambitions are much greater than simply dominating a stretch of desert between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Although a long way from being defeated, Islamic State appears today to be on the defensive in Iraq. But the Daesh brand — and those who claim an allegiance to it and its dream of a vast caliphate where Shariah law is supreme — continues to grow in other parts of the Islamic world, from Southeast Asia to Afghanistan, subSaharan Africa and North Africa.

This is especially true of Libya, which has been allowed to devolve into a lawless state since NATO warplanes deposed Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s importance is obvious: it sits at the crossroads between southern Europe and Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where Islamic terror is encouraging others in equatorial Africa, and it has a malignant influence on events in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.

Islamic State is already causing grief for Egypt and putting pressure on Israel because of its machinations in the Sinai Peninsula, where the independent Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping organization is led by a Canadian — Maj.-Gen. Denis Thompson, who once ran Canada’s war in Kandahar.

How will NATO respond if Islamic State becomes seaborne and uses North Africa as a launching point for terrorist attacks on southern Europe or to disrupt trade in the Mediterranean? After all, unlike Iraq and Syria, Libya is practically in Europe’s backyard. Tripoli is less than a thousand kilometres from Greece and Italy, and even closer to Malta, with its strong ties to Britain and membership in the European Union.

What role Canada and the West might play across this much broader canvas is already being talked about in Ottawa, at NATO headquarters in Belgium and at announced and unannounced meetings in Washington, D.C., Europe and the Middle East.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the marine who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke late last month of the need “to take decisive action” against the group in Libya. U.S. jets and drones carried out airstrikes three days ago against an Islamic State training camp on the Mediterranean coast near Tunisia, and U.S. special forces are undoubtedly already conducting covert operations in the neighbourhood.

An Italian three-star general is to lead an eventual international military mission in Libya, although what shape it will take and what its mandate will be remains unclear. The British will help the Italians. The French are to be involved, too.

Ottawa has said almost nothing publicly about its potential involvement there. However, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had private talks about Libya in Europe in December and again this month.

In many respects an international operation against Islamic State in Libya would be tailor-made for Canada, given the Trudeau government’s championing of what has been described as Canada’s unique expertise in helping failed states with a comprehensive approach that includes governance, humanitarian aid and development.

Another f actor t hat should compel Canada to act: we bear some responsibility for the chaos now gripping Libya. A Canadian general, Charlie Bouchard, ran the successful NATO air campaign against Gadhafi in 2011. Regrettably, neither Canada — which contributed CF-18 fighters to that push — nor its allies had any plan to restore order in Libya once Gadhafi was gone. The anarchy that followed the dictator’s death created a vacuum Islamic State has inevitably and ruthlessly exploited.

Canada’s special forces, already assisting the Peshmerga in Iraq, will likely be involved in Libya. But these commandos should only be a small part of an eventual whole-of-government approach using parts of Canada’s Afghan template, which could involve conventional forces serving as trainers, as well as experts from half a dozen government ministries and agencies to help establish the stability that Libya desperately needs.

The bedlam in Libya presents the UN Security Council with an opportunity to pass a resolution authorizing an international response to Libya. For once, Western, Russian and Chinese interests may be in sync on such an undertaking.

The Islamic State’s rise in Iraq and Syria happened largely because the West and its Arab allies were asleep to the consequences, including the refugee crisis it spawned. The key for Canada and its allies is to get ahead of the group for once, and end its ability to dominate the narrative. Eliminate the jihadists in Libya before they can establish the deep roots there that they have now in Iraq and Syria.

Current Liberal Advisory on Iraq Criticized Tories on "Non-Combat"

Written by: LEE BERTHIAUME Ottawa Citizen

The Current Liberal Foreign Affairs Advisory also backed airstrikes against the Islamic State.

Less than a year before becoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy guru, Roland Paris blasted the Conservative government for not being upfront about the fact that Canadian troops in northern Iraq were indeed engaged in combat.

The comments were made in a January 2015 blog post written for the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies, where Paris was director. They came after the Tories revealed that Canadian soldiers had been operating on the front lines with the Kurdish forces they were advising and assisting.

The Conservatives as well as senior military officers maintained the mission was non-combat, even though Canadian troops were calling in airstrikes and had engaged in firefights with Islamic State fighters. But Paris accused the government of “redefining” combat, and said Canadians deserved the truth.

“Our national government — regardless of the political party in power — must be forthright with Canadians about something as serious as putting Canadian soldiers into combat situations,” Paris wrote.

“Wars, especially long wars (as this one is likely to be), must be rooted in public trust. A lack of forthrightness erodes that trust.”

The Trudeau government is now presiding over the exact same type of mission. And like the Conservatives before them, they insist Canadians are not engaged in combat.

The fact the Liberals have followed the Conservatives in also using the term non-combat, even though Canadian soldiers are doing the same thing as before, has emerged as a political headache for the government after it promised during the election to end combat operations.

In his blog post, Paris raised and then answered nine questions about the Iraq mission. The first: “Is Canada engaged in ground combat?” His answer: “Yes.” Paris went on to accuse prime minister Stephen Harper and defence chief Gen. Tom Lawson of “walking a tightrope” in trying to explain why it isn’t combat.

Paris, who was appointed Trudeau’s foreign policy adviser in November, wrote that the Iraq mission had become a victim of “mission creep,” in which a small military operation slowly drags a country deeper into war.

“It became clear last week that the terms of Canada’s operation had changed,” Paris said. “Canada’s new front-line role — as well as our leaders’ redefinition of what counts as combat — unquestionably represent mission creep.”

As part of its new mission in Iraq and Syria, the Liberal government has ended Canadian airstrikes against Islamic State. But it has also tripled the number of soldiers assigned to work with Kurdish forces to 200, and will deploy helicopters to help move the troops and ferry equipment and supplies.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, has said there will be no change to what Canadian troops are doing there. This includes accompanying Kurdish forces to the front lines, calling in airstrikes and fighting Islamic State forces when necessary.

But the government and Vance insist the mission is non-combat. Vance rejected suggestions Friday that he was tailoring the definition of combat to suit the Liberal government’s needs, saying he was the “expert on what is combat,” and telling those who don’t like his definition: “Too bad.”

In his blog post, Paris said Canada was the first country to “tinker with the definition of ‘ combat’ and move ‘advisers’ into a front-line role.” And he said having Canadian soldiers on the front lines with the Kurdish forces they are “advising and assisting” was unnecessary.

“In the final years of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, for instance, our troops trained Afghan forces in military facilities behind the wire and did not accompany Afghan forces on tactical operations,” he wrote.

“Indeed, the U.S. military indicated last week that American troops currently in Iraq are not being deployed with Iraqi units to front-line positions. Rather, they are training Iraqis behind the wire at four major military bases.

“The assertion that deploying Canadian troops to the front lines is an inevitable element of advising and assisting is, therefore, misleading.”

Paris did support expanding Canada’s mission in northern Iraq, noting that Australia had about 200 soldiers on the ground. But he said such an increase in the number of Canadian trainers should be done “while simultaneously clarifying and tightening guidelines on the deployment of these forces to front-line positions.”

He also called for a redoubling of non-military assistance to address the root causes of instability in the Middle East and North Africa, and offered qualified support for Canada continuing to bomb Islamic State in Iraq.

“As long as Canada’s CF18s can play a useful role,” he wrote, “it is reasonable to continue this deployment, provided we remain convinced that the overall mission is achievable, and that there are not more compelling demands for the CF-18s when we have to make this decision.”

Canadian warplanes conducted their last airstrikes in Iraq and Syria last week.

HMCS Protecteur Leaving CFB Esquimalt Wednesday to be Dismantled

It is almost the end of the line for HMCS Protecteur. The Royal Canadian Navy's AOR that has was in service between August of 1969 to May of 2015 is getting ready for its final voyage.

hmcs protecteur sized

David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen reported this morning that HMCS Protecteur is on its way to be dismantled. 

Here is the rest of his article:

Crews worked over the weekend at CFB Esquimalt to ensure HMCS Protecteur is ready to be towed to the east coast where it will be dismantled.

HMCS Protecteur is now expected to be towed starting Wednesday after a few delays meant that the ship could not leave on its originally planned date of Monday, February 22, 2016, Royal Canadian Navy officials toldDefence Watch.

In January Defence Watch reported that R.J. MacIsaac Construction of Antigonish, NS. had won a $39 million contract to dispose of HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Protecteur. Both ships are now paid off/decommissioned and at CFB Esquimalt, BC.

The plan is to tow the vessels to the east coast where they will be dismantled. The operation will involve towing the ships through the Panama Canal, according to officials. No details were available on the cost to tow the ships from the west coast to the east coast.

Christopher Clarke, mayor of Queens Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia where much of the work is expected to be done, had earlier told Halifax’s Chronicle Herald that HMCS Protecteur would arrive on the east coast around April 1. HMCS Algonquin will arrive in early July to be dismantled, according to government officials.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

RaceRocks BC to act as Training Provider on Project Resolve

Another announcement out of British Columbia for the Royal Canadian Navy's iAOR Project Resolve.

RaceRocks of Victoria, BC, recently signed a contract with Project Resolve Inc. to act as the tier-one training provider for the Royal Canadian Navy’s Resolve-Class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship, MV Asterix, which is now under conversion at Chantier Davie Canada Inc. in Quebec.

RaceRocks had previously signed a Letter Of Intent with Project Resolve in September 2015. The LOI allowed RaceRocks to commence its activities and collaborate with Project Resolve on planning the training requirements until the Liberal government awarded, in late November, the contract to proceed with the ship conversion.

RaceRocks will now complete all activities required to deliver the requisite training systems for the Resolve Class AOR by the spring of 2017. The work will be executed by a pan-Canadian team with RaceRocks as prime, as well as with sub-contractors in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.

“It’s important to note that we did an extensive survey of the naval training service providers situated here in Canada and we determined very quickly that RaceRocks and its exclusive Atlantic partner, Modest Tree of Halifax, not only provide the most cutting-edge naval training solutions available, but are able to do so at a fraction of the cost,” Spencer Fraser, Project Resolve Inc CEO, said in a statement.

OSI to supply INBS fpr Project Resolve iAOR

Originally Published by MaritimeLog 

The Burnaby, BC, headquartered OSI Maritime Systems (OSI) has signed an agreement with shipbuilder Chantier Davie Canada Inc. to provide an Integrated Navigation and Bridge System (INBS) for the interim fleet oiler currently being created at its Lévis, Quebec, shipyard.

"We are extremely pleased to be working with Davie on this very innovative project that requires taking a commercial ship and converting it into a military vessel," said OSI President and CEO Ken Kirkpatrick. "We all benefit, from East to West, when Canadian projects are built by Canadians."

As part of the agreement, OSI will deliver and install an INBS on the Resolve-Class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship. The project involves the conversion of the container vessel M.V. Asterix into an Auxiliary Oil Replenishment (AOR) ship designed to meet the Royal Canadian Navy's (RCN) supply ship requirements.

"There is an imminent need for the ship," said Mr. Kirkpatrick, "and as such we expect an aggressive build schedule – it's an exciting project, and we'll emulate the design we are providing for the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship program, this will benefit the RCN by providing it with a technically advanced navigation system and an opportunity to encourage bridge design commonality across the fleet."

"By selecting OSI for the Resolve-Class AOR, we are ensuring commonality across the RCN's future fleet as well as helping to strengthen the entire Canadian marine industry," said Alan Bowen, CEO of Davie Shipbuilding. "The bridge and propulsion systems onboard the Resolve-Class AOR will feature certain enhanced functions which will be unique to this class of ship."

OSI's Integrated Navigation and Tactical System (INTS) is a fully scalable, IMO and NATO STANAG 4564 WECDIS compliant INBS that offers a flexible design able to meet the requirements of demanding military environments. Centered around OSI's ECPINS, INTS integrates selected radars and navigation sensors, providing a comprehensive and cost effective military IBS.

Canadian Panel To Guide Major Military Procurements

By: David Pugliese, Defense News 

VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian government has formed a Cabinet committee to shepherd high-profile defense purchases, including those of fighter aircraft, through the country’s notoriously problem-plagued procurement system.

The committee will oversee billions of dollars in new purchases and ensure they do not get stalled in a federal bureaucracy that has seen other defense acquisitions derailed or delayed for years.

The committee, which has the political clout to liaison directly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will keep tabs on the Canadian Surface Combatant project, which will see the building of new warships to replace Canada’s destroyers and frigates; the fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft program; the logistics vehicle modernization program, which will provide trucks for the Canadian Army; the replacement for the CF-18 fighter jets; and the acquisition of an Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel.

The Liberal government has promised to overhaul Canada’s procurement system and cut through the red tape that has created delays of up to a decade on some large acquisitions.

“Procurement has become paralyzed,” Trudeau complained in September, a month before he won the federal election and became prime minister.

During the campaign, Trudeau noted his government would ensure all equipment acquisitions operate with “vastly improved timelines and vigorous parliamentary oversight," while “providing the necessary, decisive, involved, and accountable Cabinet leadership to drive major programs to a timely and successful conclusion.”

The committee is made up of Procurement Minister Judy Foote, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Scott Brison, the president of the Treasury Board.

The Liberal government declined to discuss details about the committee.

But Alan Williams, the Department of National Defence’s former procurement chief, said the list represents some of the key equipment purchases over the next five to 10 years. Williams said that while government efforts to try and fix procurement system problems is welcome, he questioned whether the committee would make matters worse.

“You have four ministers each bringing their own views to the table and each representing federal departments with their own agendas,” said Williams. “They’re going to want studies. They’re going to want reviews. I can see this actually slowing down the process.

Williams said if the government wants to ensure a smoother procurement system, it should place one minister in charge of military acquisitions.

“Put one minister in charge, hold him or her accountable, get people in place who understand the process and get it right for all projects, not just four or five,” he explained.

Of the projects to be monitored by the committee, only the acquisition of fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft has made any progress. Bids for that CAN $3.1 billion (US $2.3 billion) acquisition were submitted Jan. 11.

“It is estimated that the evaluation period for the selection of the successful bidder, which includes aircraft testing, may take up to six months,” said Pierre-Alain Bujold, spokesman for Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The government provided no details on when the winning company would be announced, but aerospace firms are expecting that to happen in late 2016 or early 2017.

Canada’s previous Conservative Party government tried to overhaul the procurement system in February 2014 but little was accomplished. The Conservative government had to deal with a series of high-profile failed or controversial military procurements over the last several years, sparking criticism in both the House of Commons and news media.

The $2 billion project to purchase new close combat armored vehicles for the Army was canceled. Canada’s purchase of F-35 fighter aircraft was thrown into turmoil several years ago after a report by the government’s auditor found Defence Department officials withheld key information from Parliament about the jet, under-estimated costs and didn’t follow proper procurement rules.

In 2008 the procurement of a fleet of supply ships for the Royal Canadian Navy was scuttled. It has been restarted but the ships aren’t expected until 2021.

New Arctic offshore patrol ships, which were to be in the water in 2012, have yet to be built. The first is expected to be ready in 2018.

Liberals Have Not 100% Ruled out F-35 as Replacement for RCAF CF-18s

By: Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau, The Toronto Star, 

OTTAWA—It’s controversial, costly and apparently back on Ottawa’s radar as a possible pick for Canada’s air force.

After ruling out the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet last fall as a possible replacement for the aging CF-18s, the Liberals now appear to be leaving the door open after all.

Speaking at a defence conference in Ottawa Thursday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was asked pointblank whether the F-35 would be considered in the competition to replace the current fleet of fighters.

Sajjan pointedly did not rule out the possibility, saying the selection process will be “open.”

“The real issue here is we want to make sure that we replace the F-18 and have a suitable aircraft that meets the needs of Canada. That’s what we’re committed to do,” Sajjan said.

He said the Liberals are committed to a “thorough process” to make sure that Canada gets the “right” jet to replace the CF-18s, which were purchased starting in 1982.

“We’ll build the right requirements for Canada and then we’ll see how that plays out in terms of which companies want to come forward,” he said.

The previous Conservative government had originally announced its intention to buy F-35s in 2010 but then put that decision on hold in late 2012 after the auditor general flagged concerns about the potential price tag.

But during last October’s election campaign, the Liberals declared the F-35 would not be a contender for the Canadian air force. “We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber,” stated the party’s platform.

Justin Trudeau said during the campaign that scrapping any purchase of the F-35 would free up “tens of billions of dollars” in savings that could instead be spent on revitalizing the Royal Canadian Navy.

Sajjan also spoke about the promised defence review, which will examine the required capabilities and potential roles for the Canadian military.

Sajjan said some priorities will remain unchanged — the defence of Canada and North America and contributions to international peace operations.

“We have to focus on capabilities, that perfect mix of personnel, training and equipment,” Sajjan said. “We want the Canadian Armed Forces to be flexible, appropriately resourced and able to respond quickly.”

The minister said the Liberals will continue with the increased funding for the defence department acfirst pledged by the Conservatives “but we may want to allocate that money differently.”

He also ruled out any reductions in the number of personnel in uniform.

“In fact, the conversations I’m having right now (are) about where do we need to increase some of the personnel,” Sajjan said.

Sajjan said the review would be done by the end of the year.

HMCS Windsor Needs New Battery: Docked in Norfolk

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

HMCS Windsor has docked at the Norfolk naval base in Virginia after the Canadian submarine ran into mechanical issues while at sea.

The submarine was heading towards Halifax on Monday when an issue emerged with its battery. Royal Canadian Navy officers ordered the sub to Norfolk.

Commodore Craig Baines told the Canadian Press news service that the sub arrived at that U.S. Navy base on Thursday.

It is unclear when the problem will be dealt with and when the diesel-electric submarine will be back on its way to Halifax.

The RCN noted the problem started when crew members found that a battery cell was leaking.

The submarine’s battery is around five years old and has an expected lifespan of up to six years, according to the RCN.

The batteries were to be replaced by the end of the year.

HMCS Windsor recently completed in December the longest deployment of any Victoria-class submarines. The RCN noted that it had spent more than 100 days at sea in support of NATO and on various exercises.

In December 2012, a defect was identified with one of HMCS Windsor’s two diesel generators during sea trials, according to the RCN. These diesel generators are part of the main submarine battery-charging system.

Details from the RCN on Windsor’s propulsion system:

Main Motor: One 86.36 ton General Electric Company 4.028 MW dual armature electric motor

Diesel Generators: 2 x 2,035 horsepower Paxman Valenta 1600 RPA SZ

Main Battery: 8800 Ah battery divided between 2 compartments