Friday, August 19, 2016

F/A-18 & F-35 Come Face to Face in Canada

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

Last weekend the unicorn finally came to Canada.

Sitting on the tarmac at the Abbotsford Air Show, the F-35 stealth fighter made its first appearance in this country. Recently declared combat-ready by the U.S. Air Force — though critics point out much more work needs to be done on the jet — officials with its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, were jokingly referring to it by the name of the mythical beast, because it’s been talked about here so much and seen not at all.

An F-35A fighter aircraft during a flypast at the Abbotsford International Airshow on Aug. 11. “It’s hard to find bad news” about the plane, said pilot Lt.-Col. Curtis Pitts. “It’s all good news.” Both Lockheed and Boeing are promoting their longtime presence in Canada as part of their pitch. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS
But the plane’s appearance in Abbotsford marked the first major shot in the next phase of the high-stakes marketing battle to sell a new fighter to the Canadian Forces.

And the two main contenders in that battle — Boeing with its Super Hornet and Lockheed with the F-35 — came face-to-face in Abbotsford.

“There’s no better vehicle to educate the public than to allow them to see the actual aircraft,” said Jack Crisler, one of Lockheed Martin’s top F-35 officials. “It’s here. It’s real.”

The Liberal government is expected to decide within months how it wants to proceed on replacing Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighters.

Justin Trudeau came to power last fall pledging that a Liberal government wouldn’t buy the F-35, an aircraft he said was too expensive and unnecessary given Canada’s needs.

That should have been the kiss of death for Lockheed Martin. But Crisler said he’s feeling good these days about how Canada is moving ahead on the fighter jet file. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has talked about holding a fair and open competition. Lockheed Martin, along with other aircraft firms, recently submitted information to the government about their planes, and met Monday with federal officials.

“It looks like we’re being included, so we look forward to competing on that basis,” Crisler said.

“I’m certainly more optimistic than I was in December 2015.”

The controversial stealth fighter became a political nightmare for the Harper government after it pledged to buy 65 of the planes, which were plagued by technology problems and complaints from U.S. lawmakers about their cost.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson found that Canadian defence officials withheld key information from parliament about the proposed purchase, underestimated the costs of the jets and didn’t follow proper procurement rules.

In June, Lockheed Martin almost saw its hopes of selling planes to Canada disappear completely. The Liberal government was close to moving on an interim purchase of Super Hornets and Trudeau claimed the F-35 “does not work and is far from working.”

That prompted Lockheed Martin to warn that Canadian companies who had contracts on the F-35 would suffer. Plans for a Super Hornet interim deal seemed to disappear.

As for Trudeau’s F-35 comment, Crisler has a diplomatic response: “The evidence is not consistent with a statement like that. If you’re not living it day-to-day, you might not see that.” At the Boeing tent at the Abbotsford air show, officials smiled while pointing out the F-35 wasn’t going to be showcased in a flight demonstration that weekend. In contrast, their Super Hornets roared back and forth in front of the crowds on both days of the show.

“This is a remarkable event where we can show what our aircraft are capable of,” said top Boeing official Roberto Valla.

A Boeing representative providing commentary for the demonstrations introduced the Super Hornet as a “fifth generation stealth fighter” — a dig at Lockheed, which also bills the F-35 as such.

Boeing officials were happy to outline their sales pitch: their aircraft is combat proven, less expensive than the F-35 and will be operating with the U.S. military until at least 2040.

During a demonstration in which a Postmedia reporter flew in one of the planes, Boeing pilot Ty Frautschi claimed the Super Hornet’s capabilities are suited to both combat and Arctic patrols; its two engines provide added safety for northern flights. The jet is designed to take the pounding from short landings on aircraft carriers, he said, which would also help it handle the short runways at the Canadian military’s forward operating locations in the Arctic.

Both Lockheed and Boeing are promoting their longtime presence in Canada as part of their pitch. By September, Crisler said, Canadian firms will have been awarded US$1 billion worth of work on the F-35.

For its part, in conjunction with the air show, Boeing announced the opening of a new software lab in Vancouver, including 50 new jobs.

Crowds gathered to gawk and take photos of the planes, though the two F-35s didn’t fly. The U.S. Air Force pilots that flew them up from Utah were under strict rules not to discuss the Canadian situation.

Instead, they chatted about the aircraft’s capabilities. F-35 pilot Lt.-Col. Curtis Pitts highlighted the plane’s powerful radar and sensors, and the stealth technology that provides it with increased survivability. If necessary, Pitts said, he’d be ready to go to war in the F-35 today. “It’s hard to find bad news” about the plane, said Pitts. “It’s all good news.”

In the end, though, the Canadian Forces will have bad news for one of its suitors.

HMCS Vancouver to train with Australian Navy

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Vancouver has left Pearl Harbour to conduct operations in the Asia-Pacific region following Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), says the Royal Canadian Navy. The RCN pointed out in a news release that activities for the frigate will include participating in Exercise KAKADU, a joint, biennial exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy, and WESTPLOY 16, a deployment aimed at building strong ties between the Royal Canadian Navy and the navies of Asia-Pacific countries.

A total of 20 nations will participate in Exercise KAKADU, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, United States of America and Vietnam.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

CTV Exclusive: Canadian-trained forces clearing the way to retake Mosul from ISIS

Josh Dehaas, Writer
Published Monday, August 15, 2016 10:00PM EDT 

Exclusive: Canadian-trained forces clearing the way to retake Mosul from ISIS

CTV News has learned that Canadian-backed Kurdish forces have spent the past 48 hours clearing the way to take back Mosul, the last major stronghold of ISIS and its de facto capital in Iraq.

The Peshmerga spent Sunday and Monday reclaiming a dozen villages near Iraq’s second-biggest city, sources told CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson.

The Canadian Special Forces helped the Kurdish troops plan the operation and remained close enough to the combat that they could see the fighting and provide real-time advice -- but they were not on the frontline.

Iraqi Kurds advance near ISIS-held city
U.S., allies announce 'key moment' in fight against ISIS

No Canadian soldiers were injured.

David Fraser, a former NATO commander in Afghanistan, called Mosul “the most important objective” for the U.S.-led coalition.

ISIS fighters took the city in June 2014, despite being vastly outnumbered by Iraqi soldiers.

Fraser said taking Mosul back will “demonstrate to the world that (ISIS) is losing ground.”

In fact, more than 40 per cent of the territory seized by ISIS has already been taken back since coalition airstrikes began on Aug. 8, 2014.

Canada was contributing to those airstrikes until February, when the Liberals pulled Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets, while at the same time tripling the number of Special Forces trainers on the ground.

At the time, Interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose called the withdrawal from combat a “shameful step backward.”

More than 3.2 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes due to the ISIS, according to information gathered by the International Organization for Migration.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Logistics woes could strain military deployments


OTTAWA—Canada’s military is gearing up for a busy period of overseas deployments but the big task of ferrying troops and supplies to these dispersed missions could stretch defence resources thin, experts say.

With ongoing commitments in the Middle East and Ukraine, a newly announced force for Latvia and an expected mission in Africa, providing logistical support for these widely spread operations could be more than armed forces is able to handle, said retired general Lewis MacKenzie.

“What will make it borderline impossible is the logistics support,” MacKenzie said.

“Forget about asking whether we have the combat arms capability. It’s whether we have the logistics capability to support them properly,” he said in an interview.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is currently on a five-country fact-finding mission in Africa as the Liberal government weighs options for a peace support mission in the region.

But defence analyst Dave Perry said the challenge for Canada’s military won’t be finding troops for that new mission but supporting them in the field.

Having significant operations ongoing in five sites across the globe — Latvia, Iraq, Kuwait, Ukraine and Africa — would test military logistics to keep provisions, gear and troop rotations flowing, he said.

“It’s fairly taxing on the forces’ support capacity,” he said in an interview, noting that the Royal Canadian Air Force has just five CC-177 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft.

“When you get into doing a lot of missions, a lot of times it’s the logistics and support people that get worn out the fastest,” said Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked National Peacekeepers’ Day last Tuesday with a pledge that Canada would be doing more on that front.

“Moving forward, we will increase Canada’s support to United Nations peace operations,” Trudeau said in a statement, renewing his pledge to boost personnel and training to UN peace support missions.

Part of the mandate that Trudeau gave Sajjan was to have the Canadian military do more to help the United Nations respond quicker to emerging conflicts.

As well, Sajjan’s mandate letter spelled out the desire to see Canada lead an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations.

Canada currently has just 31 military personnel attached to UN peace operations. Almost 10 months into their mandate, the Liberal government still has not increased that number. But academic Walter Dorn expects an announcement soon.

“To be fair, they’ve spent a long time thinking about this issue and now it’s time to act,” said Dorn, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada Canadian Forces College.

Sajjan’s Africa trip is meant to “help inform Canada’s re-engagement in peace operations,” according to his office.

Sajjan, himself a veteran of Canada’s Afghanistan mission, is accompanied by Roméo Dallaire, the retired lieutenant-colonel who led United Nations forces in 1993 in Rwanda, and Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Sajjan’s officials have cautioned not to read too much into his schedule, which will take the group to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Dorn sees three countries as potential locales for the new mission: Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. He said the Canadian forces has the capacity to have up to 3,000 people deployed worldwide without much difficulty, including 300 to 1,000 on a potential operation in Africa.

A sizable contingent could be deployed to Mali, where French and Dutch forces are already active. Smaller numbers could go to the other sites in perhaps a headquarters or support role.

Exactly where the deployment happens must be dictated by Canada’s own interests, Perry said.

“The government of Canada and the Canadian forces working on its behalf can go do good in the world in any number of its places,” Perry said.

“Beyond that, is there a particular mission set where there’s a closer connection to a Canadian national interest,” he said.

After engagements in Rwanda, Bosnia and Somalia, Dorn said that Canadians understand that such operations can be dangerous.

“There will be times when our peacekeepers will need to shoot, but I think the public will understand that we are in these conflict zones and that it’s sometimes necessary to use force,” Dorn said.

Perry prefers to use the term “peace support” rather than peacekeeping.

“Most of these places . . . there is no peace to keep,” Perry said. “There is a very real probability that the Canadian people we send over there are going to be in harm’s way.”



Current and pending deployments for Canadian troops

Ukraine: Some 200 troops are deployed in Ukraine until at least March 2017 as part of Operation Unifier to teach local forces skills that include weapons training, marksmanship, and ethics training as well as explosive ordnance disposal, combat first aid and logistics.

Mediterranean Sea: 250 sailors onboard the frigate HMCS Charlottetown deployed on Operation Reassurance, part of a NATO effort to bolster its presence in eastern European countries in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Iraq/Kuwait: Just over 800 personnel are deployed on Operation Impact, Canada’s contribution to the fight against Daesh extremists. Special forces soldiers are in northern Iraq training local peshmerga forces. Additional personnel are in Kuwait, where an air-to-air refueller and two reconnaissance aircraft are based.

Latvia: The Liberal government has pledged a new force of 450 troops that will form the core of a battle group in the eastern European country. The soldiers are expected to arrive in early 2017.

Africa: The government is in the midst of planning a new deployment for Canadian forces to support peace operations in Africa. Defence experts say this new force could number up to 600 personnel.

Canada's military plan for Africa will be for a 'long duration,' says Sajjan

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- The federal government will soon announce a plan to bolster United Nations peace efforts in Africa, including trans-border operations, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Monday, as he wrapped up a five-country, fact-finding mission to the continent.

"I do have a number that we will be announcing shortly that we can sustain for a long duration," Sajjan said during a teleconference from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And while no final decisions have been made yet on numbers, timing or location, Canada's contribution to a UN mission on the continent will involve more than the military and go beyond what would be considered a traditional peacekeeping role, Sajjan said.

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Whatever form the mission takes, it will also operate beyond the borders of individual countries, said the minister.

"We need to look at the area by regions," Sajjan explained.

"It's all interconnected. If we ended up looking at problems only within the confines of borders, then we are not going to have a true impact."

Establishing trans-border peace operations in Africa may prove difficult for the United Nations, which is already having difficulties manoeuvring through the politics of individual nations.

On Friday, the UN Security Council authorized an extra 4,000 troops to curb the latest violence plaguing South Sudan, a move that was almost immediately rejected by government officials there. That opposition was later softened by President Salva Kiir, who said he would consider the plan under certain conditions.

There has been fierce fighting in South Sudan in recent days, raising concerns that the country, which gained its independence in 2011, may slide back into civil war.

Canadian defence and foreign affairs officials have been assessing the possibility of Canada joining UN peacekeeping operations in Mali or the Central African Republic.

A mission in Mali would be fraught with risk. There are roughly 13,000 blue helmets in the country and more than 100 have been killed in ambushes and attacks since the mission was established in April to support a ceasefire between the government in the south and armed groups in the north.

As part of an effort to finalize Canada's commitment to boost the UN's numbers in Africa, Sajjan visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda before making his final stop in the Congo. He was accompanied by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour, who is also a former UN high commissioner for human rights, and retired lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire, who once commanded a UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda.

Defence analysts have questioned whether Canada is stretching itself too thin by contemplating multi-country commitments of military resources to Africa. Canadian Forces personnel are already involved in or preparing for training and other missions in Latvia, Iraq and Ukraine.

But Ottawa won't task the military with anything that commanders believe they can't handle, Sajjan said.