Thursday, September 29, 2016

U.S. approves Boeing, Lockheed fighter jet sales to Middle East Allies

Announced late yesterday, the US has approved sales of both the F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 Super Hornet to three Middle Eastern allies. This news might help Canada in its search for a replacement for the CF-18 Hornet's as it could possibly extend the Boeing Super Hornet production line to allow Canada time to buy the aircraft before it is official retired by the manufacturer. 

Here is the article announcing the sale: 

By: Andrea Shalal, Reuters -  Berlin Office 

The United States on Wednesday began notifying lawmakers that it has approved $7 billion in long-stalled sales of Boeing Co (BA.N) fighter jets to Kuwait and Qatar, and more than $1 billion in Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) jets to Bahrain, sources familiar with the decision said.

The sales had been pending for more than two years amid concerns raised by Israel, Washington's closest Middle East ally, that arms sold to Gulf Arab states could be used against it, and criticism of Qatar for alleged ties to armed Islamist groups.

U.S. officials began notifying lawmakers informally about the sale of 36 Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Qatar valued at around $4 billion, and 28 F/A- 18E/F Super Hornets, plus options for 12 more, to Kuwait for around $3 billion, the sources said.

They also told lawmakers about plans to sell 17 Lockheed F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain, plus upgrades of up to 20 additional aircraft.

The deals will be formally announced once the 40-day informal notification process has ended. Then lawmakers will have 30 days to block the sales, although such action is rare.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the U.S. government was poised to approve the long-delayed sales to Kuwait and Qatar.

The State Department said it could not comment on any ongoing government-to-government arms sales.

Delays in the process had caused frustration among U.S. defense officials and industry executives, who warned that Washington’s foot-dragging could cost them billions of dollars of business if buyers grew impatient and sought other suppliers.

The approval of the fighter jet sales comes as the White House tries to bolster relations with Gulf Arab allies who want to upgrade their military capabilities. They fear the United States is drawing closer to Iran, their arch-rival, after Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers last year.

Sources said officials at both the State Department and Pentagon had largely agreed to the deals some time ago, but had been awaiting final approval from the White House.

Qatar, home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, and Kuwait have ramped up military spending after uprisings across the Arab world and amid rising tensions between Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states and Iran, the region's Shi'ite power.

Both Qatar and Kuwait are part of a 34-nation alliance announced by Saudi Arabia in December aimed at countering Islamic State and al Qaeda militants in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

The sales will boost fighter production for both companies.

Boeing's F-15 line is set to close in 2019 after Boeing completes work on a large order for Saudi Arabia, unless a follow-on order is approved.

As orders slow, Boeing is increasingly relying on technology upgrades and services sales to maintain its revenue stream from fighter jets, Shelley Lavender, president of Boeing's military aircraft division, said in an interview.

The company is adding new technology to the F-15 and F/A-18 and other aircraft, and is refurbishing them on the same assembly lines use to build new aircraft, she said.

When the current fighter jet lines end, that loss of revenue will be offset by upgrade efforts. "We're blurring the traditional lines of new aircraft builds and sustainment," Lavender said.

Boeing's broad portfolio from commercial derivatives rotocraft, autonomous vehicles, fighters and weapons "will allow us to remain healthy for the decades to come," she said.

Byron Callan with Capital Alpha Partner said he expected all three sales to be approved.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Royal Canadian Navy to examine crew mix for Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

The Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels were originally to be entirely crewed by reservists. But over the years that has changed.

HMCS Moncton
HMCS Moncton sits at anchor in Pond Inlet, Nunavut. CAF File Photo (2015)

In a recent interview with Defence Watch, Vice Admiral Ron Lloyd, the head of the Royal Canadian Navy, explained what is happening with the MCDV crews and what will take place in the future. Here is what he had to say:

“Just recently we’ve taken a look at our experience with the MCDVs since their introduction. When we introduced that ship, we said we would have a reserve crewing model; my assessment would be that it probably worked for about the first five years. And then after that, essentially, rather than having a part-time crewing model, we ended up going to basically a full-time sailor.

We took a look at the training and what was required and we were always short of engineers. I think the initial crewing model was extraordinarily logical at the time we went with the reserve crewing model. Over the last several years it’s become clear that it’s unsustainable.”

Lloyd said about two years ago the RCN introduced the 60/40 construct. That saw the MCDV crews made up of 60 percent reserves, 40 percent regular force. “It’s been tremendously popular because the reserves are learning a lot from the regular force, and the regular force are learning a lot from the reserves,” Lloyd explained. “For a regular force sailor to be exposed to those leadership opportunities early in their career, it’s a great developmental opportunity for them.”

So what comes next on the MCDV crewing issue?

“We will continue to look at what the best mix is in terms of regular (and) reserve, recognizing that, as the Chief of Defence Staff and the Minister have said, reserves are more of a part-time, strategic augmentation force,” Lloyd explained. “Currently one could argue that the crewing model for our MCDVs isn’t in keeping with leadership intent. So we’ll be looking at that over the next little bit.”

Canadian Military Police launch Sexual Offence Response Team

Canadian Forces Press Release

The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal Brigadier-General Robert Delaney today officially announced the establishment of a new 18-member team dedicated to supporting the investigation of criminal sexual offences throughout the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence.

"Our job as Military Police is to protect the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families," said Brigadier-General Robert Delaney, Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and Commander of the Canadian Forces Military Police Group. "The creation of the Sexual Offences Response Team and the increase in personnel to tackle these crimes will enable us to better support victims of sexual misconduct and ensure timely, professional investigations."

The Sexual Offence Response Team, an Operation HONOUR initiative, increases the ability of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service to protect and support victims of sexually based offences by identifying, investigating, and helping prosecute persons responsible for criminal sexual offences.

The announcement at Canadian Forces Base Trenton officially recognized the establishment of the specially trained team that is already in place and conducting operations in six locations across Canada.

"The Sexual Offence Response Team adds to the strength of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and optimizes opportunities to successfully identify, investigate and bring to prosecution those persons responsible for criminal sexual offences in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces," said Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Bolduc, Commanding Officer, Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.

Also in attendance at the announcement was Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett, Director General, Canadian Armed Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct.

A majority of Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigations revolve around sexual related matters. The Sexual Offence Response Team provides investigators with a nucleus of expertise regarding historical investigative techniques; new trends in law enforcement concerning sexually based offences; and best practices for future sexual related investigations.

Frontline Military Police remain a key part of the investigative process as they are often the first point of contact for complainants in reporting any offence. Military Police often interact with victims as they attempt to deal with their trauma. The first and primary task in those situations is to support and protect victims.

The 18 investigators of the Sexual Offence Response Team are dispersed in three-member teams at the six Canadian Forces National Investigation Service’s regional offices located in Victoria, Edmonton, Borden, Ottawa, Valcartier and Halifax.

In addition to standard training received by all investigators in the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, members of the Sexual Offence Response Team also receive specialized training in investigating sexual assault; physical abuse and child death; investigating offences against children; investigative and forensic interviewing techniques; and trauma informed care training.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is a unit within the independent Canadian Forces Military Police Group whose mandate is to investigate serious and sensitive matters in relation to Department of National Defence property, Department of National Defence employees and Canadian Armed Forces personnel serving in Canada and around the world.

Any member who has experienced or witnessed harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour of any kind in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a range of options available to him or her. For more information regarding available services, please visit the Harmful and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour webpage.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Colombia peace agreement sets stage for Canadian Peacekeepers

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s largest rebel movement, signed a historic peace accord Monday night ending 50 years of war….and perhaps paving the way for Canadian peacekeepers to undertake a mission in that country.

The Liberal government is considering whether to send unarmed observers to help monitor the agreement. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office confirmed last week to the Canadian Press that Colombia is one of the options being considered as the government decides where to deploy upwards of 600 Canadian peacekeepers.

Canadian representatives have been in contact with the UN looking for more information about the observer mission in Colombia, including potential security hazards, the Canadian Press noted in its report.

Colombians are to vote on the peace agreement in a plebiscite on Oct. 2. If all goes as expected, the United Nations will begin deploying 450 unarmed observers to around 40 locations around Colombia soon after to begin monitoring implementation of the agreement, CP pointed out. The one-year monitoring mission would involve ensuring both sides adhere to the peace deal as FARC forces turn over their weapons and begin the process of reintegration into Colombian society, it added.

Below is the Associated Press article on the peace agreement in Colombia:

Underlining the importance of the deal, President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, signed the 297-page agreement before a crowd of 2,500 foreign dignitaries and special guests, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Many in the audience had tears in their eyes, and shouts rose urging Santos and Londono to “Hug, hug, hug!” But in the end, the two men just clasped hands and the rebel commander, also known as Timochenko, put on a pin shaped like a white dove that Santos has been wearing on his lapel for years. Seconds later five jets buzzed overhead in formation trailing smoke in the colours of Colombia’s flag.

During a minute of silence for the war’s victims, 50 white flags were raised. Everyone at the event wore white as a symbol of peace.

Santos proclaimed after the signing that the accord will help Colombia to stop the killing, to end the deaths of young people, the innocent, soldiers and rebels alike. He led the crowd in chants of “No more war! No more war! No more war!” and he urged Colombians to vote to accept the accord in the Oct. 2 national referendum that will determine if it takes effect.

Londono called Santos “a courageous partner” in reaching the peace deal through four hard years of negotiations, calling the accord “a victory for Colombian society and the international community.”

He also praised FARC’s fighters as heroes of the downtrodden in the struggle for social justice, but repeated the movement’s request for forgiveness for the war. “I apologize … for all the pain that we have caused,” he said.

The signing was greeted by wild cheers by about 1,000 FARC rebels in Sabanas del Yari, where the group recently concluded its last congress by endorsing the peace deal. “Yes, we can; yes, we can; yes, we can,” they shouted, followed by calls for Timochenko to be president.

“Let no one doubt that we are going into politics without weapons,” Londono said in his speech after the signing. “We are going to comply (with the accord) and we hope that the government complies,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Santos and foreign dignitaries attended a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, at a baroque church named for St. Peter Claver, a 17th century Jesuit priest revered as the “slave of slaves” for his role aiding tens of thousands of African slaves brought to the New World as chattel.

In a stirring homily, Pope Francis’ envoy praised Colombians for overcoming the pain of the bloody conflict to find common ground with the rebels.

“All of us here today are conscious of the fact we’re at the end of a negotiation, but also the beginning of a still open process of change that requires the contribution and respect of all Colombians,” the cardinal said.

Across the country Colombians marked the occasion with a host of activities, from peace concerts by top-name artists to a street party in the capital, Bogota, where the signing ceremony was to be broadcast live on a giant screen. It was also celebrated by hundreds of guerrillas gathered in a remote region of southern Colombia where last week top commanders ratified the accord in what they said would be their last conference as a guerrilla army.

Colombians will have the final say on endorsing or rejecting the accord in the Oct. 2 referendum. Opinion polls point to an almost-certain victory for the “yes” vote, but some analysts warn that a closer-than-expected finish or low voter turnout could bode poorly for the tough task the country faces in implementing the ambitious accord.

Among the biggest challenges will be judging the war crimes of guerrillas as well as state actors. Under terms of the accord, rebels who lay down their weapons and confess their abuses will be spared jail time and be allowed to provide reparations to their victims by carrying out development work in areas hard hit by the conflict.

That has angered some victims and conservative opponents of Santos, a few hundred of whom took to the streets Monday to protest what they consider the government’s excessive leniency toward guerrilla leaders responsible for scores of atrocities in a conflict fueled by the country’s cocaine trade.

To shouts of “Santos is a coward!” former President Alvaro Uribe, the architect of the decade-long, U.S.-backed military offensive that forced the FARC to the negotiating table, said the peace deal puts Colombia on the path to becoming a leftist dictatorship in the mould of Cuba or Venezuela — two countries that along with Norway played a vital role sponsoring the four-year-long talks.

“The democratic world would never allow bin Laden or those belonging to ISIL to become president, so why does Colombia have to allow the election of the terrorists who’ve kidnapped 11,700 children or raped 6,800 women?” he told protesters gathered in a working-class neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cartagena.

The stiff domestic opposition contrasts with widespread acclaim abroad for the accord — a rare example in a war-torn world of what can be achieved through dialogue. On Monday, European Union foreign policy co-ordinator Federica Mogherini said that with the signing of the peace agreement, the EU would suspend the FARC from its list of terrorist organizations.

Asked whether the U.S. would follow suit, Kerry was less willing to commit but expressed a possible openness to similar action.

“We clearly are ready to review and make judgments as the facts come in,” he told reporters. “We don’t want to leave people on the list if they don’t belong.”

Harper government ‘messed up’ jet-replacement process: Sajjan


Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says he’s moving as fast as a he can on finalizing a plan to replace Canada’s fighter jets but that the previous Conservative government “messed up” the process and that’s why things are taking so long,

“We’ve been moving on that as quickly as possible, but this file is extremely complex and it had been thoroughly, if I can say, messed up from the previous government and it has slowed things down,” Mr. Sajjan (Vancouver South. B.C.) said in an interview with The Hill Times last week. “We should have replaced our fighters a long time ago, and now we’re dealing with another potential capability gap for our Air Force.”

He said something would happen on this file “sooner rather than later” in terms of deciding on a process for picking a replacement to Canada's aging fleet of CF-18s.

Last week, the House of Commons National Defence Committee recommended that the government decide on a CF-18 replacement within the next 12 months.

Mr. Sajjan the government has to “make sure we have the right aircraft for our men and women. And it was only last November since we formed government, but replacement of the fighters was something we knew is a necessity.”

Meanwhile, man who once saw oversaw the lifecycle management of Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets says the Liberals should stick to their 2015 campaign commitment and not purchase the F-35 stealth fighters the former Conservative government wanted.

“We do not need the F-35,” said Paul Maillet, a retired Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) colonel who as an aerospace engineering officer was responsible for the military’s fleet of CF-18 Hornets.

He said that Canada would “pay far too much and get far too little” for Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Lightning II at a time when Justin Trudeau’s government is shifting the country’s military focus to peace operations.

The results of an independent audit by accounting firm KPMG, released in late 2012, pegged the cost of buying and maintaining 65 F-35s at $45.8-billion over a 42-year period. Mr. Maillet said the price tag is a lot higher in the U.S., which now considers the F-35 the standard for fighter jets.

“It will cost the Americans more than a trillion dollars, and it’s the most expensive military project ever,” he explained. “Yet we’re nearing the end of an era of manned fighter aircraft, and there’s a lot of overlap going on with unmanned drones right now.”

Mr. Maillet, who before his 2001 retirement from the military served as director of defence ethics at DND, said Canada doesn’t need stealth fighter jets to protect national sovereignty or contribute to United Nations or NATO peace missions.

“If we are no longer doing bombing campaigns in the Middle East, our money should be better spent elsewhere.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Dismal State of Canada’s Navy

By: Claudia Nieroda, The NATO Association of Canada 

Canada’s navy is in deep, troubled waters. With the nation’s last destroyer retiring in 2017, we will be left without any large warships capable of defending and resupplying the remains of our naval fleet. The wear and tear, in addition to soaring replacement costs, has seen many ships decommissioned without timely replacements. The rusted decades-old ships that have persevered are prone to frequent mechanical breakdowns. Consequently, the Royal Canadian Navy today is ranked by Ken Hansen on the Canadian Naval Review as on the same level as Bangladesh’s maritime forces.

The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) was launched in June 2010 by the Harper Government in an attempt to restore the navy to its former glory. Following World War II, Canada had the fifth largest navy, but years of neglect left it in a disintegrated state. There remain a total of 29 warships, meaning vessels equipped with missiles and military weapons designed for combat and defense purposes. Canada’s last destroyer, the HMCS Athabaskan, is scheduled to retire in 2017, with no plans for another destroyer to replace it. With the largest coastline in the world and three oceans to patrol, the lack of naval armada is alarming.

The NSPS is meant to build, repair, and maintain the federal fleet. However, it does not appear that it is living up to its promise to bridge the significant gap that has been formed in Canada’s navy. Constant delays, budget cuts, and increasing production costs keep the NSPS from carrying out what it planned to do according to the original timeline.

Only six out of thirteen current icebreakers are capable of polar operations, but none are able to travel far in the Northern seas during the winter months. The NSPS commissioned the construction of a new icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, which was initially expected to be in service by 2017, but a series of delays will now have the ship joining the fleet in 2022. The government has issued an order for new Arctic/ Offshore Patrol Ships, such the HMCS Harry DeWolf, but the first of these will not be delivered until 2018. This means that the Arctic passages, such as the Northwestern Passage, will continue to be unsupervised and isolated during the winter season.

Budget cuts have led to what was supposed to be an Arctic deep-water port in Nanisivik, Nunavut, turned from a naval base into a refueling station. This refueling station will only be accessible during the few summer months and closed during the rest of the year. When the HMCS Harry DeWolf is ready to enter service, it will not have an Arctic base to operate from.

Currently, the navy is ill-equipped to meet the various treaty commitments with Canadian allies. It is unreasonable to assume foreign countries would be willing to protect Canada if it is common knowledge that the nation’s navy will be unable to come to their defense. This reputation may be detrimental to Canada’s security.

The importance of the navy is not just fundamental in the ability to defend freedom. While that is a crucial factor in today’s erratic global affairs, it is important that Canada’s navy be prepared to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. For instance, if any civilian ship, such as the ferries that move passengers between Labrador and Newfoundland or Vancouver and Victoria, were to signal a distress call, the lack of naval units might lead Canada to depend on the U.S. Navy Coast Guard to back up the Canadian Coast Guard. If an earthquake struck one of the islands off of British Colombia, such as Haida Gwaii, similar problems might arise.

The navy is simply not equipped to respond to multiple crises at home, never mind additional crises abroad. The Canadian government would be hard pressed to fulfill the agreements with their treaty partners and allies in the defense capability, nor in humanitarian aid. It is crucial that Canadians do not take the reputation as a “peaceful” country for granted as geopolitical security can never be guaranteed. The NSPS needs to focus on the present state of the navy and how to expedite the planned improvements. We cannot simply wait 10 years for ships to be constructed; we need them now.

 Nieroda Claudia Nieroda graduated from the University of Guelph with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Throughout her undergrad career, she participated in an exchange at the National University of Singapore, taking courses extensively in the field of International Relations. In her final year, she successfully wrote and defended a thesis paper exploring the advantages of soft-authoritarian regimes in South East Asia in terms of political and economic development. Claudia loves adventure and travel, visiting over 35 countries and 5 continents, and is currently pursuing a career in the field of international relations.

U.S Coast Guard searching for overdue Canadian mariner


The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Canadian sailor seen leaving Hilo, Hawaii, Aug. 1 by a fellow mariner.

Paul Lim of Saltspring Island, B.C., reportedly left Hilo bound for Victoria, B.C., aboard the 35-foot Sailing Vessel Watercolour, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release. They estimate Lim should’ve arrived in Victoria by approximately Sept. 10 or 11.

More details from the U.S. Coast Guard:

A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 from Air Station Barbers Point in Honolulu conducted a search in an area between Hilo and Victoria Thursday. The Coast Guard aircrew was contacted by a fishing vessel during the search that last communicated with Mr. Lim in early August approximately 300-miles north of Hawaii.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen at Rescue Coordination Center Alameda began broadcasting to mariners along Mr. Lim’s possible route to be on the lookout for his vessel Sept 21. They have queried dozens of commercial vessels along his route and are broadcasting to all mariners along the Pacific coast including Alaska and Hawaii.

The Canadian Coast Guard is assisting by maintaining contact with Mr. Lim’s family and is acting as a conduit for information in the search. Mr. Lim was reported overdue by his loved ones to the Canadian Coast Guard.

The Watercolour is a 35-foot white hull Spencer vessel with white sails and a blue canvas dodger. Mr. Lim was also towing a nine-foot pink dingy behind the Watercolour.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mr. Lim or the Sailing Vessel Watercolour is asked to call the U.S. Coast Guard at 510-437-3701.

Still no Canadian weapons for the Kurds – will the small arms ever be sent?

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in February that Canada would be providing the Kurds with lethal military equipment.

That still hasn’t happened and the Canadian government can’t say when such shipments might take place.

The issue of arming the Kurds, now being trained by Canadian special forces, is highly controversial. Kurdish leaders openly acknowledge their intent is to eventually create an independent state. They argue it is their right to break away from Iraq, pointing to Quebec’s attempts to leave Canada as an example. The arms are needed both to fight against ISIL and to defend an independent state, Kurdish leaders have said.

In addition, some Iraqi MPs have spoken out about U.S. efforts to directly arm Kurdish forces, saying that is a violation of the Iraqi constitution. Turkey has also expressed concerns about the U.S. supplying weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias.

In the summer Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the delay in providing small arms to the Kurds was due to bureaucratic roadblocks and not resistance from the Iraqi or Turkish governments. “We have to go through a process for us here in Canada but we have to respect the process in Iraq as well,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the Iraqi Defence Minister. He’s assured me once we have completed our process that he will expedite it.”

There are a number of Canadian regulations that have to be dealt with before the arms can be provided, Sajjan added.

Defence sources say Canada is trying to purchase the small arms on the open market.

Meanwhile, other nations are shipping heavy weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

The U.S. military already has outfitted such units with mortars, anti-tank weapons and armoured personnel carriers.

The UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon recently announced in the Commons addition equipment to be supplied. “We have supplied not only heavy machine guns to the Peshmerga but ammunition for those heavy machine guns,” he said. “I announced earlier in the summer a fresh gift from us of ammunition for those heavy machine guns, and that ammunition has now arrived and is being used.”

In August, Germany resumed weapons shipments to the Kurds. Such shipments were halted in January after it emerged that some of the weapons Germany previously supplied to the Peshmerga had turned up on the black market.

Germany’s latest shipment included 1,500 rifles, 1 million rounds of ammunition, three armored vehicles and 100 MILAN guided missiles.