Friday, November 25, 2016

Nossal: Super Hornets – How Trudeau played politics with defence procurement

By: Kim Richard Nossal, The Ottawa Citizen 

We shouldn’t be surprised that Canada is going to buy an interim fleet of 18 Boeing Super Hornets.

The Liberal government has been desperately looking for a way out of the mess Justin Trudeau created when he decided it would be a good idea to play politics by promising in the middle of the election campaign that a Liberal government would not purchase the Lockheed Martin F-35 to replace the CF-18 Hornets that Canada has been flying since the early 1980s.

Trudeau promised that this decision would save billions of dollars that could be poured into naval procurement. This was always a rash promise, on so many levels.

If Canada doesn’t buy F-35s, then the Royal Canadian Air Force will not be as fully interoperable with the U.S. Air Force in the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command as it would be with them.

For the U.S. will be flying only one new fighter in NORAD in the 2020s and 2030s: the F-35, the result a congressional decision in 1994. (USAF F-22 Raptors also fly NORAD patrols, but the Americans won’t let even their closest allies buy these aircraft.) The RCAF’s Super Hornets can be networked with F-35s, but they are simply not as capable, and much more vulnerable.

If Canada doesn’t buy F-35s, Canadian aerospace firms will be cut out of Lockheed Martin’s global value chains. The F-35, with its long production run that extends well into the 2030s, offers considerable benefits to those who remain as global partners. Boeing, which lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition to Lockheed Martin in the early 2000s, cannot offer the Canadian aerospace industry the kind of benefits Lockheed Martin can.

Finally, Canada is part of a nine-nation multinational consortium that is producing the Joint Strike Fighter. In all, 11 of Canada’s close allies and friends will be buying, and flying, the F-35 in the next two decades: Australia, Britain, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and the United States. If Canada does not purchase the F-35, it will be out of step with all these allies in the decades ahead.

Given the rashness of the Trudeau promise, his minister of national defence, Harjit Sajjan, has been hunting for a way out. In the summer, Sajjan took a trip to Australia, and liked the so-called “Aussie option.” Australia, unlike Canada, is firmly committed to buying the F-35, but needed an interim fleet of fighters to fill in for their old F-111s while waiting for their F-35s to be delivered. They bought a fleet of 24 Super Hornets.

Embracing the Aussie option is a perfect solution for the Liberal government: it gets to keep Trudeau’s rash promise not to buy the F-35, at least for now; it gets to remain in the nine-nation Joint Strike Fighter partnership with benefits from being in Lockheed Martin’s global value chains if a future government buys the F-35; and it gets three “six-packs” of fighters that can work with USAF F-35s in NORAD or be deployed elsewhere.

Most importantly, it gets to kick a real decision about the CF-18 replacement down the road, well beyond the next election.

Now this may be a good way out of the mess that Trudeau stumbled into in 2015 playing political games with defence procurement, but it is going to be a huge and costly decision for Canadian taxpayers. The aircraft that Canada will be flying for the next decade may both have “Hornet” in their name, but running two fleets of jet fighters is likely going to be exceedingly costly.

And buying an almost embarrassingly tiny fleet of Super Hornets now just postpones the day when a government in the future will have to pony up for a replacement for the aging CF-18s. A future government will have to buy a fleet of at least 65 fighters.

The substantial tab for Trudeau’s gamesmanship – both now and into the 2020s – will be felt not only by the taxpayers, but also by the other services of the Canadian Armed Forces, particularly the Royal Canadian Navy. So much for saving on fighters to pour more into ships for the RCN.

Unfortunately, we have been here before. The Liberal government of Jean Chrétien played exactly the same kind of political game during the 1993 election, promising to cancel a helicopter contract signed by his predecessor, Brian Mulroney. The new Liberal government did so on its very first day in office, throwing away nearly $500 million. And we will not see all the replacements for the old Sea Kings arrive until the early 2020s.

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper played politics with the CF-18 replacement and completely botched it, not only adding significant costs to the replacement but also laying the groundwork for the games that Trudeau played in 2015.

It is too bad for the long-suffering taxpayers and the equally long-suffering members of the Canadian Armed Forces that the present prime minister didn’t look back to see how his father handled replacing fighter jets.

For Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his Liberal party, and those across the aisle in the Progressive Conservative party, didn’t play politics with defence procurement in the late 1970s – unlike some of their successors.
Kim Richard Nossal is a professor with the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University. His latest book, Charlie Foxtrot: Fixing Defence Procurement in Canada, is available from Dundurn Press.

Russia suggests it wants thawed relations with Canada in Arctic

By: MIKE BLANCHFIELD, The Globe and Mail

A Russian politician who laments the decline of his country’s relations with Canada suggested Thursday that his homeland might be willing to play nice in its long-standing dispute over who controls the North Pole.

Igor Chernyshenko, a senator from the northern city of Murmansk, said Russia would respect any United Nations decision on who should control a swath of the Arctic seabed known as the Lomonosov Ridge, which extends across the North Pole.

Chernyshenko, who was at Carleton University in Ottawa for a conference on Canada-Russia relations, delivered the overture as an example of positive co-operation between two countries that have been at odds for nearly a decade.

The Russian embassy and Canada’s foreign ministry, Global Affairs Canada, organized the conference as an example of the Liberal government’s new foreign policy decision to re-engage with Russia because of its shared interest in the Arctic.

The previous Conservative government downgraded ties with Russia because of its unilateral annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. In opposition, the Conservatives have vocally opposed the rapprochement, saying it represents “cosying up” to the “regime” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Conservatives saw Russia’s Arctic ambitions as provocative, especially after the Russians planted a flag on the North Pole seabed in 2007.

The Liberals say it is time to move beyond that, citing the need to work with countries that have a shared interest in a frozen wasteland that’s rapidly thawing, leading to increased ship traffic, potential oil and gas exploration, as well as potential threats on the environment and security fronts.

Russia, Canada and Denmark have all filed competing territorial claims and it could take as long as 15 years for the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea to decide.

But the UN won’t have the final say because it will be up to the countries themselves to negotiate a settlement based on the assessment.

The visiting senator told that his country would negotiate the division of the territory, which researchers believe contains significant oil and gas deposits.

“We recognize international law and after the UN Commission makes its decision, Canada and Russia will positively decide on how to divide that up,” Chernyshenko said through an interpreter.

He lamented the decline in trade between the two countries, which has shrunk since ties were downgraded and Canada joined its allies in imposing sanctions.

“This is very sad.”

Russia’s envoy to Canada says the renewed Arctic co-operation could be the spark that reignites relations on a broader level, including possible co-operation on fighting terrorism, and deeper business ties.

“It’s very good our bilateral dialogue has been re-launched. Canada’s self-imposed isolation from Russia is over,” Alexander Darchiev, the Russian ambassador, said in an interview.

Not so fast, said Joseph Pickerill, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.

“Russian and Canadian companies are free to pursue commercial opportunities in one another’s markets so long as their undertakings are in compliance with Canada’s sanctions regime,” Pickerill said in an email.

“However, our diplomatic re-engagement does not mean it is ’business as usual’ with Russia.”

Indeed, Canadian co-operation with Russia will have to be confined to the Arctic because of major differences on Ukraine and Russia’s backing of the Assad regime in Syria, said Whitney Lackenbauer, a St. Jerome’s University historian.

Military co-operation between the two countries is also a long way off, which means no Russian observation of Canadian military operations in the North or renewed meetings between their defence chiefs.

Any characterization of the two countries “as great partners, great friends, is not going to be appropriate,” he said.

University of British Columbia international law professor Michael Byers said Russia and Canada are capable of settling territorial disputes and working together on shared interests in the North, including dealing with challenges that will come with more shipping traffic.

The Russians are anxious to find partners in the Arctic because their economy has been “pummelled” by sanctions and the decline in world oil prices, Byers said.

“The Russians are desperate to see sanctions lifted. In that context, they’re very eager to improve relations in any domain.”

National Defence Officials Sign Lifetime Gag Order Over Fighter Jets

By: David Pugliese, National Post 
With Files from The Canadian Press 

The Liberal government has brought in an unprecedented gag order that prevents 235 Canadian military personnel and federal workers from ever talking about the program, now underway, to replace the country’s fighter jets.

The non-disclosure agreement for the equipment project puts the fighter jet replacement on the same level as top secret counter-terrorism missions undertaken by the Joint Task Force 2 commando unit as well as clandestine operations by the country’s spies, military sources say.

The permanent non-disclosure agreements were uncovered by Conservative defence critic James Bezan after he requested information through Commons “inquiry of ministry” process.

The information provided to Bezan noted that 121 individuals at the Department of National Defence were required to sign the non- disclosure agreement, 39 at Public Services and Procurement Canada; and 18 at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The rest of the 235 were employed by the Department of Finance, Treasury Board, Department of Justice and Privy Council Office.

Five other individuals working on the fighter jet replacement project who are under contract to DND were also required to sign the non-disclosure agreement or NDA.
National Defence says 235 officials were required to sign agreements as a reminder to employees of their obligations to keep secrets.

But two former military procurement chiefs, including one who oversaw the F-35 stealth fighter project for seven years, say they have never seen such a move and that existing security measures are already stringent.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan, who asked the question, alleges the Liberals want to keep officials from revealing that their plan to buy 18 Super Hornet jets is entirely politically motivated.

“The NDA is a life-time agreement,” the response to Bezan noted. Persons signing the NDA are considered “persons permanently bound to secrecy” on the future fighter jet capability project, it added.

Defence industry executives and retired public servants say they have never seen such secrecy surrounding an equipment program.

The NDAs were first implemented in January 2016, said DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier. As individuals became involved in the fighter jet work, the agreements were signed, he added.

“It was done to remind employees of their obligations to the Crown under the Security of Information Act,” Le Bouthillier explained. “Given the subject-matter and commercial sensitivities ‎associated with the work, it was deemed to be an appropriate and necessary procedure.”

He said that such agreements have been used with procurement staff before on occasion.

But Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister for materiel at the DND, said he has never heard of such agreements. Over the years Williams oversaw hundreds of equipment projects at both DND and Public Works, worth billions of dollars.

“I’ve never heard of this type of thing before,” said Williams. “I never required it of my staff. I think if I had, I would have been laughed out of the building.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Tuesday the Liberal government was entering in negotiations with Boeing to buy 18 Super Hornets as stop-gap measure before embarking on a competition to replace Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18s.

That competition, yet to start, will take at least five years.

Bezan has alleged that the Liberals are pushing off a decision to replace the fighter jets until after the next election. The move heads off what could have been an embarrassing decision for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Lockheed Martin F-35 had the potential to win any competition but Trudeau has stated his government will never buy that plane.

Sajjan blamed the previous Conservative government for mismanaging the fighter jet replacement and creating what he calls a capability gap that now requires the purchase of the Super Hornets.

But a number of defence sources say there is no capability gap.

Earlier this year, Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood said the CF-18s could fly until 2025 and potentially beyond.

In his appearance before the Commons defence committee, Hood didn’t mention anything about a capability gap.

“I know that some aircraft will end their useful life before that date (2025), starting perhaps in 2023,” Hood told the committee. “Others could last longer.”

But Hood added that he was confident that an open and fair competition would provide an aircraft in time for replacing the aging CF-18s. “I’m confident that if a decision were taken, certainly in the next five years, we’ll be in a comfortable position changing that aircraft,” Hood said.
Capability gap or no?

The government says it needs the Hornets to address an urgent shortage of warplanes until a competition to replace all 77 of Canada's CF-18s can be finished — a process it says could take up to five years.

Critics say the air force has enough planes at the moment and the decision to buy Hornets now and punt a competition to later is part of a larger Liberal plan to avoid buying the controversial F-35 stealth fighter.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

18 Canadian Forces members took their own lives in 2015

By: Tom Perry, CBC News 

A new report by the Canadian Forces shows that soldiers who have been deployed overseas are at a higher risk of taking their own lives.

The Canadian Forces annual report on suicide reveals that 18 military members committed suicide in 2015. While the report says the overall suicide rate within the military is not statistically higher than for the rest of the population, the risk for those serving in the army is much greater than it is for those serving in the navy or air force.

"The suicide rate amongst army personnel is about two to three times higher than it is compared to members who serve in other elements of the Canadian Forces and about 1½-times higher than males in the civilian population," said Col. Andrew Downes, director of mental health for the Canadian Forces.

Downes said the military's research also shows that the risk of suicide is higher for personnel who have been deployed overseas into places like Afghanistan.

"It's really not the deployment itself that's the risk for suicide. It's what happens on deployment," Downes said. "People, when they deploy, are exposed to more dangerous environments where they are at risk of physical injury and mental injury as well."

Despite the increased risk that goes along with overseas deployments, Downes said suicide is a complex matter. The military's report shows almost half of those who committed suicide in 2015 suffered from a documented depressive disorder. Nearly all were under stress in their personal lives, facing failed romantic relationships, legal problems or debt.

"All these people are human and they all have stressors," Downes said.
Time to do more

The government and the military have pledged to take action on suicide in the ranks. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he is working with the chief of the defence staff on the issue as part of the government's defence policy review.

Sajjan said the goal is to find new strategies that can be put in place for future overseas deployments by the Canadian Forces.

"For example, building greater resilience in pre-deployment training, early on, so that we can help with some of the challenges that are faced and also other things, post-deployment," Sajjan said.

Randall Garrison, defence critic for the NDP, questions the government's resolve, saying it has already taken far too long to come up with any answers about a continuing crisis.

"You know, in 2013 we had a rash of suicides that first brought this to the public attention and to the minister's attention. Now, here we are, three years later, and no one has done a thing," Garrison said.
One family's hope

The family of one Canadian soldier who took his own life says that if the military wants to improve suicide prevention, it needs to listen to Canadian Forces personnel and their families.

Sheila Fynes's son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge, committed suicide at CFB Edmonton in 2008.

"I think they need to go back to the grassroots to do it. They need to talk more to the men, all the men," Fynes said.

"They need to talk to the families. I really wish somebody would say to me, 'You were with Stu, you talked to Stu, is there anything that we could have done differently that might have had a different outcome for him?'"

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Photos From OP IMPACT

Very little news is generated out of OP IMPACT these days. So here are some photos of our Canadian Armed Forces members serving in Iraq and are on the frontlines in the battle against ISIL.

It is evident that the RCAF CH-146 Griffon's are being well used on their most recent deployment to the Middle East.

An RCAF CH-146 Griffon on the tarmac in Erbil, Iraq. 
Photo has been digitally altered to protect operational security. Medical personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Norwegian Army transfer a simulated patient to the operating table during an exercise scenario at the Role 2 medical facility in Northern Iraq.
A CH-146 Griffon helicopter flies over Northern Iraq for a tactical flying mission during Operation IMPACT on November 8, 2016.
A Canadian Armed Forces member secures the area while CH-146 Griffon helicopter crew members kit up before a tactical flying mission in Northern Iraq during Operation IMPACT on November 9, 2016.
Deployed Canadian Armed Forces Health Services personnel unpack and set up equipment at the Role 2 medical facility in Erbil, Iraq

A Canadian Armed Forces soldier guards his arcs of fire on board a CH-146 Griffon helicopter during an air mobility mission in Northern Iraq during Operation IMPACT on November 4, 2016.

Perry: 5-year search for Canada's new fighter jets 'ridiculous'

By: Graham Slaughter, Writer

An expert on defence budgeting says the federal government’s plan to hold a five-year competition to scout out a replacement for the military’s aging aircraft fleet is “ridiculous” and could be done much quicker.

“The question of why we need five years I think is one that hasn’t really been fully answered,” David Perry, a senior analyst and fellow with Canadian Global Affairs Institute, told CTV’s Power Play.

The Liberal government announced Tuesday that it plans to “explore the acquisition” of 18 Boeing Super Hornet jets until it has settled on a new, permanent aircraft purchase to replace the current fighter jets, which are more than 30 years old.

A timeline of Canada's march to getting new fighter jets

Related image
A US Navy Super Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Aug 20 2013
A competition will be held to allow the federal government to consider a variety of jet models. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the process is expected to last five years.

It’s hardly the first time the issue has been studied, Perry said.

“The air force leading up to 2010 had made a recommendation, after which point the last government was unhappy with how that proceeded, and basically went through a full analysis starting from scratch. This government came in and has done the same thing,” he said.

“So since 2012, there’s basically been four years of looking at this issue. So I just find it incredulous that it would then take five years in addition to this to actually run a competition.”

Perry also cast doubt on the government’s proposed timeline to purchase the Super Hornets, which are considered a temporary placeholder until a permanent solution is made.

“If you look at the past two big aircraft we’ve purchased through non-competitive processes -- our Hercules and our Chinook aircraft -- those took three and five years, respectively,” he said.

Asked whether Canada could receive the Super Hornet jets by the time the five-year competition is over, Perry said: “I don’t think that’s out of the question.”

Perry insisted that the government could slash the competition’s timeline to as short as one to three years.

“I think five years to actually compete this thing sometime starting next spring is ridiculous. It could start today,” he said.

Sajjan: Jets should arrive by late 2020s

Sajjan defended the government’s time-frame, saying the process must be done “in a thorough manner.”

“By having an open competition that we don’t cut corners on allows us to make sure that we can look at every aspect,” Sajjan told CTV’s Power Play. “This is a significant investment, so we’re going to make sure that we get this right.”

Sajjan said the timeline was developed based on the advice of government officials with knowledge of the fighter jets.

“We’d love to be able to move it faster, but we want to make sure that the process itself is going to be thorough.”

But the five-year competition doesn’t mean Canada’s new jets will be in the sky by 2021. Sajjan said the new aircraft will require new training for pilots and mechanics, and the fleet will be gradually phased in.

“It’ll start as early as in five years, but it will take until the late 2020s to get the full fleet in,” the minister said.

The minister also slammed the previous Conservative government for failing to solve the problem while it was in power.

“We should have replaced our jets a long time ago. The previous government should have done this. Our fighters are over 30 years old,” he said. “We cannot take a chance with flying older aircraft.”

Plan for stop-gap Super Hornets leaves question of Cost Unanswered

By: Lee Berthiaume and Steve Lambert, Canadian Press 

OTTAWA — The federal government unveiled its interim steps Tuesday in the long-fraught effort to replace Canada's aging fleet of fighter jets, but key questions — how much it would cost taxpayers and the impact on the military — remained up in the air.

Following a closed-door cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill, three Liberal cabinet ministers held a news conference to announce plans to enter into discussions with U.S. aerospace giant Boeing to purchase 18 Super Hornet jets.

At the same time, however, the government intends to launch an open competition starting next year to replace all 77 of the air force's CF-18s — a process that's expected to last up to five years.

The ministers described buying the 18 Super Hornets as a necessary stop-gap to ensure Canada has enough planes to fill a so-called "capability gap" — enabling it to both fulfil its NATO obligations and to defend North American interests.

"We need additional planes as soon as possible for an interim period," said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, flanked by Public Procurement Minister Judy Foote and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.

"Having a new squadron of interim aircraft will mitigate those risks significantly as we address the capability gap."

The Hornet, the ministers said, is both compatible with the U.S. and currently operational — the unspoken implication being that the F-35 remains in development, even though the U.S. Air Force declared it operational in the summer.

And even as they repeatedly highlighted the urgent need for new planes, the ministers refused to say much the government expects the Super Hornets to cost to buy and operate.

During last year's election campaign, the Liberals pegged the cost of a single F-35 — the vaunted and controversial stealth fighter favoured by the previous Conservative government — at $175 million, compared with $65 million for one Super Hornet.

But Kuwait recently announced plans to buy 40 Super Hornets for $13 billion. Even with eight of them specially equipped for electronic warfare, that still works out to $335 million per plane.

At the same time, Denmark is moving ahead with plans to buy 27 F-35s at a cost of $4 billion, which amounts to about $148 million per plane.

Then there's the compatibility issue: a government-appointed expert panel and the military's research branch determined in separate reports that it would be extremely expensive for Canada to operate two types of fighter jets, given the different training, infrastructure and supporting equipment required.

Sajjan sidestepped questions about the supposed savings promised by the Liberals during last year's election campaign.

"We want to go through an appropriate process to determine all the costings," he said, "but at the same time, making sure that we fill the capability gap while we look to the long term of replacing our fighter fleet as well."

Foote, meanwhile, wouldn't say what would happen if Boeing tried playing hardball with the government, stating only that it was in the company's interest to come up with a good deal for Canada.

The ministers also deflected questions over whether buying Super Hornets now would give the plane a leg-up on its competitors in the upcoming competition.

"We're having an open, transparent, competitive process," Foote said. "The more we have engaging in that process, the more competitors we have, the better it will be for Canada."

Air force officials were reportedly dead-set against the plan to purchase Super Hornets, which they consider outdated technology compared with the state-of-the-art — albeit largely unproven — F-35.

The government has also been accused of manufacturing a "capability gap" to allow for the purchase of the aircraft without a competition.

But the Liberal plan was praised by defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance, who stated categorically that the military desperately needed new planes immediately.

"With this investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force over the short and long term, Canadian air space will be better defended," he said.

Opposition parties seized on the announcement as a waste of taxpayer dollars at best, and a case of political interference at worst.

"The prime minister is making a political decision about what fighter jets to buy our pilots," interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said during question period.

"Instead of telling our fighter pilots what jets they are allowed to have, why does he not let them make the decision?"

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed the Conservatives for "completely botching" the procurement effort.

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison openly mocked the notion of an open competition with 18 new Super Hornets stationed at Canadian bases.

"I don't think anyone can take seriously that after we replace a third of our fleet with the Super Hornets there can possibly be a level playing field for some kind of open competition after that."

Rival Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35, said it was "disappointed" by the news, but struck a conciliatory tone by saying it was looking forward to an open competition.

The government made a point of saying it would remain a member of the program that produced the F-35, and that the aircraft would be allowed to compete.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister expressed concern about the fate of Manitoba companies that have been supplying parts for the F-35.

"I take this as a very obvious departure from the stated commitments the federal government has made in respect to our aerospace industry here in Manitoba," Pallister said.

"We are not impressed or happy with the announcement this morning," he added.

— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

Lee Berthiaume , The Canadian Press

Ivison: Super Hornet Interim Buy a Political Decision

By: John Ivison, The National Post

In choosing to buy 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighters, the federal government has brought forward a political solution to solve a political problem of its own making, John Ivison writes.

The Liberals had campaigned on a promise that they would not purchase Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet to replace its aging and dwindling fleet of CF18s, which now numbers 77.

It would instead launch an open and transparent competition for a new fighter.

A former Defence official said a competition could produce an answer within a year. But that would carry the risk that the F-35 could win before the next election.

The commander of the air force has previously said he needs just 65 fighters to fulfil Canada’s NATO and Norad requirements.

But the government says it needs 18 new fighters and that any future competition would exclude “firststrike stealth capabilities.”

The solution: sole-source the interim Super Hornets purchase and delay the competition to replace the CF18 fleet for five years. The uncomfortable attempting to justify the indefensible. That was how it looked as government ministers Harjit Sajjan, Judy Foote and Navdeep Bains delivered the news that Ottawa will sole source the interim purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets. They appeared to be secretly ashamed at the trumpery of it all, as well they should have been.

The Liberal government had a political problem: it campaigned on the promise that it would not purchase Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, and that it would “immediately” launch an open and transparent competition to replace the aging CF18 fighter fleet.

But it could not risk being too open, transparent or immediate, lest the F-35 win before the next election.

So political operatives in the Prime Minister’s Office came up with a plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a fox: buy a small number of the F-35’s competitor and push off the competition to replace the fleet for five years.

Sajjan, the defence minister, decried the mismanagement of the previous Conservative government — “a highly politicized process” — that has left just 77 CF-18s in the fleet and no replacement jets on order. In this, he’s right but it hardly excuses instigating a repeat of history as farce.

By sole sourcing the interim purchase, the Liberals will be doing exactly what the Conservatives did when they chose the F-35 in the first place.

Sajjan waved away such suggestions. Canada has a “capability gap,” he argued, and is unable to meet its Norad and NATO commitments.

He presented the new plan as a political solution to a national security problem.

The reality, of course, is that the Liberals have brought forward a political solution to solve a political problem of their own making.

The commander of the air force, Lt.-Gen Mike Hood, who was noticeable by his absence, previously told Parliament he needs just 65 aircraft to fulfil Canada’s commitments, so the capability gap argument is unconvincing.

Chief of the Defence Staff, Jonathan Vance, was present at Tuesday’s press conference and said the Air Force cannot meet its current missions and have the ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances. But really, what else was he going to say? This is a political decision and Vance is obliged to suck it up or resign.)

Hood told a parliamentary committee last spring that he was confident the Air Force could cope, if a decision on a replacement fleet was taken “in the next five years.”

That was why Foote, the procurement minister, said the government will undertake a lengthy competition “to avoid the mistakes of the past; we will not cut corners.”

Does that mean her department is cutting corners with the new warships that just went out to tender? A winner for the Canadian Surface Combatant program will be chosen by 2017.

Ottawa has already held two rounds of consultations with industry on the fighters. How much more is there to learn? Alan Williams, former assistant deputy minister of matériel at the Department of National Defence, has said a competition could produce results within a year.

But that would mean a winner could be chosen before the next election — an unacceptable political outcome for the Liberals.

Hence the curious solution of Canada now “exploring” the acquisition of 18 new Super Hornets with Boeing.

“Before proceeding, the government reserves the right to decide if they can provide the interim fleet at a cost, time, level of capability and economic value that is acceptable to Canada,” said the official news release.

But surely that decision has already been taken. If there were any doubts about Boeing’s ability to deliver or about the price, why make the announcement?

Foote said the Super Hornet was chosen because it is “not in development,” a veiled reference to the F-35, even though the U.S. air force declared its first squadron of F-35A fighters combat ready in August.

What is clear is that the interim purchase will reduce the amount available to buy a replacement fleet. The government had previously earmarked $9 billion for 65 new jets. Foote could not say what the interim purchase would cost and Sajjan would not say how many jets the Air Force might still need, after the interim purchase of 18 new planes.

But we do know Kuwait bought 40 full-loaded Super Hornets, with support, equipment and training, for US$10.1 billion this week.

We also know that the 18 jets will be more expensive than they might have been, had the downward pressure on costs of a competition not been removed.

By sole sourcing from Boeing, the government may well have skewed the outcome of any future competition. The purchase of new Super Hornets will mean the RCAF will be operating a mixed fleet. The two jets share common weapons systems but have different engines, radar and electronics. Is the government willing to complicate things further, with the attendant cost implications, of adding a third jet to the mix?

Foote said, “Anyone who meets the criteria and wants to compete will be able to compete.” Yet the Liberal platform was clear that the CF-18 replacement competition “will exclude requirements that do not reflect Canada’s interests such as first strike stealth capabilities” — for which read the F-35.

Yet what is apparent to anyone with eyes is that Canada’s interests have been supplanted by the Liberal Party of Canada’s interests.

We may never know which aircraft best suits Canada’s needs. But we can be in no doubt about which best favours Liberal fortunes.

Mason: Why UN Peacekeeping is worth the Risks

By: Peggy Mason, Toronto Star 

Pages of newspaper ink are being spilled to highlight the risks in any of the UN peacekeeping missions Canada might be considering — from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mali to the Central African Republic. What has been missing from all the commentary and government pronouncements, though, is a coherent argument for why UN peacekeeping is a job worth the all-too-evident dangers.

This is too bad because there are solid reasons for Canada to re-engage. While UN peacekeeping is no miracle cure and there are no guarantees of success, when done right and properly mandated and resourced, UN peacekeeping offers the best chance for a society emerging from violent conflict.

Peacekeeping is the front end of a complex, long-term process of helping conflicting parties create the necessary conditions — political, socio-economic, security — for sustainable peace.

At the centre of this effort is the peace process. Complex political problems always lie at the heart of violent conflict and require political solutions that are negotiated and agreed to by the parties. A capable security force will be essential in both the peace negotiation and implementation phases, but it is a supporting element of the overall mission nonetheless.

As the Afghanistan debacle has so dramatically and tragically illustrated, no amount of military “robustness” and professionalism on the part of international military forces can make up for the lack of a credible peace process.

The statistical evidence is also clear: looking at all past wars of the last quarter-century, only 15 per cent have ended decisively on the battlefield, and in these cases the rebels prevailed at least as often as the governments they fought. All the rest ultimately had to be settled at the negotiating table.

Precisely because of the primacy of the peace process, today’s multi-dimensional UN peace operations — which involve military, police and civilian contingents — are much more than military operations charged with providing a safe and secure environment. Their civilian components are mandated to facilitate the peace process, promote the rule of law, and support the establishment of legitimate and effective institutions of governance.

Increasingly mandates, like that for MINUSMA in Mali, also include security assistance to the transitional government so it can reassert its authority nationwide. This military assistance is in concert with support for national political dialogue and reconciliation efforts.

For a collective enterprise of this magnitude to succeed — as UN peacekeeping does more often than not — the international effort must be perceived as legitimate and impartial. And it must have the broadest possible international support within a coherent legal and operational framework.

Only the UN Security Council can mandate such an operation and only the UN Organization can lead the mission if is to be internationally acceptable. Headed by a civilian in the role of Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG), with all the other components, including the military and police, reporting to him or her, the very structure of the UN peacekeeping mission reflects the centrality of the peace process. This stands in sharp contrast to NATO-led military missions, even where authorized by the UNSC to assist in stabilizing a conflict.

NATO-led stability operations lack the perceived legitimacy and impartiality of UN-led operations precisely because their political and military leaders are seen to represent a very specific set of powerful countries and interests. Not only does this undermine coherence in the international effort; it also constitutes a gift to spoilers on the ground decrying alleged “foreign occupation.”

An integrated mission under the overall authority of the SRSG also allows UN command and control to be decentralized to the operational level. This contrasts with the centralized, top-heavy and opaque command structure operating in NATO.

Many current UN missions may have comprehensive mandates to build sustainable peace but they manifestly lack the professional forces and equipment to do the job. That’s a major concern.

Re-engagement by Canada and other Western countries is therefore long overdue and welcome. This is why 10 leading civil society organizations in their submission to the Defence Policy Review, entitled “A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security,” call on Canada to make UN peacekeeping a Canadian defence priority.

But they also caution that specialized interdisciplinary peacekeeping training for Canadian forces, particularly commanders and their staff, is an indispensable precondition if there is to be effective Canadian engagement.
Peggy Mason is President of the Rideau Institute and a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the UN, with over 20 years of experience in peacekeeping training.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

RCAF supports French Operations in West Africa and the Sahel region

DND Press Release

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) conducted its first flight under Operation Frequence, providing airlift support to France’s operations in Africa earlier this week.

On November 20, 2016, an RCAF Force CC-177 Globemaster III strategic airlifter transported personnel and equipment from France to West Africa and the Sahel region, which is located south of the Sahara Desert.
A large grey aircraft with military markings flies against a blue sky.
An RCAF CC-177 Globemaster (CAF File Photo) 
Canada has provided airlift support to France, an important ally, in the past. Operation Frequence is the most recent Canadian contribution to stability and security in this region.

“The [Canadian Armed Forces] airlift contribution to operations in West Africa and the Sahel region demonstrates our readiness in bringing valuable capabilities in support to regional and international security and stability,” said Lieutenant-General Stephen Bowes, the commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command.

According to the RCAF, flights will continue on a periodic basis until the end of March 2017.

Government to Buy 18 F/A-18 Super Hornets as Stop Gap before Competition

By: Daniel Maillet, CAF Dispatch Author

This afternoon the Government of Canada announced that it will pursue the purchase of 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets as a "stop-gap" measure on the CF-18 Replacement Procurement file which has been laden with issues for years.

Image result for F/A-18

During the 2015 Election, the Liberals promised to quickly launch a competition to replace the ageing fleet of the RCAF CF-18 Hornets. Originally purchased in the 1980s, the RCAF intended to fly the CF-18 for 20 years, and replace the fleet in the early 2000s. Many of the 77 serviceable CF-18s are older than 35 years and are flying much longer than the manufacturer intended.

Therefore, according to Minister of Defence Sajjan and General Vance a capability gap has arisen. Sajjan said that Canada has commitments to NATO and NORAD to have a specific number of serviceable aircraft on any given day, and when combined the RCAF is not currently able to meet these requirements.

To address this capability gap, the Government intends to enter into negotiations with Boeing on the F/A-18, and will purchase the aircraft as long as the purchase is cost and benefit effective to Canada. Yet the Government has no plan should these benefits not benefit Canada. Sajjan indicated that due to national security; he could not provide numbers of required jets, or if Canada had declined missions due to the gap. General Vance indicated that yes some missions were declined but did not go into details; while reiterating the importance of the RCAFs role in deterrence in the defence of Canada.

Sajjan and Minister of Procurement Canada Foote both blamed the previous Government for the delay on the CF-18 replacement. Both indicated that the replacement of the CF-18 should be months away if the Conservatives had actually closed the file.

Sajjan and Foote diverted away from any discussions of sole-sourcing the interim purchase.

The Government will open an open and transparent competition for a permanent fleet at some point in 2017 - a process that will take a minimum fo 5 years. A term that seems extremely long, especially as the file has been partially open for nearly a decade.  Sajjan announced that the Canada will remain part of the JSF-Consortium, and Foote did not say that Lockheed Martin would be excluded  - so therefore, the JSF F-35 will be allowed to bid.

The government believes that once the 5-year competition is complete, the delivery of the new fleet of fighter aircraft will be by late 2020. Therefore the current CF-18s will undergo further life-extension plans to keep flying until at least 2030. Canada is entering into the unknown with the CF-18 lifespan; no other country will have flown the "legacy" model of the F-18 this long.

Foote defended the length of the competition, by saying the Government does not want any mistakes. Foote confirmed that the Government is working with the American government on this file - almost indicating that the F/A-18 or the F-35 will be selected during the 5 years competition.

When asked why the F/A-18 was selected as the interim option Foote and Sajjan both indicated that the RCAF could not select an aircraft in development, and therefore the F/A-18 was the best option. When asked about the numerous European models that are in-service; they reiterated the interoperability with the American forces. Further, strengthening what many believe will be a 2 horse race - the F/A-18 or the F-35.

The announcement today indicated that investments will be made into the "legacy" CF-18s to ensure that they can safely operate for the RCAF and the safety of Canada and global security.

Foote indicated that the Government does not believe that the purchase of the F/A-18 Super Hornet will not stack the deck in favour of Boeing anymore than it does Lockheed Martin by remaining in the JSF-Consortium.

The government has not made any plans on what to do with the "interim" aircraft once a permanent fleet is selected. Any decisions on the disposal of the interim fleet will only be made in the future according to General Vance.

This announcement will invest billions of dollars into the interim fleet, as well as billions into a future permanent fleet. So where the savings will come for the future of the Royal Canadian Navy will be made is anyone's guess.

Use of $150,000 high-tech artillery round restricted by Canadian Army after cracks appear in shells

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

The Canadian Army has restricted the use of its high-tech artillery shells after the U.S. military discovered cracks in the same warheads in its inventory.

The 155mm Excalibur shells are guided to their targets by Global Positioning System satellites and cost more than $150,000 each. But the U.S. is warning that the cracks could cause premature detonation of the rounds.

Des artilleurs tirent avec deux canons M-777 de 155 mm d'une position d'artillerie composée de la Batterie X, troupe 3, le 13 mai 2007, à Wainwright (Alberta), dans le cadre de l’exercice Maple Guardian.   

Photo : Cpl Simon Duchesne

Gunners fire two M-777 155 mm guns from an artillery position including Battery X, troop 3 during Exercise MAPLE GUARDIAN in Wainwright, Alberta on May 13, 2007.  

Photo: Cpl Simon Duchesne
Canadian Army M777 artillery guns are shown being fired in this 2007 file photo. Courtesy of Canadian Forces.
The shells were originally purchased during the Afghan war but the Canadian Army has since bought newer versions of the projectiles.

The U.S. Army first discovered the problem in some of its Excalibur artillery shells late last year during routine testing. Additional testing determined that other Excalibur shells were also affected, U.S. military officials said last week.

Canadian Army spokeswoman Krysthle Poitras said after the discovery in the U.S., Canada has restricted the use of the ammunition. “The Canadian Army has taken the necessary steps to ensure that any Excalibur rounds in the inventory will be inspected before any potential use in future,” she noted in an email to the Ottawa Citizen.

The Canadian Army declined to outline what steps it is taking or how many Excalibur shells are affected. It did not provide details on how long the restrictions on the artillery rounds will last.

However, the U.S. military says it is X-raying each of its shells to determine the extent of the cracking. It is believed to be minor but large cracks could potentially lead to the warhead prematurely detonating, according to the U.S. Army.

There have been no reports of the shells malfunctioning.

The U.S. discovered the cracks in both older ammunition, manufactured in 2007, as well as newer production projectiles.

In early 2008 the Canadian Army received approval to use the shells in Afghanistan.

Critics complained about the high cost of the warheads, saying it was akin to firing a Ferrari each time they were used.

Regular artillery shells are estimated to cost around $2,000 each.

The Canadian military has said it hopes the cost of the Excalibur shells would eventually drop to $87,000 each.

The Excalibur round can hit targets up to 40 kilometres away. Using data from Global Positioning Satellites it can strike within 10 metres of its target.

Both U.S. and Canadian military officers have praised the Excalibur technology, noting that the shells can reduce civilian casualties while more effectively targeting enemy forces. Canada used the shell with its M777 howitzers in Afghanistan.

In 2015 it was revealed that the Canadian Army somehow lost three Excalibur shells in Afghanistan. The ammunition couldn’t be accounted for when Canadian troops left Kandahar in 2011. Military police investigated but couldn’t determine what happened to the rounds.

But theft of the 48-kilogram shells was deemed to be highly unlikely.

The cost for the three rounds was estimated to be $513,000, according to federal government records.

New fighter jets could cost more than Liberals Projected


The Liberal Party promised massive savings on the purchase of new fighter jets in the last election, but the recent purchase of Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets by Kuwait suggests bargains will be hard to find.

The federal government is nearing a decision on the replacement of its fleet of CF-18s, facing pressure to deliver a better deal than the previous, Conservative government had put together.

While straight comparisons are never easy in military procurement, Kuwait’s recent purchase of 40 Super Hornets for $13.5-billion raises questions about Canada’s ability to meet its own financial targets for new fighter jets.

During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals said they could acquire their own fleet of Super Hornets for $65-million per unit. (Boeing)
During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals said they could acquire their own fleet of Super Hornets for $65-million per unit - a figure far less than then $335-million Kuwait just agreed to pay. 

Read more: Breaking down the dogfight for Canada’s next fighter jet
Read more: U.S. pitches F-35 jet to Ottawa as Liberals aim to replace fleet

The deal means Kuwait will be paying an average of $335-million per aircraft, a price that includes training, spare parts and engines, weaponry and logistical support.

During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals said they could acquire their own fleet of Super Hornets at a flyaway price (which does not include training or spare parts) of $65-million per unit; by way of comparison, the Liberals said the Lockheed Martin F-35, which had been favoured by the Conservatives, had a flyaway price of $175-million per aircraft.

Military analyst David Perry said the Kuwaiti deal suggests the Liberals were overly optimistic before they came to power.

“This cements my skepticism about the assumption that some fighter options are horrendously expensive and others are dirt cheap,” said the senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

The previous government had set aside an envelope of $9-billion to acquire a fleet of 65 fighter jets.

Mr. Perry said it is impossible to determine how much Canada would pay for a fleet of Super Hornets or F-35s today, but the numbers out of Kuwait show “all of these aircraft are expensive.

“Some of them may be relatively more or less costly, but there is no such thing as cheap fighter aircraft.”

The federal government is promising a decision on the final process to replace its CF-18s by the end of the year. The matter will go to cabinet shortly.

“We have a lot of credible information and analysis that were done over the summertime and we’re putting the final touches onto that,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in an interview.

“At the end of the day, I want to make sure that our men and women have the right type of aircraft and that we have the right benefits as a nation, because we’re making a very big decision here and I want to make sure we get this right,” the minister added.

During the campaign, the Liberals said they would change the requirements for the new fighter jets to place less emphasis on “first-strike stealth capabilities” and greater emphasis on the ability to contribute to the “defence of North America.”

“We will reduce the financial procurement envelope for replacing the CF-18s. Instead of budgeting for the acquisition of 65 F-35s, we will plan to purchase an equal or greater number of lower-priced, but equally effective, replacement aircraft,” they said.

Still, they promised to launch an “open and transparent competition” for new fighter jets, which officials at both Lockheed Martin and Boeing continue to advocate.

Sources said there are three options before the cabinet: launching a competition, buying a new fleet through a sole-source process or acquiring a few aircraft to form an “interim fleet” and finalizing the fleet at a later date.

The Department of National Defence predicts that its fleet of CF-18s will be able to fly into the next decade, with some aircraft due to be retired in 2023; but the Canadian Armed Forces will need a new fleet of fighter jets by 2025.

Cabinet could decide fighter jet plan as early as Today

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Image result for F/A-18 V F-35
An RAAF F/A-18 Super Hornet. Australia recently purchased the Super Hornet as a stop-gap measure until their new F-35s are delivered. 
OTTAWA — Industry sources expect the Liberal government to decide as early as Tuesday whether to purchase a new fighter jet without a competition.

Federal cabinet ministers are reportedly considering three options for replacing Canada's CF-18s, one of which they are expected to pick during their weekly closed-door meeting on Parliament Hill.

The options include holding a competition, buying a new warplane without a competition, or purchasing an "interim" aircraft as a stop-gap measure until a future competition.

The government was eyeing the third option in the spring, with the intention of buying Boeing Super Hornets, until an outcry from industry and the opposition forced them back to the drawing board.

But while Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan held consultations with different industry players in the summer, industry sources say the interim option is back as the preferred choice.

Sajjan's office refused to comment on Monday, with a spokeswoman saying only that a decision still has not been made.

In the House of Commons, Conservative defence critic James Bezan called for an open competition to replace Canada's CF-18s.

Purchasing Super Hornets without a competition would "be foolishly putting billions of taxpayer money at risk," he said.

Sajjan would only say that the government had done "a considerable amount of work" on the file.

"We will make a decision on replacing the fighters and will pick a process that will meet the needs of Canada."

Anything short of an open competition, which the Liberals promised during last year's election, is sure to stoke anger from industry players as well as the opposition.

Part of the problem for the Liberals is that while they promised an open competition, they also promised not to buy the F-35 stealth fighter.

But the government has been struggling with how to fulfil that promise for fear any attempt to exclude the stealth fighter from a competition would result in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nonetheless made his views of the F-35 known in June, when he panned the stealth fighter as a plane that "does not work and is far from working."

Recent memos and reports within the U.S. military appear to back up that assessment, with the Pentagon's top weapons tester warned last month that the aircraft was being rushed too fast through testing.

There is precedent for buying Super Hornets on an interim basis. Australia paid $2.5 billion for 24 of the aircraft to replace antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready.

However, the idea of Canada needing to follow suit was largely dismissed by a government-appointed expert panel and the military's research branch as too expensive, since the air force would be operating two types of aircraft, demanding different training, infrastructure and supporting equipment.

Rival companies have argued that purchasing Super Hornets on an "interim" basis would stack the deck in its favour in any future competition.

There are also concerns that Canada would fall behind the rest of its allies — as well as potential foes Russia and China — by purchasing the older Super Hornet rather than the state-of-the-art F-35.

The Liberals have emphasized the need for speed since Sajjan warned in the spring that Canada did not have enough CF-18s to meet its commitments to NATO and North American defence.

Critics, however, accused the Liberals of manufacturing a crisis to justify buying a new fighter jet other than the F-35 stealth fighter without a competition.

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Monday, November 21, 2016

War Against ISIL Marches On as Canada, Allies Wonder What Trump will Ask of Them

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News

The night Donald Trump was elected, Canadian Brig.-Gen. Dave Anderson was at a reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

When the results were finalized, the American ambassador gave a short speech to his anxious Iraqi hosts and assured them Washington's commitment to the war-ravaged country is "real and it's long-term."

A little later, Anderson spoke with the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, who told him: "If you look at a problem set through the lens of national interest, the solution doesn't change."

It was a comment that stuck with him as the uncertainty unfolds around the incoming U.S. administration's foreign policy.

"National interest trumps everything," said Anderson, who leads the multi-national liaison team that's helping advise the Iraqi defence ministry.

Canadian Special Forces troops launch into a mission from a base in Erbil, Iraq, on Nov. 14, 2016
Canadian Special Forces troops launch into a mission from a base in Erbil, Iraq, on Nov. 14, 2016 (Murray Brewster/CBC News)
Kurdish PM opposes Canada's 'organized migration' of Yazidis
Canadian special forces shooting first at ISIS to protect civilians, allies
Canadian troops watching for human rights abuses as battle for Mosul rages

Because national interests don't change, he said, he believes there's a real commitment from Washington, and right the way through the coalition, to stick it out in Iraq until ISIS is totally defeated and the region is stable.

"We shouldn't see a dramatic change and as long as the government of Iraq wants us here, we'll be here," Anderson told CBC News.

The determination to destroy the extremist group may not be in question, but the stage is set for what could be some pretty brutal policy battles about how that can be accomplished.

The election of Trump as the next U.S. president has the potential to radically reshape the future of the war against the Islamic State over the long-term.

It will have little influence, in the near-term, on the unfolding, bloody campaign to retake Iraq's second-largest city, said Anderson and other coalition commanders who spoke to CBC News.
A Peshmerga soldier guards an outpost on Zardek Mountain, northwest of Erbil, in northern Iraq. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
The direction of the daily, grinding battle in Mosul was set months ago. Trump's election is also not expected to change the plan to encircle and eventually liberate Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital in Syria.

The Obama administration intended those campaigns to be conducted with a "light footprint" from the Western point of view, utilizing local ground forces, Syrian opposition groups, coalition special forces, as well as western artillery and air power.

But key decisions on how and where to proceed afterwards await the president-elect when he takes over in January.
What will Trump ask of Canada?

Whether Trump agrees with the strategy or wants it changed to include a more robust Western involvement is unclear.

During the U.S. election, Trump threatened to "bomb the hell out of ISIS" and suggested he was prepared to upend the carefully laid military plans.

"I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me," Trump said last August. "I'd hit them so hard your head would spin. There's nobody bigger or better at the military than I am."

He promised to send up to 30,000 U.S. troops to the region, but has since backtracked with a pledge to pressure other countries to fight.

The big question for Canada will be whether a Trump administration will demand more than just military training and non-combat support in the next phase of the campaign.
Lt.-Col. Steve Hunter, commander of the Canadian Special Forces Operating Regiment in Iraq on Nov. 14, 2016. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
The Liberal government withdrew Canadian fighter-bombers from the anti-ISIS air campaign last February, but tripled the number of special forces trainers and increased specialized intelligence and surveillance of extremists in Iraq.

Trump has made no secret of the fact he believes allies should pay and do more around the world.

The campaign to liberate Mosul could drag on for months as Iraqi security fight their way, block by block, through the city that once housed two million people.

It is now a warren of rubble, booby traps, roadside bombs and sniper ambush points.
Shadow warfare expected next

Almost every senior military commander on the ground, American, Canadian, Iraqi and Kurdish, is expecting ISIS to revert to a hit-and-run insurgency once Mosul and surrounding villages are cleared.

That presents a problem.

Most of the training Canadian special forces have provided to the Kurds involves traditional combat skills, not the intelligence-driven shadow warfare that characterized the decade-long combat commitment in Afghanistan.

Brig. Adel Rash, a Peshmerga commander in the region of Zartak Mountain on the outskirts of Mosul, told CBC News that his forces would welcome counter-insurgency training and he wants the Canadians to deliver it.

"We are in need of training courses," he said in an interview. "When ISIS activity changes to an insurgency, I need to be prepared."

Whether the Trudeau government, with its planned return to peacekeeping and deployment of a battle group in eastern Europe, is interested in such an ongoing commitment is unclear.

Judging by federal budget documents, the Liberals have given themselves the option of pulling the plug next year.

Only $41.9 million has been set aside for the operation in Iraq in 2017-18, two-thirds less than what is being spent this year.

But now, one has to ask: Will Donald Trump allow Canadians to leave without consequence?

Canada Hiding Bravery of its Special Forces

By: Scott Taylor, The Chronicle Herald 

Last week, the Canadian military told reporters that our special forces operatives in northern Iraq have been involved in numerous firefights in recent weeks with the Daesh evildoers.
Image result for Canada in Iraq
Iraqi Forces fire a rocket towards an ISIL fighting position. 
After photos had appeared on Facebook showing Canadian soldiers firing anti-armour missiles on the front lines, it was not surprising that DND confirmed this to be the case.

According to Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces (CANSOFCOM), there have been three separate occasions wherein our soldiers engaged Daesh would-be suicide bombers with sophisticated anti-armour missile systems.

For those who have been following the now weeks-long allied offensive to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh, it is widely known that the evildoers have employed a multitude of suicide car bombs.

Rouleau explained: “The Kurds do not possess weapons like we have. So our three engagements with anti-armour weapon systems prevented that from happening several thousand metres before they wanted to detonate.” So far, so good. Our commandos are blasting apart the Daesh bad guys on the battlefield.

But that sounds like combat, and as we have been told repeatedly by both the former Conservative government and the current Liberal government, Canada does not have a combat mandate in Iraq.

To make the distinction clear, Rouleau stressed to reporters the fact that Canadian troops are not leading the fight, nor are they engaged in “offensive combat operations.” Digging himself in deeper, Rouleau added, “We have never accompanied any leading combat elements. My troops have not been engaged in direct combat as a fighting element in offensive combat operations.”

Huh? How can these Canadian soldiers firing anti-armour missiles not be with a leading combat element, if the only thing in front of them are the Daesh attackers? As for offensive operations, the entire push into Mosul and the recapture of its surrounding villages is one massive offensive. The Daesh suicide vehicles are desperate counterattacks to slow down the allied advance. It is a hell of a stretch of logic to push right up to the Daesh front lines and then proclaim your actions to be self-defence and, somehow, not combat.

Sticking to his guns, Rouleau tried to portray his soldiers’ actions as those of helpful bystanders who will engage Daesh with sniper fire or airstrikes to defend the Kurdish fighters they are supposed to be training. “From deliberately selected positions that maximize our utility to advancing Kurd forces, we have either defended ourselves, defended friendly forces, or defended civilians caught in the middle,” explained Rouleau.

Forgetting the fact that Rouleau’s statement of directly supporting “advancing Kurd forces” contradicts his earlier claim of having “never accompanied any leading combat elements,” it brings to mind the old axiom that if the enemy is within range of you, then you are within range of the enemy.

The crazy part of all this is that most Canadians do not care that our special forces personnel are engaged in combat with Daesh, even though they do not have a mandate to do so. The Daesh evildoers are mass murderers, rapists and perpetrators of attempted genocide. There is no doubt a sense of perverse pride among the Colonel Blimp warmongers that Canada is actively engaged in this shooting war. However, Canadian generals just can’t admit it.

I have stated repeatedly that, in my opinion, Canadian soldiers are not among the best in the world — they are the best. Our special forces operatives are undoubtedly a tremendous asset to the Kurdish forces they are supporting in battle. I am also sure that several of our soldiers have performed acts of heroism that would be worthy of medals of valour. However, due to the deliberate duplicity of our senior commanders in redefining the term combat in order to exceed their politically mandated ‘advise and assist’ role, these soldiers are not getting full credit for their service.

We can’t praise Canadian soldiers for their prowess in combat because, officially, they cannot be in combat.

Canadian Polish Congress Seeking Permission for Snowbird Fly-Over at June Pilgrimage

By Scott Rosts, Niagra-on-the-Lake Town Courier 

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — The Canadian Polish Congress is hoping to make a milestone commemoration even more special with the help of the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds.

Each year the Canadian Polish Congress holds a pilgrimage in Niagara-on-the-Lake to commemorate the efforts of the Polish, Canadian, and American volunteers who joined the Polish army units formed in our region to help Poland in its struggle to regain independence in 1918. With the 100th anniversary pilgrimage being planned for June, 11, 2017, the Canadian Polish Congress is hoping for a flyby by the Snowbirds.

As part of their request, organizers must seek approval from the Town to permit the aircrafts to fly as low as 500 feet at the beginning or end of the ceremony in the Polish cemetery in Old Town.

Councillors approved the request, which still needs to go to council next Monday night to be ratified, but not unanimously. Coun. Jamie King said while he supports the event and thinks it’s “a wonderful idea in principle”, he can’t support the flyby.

“I am uncomfortable approving a 500-foot fly over a residential area. I think that’s unusual,” said King, noting displays are more appropriate over fields, bodies of water and unpopulated areas.

Coun. Paolo Miele noted, however, that there are many aircrafts that come into the Niagara District Airport under 1,000 feet on a daily basis.

Lord Mayor Pat Darte said he had a meeting on the proposed flyby on Monday, and there is a “very regimented” manner the Snowbirds follow, adding there wouldn’t be any aerial maneuvers, just a simple flyover.

“I understand your concern but I think … it’s a pretty straight-forward request,” said Darte. “I learned everything about how they do it, what they do. The rules are so stringent for these guys, it’s impossibly virtual to fail.”

Should the town provide final approval the Canadian Polish Congress can finalize its request for the flyby. Should the Snowbirds flyby be approved, the town says it will notify the residents about the activities and the potential noise resulting from the flyby next June.

The Snowbirds recently visited Niagara-on-the-Lake in September. The iconic flying team did a photo shoot over Niagara Falls and did flyovers throughout the region, before making a brief stop at the Niagara District Airport. At the time, Darte said he had hoped to welcome the Snowbirds back to town in 2017.

Bland: Trudeau Cannot Neglect the Canadian Forces

By: Douglas Bland, Guest Author -Ottawa Citizen 

The government of Canada has a duty to provide to citizens a comprehensive explanation of its national defence policies. After more than a year in office, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to reveal his defence policy and its supporting multi-billion-dollar budget.

In April, the prime minister launched public consultations on security challenges, the role of the military in facing “current threats and challenges,” and what resources might be necessary to carry out its mandate – oddly, without defining what that mandate might be.

These consultations attracted 4,700 Canadians to public meetings and produced 20,200 “submissions.” The review ended in July and its conclusions were apparently presented to cabinet in October, but they have been withheld from the public. Indeed, Trudeau seems to have decided not to present a national defence policy to Parliament until sometime in mid-2017 or later.

Defence policy or not, the Liberal government, among other fundamental defence policy decisions, withdrew Canada’s CF-18 fighters from the battle against ISIL insurgents; committed hundreds of military advisers to near-combat operations in Iraq and other areas in that dangerous region without the courtesy of even a take-note debate in Parliament; sent or plans to send large units on vague missions in Eastern Europe; dithers over committing perhaps hundreds more military personnel to risky, ill-defined missions in Africa and perhaps elsewhere; confounded defence procurement strategies by, for example, cancelling plans to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fleet and hesitating to confirm other major projects; and after a year in office, has failed to define its annual multi-billion-dollar defence budget.

The reality, however, is that Trudeau does have an active, but undeclared, traditional Liberal national defence policy founded on the longstanding Liberal defence bromide: You must not take the CAF seriously. It will not be required for the defence of the country, as the United States will protect us from enemy aggression.

Liberal governments were compelled by public opinion to build significant military forces during the First and Second World Wars and in the early years of the Cold War. After 1960, political support for a modern, robust Canadian Forces gradually, then rapidly, faded from the national political agenda.

The Liberal government’s 1964 White Paper On Defence raised “doubts” about the traditional structure of armed forces and looked to “organizational efficiencies” to reduce defence spending. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s 1971 defence white paper belittled the traditional roles of armed forces, “(especially) at a time when national social and economic needs (were) considerable.” He concluded that “the size of the defence budget can only be made in the context of the Government’s (other) national priorities and programs” and cut budgets and capabilities yet again.

Prime minister Jean Chrétien’s 1994 defence white paper was clear and ultimately disarming: “Everything is being made leaner, everything is undergoing the closest scrutiny.” Deep cuts were made to budgets, infrastructure and administration, but most radically to operational capabilities and to plans and budgets intended to modernization of next-generation armed force.

The tradition continues. Trudeau’s national defence policy – if one is presented to Parliament – will also aim to produce, as he announced during the election, “a leaner, more agile” defence force, a target that can be achieved only by reducing CAF operational capabilities.

Informed observers expect that, as a minimum, Trudeau will reduce significantly the defence budget, cut the personnel strength of army and militia units; delay plans to rebuild the navy’s dilapidated submarine fleet; greatly restructure downward the navy’s shipbuilding program; and delay into the far future any decision to replace the CF-18 fleet.

If Trudeau believes, after the election of Donald Trump, that Canada can continue to free-ride on the defence policies and budgets of the United States, then he will be greatly disappointed after his first meeting with the president-elect.

Better for Canada’s security and relations with the United States if Trudeau immediately assured Trump that Canada intends to significantly modernize the Canadian Forces and shows him his government’s budget to do so.

Dr. Douglas Bland is professor emeritus, Queen’s University and a retired Canadian Armed Forces lieutenant-colonel.

Canadian Forces could face heavy weapons if deployed to Mali

By: GEOFFREY YORK, The Globe and Mail 

Canadian troops could face a terrifying arsenal of rebel-held weapons, from rockets and artillery to shoulder-fired missiles and anti-tank mines, if they are deployed as expected in a peacekeeping operation in the West African nation of Mali.

A report released on Wednesday shows that the terrorist and separatist groups have obtained a wide range of heavy weaponry from government stockpiles in both Mali and Libya, as well as other unknown sources.

The report, published by British-based Conflict Armament Research, also traces the weapons used by the Islamist radicals who killed six Canadians and 24 other civilians in Burkina Faso earlier this year. Their weapons were relatively new Chinese-made assault rifles, which – based on their similar serial numbers – appeared to share the same supplier as Islamic State fighters in Syria, the report says.

Conflict Armament Research is largely financed by the governments of Britain and Germany and the European Union. Its 49-page report is one of the most extensive recent studies of the sources of illicit weapons in West Africa.

The huge range of heavy weapons in Mali could help explain why the Canadian government has been cautious and hesitant in announcing its peacekeeping plans in Africa.

The government announced in August that it will deploy up to 600 soldiers and 150 police officers in “peace and stabilization operations” in Africa, but nearly three months later, it still hasn’t revealed the location of the deployment.

Most analysts believe that Mali is the most likely location for the Canadian deployment, although the Canadian troops could eventually be divided among several African locations. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited Mali and neighbouring Senegal last week, and his department earlier sent a reconnaissance team to Mali to scout out a possible peacekeeping mission.

Mali has endured civil war and terrorist attacks for much of the past five years. Radical Islamist militias won control of northern Mali in 2012, until they were pushed back by French and Malian forces. Terrorist attacks have continued since then, making Mali the deadliest country in the world for United Nations peacekeepers. More than 100 peacekeepers have been killed there since 2013, including more than 30 this year alone.

Asked about the dangers of a Mali mission, Mr. Sajjan told reporters this week that “radical groups” are a threat to UN peacekeeping missions in many parts of the world.

“Peacekeeping of today is much different from before,” he told reporters in Ottawa on Monday. “It’s far more complex. … And that’s why we want to make sure that we take our time, to make sure that we get all the necessary information on how we can actually reduce the threat.”

Before any Canadian troops are deployed, they will get “the right pre-deployment training, the right equipment … and the right rules of engagement to be able to not only defend themselves, but also the civilian population that they’re there to protect,” Mr. Sajjan said.

The dangers of a Mali mission were sharply highlighted last week when a UN peacekeeper was killed and seven others were injured in an attack on a military convoy in central Mali on the first day of Mr. Sajjan’s visit to the country.

The new report by Conflict Armament Research confirms that huge numbers of weapons have been smuggled into Mali from the vast arsenals of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator who was killed in 2011 after a military intervention by Western countries, including Canada. Those arsenals were “one of the largest and most diverse conventional weapon stockpiles of any African country,” the report says.

Weapons from the Gadhafi stockpiles fuelled the 2012 insurgencies in northern Mali and later spread to several other countries in West Africa, even reaching Syria, where they were used by Islamic State forces, the report says.

Among the Libyan weapons obtained by rebels in Mali and neighbouring countries were Russian-made MANPADS (man-portable air defence systems), a shoulder-fired missile that can destroy helicopters and other aircraft. These would be of particular concern to Ottawa, since Canadian tactical helicopters could be deployed in Mali if there is a Canadian peacekeeping mission there.

Sending Canadian Peacekeepers to Mali should be an obvious choice

By: Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail 

A month ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knew that a return to UN peacekeeping would automatically be seen as a useful global contribution by Canada’s major ally in Washington. Donald Trump’s election changed that.

That’s why sending Canadian peacekeepers to Mali should now be an obvious political choice for the government, which has pledged to announce a deployment of up to 600 peacekeepers within weeks.

It’s not that the African country matters to Mr. Trump. It seems likely the president-elect couldn’t find Mali on a map and that his national-security staff might not bother pointing to it in his early briefings. But Mr. Trump’s priority is combatting the spread of Islamist terror, and that’s key to the mission in Mali.

That makes sending peacekeepers to Mali just the sort of international security initiative that fits a Canadian Liberal prime minister.

“It has both the realpolitik as well as the more idealistic liberal international justifications,” said Walter Dorn, an expert in peacekeeping and professor at the Royal Military College and the Canadian Forces College.

Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals want to embrace do-gooding internationalism that makes peacekeeping popular with Canadians. It was also something U.S. President Barack Obama urged allies to do.

Mr. Trump, however, doesn’t appear to have any interest in UN peacekeeping. But that still might suit Mr. Trudeau in one way: When the U.S. president is unpopular in Canada, Liberal prime ministers like to be perceived as pursuing an “independent” foreign policy.

Even so, it’s still valuable to be seen as a useful ally in Washington. Canada depends on U.S. co-operation. When the U.S. and other allies complain Canada’s military spending is half its expected NATO obligation, Ottawa likes to point to an active role in missions. Canada has troops advising Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq and joined efforts to bolster NATO presence in Eastern Europe, but Ottawa will also hope its peacekeeping mission will be seen in Washington as helpful.

Mali means sharp-ended UN peacekeeping. It operates alongside a French-led counterterrorism mission fighting insurgents in northern Mali and across the Sahel-Sahara region. The peacekeepers are trying to stabilize the country, including the vast north that still suffers disaffection from the government in Bamako – the same vacuum that helped fuel insurgents who were on the verge of taking the capital in 2013, until French troops intervened.

Mr. Trudeau’s government hasn’t yet said where in Africa it will deploy peacekeepers. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited Mali earlier this month, but the Liberals have also considered UN missions in Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are arguments for going to a less-dangerous place. Former senator and retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire has suggested Canada should send troops to CAR, where peacekeepers are tasked with tamping down sectarian violence. Ottawa is likely to choose one main mission but could send a handful of troops to others.

But there are also calls for Canada to send its peacekeepers to Mali precisely because it is dangerous. The UN’s under-secretary-general for peacekeeping field support, Atul Khare, said this weekend the Mali mission needs critical elements like helicopters.

“I think the most important contributions currently would be devoted to Mali,” he said in Halifax after meeting Mr. Sajjan and his British counterpart, Michael Fallon.

Mr. Dorn thinks Canadian troops would be more useful in Mali. They have Afghanistan experience, can offer equipment such as Chinook helicopters and expertise such as engineering, communications and possibly intelligence – the Mali mission has more intelligence personnel than any UN mission before it.

But it is more dangerous. So far, 109 peacekeepers have died, including a Togolese soldier two weeks ago. Statistically, Mr. Dorn said, peacekeepers in Mali have a 0.3-per-cent chance of fatality, compared with 1 per cent for Canadian troops in Afghanistan. That’s the biggest risk Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals must weigh. But the Mali mission has a purpose, protecting civilians in a fragile country threatened by insurgents, and it’s one that can be clearly explained to left and right, around the world, in Washington and at home.

NATO a 'cold-war relic,' according to Russian ambassador

By: Laura Payton, CTV News 

OTTAWA -- Russia's ambassador to Canada says NATO is deploying in eastern Europe to justify its existence in a post-Soviet world.

Alexander Darchiev says Canada is a sovereign country that can make its own choices, but he doesn't believe NATO should be moving additional troops into countries that border Russia.

"NATO is irrelevant. It's cold-war relic, which desperately needs rationale for its continued existence," Darchiev said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.

"If you want [to] divert your resources for [a] NATO build-up, that's the sovereign choice of Canada," he said.

NATO started reinforcing itself in countries like Lithuania and Poland in 2014, after Russia captured Crimea, a pro-Russia part of Ukraine. NATO called the takeover illegal, although Russia termed it a reunification.

Canada is set to command a 1,000-person battle group in Latvia early in the new year, including 450 Canadian Forces members, following nearly two years of military exercises and training in central and eastern Europe.

The Russian ambassador says the only way to achieve peace in Ukraine is for both sides to negotiate.

"The major self-deception for the west is to believe there is a Russian aggression. There is no Russian aggression," Darchiev said, calling the conflict in Ukraine a civil war.

"[The] NATO buildup is a national security concern. We are open for dialogue, but we sincerely believe it's not good for European security," he added.

Russian email hack? 'Definite' no

Darchiev praised U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's win nearly two weeks ago as "a victory of common sense and pragmatism," but said Russia had nothing to do with the email hacks that revealed messages of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's top campaign officials. American intelligence officials, including the FBI, said it was Russian government hackers who stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other officials.

"No. We have a definite answer on that," Darchiev said when asked if Russia was behind the hacks, which saw the documents made public by Wikileaks.

"Due to Edward Snowden, we now know that NSA capabilities are unmatched in imposing global surveillance, in bugging smart phones and in eavesdropping [on] even closest allies," he said, referring to the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the NSA's mass surveillance program.

The Russian official said his country didn't interfere in the American election.

"All elections are domestic. It's about jobs, it's about discontent of the middle class so no foreign power could ever influence election in a super power," he said.