Friday, December 22, 2017

RCAF Sea King 50 Year Life Span Coming to A Close

By: Brett Ruskin · Reporter/Videojournalist · CBC News
The outgoing Sea King helicopter, right, and its replacement, the Cyclone, at their East Coast headquarters at 12 Wing Shearwater near Halifax. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)
Canada's half-century-old Sea King helicopters will take a step closer to retirement next month, with the last official East Coast flight planned for Jan. 26, CBC News has learned.

West Coast operations will continue until December 2018, military officials said, at which point the new Cyclone aircraft will officially take over as Canada's Maritime helicopter.

There still may be some Sea King flights on the East Coast past January, but only for logistical reasons, such as repositioning the aircraft locally or sending them to other parts of the country.

Sea Kings have been operating in Canada since 1963.

The multipurpose workhorse aircraft is paired with every Royal Canadian Navy frigate. Its tail and rotors fold so it fits inside the ship. Its hull is designed to perform emergency water landings, and it can be outfitted as a submarine hunter, with sonar systems and torpedoes.
Cyclone helicopters still being tweaked

The Sea King's replacement is the Cyclone, a military variant of the Sikorsky S-92.

The federal government has accepted delivery of more than a dozen Cyclone aircraft, but not all of them are currently in Canada.
A Canadian military Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone conducts test flights with HMCS Montreal in Halifax Harbour on April 1, 2010. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
Each new batch of helicopters is flown and tested by Canadian aircraft experts. If changes are needed, the helicopters are sent back to Sikorsky to re-enter the production cycle and the improvements are made for future versions.

There have been at least three different batches or "blocks" delivered to Canada.
New issue discovered

The navy recently discovered a new problem with the latest block of Cyclones.

Just like the Sea Kings, these helicopters are designed to land on ships at sea. To test the Cyclone's limits, the crew of HMCS Montreal spent months seeking the worst weather and highest seas.

In extreme conditions, the Cyclone can use a cable to safely land on a ship. While the helicopter hovers above the surging and tilting vessel, the cable slowly winches the aircraft down.

The method is highly effective, but officials found it can cause problems for another important system.

The Cyclone is also equipped with a sonar system that it lowers into the water on a tether. It dips beneath the surface and sends out pings to search for submarines.

Sonar could hit ship during landings

"Analyses have shown that, in theory, it is possible for the sonar submersible unit to contact the ship-mounted assisted-recovery system when operating in high sea state condition," said an emailed statement from Department of National Defence officials.

Put simply, both the sonar and landing systems work fine. But due to the sonar's position, it could hit the ship when the helicopter uses the cable landing system.

The long-term fix will be to reposition the sonar system. Until Sikorsky makes that change, the current group of helicopters can either be used as shore-based aircraft, or have the sonar system removed for ship-based operations.

Even without the tethered sonar system, the Cyclone can still search beneath the surface. An additional sonar system sends remote buoys into the ocean that transmit acoustic information wirelessly back to the helicopter.

The next block of Cyclones will fix the sonar issue by repositioning the mechanism. That block should be delivered by June 2018.

CAF Plan to Arm Kurds On Hold

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

During a Wednesday news conference with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, I asked the minister a direct question about the Iraq mission: “Do you still intend to provide arms to the Kurds?”

The minister, talking to journalists via phone from London, England, seemed taken back and stumbled for an answer. Sajjan then reverted to his standard talking points about wanting to work closely with the Iraqis. But he really didn’t answer the question.

Then on Thursday, the reason became apparent. Justin Ling broke a story on Buzzfeed noting that the weapons purchased by Canadian tax dollars are in storage in Montreal. The Iraqi government is refusing to give approval for the weapons to be delivered to the Kurds, he reported.

Iraqi troops attacked Kurdish forces after the Kurdish Regional Government announced plans to declare an independent state in the northern part of the country, including the oil-rich area around Kirkuk.

Iraqi forces seized Kirkuk and the Kurds retreated. The region faces further upheaval, as protests started on Monday after demonstrators took to the streets calling for the resignation of the Kurdish Regional Government. A number of government buildings were set on fire, and at least five protesters have been killed by security forces and dozens wounded. Some hospital officials put the number of wounded at more than 100.

The demonstrators are protesting against government corruption, the failure of the KRG to provide basic services and a lack of pay for civil servants — and there remains anger over the failed independence bid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in February 2016 that Canada would provide weapons to the Kurds in support of their efforts against ISIL.

Canada had planned to provide the Kurds with gear including .50-calibre sniper rifles equipped with silencers, 60mm mortars, as well as Carl Gustav anti-tank systems, as well as grenade launchers, pistols, carbines, thermal binoculars, cameras, scopes and medical supplies.

But that doesn’t appear like it is going to happen.

No specific delivery plans have been made by Canada, a Department of National Defence spokesman told Defence Watch.

“As is the case for any CAF operation, our contributions are constantly under assessment in order to ensure all appropriate strategic and tactical steps are taken,” he noted. “Canada also has a responsibility to ensure any provisions of equipment and small arms such aid is provided under the right conditions.”

The lethal equipment that has been acquired to date is currently stored in Canada at the 25 Canadian Forces Supply Depot in Montréal, QC. The supply depot is run by the Canadian Materiel Support Group, which is responsible for providing operational-level support through the delivery of materiel and assigned logistics services to the CAF and the DND.

Canada Assessing Iraq Military Role Post-ISIL

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Military commanders are re-assessing Canada's future role in Iraq as declarations of victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been met with new rifts and tensions across the war-ravaged country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced earlier this month that the country had been "fully liberated" from ISIL after the militant group, also known as Daesh, was cleared from the last pockets of territory that it had held in the country.

The proclamation capped three years of often intense fighting that first started when ISIL captured large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and declared the creation of a self-styled caliphate.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters following a visit to the Middle East this week that victory came faster than Canada and its allies had expected, and the focus now is on ensuring stability in Iraq after ISIL.

The military will present options to the government in the new year, though it seems evident that Canadian forces will be training Iraqi counterparts to protect against various threats from inside and outside the country.

Sajjan did not give any indication that the government was planning to end Canada's military mission in Iraq, which was extended this past summer to March 2019.

"The progress against Daesh has gone actually quite well, to the point where we are actually ahead of schedule based on our plan," he said by telephone from London, where he was meeting with his British counterpart.

"As you know, we've taken 100 per cent of the territory but a lot more work needs to be done to make sure that stability within the nation remains and the capacity building needs to start."

But despite ISIL's defeat on the battlefield, peace and stability remain fleeting in many parts of Iraq as long-standing divisions and tensions have started to re-emerge and even erupt into violence.

The most recent incident has seen three days of deadly protests in Iraq's Kurdistan region, where the main Kurdish political parties have turned on each other amid allegations of corruption.

The Kurds have also been at odds with the central government in Baghdad after holding a non-binding referendum on independence in September, which set off a series of limited skirmishes.

The federal government, which had largely ignored warnings of such a development for years, responded by ordering Canadian forces in Iraq to suspend all assistance to their Iraqi and Kurdish allies.

That order remains in effect.

There have also been complaints about the slow pace of reconstruction in Iraq, particularly in Sunni-dominated areas, and concerns about Iran's growing influence with the Shia-controlled government in Baghdad.

The government is also looking at what additional aid efforts are needed to rebuild the country, Sajjan said, and bring its various ethnic and religious factions back together.

"We're committed to making sure that we can continue the great work that has begun with the military but also making sure that the rehabilitation piece is there, that political stability also remains," he said.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Australian F-18s Will Operate Out of Bagotville and Cold Lake

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch

When Canada was looking to buy new Super Hornets from Boeing, the understanding was that they would be set up in one stand alone squadron, likely at CFB Cold Lake.

So how will the 18 used Australian F-18s be distributed? Will they be in one location?

Here is what a senior government official – speaking on background – had to say on that topic during the recent announcement:

“The force structure of the aircraft from Australia has not yet been finalized. We’re going to actually do that through the definition phase, but we anticipate right now that some of the aircraft will likely be employed in Cold Lake and some will be employed in Bagotville, probably with a similar ratio that we currently have across the fleet. So, but the final force structure is yet to be determined.”

But the government has since officially confirmed that Bagotville and Cold Lake will be the locations. Here is what it has stated:

“The aircraft will be employed at 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake. DND is currently reviewing infrastructure requirements to accommodate the additional aircraft. Any modifications are expected to be minimal as the supplemental jets are of similar age and design to the CF-18.”

Moderator Note: 
Personally, I do not see why this is news. Even if they were only stationed at Cold Lake as originally thought...those are the only two CF-18 Wings in Canada. It would be a surprise if they set up a third Wing at a third base.