Thursday, March 30, 2017

Canadian Navy Weakened: Analyst

By: FRAM DINSHAW, The Chronical Herald 

A senior defence analyst has branded last week’s federal budget as “unhelpful” for Canada’s navy at a time when Vladimir Putin’s submarines increasingly lurk off Nova Scotia’s coast.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) ST JOHN’S transits to the Black Sea on February 1, 2017 during Operation REASSURANCE. (LS Ogle Henry, Formation Imaging Services)
(HMCS) ST JOHN’S transits to the Black Sea on February 1, 2017 during Operation REASSURANCE. (LS Ogle Henry, Formation Imaging Services)
David Perry, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said that this year’s budget essentially kicked $8.48 billion of funding down the road to 2035-36, meaning that Canada’s navy will not receive needed submarines to patrol its Atlantic shores.

“The Canadian government does not have funding at present to maintain a modern submarine capability,” Perry told the Chronicle Herald.

The Royal Canadian Navy is further hamstrung by its current lack of destroyers. All four of its Iroquois-class vessels are now decommissioned and construction of the new Canadian Surface Combatant vessels in Halifax’s Irving Shipyard will not begin until the mid-2020s.

Their construction must wait until Irving completes the construction of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, vessels designed to secure Canada’s Arctic frontiers against Russian naval incursions.

Perry noted that Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic is back up to levels not seen since the 1970s and 1980s, when the Cold War between NATO and the Soviet Union was at its height.

As in the Cold War, Russian submarines set sail from their bases on Russia’s Arctic coastline, track around the Norwegian coast and thread their way past Scotland, Iceland and Greenland into the North Atlantic. Once there, they can roam as far as Nova Scotia and America’s Eastern Seaboard.

The Russian submarine fleet is now less than one-fifth of its peak Cold War size,when it numbered 250 vessels, according to a 2016 report by The National Interest.

But Putin’s navy is significantly better-trained and more technologically advanced than immediately after the Cold War, when a lack of funding meant that aging submarines remained stuck in port through the 1990s.

The Russians have recently deployed new Borey-class nuclear-powered subs capable of launching ballistic missiles and have also upgraded their diesel-powered Kilo submarines, among other improvements.

Perry warned against western complacency, saying that Putin’s navy possessed “multiple and varied modern subs.”

A resurgent Russia challenges Canada on two fronts: submarine activity in the Atlantic and increased military activity on its Arctic borders where significant reserves of oil and gas may be located.

The Russian military can deploy submarines and icebreakers to probe Canada’s Arctic and also possesses long-range bombers and missiles, meaning that Canada and the U.S. must upgrade the North American Aerospace Command’s capabilities. This may mean installing missile defence systems on Canadian soil, but in 2005 Ottawa rejected an American invitation to join such a program.

Since then, Moscow has deployed long-range cruise missiles in Syria, launching them from the Caspian Sea over Iran and Iraq against rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s government. Such missiles may also threaten Canadian Arctic security.

“(The Russians) can probe, they can sense, they can do a lot of things to improve their knowledge of our northern passages, so that is a potential threat that Canada should take some measures to counter,” said Brian Wentzell, director of Nova Scotia’s Royal United Services Institute.

A third land front is in Eastern Europe, where ethnic Russian militants are fighting in eastern Ukraine against that country’s pro-Western government and Putin’s troops continue to occupy the Crimean Peninsula along the Black Sea. Canada and its NATO allies have provided support and training to Ukraine’s military.

Wentzell warned that Putin’s intelligence operatives may use ethnic Russians in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to stir up a Ukraine-style conflict in the Baltic Republics.

“The concern that I have is that we’re not sending a strong enough message to Russia — or anyone else for that matter — that we’re prepared to stand up for what we believe in,” said Wentzell.

Adding to Canada’s military challenges is Ottawa’s ongoing Defence Policy Review, a nationwide public consultation that has not yet been completed.

RCN Interested in UAS for Halifax Frigates

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Companies have until April 18 to provide information to the Canadian government for a unmanned aerial system (UAS) for the Royal Canadian Navy. The UAS would be used onboard a Halifax-class warship, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada. The RCN is looking for a proven system “that is technically airworthy, and has an already established supply chain and maintenance schedule,” according to information provided to industry.

“The UAS will enhance the Halifax-class frigate’s ability to conduct sustained, extended, concealed Over The Horizon (OTH) surveillance, targeting, and intelligence gathering operations required to locate, identify and interdict Contacts of Interest (COI) or similar effects in support of forces in open ocean or the littorals,” the department noted.

“Noting that an embarked Maritime Helicopter on a typical six month deployment would fly approximately 500 hours, while operating a 12 hour deck cycle; it would not be unreasonable to consider that the UAS could fly closer to 1000 hours in that same period. This would provide the host warship with a UAS that could fly up to 12 hours every other day (or iterations thereof).”

Public Services and Procurement Canada noted the UAS should not require any launch and recovery apparatus.

Here are more details (provided by the department) on the aircraft the RCN would be interested in:

-The UAS must have a minimum of six (6) hour endurance in order to meet a minimum of 3.5 hour on station time, a minimum of 50 NM from the host ship while fitted with a core payload, while operating at 50kts.

– The UAS must operate in challenging maritime conditions, which include up to sea state 4, headwinds of 25 knots with crosswinds of 10 knots and gusts up to 40 knots, temperatures ranging from -30 to +40 Celsius and rainfall of up to 4mm per hour.

-The UAS must remotely operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), extending a ships current sensor range beyond 50nm, in order to effectively perform ISTAR related tasks at a tactically relevant range.

-The UAS must have a core set of payloads installed at all times to include EO/IR, maritime radar, AIS, and an IFF Transponder, and the UAS must be able to add additional mission specific payloads to support the ISTAR mission of the day.

The government’s request for information is aimed at refining the RCN’s requirements.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

HMCS Saskatoon helps U.S. Coast Guard seize 14 tonnes of cocaine

The Canadian Press 

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.—A Royal Canadian Navy vessel was involved in an international anti-drug trafficking mission that led to the seizure of more than 14 tonnes of cocaine in international waters along the coasts of Central and South America.

The HMCS Saskatoon seen in Esquimalt Harbor, B.C. The U.S. Coast Guard, with the help of the HMCS Saskatoon, says it has made a massive cocaine bust in international waters.
The HMCS Saskatoon seen in Esquimalt Harbor, B.C. The U.S. Coast Guard, with the help of the HMCS Saskatoon, says it has made a massive cocaine bust in international waters. (DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday that the drugs were seized in 17 different raids over a period of 26 days.

“When smugglers are racing across the Caribbean or the Pacific, they are not just carrying cocaine, they are delivering violence, corruption and instability to a part of the world — the Western Hemisphere — that just can’t absorb it,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Feder told a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“(It’s) a part of the world that already has eight of the 10 most homicidal nations in it,” he said.

HMCS Saskatoon, based at CFB Esquimalt in British Columbia, and a U.S. vessel — Guard LEDET 405 — were involved in one of the raids where about a tonne of cocaine was seized.

The Canadian vessel joined the U.S.-lead multinational operation in February, which is aimed at intercepting illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Feder said 30 suspected drug smugglers were detained during the operation, adding that they will be questioned and possibly prosecuted in the U.S.

The cocaine was being off-loaded at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on Tuesday.

Feder said the drug bust shows how “we need to work with our interagency partners as well as our allies to deter this threat and keep it as far from our shores as possible.”

It is not the first time HMCS Saskatoon is involved in a U.S.-led anti-trafficking operation.

On March 19, 2016, the vessel was involved in the seizure of about 360 kilograms of cocaine dumped in the water by a fishing boat before it fled the scene, according to the navy.

“By preventing the flow of illicit drugs and denying unlawful access to the sea, our sailors are effectively interrupting a major funding source for organized crime,” Lt.-Cmdr. Todd Bacon, Commanding Officer of HMCS Saskatoon, said earlier this month.

Monday, March 27, 2017

FWSAR C296W Considered a "Game Changer"

By: Ken Pole, Frontline Defence Magazine 
© 2017 FrontLine Defence (Vol 14, No 1)

The expressions “game changer” and “paradigm shift” tend to be thrown around like gravel on any remote airstrip. Clich├ęd or not, they truly do apply to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s new fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) platform and how it will be used to good effect in one of the largest and arguably most challenging SAR environments in the world.

The government of Canada has ordered 16 Airbus C295Ws, with first delivery by Airbus Defence and Space (D&S) expected in 2019. Like its forerunner, the venerable and still capable deHavilland DHC-5A – which first entered service with the RCAF as the C-115 Buffalo in 1965 – the C295W is a short take off and landing (STOL) high-tailed utility transport with twin turboprops on a high wing.

There’s no denying the aircraft’s solid performance worldwide but, over a decade ago, when the program was in the requirements identification phase, the Alenia C­27J Spartan had been considered the RCAF’s preferred platform. However, Leonardo (formerly Alenia-Aermacchi) evidently could not beat the Airbus bid.

Canada’s decision boosted total C295 orders, including earlier variants, to 185 aircraft for 25 countries, a development which Airbus Military Aircraft Head Fernando Alonso says is not only “a clear sign that the C295’s robustness, reliability and cost-effectiveness will ensure that it remains the market leader”, but also demonstrates that Airbus is “on the right path with our strategy of rapidly developing and adapting versions of our aircraft to address emerging market requirements.”

In addition to replacing the remaining Buffalos, all stationed at Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island, the Airbus platform will replace four-engined H-model Lockheed Martin CC-130s, some of which also have been in RCAF service since 1974 at SAR squadrons in Winnipeg, Trenton, and Greenwood.

Manufactured at the sprawling Airbus facility in Seville, Spain, abutting San Pablo International Airport, the C295W, which first flew in 1998, is fundamentally a stretched version of a Spanish-Indonesian light transport, the CASA/IPTN CN-235, first flown in 1983.

While the basic configuration is much the same, that’s where the similarity to the Buffalo ends. The ‘W’ refers to now-standard winglets. These aerodynamic enhancements were part of a 2013 design evolution that also saw, among other things, beefier landing gear, external hardpoints, an integrated tactical system, and the introduction of uprated 2,645-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turbines driving six-bladed Hamilton Standard 586-F propellors. Another key element is the electro-optical/infrared turret system designed by L-3 WESCAM, headquartered in Burlington, Ontario.

So far, other Airbus partners in the FWSAR program include landing gear overhaul by Heroux Devtekof Longeuil, Quebec, and propellers from Hope Aero of Missisauga, Ontario. Sonovision, which has facilities in seven countries including Canada, is on board to provide the technical publications.

The C295W can cruise faster and further than the legacy aircraft and, while it has a narrower wingspan, a more modern wing profile gives it enhanced manoeuverability in confined mountainous terrain – where “low-and-slow” can be key to a successful search.

It also weighs less and can carry more, which presumably results in fuel savings. Also, thanks to automated load-handling, it requires an aircrew of two rather than the Buffalo’s three (its third crew member is a Flight Engineer who also performs the loadmaster role). The number of others on a SAR mission varies.

Simon Jacques, Airbus Head in Canada, points out that some 20% of the aircraft content is Canadian, a result of global product mandates. “It already serves as a global ambassador for the skills, innovation and expertise of Canadians,” he says. “Now it will get to serve them directly.”

Evidently the Embraer C-390 jet didn’t meet the certification deadline and was deemed non-compliant, so personnel from the RCAF’s Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) in Cold Lake and the FWSAR Project Management Office flew the other two competitor aircraft, the Airbus C295W and the Leonardo C-27J Spartan turboprop. According to a Department of National Defence spokes­person, they are prevented from discussing their hands-on experience by confidentiality agreements as well as the “integrity” of the FWSAR evaluation process.

“What we can tell you is that we’re purchasing a state-of-the-art, sensor-equipped aircraft,” he told FrontLine. “It will have a new communication systems to improve interoperability with key partners, and it is a modern, agile aircraft that will be effective day and night, in all-weather conditions.”

The contract with Airbus also includes “robust, comprehensive, well-integrated, low-risk in-service support which will significantly improve aircraft availability” as well as general infrastructure and set-up such as training and engineering and a new simulator-equipped training centre in Comox from the specialists at CAE.

In-service support (ISS) will be provided by AirPro, a joint venture between Airbus D&S and PAL Aerospace of St. John’s, Newfoundland, which has decades of experience with customers worldwide.

Mexican Air Force C295W toured across Canada this past summer. This photo was taken near Kassabonika, Ontario.

After the first few C295s are delivered, they will be operated in parallel with the Buffalos and Hercs as the RCAF transitions to a single FWSAR platform and the older aircraft are retired. The ISS element will kick in once the final aircraft is delivered in 2022.

Public Works and Procurement Canada (PSPC) says the contract for the initial 11 years, including taxes, is worth more than $2.5 billion. It also includes the prospect of extensions, in increments of one to three years, for up to a possible additional 15 years – potentially pushing the value to nearly $5 billion by 2043.

“With the opportunity to earn contract extensions based on its performance, the company is motivated to provide highly reliable aircraft, services and spare parts,” PSPC says. “This will also provide more efficient government contract management, since it means not renegotiating ­contracts every year.”

The contract also includes the prospect of a 2% performance bonus, but the other side of that coin is that Airbus could face a penalty of up to 10% if its performance is not in accordance with the contract requirements. Moreover, “payment will only be made after milestones have been met and accepted by Canada.”

The route toward the contract award (December 2016) had been tortuous and dogged by controversy. When the initial Statement of Operational Requirements (SOR) went out, DND was accused of tailoring it specifically to the Spartan instead of the mission. After many years, the increasingly heated debate eventually forced the government to ask the National Research Council Flight Research Laboratory in Ottawa to review the document.

NRC’s test pilots and engineers concluded, in their exhaustive 2010 report, that the SOR had effectively limited the RCAF’s options by, among other things, specifying an “off the shelf” aircraft which might require extensive modifications. Nor did they like the SOR’s specification of an unrefueled range of 1,699 nautical miles, which they said was “inconsistent with the stated core objective of […] maintaining or improving the SAR level of service.” So program managers went back to the drawing board, eventually producing a Letter of Interest in July 2013, coupled with a plan to begin “sharing elements” of a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) that summer in preparation for a fall workshop for potential bidders.

Air-to-air refueling.

The procurement process shakedown continued until January 2016, when PSPC confirmed that there had been three bidders but, as a matter of policy, did not name them, leaving confirmation to the original equipment manufacturers.

Bids were evaluated on three fundamentals totalling 100 points: overall capability of the aircraft, its systems and the ISS (65 points); long-term operational capability and the maintenance and support services benefits for Canada (25 points); and the Industrial and Technological Benefits and value proposition (10 points).

As expected, the two turboprops were judged to be compliant. Judy Foote, the Minister of PSPC, said “it came down to the cost.”

The evaluation – which was subjected to an independent third-party review and included the aforementioned flight tests as well as a computer-aided assessment of how each aircraft would have responded to more than 7,000 SAR incidents in the past five years – set the stage for the contract announcement in a 424 Transport and Rescue Sqn hangar at 8 Wing in Trenton in early December, attended by, among others, Fernando Alonso, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, PSPC Minister Judy Foote, and RCAF Commander LGen Mike Hood.

Alonso, who had been involved in early cold-weather testing in Canada, professed that he had only 48 hours’ notice that Airbus had won the contract. “Until this morning, I was saying ‘it’s not really true,’” the burly aerospace engineer said. “Now I am starting to believe it.”

Hood admitted that he had even less notice, a reflection of how closely the program management team had guarded their conclusions. “I only found out yesterday,” he said, saying that the C295W’s ability to track up to 200 objects simultaneously in poor light and weather conditions and to share real-time data with other SAR participants “will fundamentally change the SAR paradigm for us.”

Airbus D&S demonstrated some of its capability recently by air-to-air hose-and-drogue refueling between two C295Ws and then using one to top up an Airbus Helicopter H225M Caracal. There’s also an airborne early warning and control variant and, while that isn’t on the RCAF’s shopping list, the tanker option would arguably be desirable.

In Trenton, Sajjan called the C295W a “game changer” which represented “a great technological improvement of our capabilities for the future.”

However, less than a month after the contract was announced, Leonardo introduced another potential ‘game changer’ by asking the Federal Court on January 6th for a judicial revocation of the contract in favour of its C-27J. “Team Spartan’s main allegation is that the selected airplane is unfit to safely perform certain key Search and Rescue tasks and missions required by Canada and should have been, therefore, disqualified,” it says in its statement.

It insists that the C-27J is “the only aircraft in its class with the speed and range to respond to SAR incidents across Canada’s entire area of responsibility while operating from Canada’s existing base structure.” Leonardo used the opportunity to reiterate its maneuverability, short take-off and landing capabilities (characteristics it shares with the C295W), as well as its higher cabin height and faster cruising speed.

When the Federal Court will issue a ruling is unknown. However, among the things it will have to consider is the AETE/PMO conclusions, potentially setting up this 14-year old contest for a countersuit by Airbus as well as, more critically, an even longer delay in replacing aircraft that should have been pensioned off long ago and are incurring considerable maintenance costs.

UN Mission Still Possible in 2017: PM Trudeau

By: The Canadian Press - National Post 

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not ruling out sending troops to a peacekeeping mission this year, even though Canada has not yet told the United Nations what it is up to.

“We have a difficult history in Africa as peacekeepers and we need to make sure that when we embark on any . . . military mission, we make the right decisions about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it, and the kind of impact we’re going to have on the ground and on Canadians,” Trudeau said Saturday.

“That’s a decision we’re not going to fast-track. We’re making it responsibly and thoughtfully.”

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian PressPrime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 20, 2017.

The Liberal government pledged last summer to allot up to 600 troops and 150 police officers for UN peacekeeping operations, plus $450 million over three years on peace and stability projects.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan originally promised to reveal where they were headed by the end of last year. Military officials and Canadian diplomats put some work into figuring out where Canadian troops could make an impact, but an announcement has yet to be made.

The Liberals ended up stalling their plans — including a request from the UN to lead the peacekeeping mission in Mali — as the federal government tried to figure out the priorities of U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration.

Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Sajjan, confirmed Saturday that Canada has not provided the UN with formal notice of its specific contributions, saying “it would be inappropriate” to do so before the government has decided what that would be.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian PressDefence Minister Harjit Sajjan holds a press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 6, 2017.

Asked Saturday morning whether that means Canada will not be sending more blue helmets out in the world by the end of the year, Trudeau said he would not draw that conclusion.

“We continue to look very carefully at ways to move forward on the strong commitment we made on peacekeeping,” Trudeau said.

“We know that Canada has to play a strong and effective role on the world stage in ways that suit our capacities and we’re looking to make sure that that happens right,” he said.

Herve Ladsous, the outgoing UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said Friday that he had been “very eager” when Canada made its peacekeeping promise.
MCpl. Frank Hudec/Canadian Forces Combat CameraCanadian peacekeepers prepare auto atropine injectors during chemical defence refresher training at Camp Ziouani in the Golan Heights in 2002.
“Well, so far, it hasn’t materialized,” he said. “I hope it will.”

Trudeau also stood firm on the Canadian line that its contribution to NATO should not be measured by that fact that it spend about one per cent of its GDP on defence, which falls short of the agreed-upon target of two per cent.

“Lots of different countries in NATO measure their contributions in different ways. Canada measures its contribution by the amount of times and ways that we step up concretely on issues that matter,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau is on Parliament Hill for a rare weekend Liberal caucus meeting, where MPs are discussing the budget and how to make the most of their remaining time in Ottawa before they head home for the summer.

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Liberal MPs who sit on the backbenches have recently been exercising the freedom Trudeau promised them with more free votes, such as when a majority of them voted earlier this month in favour of a bill that would bar health and life insurance companies from forcing clients to disclose the results of genetic testing. That happened even though cabinet voted against it and Trudeau said it was unconstitutional.

However, the prime minister said Saturday that his caucus is more united than ever.

“I’ve been around the Liberal party an awfully long time, as you all know, and I’ve never seen a caucus as strongly united in our approach and our values,” Trudeau said on his way into the second day of the meeting.

“One of the great strengths of the Liberal party is there is always a range of perspectives that allow us to represent the range of perspectives of Canadians,” he said.

Canada Must Make Tough Decisions on Defence Spending: Former NATO Envoy

By Monique Scotti, National Online Journalist, Politics Global News

Canada’s former ambassador to NATO says Ottawa has “to make some decisions” on defence spending given the global security situation and a recent budget that pledged almost no new money for the military.

Speaking with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend, Yves Brodeuremphasized that Canada is hardly the biggest laggard in the 28-member alliance, contributing to international missions like the one in Latvia.
Screen Grap of Global News "The West Block" 
But he also acknowledged that the recent federal budget is unlikely to impress Canada’s allies, many of whom are actively working toward NATO’s established benchmark of spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

“I’m sure that the NATO leadership … would very much wish to see our numbers go up,” Brodeur said.

“In terms of Canada specifically, I think that we’re gong to be under pressure from our friends down south (in the United States) to try and do better.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he will expect to see more money flowing in from America’s NATO allies, and has even threatened to pull out of the alliance. Canada currently spends just under 1% of GDP on defence, the fifth smallest proportion among NATO members.

NATO estimates that Canada set aside $20.3 billion for defence in 2016. The 2017 budget offered no additional money to move the needle, however, drawing loud criticism from the Opposition benches in the House of Commons.

“I think that we have to make some decisions, just looking at what’s happening in the world right now,” Brodeur said.

READ MORE: Lack of defence spending in the federal budget draws fire

He added that there are “several ways” of looking at the numbers. For instance, Canada currently ranks 9th out of all NATO nations when it comes to defence spending per capita.

“So not necessarily the top five, but not the bottom. So it’s not actually that bad.”

Still, money for new equipment and training will be critical in the coming years, said the veteran diplomat.

“That is really key for us, especially as we commit to do more military operations. I think we owe it to our military forces to have the best equipment they can count on if we’re going to put them in harm’s way.”

RCAF CF-18's to Deploy to Iceland and Romania in 2017

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

A flight of six CF-18 jet fighters will soon depart for Iceland in one of two overseas missions this year in a show of solidarity with NATO allies.

Coming out of last year's Warsaw Summit, the Trudeau government committed to deploying an air task force as part of a range of measures meant to check Russian ambitions in Eastern Europe.

It has not, until now, confirmed any details.

Canada's aging CF-18s will conduct unarmed patrols out of Iceland for several weeks, beginning in late May. That will be followed in September by another air policing mission in Romania, defence officials confirmed to CBC News. 

Keflavik, Iceland, 5 April 2013 – CF-18 jets fly over Iceland during Operation IGNITION 2013. (photo by Corporal Pierre Habib, 3 Wing Bagotville)
Majority of CF-18s will fly beyond 'certified safe life': internal report
Air force warned readiness of fighter fleet was declining back in 2014

The deployments are the first major overseas missions since the Liberal government raised alarm last spring about what they described as a "capability gap" within the fighter fleet.

They are concerned about the air force having enough serviceable fighters to conduct both NATO and Norad (North American Aerospace Defence Command) missions concurrently.

A spokesperson for the military's strategic joint staff says the situation is in hand.

"The RCAF is actively risk-managing the capability gap to simultaneously meet our Norad and NATO commitments," said Capt. Patricia Brunelle.

The deployment also comes after the release of internal documents showing the military was concerned as far back as three years ago that the combat readiness of its front-line fighter fleet was declining because of fewer training hours and lean maintenance budgets under the former Conservative government.
Russia and NATO

The fact the Liberal government has chosen to conduct back-to-back fighter deployments speaks volumes, a defence expert said.

Dave Perry, an analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said it could be a sign that the Liberal government is more concerned about the strategic threat posed by Russia than it lets on.

There is also the possibility it is a post-budget signal for the Trump administration, which has demanded NATO allies meet the alliance's two per cent gross domestic product spending target.

"You could look at this and say it's part of the government walking the talk about how we don't spend a lot but we do contribute operationally," said Perry.

"I think there is a strategic threat and we should be reinforcing the alliance. Whether or not it is politics, I can't say."
Iceland has no air force

The Liberal government's recent budget offered only a slight increase in operational spending for the military but withdrew $8.4 billion in planned capital spending — money that is supposed to be put back at a later date.

Brunelle says the department will make a formal announcement soon about the size and scope of the deployment. But defence sources told CBC News it will involve six fighters and up to 160 personnel, which is similar to the contingent that deployed on the same missions in 2011 and 2013.

Since 2008, NATO allies have taken turns flying fighters for two month stints out of Iceland, a country of just over 300,000 people which does not have an air force. The patrols are co-ordinated with the Icelandic coast guard.

The Italian air force is currently conducting flight operations out of Keflavik Air Base, outside Reykjavik, with six Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

The U.S. has been conducting anti-submarine patrols out of the same base since last year at the same time experts had warned that Russian undersea activity in the North Atlantic had hit levels not seen since the Cold War.
Canada's NATO contributions

There will be no overlap between the missions in Iceland and Romania, said Brunelle.

"The missions will be one after the other and not concurrently," she said.

"There will be several months of gap between the two missions that aims to conduct periodic surveillance and air policing operations in NATO areas of responsibility and participate in joint training activities with other nations."

Canadian fighters have conducted at least two deployments to Romania — in 2014 and 2016 — following an increase in tension related to Russia's annexation of Crimea. They have also conducted air policing missions in the Baltic region, where the army is preparing to deploy 450 soldiers to lead a NATO battle group.