Friday, September 23, 2016

If Government is Thinking Stimulus; Then Invest in Defence

By: Daniel Maillet, CAF Dispatch Author 

It was revealed today that the Government of Canada is looking to boost the slowly growing, perhaps almost faltering Canadian economy. More specifically the Government is looking to invest another $1 billion into Alberta and Saskatchewan. That makes some sense, as these are the two provinces that have been the hardest hit with the decrease in Oil prices over the last two years. There is one problem with this plan - both Alberta and Saskatchewan's financial planning assumes the return of $80+ oil barrels. Forecast don't see that happening anytime soon. If the Government is seriously looking to boost the economy invest in Defence.

Don't get me wrong, there are other areas that are just as important (Education and Health, just to name two) but Defence is an industry that is at the cusp of its existence. Much of the Canadian Forces equipment is on borrowed time and replacements are decades behind. The Canadian Forces easily needs $100 Billion now, and if not soon that number is sure to balloon.

Image result for The Canadian Forces

The Royal Canadian Navy

With the recent public awareness campaign about the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) fleet set to replace the Royal Canadian Navy's Halifax-Class Frigates; the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS); and the Navy's need for new Auxilliary Oil Replenishment (AOR) vessels, the public is well aware of the fact that the Canadian Navy is in great despair. The government has already committed $26 Billion to the Navy; but industry experts keep saying the Navy alone needs more than  $40 Billion to build the planned 15 CSC vessels, the six AOPS, and the two AORs.

That $40 Billion does not include the $1 billion needed to modernize the four Victoria-Class submarines that will require another retrofit to keep operating until the mid-2020s.

The Navy is also facing a shortage of skilled members. More members of the Navy, especially officers, retire each year than those who are hired to replace them. This has left the Navy struggling to maintain capabilities.

Clearly the Navy would benefit from stimulus - boost recruitment and training funding, and increase the dedicated funds to build the new fleet for the Navy; perhaps expanding the number of shipyards involved, such as Davie, which was not in a financial position to bid on the CSC fleet, but is now building an Interim AOR (iAOR) for the Navy, and has said they could provide a second iAOR faster than Seaspan can provide the two new AORs.  Recently on this blog, there was a call for a Hospital Ship for the RCN, Davie could easily fill this order, and for a fraction of the cost of a new vessel.

The Royal Canadian Air Force 

Oh where to begin...The Air Force is struggling, just like the Navy.

The Canadian Forces aerobatic team, The Snowbirds are a national symbol of Canadian freedom and perseverance. Yet they are flying an albeit great Canadair aircraft,  one that that is approaching 60 years old; performing some of the best and most complicated aerobatic displays in the world. The program to replace the CT-114 Tutor jet began in early 2000; with active proposals starting in 2008.

It is now 2016 and there has been no movement on the file. In fact this year the Government announced that it is looking to continue flying the 1960s jet well into the 2020s; with a replacement before 2030. The replacement cost is pegged at close to $1 Billion - up from an original estimate of $400 million. That cost will only continue to grow the longer the project is delayed.

The Tutor was retired as the Canadian Forces main training aircraft in 2000, replaced by the BAE CT-155 Hawk and CT-156 Harvard II. Canada did not purchase these jets outright, but put them on long-term lease from BAE. As of 2016; many of these jets (and turboprop for the Harvard's) have reached their original lifespans and have undergone extensions. This is because No. 2 Canadian Forces Flying School at 15 Wing Moose Jaw is also the NATO Flying School. Meaning, these aircraft rack up the flight hours very quickly. The Hawk; originally designed in the late 1970s is becoming obsolete in the fighter jet world.  Thoughts about replacing the Harvard and Hawk began in 2012 but have not gone anywhere.

The RCAF is also operating it's CF-18 Fighter Jets dangerously close to the end of their lifespan. The CF-18s have already undergone two life-extensions. Originally purchased in the 1980s, the RCAF intended to fly the CF-18s until around 2010-2015; with a replacement delivered by 2017-2018. That is not happening, as 2016 counts down no replacement has been selected. Even if one was selected shortly Canada would be at the end of any delivery schedule that is already established by the manufacturers. Therefore, the RCAF is now undergoing studies to fly the CF-18s to at least 2025; with options as far as 2030.  Flying fighter jets that are 40 years old seems counterintuitive to National Defence does it not?

The Search and Rescue (SAR) division of the RCAF has also struggled. The CH-113 Labrador's were retired and replaced by the CH-149 Cormorant's but the project was plagued with issues, and the Cormorant while performing its duties has never lived up to what it could have been. The Air Force does not have enough Cormorants or spare parts, forced to purchase former US Presidential helicopters for use.

The CH-146 Griffon, which performs double duty for SAR and the Canadian Army, has been in active duty since 1995, and there is no plan currently to replace it. Yet the American Forces are already working on retiring their models. The Griffons are currently slated to be retired in 2021; yet no replacement contract has been awarded. Therefore, their extension date of 2025 is more likely; but with that falling at the same time as the CF-18 replacement it seems likely that the Griffon will have to wait; putting Canadian Forces at risk in a combat or SAR helicopter that is over 40 years old. This replacement project is close to $3 Billion (depending on the replacement selected)

The CH-124 Sea King has been on the verge of retirement since 1983. That is not a typo. The RCAF only recently announced that all remaining Sea Kings will be retired by 2018, 35 years past their "best before date." Even with this retirement, the replacement CH-148 Cyclone will not be fully operational, nor will the RCAF possess enough Cyclones to fully replace the Sea Kings causing a Naval Helicopter Capabilities gap.

The RCAF has also been trying to procure a new Fixed-Wing SAR aircraft for two decades. Only this past summer was the project officially restarted. The final costs have not been made public, but in all likelihood, a fleet of at least 10 aircraft will be needed, and maintenance costs over a 20 year period will be $1 Billion at the minimum.

Therefore, it is evident by the nearly $6 Billion in known replacement costs (CT-114, CH-146; and FWSAR) plus the unknown costs of the CF-18 replacement ($60 Billion if we move forward on the JSF F-35 according to the Auditor Generals cost analysis) and the Harvard and Hawk replacements; that the RCAF would also drastically benefit from Government stimulus.

The Royal Canadian Army

I will not spend a great deal of time on the Army; you can read my recent posts about the state of the Reserves for more details. But as the Government plans to deploy 400 Troops to head a NATO battalion in Latvia, and 600 troops to a peacekeeping missing in Africa, the Army (and Reserve) will bear the brunt of this deployment. Much of the Army's equipment past its "best before" dates on deployment in Afghanistan between 2002-2014. Those that did not, were used quicker than expected because of the conditions, conditions which will be again faced in Africa. This equipment also needs replacement, training needs to increase, and so too do Regular force and Reserve numbers. Something that stimulus will help.

Poorly-trained Reservists may endanger Peacekeeping Missions: Auditor-General

By: Steven Chase, Globe and Mail 

The Auditor-General of Canada says there is a risk that inadequately trained reservists may endanger soldiers’ health and safety on a deployment such as a peacekeeping mission to Africa.

The government is preparing to announce what it bills as a major return to Canadian peacekeeping and there is widespread expectation that this could include a sizable contingent of soldiers to a particular dangerous and deadly United Nations mission in the West African country of Mali. More than 105 peacekeepers have died there since 2013, including 69 from “malicious acts.”

Reservists, or part-time soldiers, serve alongside regular troops in deployments. For instance, army reserve soldiers completed 4,642 deployments to Afghanistan, where 16 of them died and 75 were wounded in action.

Auditor-General Michael Ferguson appeared before a Senate committee on Tuesday morning to follow up on a spring, 2016, report that revealed the weak state of Canada’s army reserve – with major shortfalls in training, equipment and preparedness. His report, released in April, said the military budgets for about 21,000 full-time and part-time reservists but can count on only an average of 13,944 trained and attending soldiers.

Asked about whether unfit reservists could jeopardize themselves or others in a deployment such as African peacekeeping, Mr. Ferguson said, “We identified that there is such a risk.”

The military tries to mitigate this by providing reservists extra training before deployment.

But the Auditor-General said his office has found that there can still be cases where reservists do not receive sufficient training. “It might have been physical fitness or it might have been training on individual weapons – so that can create a risk and that risk is then a risk to the safety of the individual and, in fact, could be a risk to the safety of the whole unit.”

In the course of the study, auditors asked to see the Department of National Defence system that tracks the training and readiness of soldiers. “According to the system, it was 7 per cent of them were up to date on their handling of their own personal weapons; 55 per cent of them were up to date on their physical fitness,” Mr. Ferguson told the senators.

He said that when auditors asked DND why the reservists appeared to be so unprepared, “the response we got from National Defence was, ‘The information in that system is not reliable.’ ”

He said this means that the military is relying on individual unit commanders to decide if their reservists are ready to be deployed “and they’re not really tracking in enough detail” whether these troops are prepared.

His spring report also noted significant shortfalls in equipment and instruction for reservists.

Mr. Ferguson said his office found many reserve units were not given clear instructions “on what they were supposed to be training for.”

He said the Canadian Armed Forces should establish a minimum level of skill and training for all soldiers, regardless of whether they are in the reserve or the regular force, “before they would be allowed into that sort of dangerous theatre.”

The Army Reserve has more than 120 units across Canada.

A spokesman for the Department of National Defence said no ill-equipped reservists will be sent abroad. “The bottom line is that we would never deploy members who aren’t trained, ready and equipped to meet their mission in service of Canada,” Daniel LeBouthillier said.

He said the DND is taking steps to improve the training and readiness of reservists, including doing a better job of ensuring units get the funds they need, boosting recruitment and retention strategies, fixing gaps in training and trying to provide more equipment for this part-time force.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Amoured crews from Canada, U.S., Denmark, NZ, Chile to test their skills

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Armoured vehicle crews from five countries will participate in Exercise WORTHINGTON CHALLENGE 2016 which begins Friday at Gagetown, NB. The event will run until Sept. 30.

The Canadian military says 186 Canadian soldiers will participate in the exercise hosted by the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.

The exercise will test a number of skills including direct-fire gunnery and tactical driving using the Leopard 2 main battle tank, Light Armoured Vehicle III and 6, and the Coyote Armoured Vehicle, according to the news release from the Canadian Forces.

Competing nations include: Chile, Denmark, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. Observing nations will be: Australia, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

The WORTHINGTON CHALLENGE is named for Major-General Franklin Worthington, MC, MM, CD, who is considered the founder of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, the military noted in its release.
Members of 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) advance on an objective with a Leopard 2A4 tank during live-fire Platoon level group attack during Exercise KAPYONG MACE at CFB Shilo, Manitoba on September 26, 2015.

Photo: MCpl Louis Brunet, Canadian Army Public Affairs
CAF Leopard 2 Tanks. CAF File Photo

CAF Will Never be under UN Command: CDS

By: Lee Berthiaume, CBC News 

The country's top soldier is pushing back against suggestions the Liberal government wants to use Canadian troops for political purposes by deploying them on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The opposition Conservatives accused the Liberals this week of treating the military like "pawns" by promising to support peacekeeping operations in exchange for a UN Security Council seat.

The Liberal government has promised up to 600 troops for future peacekeeping operations, as well as 150 police officers and $450 million for peace support operations.

But chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said Wednesday that Canadian troops will be deployed as peacekeepers for no other reason than to help bring peace and stability to another part of the world.

"I reject the notion that this is done simply for political reasons and putting troops in harm's way into risky areas for anything other than the true merits of the value of the use of military force," he said.

Vance told the Senate defence committee that his staff members are looking at various UN mission options to see where Canada could best contribute. The government still has not decided on a specific mission, he added.

Vance wouldn't say which missions the government is currently considering, but he acknowledged that many — if not all — carry some degree of risk. He said he wouldn't advise Canada participate in a mission with unnecessary or unmanageable risk.

"But a risky mission that has great potential of success may be a mission that you want to invest in," he said. "And the military, we do risk. We're good at that, if we can mitigate it."
Canadian troops under Canadian command

Some have worried that Canadian peacekeepers could be put into a no-win situation, or bound by endless UN bureaucracy that might tie their hands or otherwise put them at risk, such as in previous missions in Rwanda and Bosnia.

Vance said UN commanders might give Canadian troops specific tasks, but he would "never" let the UN have the last word on when or how Canadian peacekeepers could act. He said he is the one who writes the rules of engagement for Canadian troops, which would continue with a peacekeeping mission.

"I never relinquish Canadian command of those troops," he said. "We have learned a lot since the days of Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere. And one of those is you're never out from under Canadian command."

Bombs and biology: Sustaining Canada’s largest military training area

Corey Davidson and the summer student working with him, Keziah Lesko-Gosselin, monitor the clean-up of an exploded armoured vehicle on Canadian Forces Base Suffield’s Range and Training Area. After a fire made the vehicle unusable, British Army Training Unit Suffield set off the weaponry inside of it so that it was safe to approach. Photo by: Jessica Caparini, Canadian Forces Base Suffield Public Affairs, ©2016 DND-MND Canada
By Jessica Caparini, Canadian Forces Base Suffield Public Affairs

Medicine Hat, Alberta — When you think “simulated warzone,” you probably don’t think of the conservation efforts that allow that warzone’s environment to be suitable for use, year after year.

Corey Davidson is a Reclamation Biologist who works at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield, the largest military Range and Training Area (RTA) in the country. Throughout the year, British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) and, to a lesser extent, the Canadian Armed Forces and their allies, use it to conduct live-fire training. After the tanks drive through and the bombs explode, it’s his job to assist in recovering the environment.

“Training is always first and foremost for us,” said Mr. Davidson. “We want to make sure that all the activities are allowed to happen, but we can shift those left or right to allow those activities to continue on but gain these environmental wins wherever we can.”

If the prairie wasn’t given time to recover, continued degradation would lead to a decreased capacity for training.

For the biologists on the RTA, every day in the field begins with a visit to Range Control, where they confirm that the areas they want to work in and the route they’re travelling don’t put them in danger.

Once in the field, they cannot use any machinery on the ground before conducting a search for unexploded ordnance. People have found unexploded weapons on the RTA from as far back as the 1940s, and contact from a plow or a seed drill could set them off.

In the RTA, Mr. Davidson does all sorts of things, from collecting native grass seeds for a seed inventory he can access when he needs to replant a certain make-up of vegetation, to monitoring the clean-up of an exploded armoured vehicle.

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Working with BATUS means mitigating environmental distress, rather than completely preventing it. One way the biologists do this is by requesting that the British soldiers drive their tanks in single file during administrative moves, so there is only one set of tracks.

Similarly, Ben McWilliams, Range Biologist, focuses on understanding how disturbance affects grassland wildlife and their habitats, and makes recommendations to balance this disturbance.

This is in contrast to the preservation strategy that is common in parks and protected areas.

“It’s not what you’d expect, but military training appears to benefit some species,” he said.

Several Species at Risk at CFB Suffield prefer reduced vegetation structure caused by training activities. Examples of this include McCown’s and chestnut-collared longspurs, which are more abundant in areas that have burned recently.

The Range Sustainability Section, where Mr. Davidson and Mr. McWilliams work, was created in 2006, when the Base Commander at the time recognized a need for dedicated, skilled staff to take care of the RTA. The vast expanse of native prairie that covers the training area is an ideal place for military training, as native prairie has adapted over tens of thousands of years to regrow after it’s been disturbed by wildlife and fires. In many ways, the effects of off-road vehicles and training-caused fires are similar to historical disturbances caused by bison and lightning strikes.

“We want native prairie because we know that healthy native prairie can handle the pressure we put on it,” explained Mr. Davidson.

“There isn’t a lot of native prairie left in this province or the rest of this area, so wherever I can save a blade of grass, I think it’s a win for wildlife species as well as the people that live and work around CFB Suffield.”

Canadian and Australian J-model Hercules crews train together at Bondi Beach

By Eamon Hamilton

Canadian Hercules crews recently visited their Australian counterparts to share knowledge and fly a combined airlift training mission.

On September 9, 2016, a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-130J Hercules flew a tactical formation mission with a No. 37 Squadron C-130J from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Richmond in New South Wales, Australia.

A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J Hercules flies over the coast of Sydney, Australia, on September 9, 2016. PHOTO: Corporal Oliver Carter © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J Hercules flies over the coast of Sydney, Australia, on September 9, 2016. PHOTO: Corporal Oliver Carter © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
The flight included simulated airdrop and low-level flying around Sydney’s coast, making it a highlight during the week-long visit by the Canadians.

The RCAF Hercules, from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, was originally in Australia on a separate airlift support task.

On the ground, both countries received considerable value from the visit, according to 37 Squadron pilot, Flight Lieutenant Shaun Wilkinson.

“We’re in the initial stages of having a tactical formation procedure that we can conduct with a coalition C-130J crew,” Flight Lieutenant Wilkinson said.

“There are some common procedures that we can use already, but this week allowed us to practice it in a real aircraft.”

The flight from Richmond wasn’t the first time this year that Canadian and Hercules crews have flown together.

During Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag in August, both countries used their Hercules Full-Flight Mission Simulators to fly together in a series of online missions.

The timing of the Canadian visit also allowed Flight Lieutenant Wilkinson to share recent experiences by RAAF Hercules crews in using the Link-16 networking system at Exercise Pitch Black 16.

“Canada is about to introduce Link-16 networking to their aircraft, so this has been a useful chance to share information,” Flight Lieutenant Wilkinson said.

The Link-16 network system provides a battlespace picture to an aircraft crew, allowing them to receive information or share it with others connected to the network.

Exercise Pitch Black 16 in August marked the debut of an RAAF Hercules installed with Link-16 connectivity.

Captain Corey Gallagher from the RCAF’s 426 Transport Training Squadron, located at 8 Wing, said the Australian experience would prove valuable for his Air Force.

“The opportunity to share information about Link-16 is huge for us,” said he said.

“We've just got the Link-16 kit installed, but have not had the chance to test, evaluate, and run the training for it.

“The interoperability that we’ve been ale to accomplish with 37 Squadron this week has been valuable, especially as we head in to Exercise Bullseye,” he continued

Taking place in late September, Exercise Bullseye will be conducted by the RCAF, and involve participants from the RAAF and the Royal Air Force.

From 8 Wing Trenton, Hercules from all three countries will conduct a series of tactical airlift missions, including airdrop and tactical formation flying.
Eamon Hamilton is a communications adviser with the RAAF’s Air Mobility Group.

DND announces first major tender for CFB Esquimalt Harbour

DND Press Release 

The Government of Canada is committed to providing the sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy with the modern, functional facilities they need to complete important operational missions on behalf of Canadians. The Department of National Defence (DND), through Defence Construction Canada, has issued a tender that will mark the beginning of the second phase of a major project to replace the two main operational berthing facilities for Royal Canadian Navy ships at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt in British Columbia.

The ongoing A/B Jetty Recapitalization Project, an infrastructure initiative first announced in 2013, is intended to provide Maritime Forces Pacific with modern, versatile and structurally sound berthing facilities for Canada’s current and future Pacific Naval Fleet. The project also has the potential to create 1,400 jobs throughout the duration of work.

The current tender, estimated at $72 million, involves the demolition of the existing “B” Jetty at Her Majesty’s Canadian (HMC) Dockyard Esquimalt and site preparation work. Future work will involve the rebuilding of “B” Jetty and then the demolition and rebuilding of “A” Jetty. DND has budgeted $781 million to deliver the A/B Jetty Recapitalization Project.

Both jetties are used for berthing operational warships leaving for or returning from missions at sea. Built more than 70 years ago, they are well past their intended service life and poorly suited for modern naval vessels. The rebuilding of these important structures represents the most significant engineering undertakings in this area of the Esquimalt Naval Dockyard since World War Two.

“Modern and functional ship-berthing facilities are essential to meet the operational missions of the Canadian Armed Forces and the needs of the Royal Canadian Navy. The long history of Esquimalt Harbour, which has been closely associated with the presence of the Royal Canadian Navy for over 100 years, is about to enter a new era.” - Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan

“The Navy’s existing ‘A’ and ‘B’ Jetties were constructed during the Second World War and have served the Royal Canadian Navy well. Nonetheless, they are at the end of their service life. CFB Esquimalt is excited with this project moving forward, as it will allow us to better support the operational needs of Canada's Pacific Fleet with an integrated jetty facility, designed to withstand the effects of earthquake and tsunami.” - Captain (N) Steve Waddell, Base Commander, CFB Esquimalt

The longer and more versatile A/B jetty facilities, equipped with new cranes for loading and unloading warships, will accommodate the modern ships to be delivered by Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy to the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Government of Canada’s significant investments in infrastructure and environment work contribute to the economic health of communities across Canada. Toward that end, the A/B jetty project has the potential to create 1,400 jobs throughout the duration of work.