Saturday, June 4, 2016

Kurds Eye Canada's Surplus Heavy Weapons

By: David Pugliese, National Post

The Kurds are pushing Canada to supply them with the heavy weapons they need to fight ISIL — as well as to defend themselves after they separate from Iraq.

Two CAF Husky's (Right and Centre) and a Buffalo (Left)
The Canadian military has a stockpile of armoured vehicles that could be of use to the Kurds but has yet to figure out whether to turn those over.

The military has in its surplus stocks three Husky armoured vehicles used in Afghanistan to help clear improvised explosive devices and one Buffalo vehicle used for similar operations, according to data compiled by the Canadian Forces. Also surplus are 181 Coyote wheeled armoured vehicles and 46 tracked light armoured vehicles. Some of those upgraded carriers were used in Afghanistan and received good reviews for how they protected troops.

The Canadian military also has a variety of graders, tractors and other heavy equipment in its surplus inventory, according to the data. Such equipment could be of use in moving barricades and other fortifications erected by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces.

Canadian special forces under fire in Iraq battle, try to save life of wounded Kurdish general
Canadian diplomats stalled negotiations on freeing children abducted to Iran, mother says

Canada also could provide the Kurds with small arms and anti-tank weapons.

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

Department of National Defence spokesman Evan Koronewski said no donations have been made yet. “Planning is underway,” he said in an email.

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

Sources said the announcement likely would be made by government ministers this summer.

But the issue of arming the Kurds, now being trained by Canadian special forces, is controversial.

Kurdish leaders acknowledge their intent is to create an independent state eventually. They argue it is their right to break away from Iraq, pointing to Quebec’s attempts to leave Canada as an example.

“Iraq is a failed state,” Masrour Barzani, head of intelligence for the Kurdish government and son of the region’s president, has said.

Kurdish leaders say they need access to heavy weapons so they can defend their fledging country when it emerges.

The Kurds’ push for independence and refusal to turn over parts of Iraq they have seized from ISIL has increased tensions with the Iraqis.

In late April, Canadian-supported Kurdish troops fought in a bloody battle with forces allied with Iraq’s government. Ten people were killed.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance has dismissed any concerns about tensions between the Iraqis and the Kurds. He suggested that whatever happens between various factions in Iraq after ISIL is defeated is an issue for the Iraqis to sort out.

But Peggy Mason, a former disarmament ambassador in then-prime minister Brian Mulroney’s government, said such a view is short-sighted and similar to the one Canada endorsed during the war to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

It’s extraordinarily cavalier to say what comes next is Iraq’s problem

“It’s extraordinarily cavalier to say what comes next is Iraq’s problem,” said Mason, president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa. “Our training of the (Kurdish) peshmerga is not helping if the end result is a stronger group to fight against the Iraqi government later on.”

The issue has been complicated by the insistence of Canadian special forces to wear the Kurdish flag — the symbol of an independent Kurdistan — on their uniforms.

“The Canadian Forces putting the (flags) on their uniforms tells the rest of Iraq that we don’t support the territorial integrity of your country,” said Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Washington.

After two years of wearing the Kurdish flag on their uniforms, Canadian special forces are now considering whether it should be removed.

Friday, June 3, 2016

RCAF rolls out custom-painted CT-155 Hawk to honour 419 Squadron

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

In honour of 419 “City of Kamloops” Squadron’s 75th Anniversary, the squadron unveiled their newly painted CT-155 Hawk during a ceremony yesterday at 4 Wing Cold Lake, according to the RCAF.

The paint scheme was designed by artist Jim Belliveau, and captures snapshots of the WWII history of this highly decorated unit, it noted. The aircraft is a CT-155 Hawk from the fleet of NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) Hawk trainers used to teach Fighter Lead-In Training in Cold Lake, Alberta, the current home of 419 Squadron.

The CT115217 Hawk Anniversary Edition from 419 Squadron lands as it made its entrance to 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta on 01 June 2016.
Image by: Leading Seaman Lisa Sheppard, 4 Wing Imaging CK09-2016-0537-005
More details from the RCAF:

“The camouflage scheme is a stylized application of the classic WWII Bomber Command topside green and brown, combined with an all-black undersurface which masked the aircraft from below against the night sky when most wartime bombing operations occurred for the Allied effort. The call letters VR-W and the dedication of the aircraft on the nose (with yellow “W”) are rooted with the Wellington Bomber flown by Wing Commander John “Moose” Fulton, the first and beloved Commanding Officer of the Unit in 1941.

The Moose insignia on the nose and registration KB799 belong to the Lancaster era of 419 Squadron, and the oldest known “Moose” nose art for the Unit. The roundels on the wings are a stylized combination of old style Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) wartime markings with the addition of a Maple Leaf in the centre to link the wartime era markings to that of today, while the fin flash and side roundels are wartime RCAF.

As “City of Kamloops” squadron, 419 is also holding a reunion weekend July 8-10, 2016 in Kamloops, BC as part of their 75th Anniversary celebrations and to celebrate their relationship with the city. A revival of the “Moose” Fulton Club, history book release, Freedom of the City Parade, flypast and static aircraft display, will all take place over the weekend; culminating with a formal Gala Dinner Saturday night.

419 Squadron is a satellite unit of 15 Wing Moose Jaw, the centre of RCAF aircrew training and is comprised of 402 Squadron in Winnipeg, MB, 419 Squadron in Cold Lake, AB, 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Moose Jaw, SK, and 3 CFFTS in Portage la Prairie, MB.

CDA Institute Analysis – “Trudeau’s Promises: From Coalition Operations to Peacekeeping and Beyond”

In this new CDA Institute Analysis, Stéfanie von Hlatky looks at the key considerations that should help guide the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The following is an excerpt of the Analysis.

Academic and policy discussions on Canada’s future role in multinational military interventions inevitably refer back to the long war in Afghanistan. Canada’s involvement, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) evolved significantly over the years. Canada’s reputation as an alliance partner also improved noticeably in the process. As of 2006, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) were known for operating with few caveats and were at the forefront of developing a viable whole-​of-​government approach as part of their design of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kandahar, despite obvious shortcomings.

Although the success metrics of the war in Afghanistan are hard to establish and the overall outcome of the intervention is inconclusive at best, the experience tells us a lot about Canada’s standing in alliance politics and what the CAF can be expected to do in the future as part of those coalitions, given the skills and expertise acquired during this war-​intensive period. Indeed, the CAF acquired diverse skills as the intervention called for both community engagement and warfighting, with a lot of necessary adaptations along the way.

Beyond the lessons learned from the previous war, Canada’s military role abroad should be guided by clear foreign and defence policy guidelines. The last defence policy statement dates back to 2008. With the economic recession hitting the country at about the same time, many of the plans outlined in the Canada First Defence Strategy had to be shelved. Now that there is a Liberal government in power, under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Department of National Defence (DND) has been tasked with conducting a defence review. The review process includes public consultations across Canada, through the organization of events, roundtables, and discussions on social media. The result of this process will be unveiled in January 2017 and will provide greater clarity on Canada’s role in operations, force levels, readiness, and personnel issues.

This paper examines the conditions under which Canada should consider deploying the CAF and considers some of the motives that play into the decision-​making process. It does so by taking into account past and current CAF operations, as well as the defence priorities that have already been announced by the government. I argue that, moving forward, the Canadian government ought to think much more about the type of mission that is well suited for the CAF, where Canadian soldiers are most needed, as well as which allies and partners are best to work with.

Alliance Politics

One of the assumptions of this paper is that maintaining a reputation for reliability within an alliance setting is one of the main currencies of influence for a medium-​sized country like Canada. Therefore, decisions on the use of force are assessed in reference to Canada’s most important allies. That being said, it is worth asking whether Canada paid too high of a price to boost its reputation over the course of the Afghan War. In Afghanistan, but also more recently in Iraq as a member of the global coalition against the Islamic State, Canada strived to make military contributions that place it in the top tier of participating countries. As mentioned before, Canada is also seen as an alliance partner capable of deploying its armed forces with few restrictions on what they can do on the battlefield, meaning a higher tolerance for risky missions, which plays into allies’ qualitative assessments of burden-​sharing. The nightmare of coordinating national caveats was felt by ISAF commanders as they had to consider the various contributions made by each ally and partner, factoring in each nation’s rules of engagement and restrictions on their mobility in order to translate pledges into effective multinational military cooperation.

Given what Canada has invested in previous military interventions, the government would do well to invest in mechanisms that preserve allies’ coordination capacity and interoperability, either as part of NATO or US-​led coalitions. For NATO, the Secretary-​General has insisted on the utility of the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) as the means through which NATO allies and partners can retain their capacity to work closely together, as refined through ISAF and Operation Unified Protector in Libya. The message was reinforced during the 2014 Wales Summit:

We continue to build on the experience gained in recent operations and improve our interoperability through the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI). Today we have endorsed a substantial CFI Package consisting of six key deliverables, including the high-​visibility exercise Trident Juncture 2015, with 25,000 personnel to be hosted by Spain, Portugal, and Italy; a broader and more demanding exercise programme from 2016 onwards; and a deployable Special Operations Component Command headquarters.

Through CFI or military exercises led by the Alliance or individual nations, Canada has a stake in continuously sharpening its capacity to operate with other Western armed forces.

Why Participate in Military Operations?

The government of Canada, currently engaging in a comprehensive defence policy review, will examine how alliance ties can enhance the country’s foreign and defence policy goals, but the scope of the exercise is much broader. The review, which was launched by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in April 2016, is articulated around three issues: identifying the most pressing security challenges, defining the role of the CAF in meeting those challenges and finally, establishing the appropriate mix of capabilities needed by the CAF to accomplish their missions and tasks successfully. Therefore, as a point of departure, it is worth asking which security challenges or motives guide decisions on the use of force.

The primary motive for investing in the armed forces is national defence and, by extension, to contribute to regional and global security for the sake of international stability. In Canada, the absence of an existential security threat means the country’s military commitments are primarily assessed through alliance politics, especially the bilateral relationship with the United States. The US has a more expansive perception of threat than Canada, given its massive and global military footprint. Based on numerous treaty commitments and alliance ties, American armed forces have been deployed all over the world to defend US interests and partners, with the goal of ensuring international stability through the projection of its power. In Canada, decisions on the use of force are often taken as the result of US or NATO initiatives. Finally, the Canadian government may choose to use force for humanitarian purposes. The humanitarian logic of intervention can lead to operations ranging from disaster relief or peace support operations.

Click here to read the rest of the CDA Institute Analysis.

Dr. Stéfanie von Hlatky is an assistant professor of political studies at Queen’s University and the Director of the Queen’s Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP). (Image courtesy of David Goldman/​Associated Press.)

Refugee Crisis - A Call for the RCN to Help

In a letter to the editor in today's National Post full comment section,  Ernest Seidman of Cote St. Luc, Quebec asked a question many people are asking - why are children still drowning and why isn't our Navy doing anything about it?

Here is Ernest's letter:

Re: Why Are Children Still Drowning? May 31.
As a pediatrician, I share my sense of horror and despair with my fellow Canadians asking, “Why are children still drowning”? Hundreds of refugees from Syria and Africa are so desperately seeking asylum that they are drowning offshore in dinghies and other ill-equipped boats. The images of this relentless and horrific loss of life of children and their families evoke emotions of helplessness and gloom across our nation. Many Canadians feel betrayed by the lack of our government’s effective and affirmative action. We can and must do more. What can we do?

Because of long-term cutbacks in equipment to modernize our fleet, the Royal Canadian Navy has been down-classified to a Rank 5 navy (offshore regional coastal defence) on the Todd-Lindberg classification system, from Rank 3 (multiregional power projection). In other words, our navy is no longer equipped to wage war. However, we can and should transport these refugees,using our naval boats, under the guidance of a well trained naval corps.
-- Ernest Seidman, Cote St. Luc, Que.

I second Ernest's call - and I did so back in September 2015 when the image of Alan Kurdi was front-page news around the globe. You can read my article "Refugee Crisis; the CAF can help - Deploy them!" here on my blog. It was originally published September 4, 2015. (If the link is broken at any point; find it in the Blog Archive)

The Royal Canadian Navy is currently operating in the Mediterranean as part of OP REASSURANCE. HMCS Fredericton joined Standing NATO Maritime Forces on 8 January 2016 as part of Operation REASSURANCE, Canada’s support to NATO assurance measures in Central and Eastern Europe. The ship joins Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2). HMCS Fredericton replaced HMCS Winnipeg which concluded a six-month operational deployment.

Black Sea. 5 April 2016 – Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) FREDERICTON performs a PASEX with the Bulgarian Frigate, BGS RESHITELNI (F13) and the Romanian Frigate, ROS REGINA MARIA, during a patrol in the Black Sea during Operation Reassurance. (Photo: Master Corporal Sebastian Allain, HMCS FREDERICTON Air Detachment)
Black Sea. 5 April 2016 – Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) FREDERICTON performs a PASEX with the Bulgarian Frigate, BGS RESHITELNI (F13) and the Romanian Frigate, ROS REGINA MARIA, during a patrol in the Black Sea during Operation Reassurance. (Photo: Master Corporal Sebastian Allain, HMCS FREDERICTON Air Detachment)
HMCS Fredericton is a Halifax-class frigate with a crew of approximately 250 personnel of all ranks, including a CH-124 Sea King helicopter and air detachment.

While patrolling and "putting Russia in it's place" is great and all - children are dying. The 250 member crew of HMCS Fredericton can help the asylum seekers from Syria and North Africa.

The Liberal Government should adapt the mandate of the Royal Canadian Navy vessels in the Mediterranean to help. This would also help reduce the stress the Italian and Greek Navy and Coast Guard currently faces with this crisis. 

Canadian General Admits he underestimated Iraqi Army

By: Michael Petrou, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — When Brig.-Gen. Greg Smith first touched down in Iraq in February to advise and assist the Iraqi army in its fight against Islamic State militants, he assumed that ISIL had the upper hand.

Instead, what he found — amidst the grit and violence and destruction that has consumed large chunks of Iraq and neighboring Syria — was an Iraqi army that would not back down.

"They are crushing them in many ways and pushing them back," said Smith, the Canadian chief of staff of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command for Operation Inherent Resolve, the American-led coalition whose mission is to help guide Iraq's own forces.

In his first media interview since deploying to Iraq, Smith said he had underestimated the prowess of the Iraqi soldiers.

Much of the Iraq army had collapsed and fled when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — variously known as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh — swept through swaths of Iraq in 2014, capturing its second-largest city, Mosul.

And yet when he arrived, it was the militants of ISIL who were on the run, Smith said.

"I have to admit I was very surprised to see how badly they were doing once I got here and started getting read in on operations," he said.

"The Iraqi forces, notwithstanding perhaps somewhat of a poor brand based on how activities occurred in 2014, are quite honestly taking it to Daesh."

Smith said he was "minding my business" as commandant of the Canadian Army Command and Staff College in Kingston, Ont., when "my boss called me one day and said, 'Hey, you're promoted and going to Iraq.'"

He arrived shortly before Iraq announced the beginning of an offensive to retake Mosul by the end of this year.

Since then, Iraqi forces have been attacking northward toward the city along the Tigris River. They are supported by coalition airstrikes and, on the ground, by some 200 U.S. Marines providing indirect artillery support from a base near the town of Makhmour. One Marine was killed in an Islamic State rocket strike in March.

Make no mistake, though: the campaign to capture Mosul will be long and difficult, Smith warned.

"Even if this was the Canadian army trying to do it, this would be a tough fight," he said in a phone interview from Baghdad.

"But we're training with the Iraqis right now. We're doing that 'building partnership' piece. [The Iraqis] have begun operations to isolate that part of their forward line of troops. And I'm actually quite impressed with their tactical agility and their speed."

All of the military operations are planned and led by Iraqis, he pointed out. "This is not a coalition effort. This is us supporting the Iraqi government and the Iraqi forces. We support them with operational fires. We provide surveillance for them. We provide advise-and-assist (support)."

Targets for coalition airstrikes are chosen in consultation with the Iraqis, he added.

"We have joint targeting cells. Every one of those targets are approved by the Iraqi army, or if it's up in the north, it's potentially by Kurdish forces. That is done hand-in-hand. If the Iraqis or the Kurds say don't hit that target, that's not what we do."

Based in Baghdad, Smith is one of three one-star Canadian generals assigned to Operation Inherent Resolve.

Brig.-Gen. David Anderson leads a team that liaises with Iraq's defence and security ministries, a job Smith compared to that of the "strategic advisory team" Canada sent to support the Afghan government. Brig.-Gen James Irvine, based in Kuwait, is commander of Canada's Joint Task Force-Iraq, which includes all Canadians involved in the mission. He will be replaced today by Brig.-Gen. Shane Brennan.

While Smith's team works mainly with Iraqi regular forces, Canadian special forces are training and advising Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq, where the Kurds are holding a line east and north of Mosul. It's an active front that ISIL often attacks.

Smith says Canadian special forces in the area, who are officially in a non-combat training role, sometimes work "from the forward line of troops." They have exchanged fire with the enemy. One Canadian soldier, Sgt. Andrew Doiron, died last year in a friendly-fire incident near the front.

The Kurds, however, are unlikely to take part in any direct assault on Mosul. The city lies beyond land they consider Kurdish territory. Most peshmerga, when asked, will say they are fighting for Kurdistan rather than a united Iraq.

That presents complications for Iraq's international partners.

"We are here supporting Iraq," said Smith. "This is a one-country policy from a Canadian perspective and from a coalition perspective. I've seen on the news plans for Kurdish separation, or whatever. I've heard [peshmerga and Iraqi regular forces] tactically work very well together. It's a respectful relationship. We're enabling both sides.

"As for the longer political solution, that is very much an Iraqi democratic problem."

Ottawa Watching Saudi Arabia-Yemen Arms Transfer

By: Steven Chase, Globe and Mail 

The Trudeau government says it’s watching “very closely” what is unfolding in Yemen, the site of a Saudi-led war where Riyadh is handing over military equipment to Yemeni forces.

Ottawa won’t say, however, precisely what measures are in place, if any, to stop Saudi Arabia from transferring its Canadian-made combat vehicles to Yemeni allies.

A leading human-rights researcher warned a Senate committee in Ottawa this week that the Saudis are training, funding and equipping Yemeni forces under the control of General Ali Mohsen, a military commander from Yemen who’s been repeatedly accused of laws-of-war violations.

Were Saudi Arabia, a long-time customer of Canadian light-armoured vehicles, to be lending or giving these machines to Yemeni allies, it could jeopardize Ottawa’s ability to proceed with a $15-billion arms sale to Riyadh. Typical end-user certificates in arm sales prohibit the transfer of arms to a third party.

Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Minister, said Thursday that Canada is “very concerned” about Yemen. A shaky ceasefire in the region has been regularly violated and the aerial bombing has yielded to an increasing ground campaign backed by Saudi Arabia.

Her comments come one day after Belkis Wille, with international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, alerted Canadian senators to the possibility that this country may inadvertently be dragged into the conflict.

Ms. Wille, who lived in Yemen for 3 1/2 years, urged Ottawa Wednesday to suspend a $15-billion sale of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia if Ottawa fails to obtain guarantees that Canadian-made combat vehicles are not among assets being handed over to Gen. Mohsen’s army.

Canada has sold Saudi Arabia hundreds of light-armoured vehicles over the past 25 years and videos and photos appearing on social media since 2015 show Canadian-made machines being deployed in the conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen.

It’s not clear whether the Saudis, or Yemenis, are driving them.

Human Rights Watch has for years chronicled laws-of-war violations under Gen. Mohsen.

Ms. Wille said during earlier wars against Houthi rebels from 2004 to 2009, Human Rights Watch documented numerous violations under his watch “including indiscriminate attacks, killing civilians, as well as arbitrary detention and forced disappearances,” she said, referring to abductions. “The idea that this man is leading a force armed by the Saudis and crossing into Yemen is of extreme concern to any country that is arming the Saudis given the fact this force will be needing more and more equipment,” she said.

Ms. Goldsmith-Jones said Ottawa is monitoring the conflict, when asked whether Canada is worried about Canadian-made fighting vehicles being handed over to Yemeni forces and what measures are in place to stop this.

She said the sale deal with Saudi Arabia states that the vehicles cannot be used against non-combatants.

“The agreement stipulates … the goods must not be turned, as you know, against civilians.”

“We’re concerned about the Yemeni situation, of course, and human rights there, yes,” she said. “We’re very concerned about the human-rights record of Saudi Arabia and we’re following the situation with regard to Yemen very closely,” the MP said.

The department of Global Affairs declined to say whether it has any evidence that combat vehicles produced by Canada have already been used in this manner.

“Canada … calls on all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Global Affairs spokeswoman Rachna Mishra said, adding that Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion “raised relevant issues” when he visited Saudi Arabia last week.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that tracks arms shipments, said raising concerns with Saudi Arabia is an inadequate response, particularly given recent reports chronicling eroding human-rights conditions in the Mideast country.

He said Canada must obtain, or demonstrate that it’s obtained, assurances from Saudi Arabia that place limits on how the armoured vehicles are being used.

“The likelihood of further human-rights abuses does not simply call for issues to be raised, but for specific assurances concerning the end use of Canadian-made goods to be sought and received.”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

OP IMPACT Air-Task-Force Iraq Update

Since the end of the RCAF CF-18 Air campaign against ISIS, little news has surfaced about OP IMPACT until the recent news regarding CAF Special Forces facing mortar fire over the weekend; or the political implications of wearing the Kurdish flag on their uniforms.

As such, I figured it was about time to offer an update on Air-Task-Force Iraq.

According to the DND OP IMPACT webpage,

As part of the Government of Canada’s expanded contribution to multinational efforts to degrade and defeat the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recently added three CH-146 Griffon helicopters, an all-source intelligence centre, and additional trainers to Operation IMPACT. Learn more.

Current Total of Aircraft sorties

  • As of 28 May 2016, Air Task Force-Iraq has conducted 2332 sorties*:
  • CC-150T Polaris aerial refueller conducted 462 sorties, delivering some 26,800,000 pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft; and
  • CP-140 Aurora aircraft conducted 492 reconnaissance missions.
Definition - sortie: in air operations, a sortie refers to an operational flight by one aircraft. A sortie starts when one aircraft takes off and ends upon landing.

*This total includes 1378 sorties conducted by CF-18 Hornets between 30 October 2014 and 15 February 2016.
To keep the aircraft functioning properly in a desert environment, an aviation technician sprays down the wing and fuselage of a CP-140 Aurora in Kuwait during Operation IMPACT on April 4, 2016.
To keep the aircraft functioning properly in a desert environment, an aviation technician sprays down the wing and fuselage of a CP-140 Aurora in Kuwait during Operation IMPACT on April 4, 2016. Photo: CAF Combat Camera

CAF Special Forces in Iraq may stop wearing Kurdish flag Staff
Published Wednesday, June 1, 2016 10:13PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 2, 2016 7:20AM EDT

Canadian soldiers guiding and mentoring Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have been wearing the Kurdish flag on their uniforms in a sign of respect, but that tradition may soon end, CTV News has learned.

Although it is tradition to wear the patch of a military partner, the Kurds do not have a nation state and are seeking independence from Iraq.

U.S. troops were recently ordered to stop wearing the Kurdish flag.

Iraqi forces complete buildup around ISIS-held Fallujah
Exclusive: Canada's elite soldiers train Kurdish troops in fight against ISIS
Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of the special forces in Iraq, told CTV Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme.

Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of the special forces in Iraq, told CTV Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme that Canada is also rethinking the custom.

“We'll re-examine that and we may well take them off too,” Rouleau said.

“Whether we have them on or off, it's not going to change anything about the level of commitment and closeness that we have with the people who we're sent there to support,” he added.
Watch more of the interview with Maj.-Gen. Rouleau on Saturday, June 25 on W5

Over the weekend, Canada’s special forces helped Kurdish soldiers launch a major offensive against ISIS, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists Canada’s role did not amount to combat.

Canadian troops were fired on while assisting with the two-day operation called Operation Evergreen, during which more than 5,000 Kurdish Peshmerga took 120 square kilometres of territory near Mosul.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose accused the Liberals in daily question period of “misleading Canadians about the nature of this mission,” which she said is now “more dangerous” and “is combat.”

While the Conservatives support “taking the fight to ISIS,” Ambrose said the “Liberals have put them into a more dangerous mission, tried to call it training and have withdrawn our CF-18 (fighter jets) that are a key pillar to degrade the enemy.”

Ambrose said the Liberals pulled the CF-18s deployed under the previous Conservative government for “purely political reasons.”

The prime minister responded by stating that “the mission in Iraq is support, assist … it is focused on training.”

“It is not a direct combat mission,” Trudeau added. “It is not a combat mission.”

Rouleau said the mission was carried out by the Kurds alone as part of Canada’s “advice and assist” mission. While he admits it was a “dangerous” operation, he said that no Canadians were injured and it was not combat.

“We are not conducting unilateral offensive or defensive operations,” he said. “We are not conducting combat operations as Canadian Armed Forces.”

Rouleau said the Canadian role involved “establish(ing) positions so we could provide over-watch” and “mak(ing) sure the Kurds are clearly communicating to their forces.”

100 CAF Members start OP NEVUS-16 in High Arctic

DND Press Release

Yellowknife, NWT – National Defense / Canadian Armed Forces

Operation NEVUS 2016 (Op NE 16) will take place in and around Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, Nunavut, from June 1 to 30, 2016.

Commanded by Joint Task Force (North) and involving approximately 100 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel from across Canada, Op NE 16 is the annual deployment of a technical team to Ellesmere Island to perform essential maintenance on the High Arctic Data Communications System (HADCS), located between CFS Eureka and  CFS Alert.

Op NE 16 will involve technicians from the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group, military members from the Mapping and Charting Establishment, and personnel and aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force, including a CC-177 Globemaster from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario; a CH-146 Griffon detachment from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Valcartier, Québec; and a CC-140 Twin Otter from Yellowknife-based 440 Transport Squadron. The Canadian Armed Forces’ northern operations contribute to wider Canadian efforts to improve northern surveillance and reconnaissance, and to demonstrate a visible presence in Canada’s Arctic.

“I am proud of our men and women in uniform and DND civilians, who have deployed on Operation NEVUS. Their individual and collective efforts are essential to maintaining critical Government of Canada infrastructure on Ellesmere Island. They also have the opportunity to experience the unique environment found only in the High Arctic.” - Brigadier-General Mike Nixon, Commander, Joint Task Force (North)

Maintenance operations on the HADCS have been carried out annually since 1982, when the HADCS system first became operational. The operation began as Operation HURRICANE and was also briefly carried out under Operation NEMESIS before being renamed Operation NEVUS.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

CAF Contingent being sent to TRADEWINDS-16

Frontline Defence News

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will participate in Exercise Tradewinds 16, a United States-led multinational and interagency maritime interdiction, disaster response, and ground security exercise taking place in the Caribbean from June 5th to 28th.

“International exercises like Tradewinds enhance, maintain and build the defence relationships Canada has with partnering nations," said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. "Participation in collective security exercises is key to keeping Canada prepared to assist our friends and neighbours.”

As part of their contribution, the CAF is deploying both maritime and land assets in a training and support role to this year’s exercise, which involves ships, aircraft and personnel from 20 nations.

Multinational exercises like Tradewinds are important for developing skills and procedures that enhance interoperability, readiness, crisis response capabilities, and communications between partner nations.

“Our soldiers and sailors are among the best in the world and can easily integrate in multinational exercises," said Lieutenant-General Steve Bowes, Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command. "Just as they are professional in their instruction and skill, they are also keen to learn from and exchange knowledge with our Caribbean partners and allies.”

Led by U.S. Southern Command, Exercise Tradewinds provides an important opportunity for the Canadian Armed Forces to strengthen defence support between partner nations for civilian government-led disaster response efforts. Participation in the exercise also strengthens the defence capacity of regional partners to address threats to security and stability in the Caribbean.

Canadian Armed Forces personnel will both lead and participate in various land and maritime training serials throughout the duration of the exercise.

Additional personnel will also participate in an observer/trainer capacity to assist regional organizations in the evaluation of current plans, enabling the success of this year’s exercise and aiding in the development of future iterations.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s contribution to Exercise Tradewinds 16 will consist of one Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel (HMCS Shawinigan), with a crew of 40, as well as a diver training team from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) and Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific). HMCS Shawinigan will focus on areas such as firefighting, suspect vessel tracking and boarding procedures, and weapons handling. The team of divers will lead training in areas including nighttime diving operations, hull search techniques and evidence site contamination prevention.

The Canadian Army will provide a contingent of approximately 30 personnel, primarily from The 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, Alberta. In partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces and the Jamaica Defence Force, the Canadian Army helped design and will co-lead training in conducting a firing range, urban operations, command and control mentorship in a joint operational headquarters, and Counter-Illicit Trafficking.

Tradewinds 16 will mark the first operational activation of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Operational Support Hub (OSH) Latin America and the Caribbean. The Hub serves as the in-theatre support platform for CAF personnel participating in the largest component of the exercise, in Jamaica.

Canadians to hold key positions in RIMPAC; while U.S. politicians want to ban China from military exercise

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

RIMPAC 16 gets underway June 30 and runs until August 4 in the Hawaiian and Southern California area. The Canadian Forces says it is sending the following:
  • A maritime component comprised of four ships (HMCS Calgary, HMCS Vancouver, HMCS Saskatoon and HMCS Yellowknife), a RCN team of clearance divers, and a forward logistics team;
  • A Land Component comprised of a Company Group based on a Rifle Company from the Third Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, based out of Valcartier, Quebec;
  • An Air Task Force comprised of several aircraft (six CF-188 Hornets, one CC-130 Hercules, one CC-150 Polaris and one CP-140 Aurora), a Maritime Helicopter Detachment, and a Tactical Aviation Detachment consisting of four CH-146 Griffons and two CH-147 Chinooks;
  • More than 1,500 sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen; and Several command, staff and support personnel.
The Canadian Forces noted that some of its personnel will once again hold key leadership positions during RIMPAC 2016. They include Rear-Admiral Scott Bishop, who will serve as the Deputy Commander of the Combined Task Force; and Brigadier-General Blaise Frawley, will serve as the Air Component Commander.

RIMPAC is held every two years. This year it will include 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from the armed forces of 27 nations.

Training is varied and will include everything from counter-piracy to amphibious operations.

Besides the U.S., the participating nations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Italy and China.

China first joined RIMPAC in 2014. It sent four ships but in addition one of its spy vessels also shadowed the exercise off Hawaii.

Some U.S. lawmakers have called for China to be banned from RIMPAC.

They are upset with what they see as China’s aggressive stance in the South China Sea. As part of its strategy in the region, China has been building artificial islands to act as military bases.

U.S. congressman Mark Takai, of Hawaii, has asked U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter to ban China from RIMPAC. “I guess my question is why then should we reward China for this aggressive behavior by including them in an event meant for allies and partners?” Takai asked Carter during a meeting in March.

CAF and RCN Prepare for RIMPAC 2016

By: Frontline Defence News

Four warships, several aircraft and more than 1,500 Canadian sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen will participate in the United States Navy-led Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) from June 30 to August 4, 2016, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 combined task force as part of a photo exercise north of Hawaii.
The 25th edition in a series and held every two years, RIMPAC has grown into the world’s largest combined and joint maritime exercise. RIMPAC 2016 will bring together 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from the armed forces of 27 nations. The exercise will challenge participants with unique training opportunities across the spectrum of military capabilities - from humanitarian assistance and disaster response to dynamic maritime security and complex warfighting operations.

"Canada has participated in every RIMPAC since 1971," said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. "Over the years, our participation has helped us build and foster collaborative relationships with our allies and partners in the region. RIMPAC 2016 will once again provide the Canadian Armed Forces with a valuable training opportunity, while demonstrating Canadian leadership and operational excellence abroad."

Participation in RIMPAC contributes to the operational readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces. Operational readiness allows the CAF to meet the likely tasks that the Government of Canada will assign.

“RIMPAC 2016 is a valuable opportunity for all services of the Canadian Armed Forces to train together in a joint environment with international allies and partners.," said Rear-Admiral Scott Bishop, RIMPAC Deputy Commander Combined Task Force.

"As Deputy Commander for the Combined Task Force, I am looking forward to working with our forces and our allies. The exercise will challenge our 1,500 Canadian men and women as we improve our readiness to respond to a range of potential operations, strengthen military-to-military partnerships, and enhance our ability to work effectively with participants from more than 25 nations.”

RIMPAC 16 takes place from June 30 to August 4, 2016 in the Hawaiian and Southern California area. Canada is deploying:

A maritime component comprised of four ships (HMCS Calgary, HMCS Vancouver, HMCS Saskatoon and HMCS Yellowknife), a RCN team of clearance divers, and a Forward Logistics Team;
A Land Component comprised of a Company Group based on a Rifle Company from the Third Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, based out of Valcartier, Quebec;
An Air Task Force comprised of several aircraft (six CF-188 Hornets, one CC-130 Hercules, one CC-150 Polaris and one CP-140 Aurora), a Maritime Helicopter Detachment, and a Tactical Aviation Detachment consisting of four CH-146 Griffons and two CH-147 Chinooks;
More than 1,500 sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen; and
Several command, staff and support personnel.

Canadians will also hold key leadership positions during RIMPAC 2016:
Rear-Admiral Scott Bishop will serve as the Deputy Commander of the Combined Task Force; and
Brigadier-General Blaise Frawley, will serve as the Air Component Commander.

Canadian Special Forces under fire in Iraq battle

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

Canadian special forces came under mortar fire and Canadian commandos tried to save the life of a mortally wounded Kurdish general in the battle for villages near Mosul in Iraq.

Fighting started Sunday as more than 5,000 Kurdish troops began their offensive against the Islamic State to seize a series of villages located about 20 km east of Mosul.

The Canadian base, located on the outskirts of the village of Hassan Shami, was a key location for U.S. and Canadian special forces, along with Kurdish troops, preparing to take part in the operation.

The Canadian military has refused to acknowledge that its special forces are playing a role in the latest fighting, insisting that the commandos are only in Iraq to train, assist and advise Kurdish troops. But their involvement in the battle raises questions about the Liberal government’s claims that Canada is not involved in combat.

Special forces from both the U.S. and Canada were seen early Sunday loading vehicles with heavy machine-guns and anti-tank missiles.

Over a three-hour period, Kurdish positions near the Canadian base came under mortar fire. One round slammed into a Kurdish vehicle near the Canadian base, which is located in a large fortified building, according to Kurds on the scene. Two Kurdish soldiers were reportedly killed in the barrage.
SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty ImagesSmoke billows on the front line as Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position near Hasan Sham village during an operation aimed at retaking areas from ISIL, on May 29, 2016.
Farther away from the Canadian base, the Islamic State used a number of suicide bombers to attack Kurdish positions. Two Kurds, including General Rizgar Agha Siwaily, were wounded.

The first wounded Kurd was taken to the Canadian base and photos provided to Postmedia show Canadian special forces soldiers trying to administer medical aid. Another pickup truck arrived carrying the wounded Agha but the Canadians could not save the senior officer. The photos show the soldiers wearing Canadian flags on their uniforms.

Special forces were also shown in a photo launching a small drone from the back of a pickup truck but it is unclear whether they are American or Canadian.

The mortar attacks continued in the area throughout the day.

The soldiers are from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment from CFB Petawawa in the Ottawa Valley.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the Canadian special forces, who are also directing air strikes, are not on a combat mission.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance has backed up this position. Vance has noted that Canadian special forces might be attacked by Islamic State forces, return fire, and could be injured in fighting, but that he didn’t consider that to be a combat mission. “I’m the expert on what is combat and what is not,” Vance said this year.

When in opposition, the Liberals accused the Conservative government of running a combat mission with the deployment of 69 Canadian special forces in an advise and assist role in northern Iraq. The Liberal government has since taken on the same mission and increased the number of troops to 200.

In mid-May, the Canadian military sent three helicopters to northern Iraq to support its special forces. The Griffon helicopters, operated by 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron from CFB Petawawa, are to be used to move the commandos around the battlefield as well as transport the wounded for medical treatment.

One Canadian special forces soldier has been killed during the Iraq mission and three others wounded. In March 2015, Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron was killed when he and his three fellow soldiers from Petawawa were gunned down by Kurdish troops at a checkpoint in northern Iraq. The shooting was described as a friendly fire incident but the Kurds blamed the Canadians for not properly following procedures. The Canadian military, however, said all proper procedures were followed.

Kurdish government officials say this latest offensive is to set the stage for the retaking of Mosul from the Islamic State.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement that its forces had recaptured four villages. Coalition aircraft as well as U.S. Apache helicopters joined in on the attacks against Islamic State forces.

Canada has a refuelling aircraft and Aurora surveillance planes assigned to the Iraq coalition but it is unclear whether they are involved in the offensive around Mosul.

Mosul is the largest Iraqi city under control of the Islamic State. Islamic State forces captured the city in 2014 and have since turned the centre into a fortress.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Incident in North Atlantic last fall shows why Canada needs Submarines

By: Brett Ruskin, CBC News 

Top East Coast naval brass are pointing to a recent foray by a foreign power as an act of aggression that shows why Canada needs a strong sub-sea presence.

Rear-Admiral John Newton, commander of the East Coast navy, shared details of the 2015 incident during a media tour aboard HMCS Windsor, one of Canada's four submarines.

Last fall, NATO forces noticed five submarines belonging to a major foreign power moving into the North Atlantic. Newton did not name the country.

The subs — four nuclear-powered and one diesel-electric — were tracked to the area near Iceland and Greenland.

The Canadian military deployed Halifax-based HMCS Windsor, and Aurora patrol aircraft from 14 Wing Greenwood.

The response was in coordination with American and European allies to "demonstrate resolve" against this show of aggression, Newton said.

HMCS Windsor is one of four submarines purchased by the Canadian government nearly two decades ago from Britain. They were slow to be put into service, and have had numerous issues over the years including on-board fires and collisions with the sea floor.

But the subs are getting significant technological refits.

HMCS Windsor is now using the same sonar system found on the United States' Virginia-class submarines, considered among the most capable nuclear subs on the planet. The sonar system can identify and track targets from many kilometres away.
Crew stand atop HMCS Windsor, one of Canada's four submarines.
Crew stand atop HMCS Windsor, one of Canada's four submarines. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)
Military officials showed the system to members of the media, but did not permit them to take pictures or disclose specific details about its performance capabilities.
'These submarines or no submarines'

Canada's submarines have often been criticized for being second-hand and expensive to maintain.

While both those assertions are true, the subs are still good value for money, said Ken Hansen, a retired military officer and independent maritime security analyst.

"It was these submarines or no submarines," he said. "We couldn't have bought new submarines for the money that was available [in 1998]. Therefore, we had to buy used. It was simple."
Next mission involves trip to Norway

He said the submarines are powered by diesel-electric engines, which are quieter than many nuclear-powered submarines.

Beneath the surface, HMCS Windsor runs on battery power. A nuclear submarine needs complex systems for power and heat management that produce slightly more noise.

The next mission for Canada's East Coast submarine involves a trip to Norway, followed by a series of international exercises planned to take place in the waters between Halifax and St. John's.

Partners for Peace: Assessing Canada’s return to peacekeeping

Published by: Geoff Tasker, CDA Institute and Partners for Peace

CDA Institute Analyst Geoff Tasker recently attended the Partners for Peace seminar held at the University of Ottawa on17 May 2016. The following post takes a look at what was discussed at the event and assesses the challenges facing Canada’s return to peacekeeping.

Following the federal election, the new government wasted no time in announcing to the world that “Canada is back.” This re-​entry into world affairs reflected what many Canadians view as a staple of our national identity; a mandate for legislators to develop and implement policy around “UN peace operations.” For the time being, however, the details about this prospective commitment are largely unknown. It is one thing for Canada to say it once again wants an active role in the peacekeeping business and quite another to implement an updated policy which can convince a skeptical public, largely disillusioned after years of heavily reported failures, that this is something still worth investing in.

It is this idea of learning from both our successes and mistakes that motivated the recent Partners for Peace seminar held at University of Ottawa. Organized by the Embassy for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the Centre for International Policy Studies, the event provided a venue for panel contributors and observers to openly discuss ideas and share experiences from the world of peacekeeping in hopes of aiding both countries as they re-​engage with the now significantly dated concept.

With approximately 130,000 personnel currently serving in missions around the world, UN peacekeeping has not vanished in recent years. With the nature and form of conflict ever changing, however, the question then becomes how can the UN be reformed to adapt peacekeeping to fit in the current world order and what role should Canada play in the process?

It is, unfortunately, no secret that UN peacekeeping has had its share of rocky endeavors over the past two decades. Incidents such as Rwanda and the current crisis in South Sudan linger in the minds of both the public and policy-​makers alike. Regardless, observers at the event were also quick to point out the multiple success stories which have helped stabilize regions and prevent countless deaths.

No one in attendance, however, was under the illusion there was not room for drastic improvement and adaptation. The question is how, in what way, and at what cost?

The most critical aspect highlighted in each of the event’s panels was the need for the UN to become more adaptive in how it views such operations and what can actually be achieved. Multiple presenters brought attention to the ever changing nature of conflict and warfare. Inter-​state violence is largely, for the time being at least, subsumed by intra-​state violence and terrorism/​criminality that do not respect conventional borders. While this shift in scope may have decreased the level of destruction and deaths in violent conflicts, it has also created untold sufferings, large displacements of people, and changed the game in regards to how interventions or mediations can take place.

The image of UN blue helmets standing between two warring nations is a thing of the past. Perhaps, in its place might emerge the idea of conflict prevention through continuous dialogue with all involved belligerents, if dialogue can be had. As the conflict in Syria has shown, combatants in today’s deadliest conflicts are diverse, multi-​regional, and often make for highly undesirable partners. Nevertheless, some form of dialogue with most regional actors and host nations is crucial if one hopes to achieve eventual stability. Many presenters stressed that focusing solely on the physical protection of civilians – a singular goal that has often fueled peacekeeping’s negative perception – is no longer enough. Creating a secure political, economic and social environment for civilians living in these conflict zones may be the only way to obtain some form of lasting peace; to achieve this, all parties need to be brought to the table.

Panelists were in agreement on the need for the UN to promote greater integration between the countries contributing to such efforts. The lack of communication and cooperation between member states fueled by their individual political objectives was identified by multiple panelists as the primary factor holding back the entire process. A more integrated approach, the panelists argue, allows for different states to assist in different capacities, moving command and objectives away from singular actors into a common UN mandate.

For Canada, currently assessing how its specialized “niche capacities” can be used most effectively, an integrated approach with other countries plays to our strengths. The idea is not without issues however. The more skeptical of the panelists endorsed the idea of an integrated approach, but stressed it could only work if all members had a clear idea on the scope and objectives of the mission. If intelligence is not shared, the result can be disastrous for both UN personnel and civilian populations.

Yet, while integration sounds nice on paper, how can individual state political objectives take a backseat to a UNmandate? The answer almost universally touched on by all panelists is, in theory, quite simple: training.

For Canada at least, the return to an emphasis on training carries great appeal – in light of its experience with peacekeeping, stability operations, as well the training expertise generated by the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre that only ceased operating in 2013. Peacekeepers being trained under a set curriculum would not only ensure a standard for personnel and better guarantee appropriate conduct in the field, but would also allow the UN to reliably delegate greater decision-​making responsibility to troops on the ground. A common criticism has been that the “stove-​pipe” nature of UNdecision-​making restricts the flexibility of active peace support forces, preventing peacekeepers from effectively adapting to evolving situations. While standardized training will not entirely remove this bureaucratic obstacle, it will help to generate forces on the ground who are knowledgeable in key dimensions of the mission – this opens up the possibility of effectively decentralizing decision-​making to forces in the field and allowing for more proactive action on the part of peacekeepers themselves.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to conceive how universal peacekeeper training could ever become reality, let alone actually overcome state political biases. There are many roadblocks standing in the way of such an initiative, but the main obstacle is funding. The current UN budget could not sustain such a wide reaching project; individual member states would have to support it, which will inevitably mean that some states (especially those who foot the bill) will have more of a final say on the project objectives.

This reality is as true for the idea of a training program as it is for all aspects of UN peacekeeping. If any action is to be truly multilateral in its implementation, it is going to have to deal with both diverse political objectives and a possible unwieldy UN bureaucracy. The alternative, however, is to fall back on the so-​called “coalitions of the willing,” where actions can be taken quickly but are ultimately fueled by political objectives outside the scope of the UN.

If Canada truly wants to re-​enter the world of peacekeeping interventions, it will have choose between these options. Both scenarios come with challenges but such is the reality of peacekeeping as a whole. That the world is better with UNpeacekeeping missions than without them was not up for debate at the seminar. Panelists were quite clear that even the smallest improvements can have real impact on the outcome of such missions. If we are in fact serious about “being back,” it might be in our best interests to lead the way in helping to ensure such initiatives are actually effective – not simply because peacekeeping is expected of us, but because it then becomes something ultimately worth investing in.

Geoff Tasker is an Analyst with the CDA Institute currently working towards a Master’s degree at UOttawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). His research interests focus on international security and defence policy as well as conflict mediation and humanitarian intervention. (Image courtesy of Mike Kouxommone.)

HMCS Chicoutimi will be operational next year: Navy commander

The Canadian Press

Canada is still months away from having battle-ready submarines on both its West and East coasts, says the navy's commander.

During an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press aboard the navy's only operational submarine — the Halifax-based HMCS Windsor — Vice-Admiral Mark Norman said British Columbia-based HMCS Chicoutimi will be operational by early next year

Norman says the welding work was done by a subcontractor that was hired by a contractor working on both Victoria-class submarines as well as some surface ships in Victoria, B.C.
He says the welds were passing inspections, but the navy did not realize at the time that the inspection process itself was flawed.

Norman says a complete audit was conducted and the subcontractor has agreed to fix the roughly 70 problem welds on HMCS Chicoutimi, but that process will take several more months.

He says HMCS Chicoutimi will be fixed first, followed by HMCS Victoria, which is currently being used for training purposes.

The welds were passing inspections, but the navy did not realize at the time that the inspection process itself was flawed, said Norman.

"In this case, we relied on a series of contracted support systems that didn't deliver what we needed from them. So we've tightened up our processes and the good thing is that we found it and we're fixing it," said Norman during an interview aboard HMCS Windsor as it sailed roughly 57 metres below sea level off the coast of Halifax.

"It's important that we learn these lessons, but it's unfortunate that we have to learn them the way we have."
Fixing sub will take months

Norman said a complete audit was conducted and the subcontractor has agreed to fix the roughly 70 problem welds on HMCS Chicoutimi, but that process will take several more months.

He said HMCS Chicoutimi will be fixed first, followed by HMCS Victoria, which is currently being used for training purposes. The navy's fourth sub — HMCS Corner Brook — is undergoing deep maintenance.

Norman said as long as the West Coast is without an operational sub, Canada is letting down its American allies.

"The submarine is an important part of not only the defence of North America, but it's also an integral part of how we work with the United States in everything from training exercises to pre-deployment mission readiness for both their navy and for our navy," said Norman.

"It's an unfortunate and disappointing gap in the capability. But we'll get it back."
Only 1 operational sub

Canada's four long-range, diesel-electric submarines were bought from the Royal Navy in 1998 for $750 million, but the transition to full Canadian Navy operations has not been smooth.

Only one of the subs is operational following years of setbacks, including a fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004 that killed Lt. Chris Saunders and sent two others to hospital during its first Canadian voyage.

'A country that has the largest maritime estate in the world ... should have a tool in its toolbox that can declare exclusive control over a piece of water at a time and place of its choosing."- Vice-Admiral Mark Norman

HMCS Corner Brook hit the ocean floor during training exercises off Victoria in June 2011 and will be out of service until at least next year.

Canada spends roughly $200 million a year on maintaining the submarines, said Norman.

But submarines are integral to Canada's navy fleet because they are the "ultimate guarantor of maritime sovereignty," said Norman.

"I would submit that a country that has the largest maritime estate in the world, and that has interests well beyond our borders and our continent, should have a tool in its toolbox that can declare exclusive control over a piece of water at a time and place of its choosing, and that's what a submarine gives you," he said.

"By operating submarines, we're required to share information about submarine locations, positions and movements, and that gives us a degree of insight into what's going on in the waters adjacent to North America, and elsewhere in the Atlantic and Pacific."
Only one of Canada’s four subs are operational following years of setbacks, including a fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004 on its first Canadian voyage that killed Lt. Chris Saunders and sent two others to hospital.
HMCS Chicoutimi (File Photo) The submarines were purchased by Canada when the United Kingdom decided to move to an all-nuclear power fleet in the late 1990s. (CP)

HMCS Windsor headed to Norway

The Canadian Press

HMCS Windsor is heading across the Atlantic to take part in multinational exercises in waters off Norway.

The submarine left its home port of Halifax Monday morning for the 12-day exercise with allied nations, including Norway and Germany.

Lt.-Cmdr. Peter Chu says the joint exercises will involve other warships, submarines and aircraft in a bid to boost crews members’ skill levels.

Chu says the 48 core crew members will focus on sonar operations and working with other submarines.

Beyond that, the captain says the exercise and a recent media tour on the vessel are part of the ongoing campaign to raise awareness of Canada’s submarine program.

“It’s an awareness that we want to bring forward, some recognition for the hard work that everyone’s been doing over the last year in the navy and the submarine force in general,” he said.

HMCS Windsor, one of Canada's four Victoria-class submarines, heads out the harbour in Halifax. (CP)
HMCS Windsor leaving Halifax for Norway. 

CAF Mack Truck Contact will Happen; Oshkosh to Receive Some form of Compensation

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch

Public Services and Procurement Canada has yet to figure out how to proceed on the troubled purchase of Standard Military Pattern trucks for the Canadian Army.

In July the Conservative government announced that Mack Defense had won the $834 million contract to provide 1,500 trucks.

But the Canadian International Trade Tribunal recently upheld a complaint from Oshkosh that the procurement was flawed. In its ruling the CITT is calling on PSPC to re-evaluate Oshkosh’s truck design. The Ottawa Citizen has reported that if that re-evaluation shows the company’s truck should have won the contract, then the CITT recommends the government compensate Oshkosh “for the profits it would have received had it been properly awarded the contract.”

There are also a number of other ways to deal with the situation, according to the CITT. But they all involve Oshkosh walking away with some cash to compensate the company for their involvement in this problem procurement.

Whatever the amount, the Department of National Defence is still proceeding on the purchase. “The Canadian International Trade Tribunal will not recommend that the contract awarded to Mack Defense LLC be cancelled,” the CITT ruling noted.

DND spokeswoman Ashley Lemire told Defence Watch that, “The Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruling is not influencing timelines on the MSVS Standard Military Pattern contract with Mack Defense. With respect to progress, National Defence has completed the first portion of the test programme, which was performed in France. We will be pursuing testing in Canada over the summer and fall of this year. In February, the Crown and Mack Defense agreed to postpone vehicle deliveries to the fall of 2017 to better align requirements verification with production. Other deliverables, such as trailers and Armoured Protection Systems, are scheduled to start delivery in the summer of 2017.”

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic conducts diver training in Jamaica as part of Exercise Tradewinds 16

National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces Press Release

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic will conduct diver training for Caribbean partner nations from May 30 to June 18, 2016, as part of Canada’s participation in Exercise Tradewinds 16.

Slide - Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic conducts diver training in Jamaica as part of Exercise Tradewinds 16

Hosted by the Caribbean Military Maritime Training Centre and run in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, the training involves instruction of select components of the Canadian Armed Forces Ship’s Team Diver Course. More comprehensive diver training will take place later in the exercise.

“Canada’s participation in Exercise Tradewinds 16 will enable members of the Canadian Armed Forces to share their knowledge and contribute to the development of new maritime standards being adopted by the Jamaican Defence Force and other Caribbean nations in a collaborative training environment.” Lieutenant-General Steve Bowes, Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command

“This dive training will serve to enhance the skills of the Jamaican Defence Force and other Caribbean nations’ divers, thus increasing their overall interoperability. The training will allow students to apply their new-found skills and qualifications in an operational setting alongside their international partners.” Lieutenant-Commander William Barter, Commanding Officer, Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic

During previous Exercise Tradewinds, a specific requirement for modern dive training was identified in order to maximize Caribbean nation diver participation in more complex underwater operations. This requirement included systematic individual and team diving skills.

Developed to support Jamaica’s regional diver training school, the training will consist of basic diving theory and practical skills, dive physics, various underwater search techniques, sea floor recovery, and deep dive procedures. Training in dive medicine will also be provided to Jamaican Defence Force Medical Officers in advance of Exercise Tradewinds 16.

Exercise Tradewinds provides an important opportunity for the CAF to strengthen defence support between partner nations for civilian government-led disaster response efforts. Participation in the exercise also strengthens the defence capacity of regional partners to address threats to security and stability in the Caribbean.

Multinational exercises like Tradewinds develop skills and procedures that enhance interoperability, readiness, crisis response capabilities, and communications between partner nations.

RCN PR campaign to shine on Victoria-class submarines during the defence review

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

The defence review is underway and inevitably there will be questions about the value of the Victoria-class submarines.
HMCS Windsor sized

As I wrote on an earlier Defence Watch post, at least once during the Conservative’s time in office, suggestions emerged that the government was looking at shutting down the fleet to save money. Will that same proposal surface this time around?

The Royal Canadian Navy had directed a healthy portion of its budget to deal with the submarines and the various issues those boats have faced over the years.

But the RCN is steadfast on the value of the subs…..and in protecting the fleet from cuts.

In a recent interview with Defence Watch, Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice Admiral Mark Norman said this: “The capability of the Victoria class is actually very robust. And we’ve had enormous success in both continental missions, and recently in the latter part of 2015, Windsor did some incredible things in support of NATO as we were dealing with some Russian activity in the North Atlantic.”

As part of its campaign to protect the subs during the defence review, the RCN recently invited journalists on board HMCS Windsor on the east coast.

The result was a blast of positive publicity….which had been accurately forecasted by navy public affairs. Not much was said about Windsor’s battery problems earlier this year or issues with welds on HMCS Chicoutimi and HMCS Victoria, which are now having to be dealt with.

Instead journalists highlighted the positive aspects of the boats and what they could do. For instance, the Toronto Star breathlessly reported: “A Canadian submarine was on the front lines as NATO allies scrambled last fall to track a “surge” of Russian subs that had deployed into the North Atlantic, the Star has learned.”

Navy public affairs officers are ecstatic at the results of their PR push.

But will this positive publicity be enough to push off the bean-counters eyeing savings from the sub fleet? The RCN hopes so.

The CAF and the Arctic: Maintaining a Suitable and Sustainable Role

Published by the CDA Institute 

In this new CDA Institute Analysis, Adam MacDonald looks at the military requirements for Canada in the Arctic, concluding that the capabilities need to be suitable for the security environment and financially sustainable given other defence commitments. The following is an excerpt of the Analysis.

Due to its increasing accessibility resulting from climate change, the Arctic could become a contested and militarized arena in which states within the region and beyond attempt to secure and gain access to lucrative shipping routes and resources. Such an eventuality poses particular challenges to Canadian sovereignty and security. Stemming from such a characterization, the Harper government had long prioritized the Arctic as a defence issue, raising the spectre that Canadian sovereignty in the North could be irrevocably compromised – we either ‘use it or lose it.’

While silent on which potential adversaries were threatening to usurp Canadian ownership, the Harper government sought to restore a military presence in the Arctic by “placing more boots on the Arctic tundra, more ships in the icy water and a better eye-​in-​the-​sky.” In his 2005 campaign, in particular, Harper promised a litany of Arctic-​specific defence projects to rectify the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) dearth of presence and operational experience in the region. The promotion of the ‘sovereignty at risk’ narrative seemed to justify the construction of a robust and permanent military presence in the Arctic. In reality, however, Canada requires a different type of military presence and capability suite than commonly perceived (or advocated).

Canada’s security challenges in the North do not emanate from a military threat but are rather largely constabulary in nature. Defending sovereignty is the perennial duty of the military but in the Arctic there is no credible, state-​based threat capable of challenging Canadian ownership of its waters and territories, with a few exceptions which are well managed. Despite its sometimes fiery rhetoric, the former Conservative government’s various Arctic policy documents reflected such an appreciation of the threat environment. With the near absence of state-​based threats, military requirement in the Arctic need to be suitable for this particular security environment and sustainable given the operating challenges of the region, as well as other competing military priorities.

At present, the military is focusing their Arctic efforts on increasing domain awareness via surveillance and maintaining a light regional footprint to facilitate Northern operations and, when required, support the deployment of southern based-​units which are increasingly training in the North, often in conjunction with other security agencies and regional partners. Deploying large contingents of combat capable forces is ill-​advised given the nature of the threat, prohibitively expensive given the harsh operating environment (especially the High Arctic), and potentially compromising other missions and mandates by drawing resources away.

The Arctic Security Environment

With the end of the Cold War, the strategic importance of the Arctic diminished significantly allowing for the construction of regional forums dedicated towards common interests, specifically climate research. Rapidly changing environmental conditions, however, are transforming the Arctic landscape by increasing accessibility to human activity to an unprecedented level. Amongst this uncertainty, issues of ownership and access have fueled the development of a narrative of the Arctic as moving away from a politically stable region to one of high geopolitical importance characterized by growing complexity, competition, and perhaps even rivalry. In such a narrative, the current regional architecture is simply unable to adjust and accommodate the expected scramble for resources and political influence.

Not surprisingly, a popular theme has been the growing ‘militarization’ of the Arctic over the past decade. There is no denying that all Arctic states are augmenting their military capabilities in their northern territories, including the stationing of combat-​capable units. As one commentator has remarked, “we may be entering the first stages of an Arctic arms race, in which competition and conflict may overwhelm our desires and rhetoric to have a cooperative régime for the developing circumpolar world.” The augmenting presence, capability development, and employment of military forces in the Arctic is an emerging reality, but their use is, by and large, within recognized national borders and waters.

Moreover, they are largely focused on exercising sovereign control to ensure compliance with state laws, border control, and search and rescue. Retaining combat forces to defend against state-​based threats in the Arctic is a marginal requirement at this time. Arctic countries are more concerned about increasing their domain awareness in parts of their jurisdictions characterized by large geographic areas, small and sparse populations, and a lack of infrastructure, surveillance, and response capacities.

The flurry of recent Russian military projects in the Arctic, including icebreaker construction and the re-​activation of air and army bases on their northern islands, are in part aimed at establishing unquestioned ownership of the Northern Sea Route, regardless of legal objections by the US that the waters constitute an international strait. This is not to suggest that developing a war-​fighting capacity in the Arctic is not an objective of Moscow. However, domestic political calculations and constabulary requirements have heavily shaped the makeup and operational nature of military developments thus far in the region. Some military developments in the Arctic, furthermore, are based on larger, extra-​regional factors. Modernization of the Russian Northern Fleet, for instance, is designed to upgrade their nuclear submarine deterrent and for global operations. Similarly, the US ground-​based interceptors in Alaska are meant to counter a missile attack from a rogue state, specifically North Korea.

Most commentators are quick to assert that militarization is becoming a dominant force driving regional politics, but are at a loss in not only providing an operational definition (e.g., what does ‘militarization’ mean?) but also in explaining how this process will contribute to the destabilization of the region beyond simplistic narratives (Russia versus NATO; non-​Arctic states versus Arctic states). There are no territorial disputes in the Arctic, with the exception of the relatively benign dispute over Hans Island between Canada and Denmark, and there is no evidence to suggest Russia or any other Arctic nation is moving to employ military forces over contested Extended Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) or to gain unobstructed access to polar shipping routes.

Click here to read the rest of the CDA Institute Analysis.

Adam P. MacDonald is an academic based in Halifax, Nova Scotia specializing in geopolitical developments in the Arctic and East Asia. He is a regular contributor to the Canadian Naval Review, East Asia Forum and Frontline Defence.

US Official: Canadian Special Forces key players in Iraq Offensive

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

U.S. military officers say that Canadian special forces are on the frontlines of a new offensive in Iraq to retake villages from the Islamic State east of Mosul.

The coalition troops were spotted with Kurdish forces as they prepared for battle on Sunday.

As many as 5,500 Kurdish troops are attempting to seize villages located about 20 km east of Mosul. Heavy fighting was reported Sunday.

Soldiers with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment from CFB Petawawa in the Ottawa Valley are in northern Iraq to train and advise the Kurds.

A Reuters news agency correspondent saw coalition soldiers loading armored vehicles outside the village Hassan Shami, a few kilometres east of the frontline of the ongoing offensive. The soldiers spoke English and some had Maple Leaf insignia on their uniforms.

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, who speaks for the coalition, confirmed that “U.S. and coalition forces are conducting advise and assist operations to help Kurdish Peshmerga forces”.

He could not confirm which country the troops seen by Reuters were from.

“They may be Americans, they may be Canadians or from other nationalities,” he said.

A Canadian Forces spokeswoman said Sunday that Canadian troops do not conduct “offensive operations” but are continuing in “training, advising and assisting” security forces in Iraq. The location of such activities is not made public for security reasons, she added.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council issued a statement noting that the attacks on Sunday are designed to set the stage for the eventual retaking of Mosul from the Islamic State. “This is one of the many shaping operations expected to increase pressure on ISIL [Islamic State] in and around Mosul in preparation of an eventual assault on the city,” the council said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the train, advise and assist mission of Canadian special forces, including their role in directing air strikes, is not a combat mission.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance has also backed up this position. Vance has noted that Canadian special forces might be attacked by Islamic State forces, return fire, and be injured in fighting, but that he didn’t consider that to be a combat mission. “I’m the expert on what is combat and what is not,” Vance said earlier this year.

When in opposition the Liberals accused the Conservative government of running a combat mission with the deployment of 69 Canadian special forces in an advise and assist role in northern Iraq. The Liberal government has since taken on the same mission but have increased the number of troops to 200.

But now – under a Liberal government – this same mission is not considered combat, government officials have pointed out.

It also appears that Canadian special forces have reversed Vance’s decision to set aside some aspects of operational security for publicity reasons.

In late April, Vance took a tour of the front lines in northern Iraq with journalists in tow. He allowed Canadian special forces to be interviewed and have their faces photographed.

That was a reversal of the previous security measures which saw a prohibition of photos showing the faces of any Canadian military personnel taking part in the Iraq mission. Previously, official photos from the mission were issued only after the faces of mechanics, pilots and other military personnel were blurred out.

The Canadian Forces has argued that such strict security was needed to protect military personnel and their families in Canada from the threat of retaliation from the Islamic State.

But military sources say Vance wanted to help the Liberal government promote the mission and past operational security practices were set aside.

But on Sunday, the special forces on the front lines asked journalists not to take any photos of them.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office inadvertently released a video showing the faces – albeit from a distance – of Canadian special forces the Liberals rose in the House of Commons and accused the Conservatives of putting Canadian lives at risk.

Harper’s office later issued an apology and removed the video imagery which was shot while the prime minister was visiting Canadian special forces in northern Iraq.