Friday, July 1, 2016

Canada Agrees to Head NATO Battalion; 1,000 Troops headed to Latvia

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News

The Trudeau government has decided it will send troops to join a NATO high-readiness brigade preparing to deploy in Eastern Europe.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada will take a leadership role and establish one of the battle group formations requested by the alliance.

The impending dispatch of forces builds on the former Conservative government's placement of troops in Eastern Europe for training exercises and to reassure governments in the region that western nations were serious about holding Russian expansionism in check.

With Crimea still under Moscow's rule and war raging in eastern Ukraine, Sajjan acknowledged Friday the fielding of the new NATO brigade is a serious step, but one that Canada is prepared to wholeheartedly support.

"As part of NATO we were giving assurance to member states there, but now this has evolved to deterrence," the minister said.

The shift in language is important.

The roughly 200 Canadian troops that have been training with allies in Poland will assume a different posture and signal their willingness to stand up to any potential interference in their host nation. A battle group also has the potential to bring with it heavy equipment, including tanks, artillery and surveillance systems.

But Sajjan insisted the build up does not exclude open dialogue with Russia, as the Liberals promised in the last election.
Hundreds of troops

The official announcement comes just one day after U.S. President Barack Obama challenged Canada to do more to support the military alliance.

Sajjan declined to release further details about equipment or force size, saying there will be a formal announcement at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.

Multiple sources told CBC News the deployment would involve hundreds of troops and that it will "happen in short order." They will fill out one of four battalions being assembled to act as a deterrent against Russian expansionism and to reassure jittery allies, particularly in the Baltic region.

The U.S., Britain and Germany have already agreed to fill out the other three battalions, which are expected to be sprinkled among the former East Bloc countries.

During his speech to Parliament on Wednesday, the U.S. president's most pointed remarks involved Canada's commitment to NATO.

"As your NATO ally and your friend, let me say, we'll be more secure when every NATO member, including Canada, contributes its full share to our common security," Obama said. "Because the Canadian Armed Forces are really good. And if I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada. NATO needs more Canada. We need you."

The deployment would be a "core" contribution, meaning that Canadians would fill the slot permanently until NATO dissolves that force, said one source.

It would require the army to rotate one of its infantry battalions and a headquarters — perhaps as many as 500 troops — into the position once every six months.

Sajjan confirmed Canada will establish a persistent presence in the region, creating a command and structural backbone for the battalion, but he refused to discuss numbers and specifics.

"Like all deployments, we will conduct (this) deployment on a rotational basis," he said."When it comes to exact numbers and time frames, the prime minister will announce that."

Latvia, one of the three Baltic states, is expected to be the location for the Canadian contingent.

A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Ottawa criticized the decision, suggesting there were more productive things Canada could be doing.

"We believe that NATO build-up on Russia's doorstep, which is reminiscent of Cold War saber-rattling, is a complete waste of money and resources, diverting them from the real existential threat of international terrorism," Kirill Kalinin told CBC News in an email.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan withheld judgment on the decision, saying the size and scope of the force will determine whether the Liberals are providing NATO with a credible deterrence.

"However, following today's announcement many questions remain unanswered; how many troops will be deployed, where will they be stationed, what will they be doing and for how long? These details are essential for our troops and our allies," he said.
NATO builds a bigger force

Russia's annexation of Crimea and support of rebels in eastern Ukraine prompted NATO to increase the size of its existing rapid reaction force to 40,000 soldiers.

In a crisis, that force is expected to assemble and respond within a week to 10 days.

But at the last summit of alliance leaders in Wales, the 28 member countries agreed to create high-readiness brigade of 4,000 troops which could be in place within 48 hours and would be available to deploy into eastern Europe within 48 hours.

The new NATO force is a bone of contention for Russia and some, including Germany's foreign minister, have suggested it could be seen as a provocation.

When the Cold War ended, Moscow signed a treaty with its former adversary and in it the military alliance explicitly agreed not to station troops along the Russian border in former satellite states.

NATO officials now argue Russia effectively threw out the treaty with the annexation of Crimea and that it has a duty to defend new members, including the Baltic states, Poland and Romania.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

'NATO needs more Canada,' President Obama says in Ottawa

By: Josh Dehaas, Writer

In a mostly praise-filled speech from U.S. President Barack Obama, one notable exception was his urging that Canada “contribute its full share” to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“As your ally and as your friend, let me say that we’ll be more secure when every NATO member including Canada contributes its full share to our common security,” the president told Parliament.

“Because the Canadian Armed Forces are really good,” he added. “If I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada. NATO needs more Canada. We need you. We need you.”

Obama made the remarks after stating that “when nations violate international rules and norms, such as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the United States and Canada stand united, along with our allies, in defence of our collective security.”

Canada currently spends less than one per cent of its GDP on defence, despite a commitment made by all NATO countries to spend at least two per cent of GDP.

Most NATO countries do not meet the two per cent target, but some do, including the U.S. which spends 3.5 per cent, France which spends 2.2 per cent, and the United Kingdom which spends two per cent, according to theWorld Bank.

The prodding of Canada to boost its military contribution was only a small part of a speech around the broad theme that countries are better off when they work together on things like trade and security, rather than “building walls.”

Obama’s position on NATO is in stark contrast to Republican Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called NATO “obsolete” and a waste of money.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has called Trump’s suggestion dangerous. "Putin already hopes to divide Europe," Clinton said in March, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin,” she added.

In a speech last week, former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney also made the case that Canada should once again spend two per cent of its GDP on defence -- as it last did when he was in charge -- in part due to a rising threat from Russia.

“President Putin clearly wants to restore Russia’s great power status by forging, by force if necessary, a new Eurasian union dependent on Russia for its economy and security, adapting Lenin’s phrase of 'pushing the knife in,' until it hits NATO bone,” he said.

“He’s sharpening that knife with a 40 per cent increase in military spending since 2013, far and above anything committed by the West,” Mulroney added.

Mulroney said that NATO should be a top defence priority for Canada. “What we cannot do is talk about Canada “being back” in the world without making tangible commitments that will anchor our aspirations,” he said.

Peacekeeping replaces pipelines in Canada - U.S. dialogue

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

Canada quietly left the door open Wednesday to participating in a United Nations cease fire observer mission, should the Colombian government make a request.

Background documents, released as part of the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa, praised efforts by the country's president, Juan Manuel Santos, to secure a final peace deal with Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), left-wing rebels who've fought running battles with the South American government for five decades.

The three leaders said they strongly support the recent establishment of the UN Special Political Mission, which will deploy to monitor and verify the final cease fire.

"Mexico has recently announced that it will send observers for the UN Mission following the signature of a final peace agreement," said the documents, which flesh out the myriad promises and proposals made by the leaders.

"Canada will support initiatives directly responsive to the government of Colombia's priorities for peace implementation."

U.S. officials — even before the summit — were openly uttering what some in Canadian military circles call the "p-word."

Washington wanted support "co-ordinating peacekeeping around the world," Mark Feierstein, a senior director at the U.S. National Security Council, said Tuesday.

Options for peacekeeping

It wasn't that long ago that American officials, during the Bush Administration's war in Iraq, referred to peacekeeping with disdain.

But the diplomatic language in the statement Wednesday shows the conversation between Ottawa and Washington, which has been focused on oil pipelines for years, had shifted to how both nations can meet the challenges of an increasingly turbulent world.

Aaron Wherry: What U.S. presidents have said to Parliament
Éric Grenier: 2 of the next 3 Amigos could mean trouble for Trudeau
Tuesday: Canada drops Mexican visa requirement, Mexico lifts beef ban

Federal sources told CBC News that defence planners have been examining various options for a peacekeeping mission in Colombia since the UN approved a request for an unarmed force last January.

Prior to the summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office released a statement that said Canada will use its expertise to help Mexico establish itself as a reputable peacekeeping nation.

Mexican efforts to establish its own peacekeeping training centre and to participate in UN operations were welcomed.

"Canada is prepared to further its support to Mexico in the development of a peacekeeping training institution by facilitating access to expertise from the Canadian Armed Forces training schools," the statement read.

Utilizing Canada's expertise and reputation in peacekeeping was expected to be one of the subjects up for discussion between Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday. The pair were to meet at the conclusion of the Three Amigos Summit and before the U.S. president's historic address to Parliament​​.

Awaiting a decision

The apparent U.S. interest in embracing peacekeeping may be music to the ears of the Liberal government, which campaigned on returning the Canada military to that kind of role.

Although Trudeau has talked up the notion, there's been little concrete indication where Canadian peacekeeping troops, equipment and know-how might be headed.
'Will Canada show up in Latvia or not?'- Steve Saideman, Carleton University professor

Holding a slot open for a possible peacekeeping operation was one of the suggested reasons Canada did not automatically sign on to a NATO deterrence mission in eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

The clock is ticking towards the NATO leaders summit in Warsaw and Canada has privately signalled interest, but wrestling a firm public commitment out of Canada is likely going to be high on the American agenda, said two international relations experts.
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Justin Trudeau to attend NATO meeting in Poland, visit Ukraine

"Will Canada show up in Latvia or not?" asked Steve Saideman, an international affairs professor at Carleton University. "In terms of a bilateral relationship, it's on the top of the list right now."

The U.S., Britain and Germany have already said they'll contribute to the highly mobile brigade of roughly 4,000 soldiers destined for eastern Europe and meant as a show of force against Russian expansionism.
U.S. Troops parachute during a NATO-led exercise with Canadian and Polish soldiers in Bledowska Desert in Chechlo, near Olkusz, south Poland in 2014. NATO is asking Canada to post more troops to the region. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
The domestic debate about whether the Canadian air force gets the F-35 or the Super Hornet, likely won't make it on to the radar, Saideman added.

Britain's break with the EU ups the stakes for NATO leaders, said Srdjan Vucetic, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Ottawa.

"NATO is looking for help to deter more of Putin's revisionism in Eastern Europe and to demonstrate post-Brexit unity," he said Tuesday.

"For Canada, the Baltic mission is relatively low-risk and it has several benefits: it builds on historical and current practices; it is likely to be popular with most Canadians, certainly relative to the sending troops to Asia or Africa; and it would give Canada clout in Brussels and Washington."

Pipeline questions — once a dominant topic of bilateral discussions under Stephen Harper's Conservatives — are all but a dead issue, according to a senior White House adviser, who seemed content to bury it under the great green initiatives and goals being rolled out today.

"I think that the partnership is explicitly focused on trying to support our country's efforts to be more ambitious with respect to climate and clean energy and the environment," Brian Deese told reporters on Tuesday. "And there will be a discussion about infrastructure for sure. The focus there is on making sure that we have harmonizing integrated infrastructure to encourage clean energy."

JTF2 Planned Move Triples in Cost; now over $1B

By: David Pugliese, National Post

OTTAWA — The cost for a new Canadian special forces base planned for the Trenton, Ont., area has more than tripled and is now estimated to be more than $1 billion.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance has been warned that the project to move the Joint Task Force 2 commando unit from Ottawa to Canadian Forces Base Trenton is facing major risk in “cost and scope,” according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen through the Access to Information law.

The unit had planned to leave its Dwyer Hill facility in Ottawa after 2019 for a new installation at CFB Trenton. Whether or not that happens is now unclear.

The previous Conservative government had authorized $346 million for building of the new JTF2 site and the move of the unit.

But special forces have significantly added capabilities to the proposed site, expanding it beyond its original scope, which has driven costs up to about $1.2 billion.

Concern has been building inside National Defence headquarters about the growing cost of the facility.

The Liberal government is in the midst of a defence review, which is expected to shift money to top military priorities and new initiatives. There is concern that if the costly JTF2 base proceeds, then funding will be drawn away from the army, navy or air force, a government source said.

The project continues to refine the scope to meet minimum operational requirements within budget constraints.

Department of National Defence spokesman Evan Koronewski said the project, which is in the design phase with architectural and engineering studies underway, has yet to receive further direction from government. “The project continues to refine the scope to meet minimum operational requirements within budget constraints,” he said in an email. “Once the design is substantially complete, the department will seek further direction from Treasury Board on the implementation plan.”

“This decision is not anticipated until late summer 2017,” added Koronewski. “Unfortunately, there are no other updates available at this time.”

Rick Norlock, the former Conservative MP for Northumberland–Quinte West, also hinted at the cost issues last year while he was still in government. “It’s now hugely more expensive than originally” planned, Norlock told CJBQ, a Belleville radio station.

Last year DND spokeswoman Ashley Lemire noted the initial cost estimate for the special forces base was done in 2006.

The military has been talking about the need for a new base for JTF2 since 2005. Among the options considered was an expansion of the existing Ottawa site or moving the unit to CFB Petawawa.

In 2008, the Conservative government announced JTF2 would be relocated to CFB Trenton, but in 2014, DND officials said the unit would remain at its Ottawa location at least until 2019.

Last year the Citizen reported that DND was looking for a one-year extension. It wanted to spend $17 million to hire a contractor to provide maintenance and support services for JTF2 at Dwyer Hill from 2017 to 2020.

In a controversial move, the Conservative government in 2012 expropriated a 90-hectare farm, near the Trenton base, that was owned by Frank Meyers. The farm had been in the Meyers family for more than 200 years and a bid to stop the expropriation failed.

The military took over the property, tore down barns, and built a berm and some access roads. Little else has been done with the land.

Meyers’ supporters have asked the Liberal government to return the property but it has declined to do so.

Once JTF2 vacates its Dwyer Hill installation, the site will be offered up within DND and then to other federal departments. After that it could be offered to provincial and municipal governments. “If there is no interest at these levels, the property will be sold on the open market through an open and fair process,” a DND spokeswoman has said.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

CAF Land and Maritime Assets Conclude Participation in Exercise TRADEWINDS-16

DND Press Release 

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) successfully participated in Exercise Tradewinds 16, a multinational training event that took place in Grenada and Jamaica from June 5 to 28, 2016.

Canada’s contribution to this year’s exercise included the deployment of maritime and land assets to provide joint training alongside the United States, France, and the United Kingdom to military and security forces from 15 Caribbean and partner nations.

Select CAF representatives will join key regional and national decision makers at a follow-on seminar in July in Miami, Florida, to discuss the results of this year’s exercise, as well as the short and long-term goals and objectives for future exercises. This session will help the CAF ensure that overall efforts geared towards assisting Caribbean partners are effectively meeting their needs.

Participation in Exercise Tradewinds also contributes to the operational readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces, allowing the CAF to meet the tasks assigned by the Government of Canada.

“The Canadian Armed Forces’ involvement in Exercise Tradewinds promotes the development of Caribbean defence partners and fosters our security and defence relationships with key allies in the western hemisphere. Canada’s participation promotes regional security cooperation, enabling partner nations to counter transnational crime and enhance humanitarian assistance disaster relief skills.” - Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister

“Exercise Tradewinds 16 has culminated with our soldiers and sailors demonstrating yet again that they are among the finest in the world. Their contributions have enabled a successful iteration of Tradewinds and helped to lay the framework for future operations in the Caribbean region.” - Lieutenant-General Steve Bowes, Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command
Belize. 18 June 2015 - Warrant Officer Jocelyn Roy from the Royal 22e Regiment, provides a shotgun demonstration for the soldiers from the Belize Defence Force and members of the United States Marine Corps participating in marksmanship shotgun training during phase II of Exercise TRADEWINDS 15. (Photo: Sgt Yannick Bédard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)
Belize. 18 June 2015 - Warrant Officer Jocelyn Roy from the Royal 22e Regiment, provides a shotgun demonstration for the soldiers from the Belize Defence Force and members of the United States Marine Corps participating in marksmanship shotgun training during phase II of Exercise TRADEWINDS 15. (Photo: Sgt Yannick Bédard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)
Led by U.S. Southern Command, Exercise Tradewinds provides an 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.

The CAF contributed a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel (Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Shawinigan), an 11-member dive training team composed of personnel from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) and Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific), and a land contingent of approximately 30 personnel, primarily from 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, to this year’s exercise. 

In addition to the practical training, CAF elements were integrated with a Regional Assessment Team throughout Tradewinds 16 to provide expertise and feedback to participating Caribbean organizations. This team supported Caribbean participants in their efforts to better plan for, coordinate, and execute response to disasters as well as security and defence threats.

Tradewinds 16 marked the first operational activation of the CAF’s Operational Support Hub Latin America and Caribbean. The Hub served as the in-theatre support platform for CAF personnel participating in the largest component of the exercise in Jamaica. 

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

HMCS Windsor participates in NATO anti-submarine exercise DYNAMIC MONGOOSE

RCN Press Release

Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine (HMCS) Windsor is taking part in Exercise Dynamic Mongoose 2016, a 10-day NATO anti-submarine warfare exercise, June 23 to July 2 in the Norwegian Sea.

HMCS Windsor (front right) steams in formation with other participants during the NATO anti-submarine warfare exercise Dynamic Mongoose on June 27, 2016 in the Norwegian Sea.
HMCS Windsor (front right) steams in formation with other participants during the NATO anti-submarine warfare exercise Dynamic Mongoose on June 27, 2016 in the Norwegian Sea.
The exercise will see the participation of 3,000 sailors and aircrew from eight allied countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The focus of the exercise is on detecting and defending against submarines. During the exercise, the submarines will have to travel from one location to another while surface vessels try to track them down and simulate an attack. The surface units will also have to travel between two transit points while under the threat of submarines.

“Submarines are the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN’s) ultimate war fighting capability and an essential component of a balanced combat-effective navy,” said Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, Commander of the RCN. “Canada, with the largest maritime estate in the world, has interests well beyond our borders and continent, and should have tools that can declare exclusive control over a body of water at specific intervals, which is what submarine does. During this exercise, HMCS Windsor is proving once again the value of submarines and the capabilities of Canada’s Victoria Class.”

Last year, HMCS Windsor logged nearly 200 days at sea and is on track to do the same for 2016. The fact the boat has spent nearly two-thirds of its time conducting operations at sea represents the demands the RCN has for this valuable, strategic asset.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CAF Successfully Concludes OP NEVUS 2016

DND Press Release

Approximately 100 Canadian Armed Forces personnel and civilian members from the Department of National Defence have completed Operation NEVUS 2016 — the performance of essential preventive and corrective maintenance on the High Arctic Data Communications System (HADCS) in and around Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, Nunavut, located on Ellesmere Island, from June 1 to 28, 2016.

The month-long operation involved CAF Information Operations Group technicians, Geomatics Technicians from the CAF Mapping and Charting Establishment, and several aircrew and aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force, including: one CC-130J Hercules and one CC-177 Globemaster from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario; three CH-146 Griffons from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Valcartier, Quebec; a CH-147 Chinook from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Petawawa, Ontario; and one CC-138 Twin Otter from Yellowknife-based 440 Transport Squadron.

Ellesmere Island. 18 June 2015 – Mr. Yves Gauthier guides Master Corporal Marty Stride and Corporal Graeme Ross (CFS LEITRIM) through the maintenance program on one of the High Arctic Data Communication Systems Line of Sight Systems (HADCS LOS) Sites. (Photo:  Lieutenant-Navy Clayton Erickson, Joint Task Force (North))
Ellesmere Island. – Mr. Yves Gauthier guides Master Corporal Marty Stride and Corporal Graeme Ross (CFS LEITRIM) through the maintenance program on one of the High Arctic Data Communication Systems Line of Sight Systems (HADCS LOS) Sites. (Photo: Lieutenant-Navy Clayton Erickson, Joint Task Force (North))
During Operation NEVUS 2016, technicians travelled between CFS Alert and Fort Eureka by helicopter, maintaining and repairing communication components and sites. The Mapping and Charting Team conducted surveys of CFS Alert, Fort Eureka, and the HADCS sites.

Operation NEVUS is one of an annual series of operations conducted by Joint Task Force North in the High Arctic that contributes to Canadian sovereignty.

“Operation NEVUS 2016 has been a success due, in large part, to the initiative and energy demonstrated by this highly professional team. Each member of the operation worked tirelessly to ensure that his or her assigned tasks were completed to the highest standards and with due regard for the environment in which they operated. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a highly capable team, and I am proud of the work they have accomplished during this year’s operation.” - Major Meagan McGrath, Commanding Officer, Task Force NEVUS 2016

Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, 2013 – A CH-146 Griffon helicopter slings a battery over the site codenamed WHISKEY. (Photo by: Canadian Armed Forces)
Ellesmere Island,  A CH-146 Griffon helicopter slings a battery over the site codenamed WHISKEY. (Photo by: Canadian Armed Forces)

Minister Sajjan announces investment in defence infrastructure at CFB Goose Bay

DND Press Release

As part of the Government’s commitment to ensure that Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have the support they need, including safe and modern facilities in which to work and train, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan today announced a $12 million investment for 5 Wing Goose Bay to improve critical infrastructure.

This investment in 5 Wing Goose Bay will permit the upgrade of the airfield through the replacement of ramps which have reached their life expectancy. These ramps are essential for NORAD flying operations. A site survey will be carried out this year and work will be completed in 2018.

“This announcement underscores the Government’s commitment to empower the Canadian Armed Forces with the resources they need to successfully carry out their missions — protecting Canadians’ interests, now and in the future. This investment will ensure our military has the right infrastructure to effectively defend Canada and North America. The local community will also benefit from the economic opportunities this project will provide.” - Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister

As announced in Budget 2016, the Government of Canada will invest $200 million in infrastructure at CAF bases and other defence properties across Canada. The investments will allow the repair of airfields, hangars, live-fire ranges, jetties, armouries and military housing, as well as improvements to Northern infrastructure.

Through this investment, 5 Wing Goose Bay will replace the ramps located east of Hangars 7 and 8.
Sustained improvements to military infrastructure are necessary to provide the women and men of the CAF with the facilities they need to train and operate successfully, well into the future.

These infrastructure projects provide economic opportunities for local communities, which help to create new jobs and opportunities for businesses across the country.

Canada’s Ragged Reserves have too few vehicles, little ammo and radios

By: Christie Blatchford

Now, it’s radios that Canadian reserve units are expected to do without, probably until the summer of 2017.

The army recently took away the old radios because it’s replacing them, Postmedia sources say, but with the usual staggering incompetence, failed to synch the clawback with the acquisition of the new ones.

Ergo, no radios until July of next year.

Without radios, soldiers on training or exercise in the field won’t be able to communicate with one another, which rather defeats the ostensible goal of having part-time soldiers who are as well-trained as full-time or regular soldiers.

CBC: Thunder Bay Reservists during an Exercise in 2015
Mind you, that may matter less than it should because there are fewer and fewer such courses and exercises available to reserve soldiers anyway — even though such things are a draw and mean a paycheque for young men and women off from school for the summer.

As well, many units have fewer vehicles available to them because they’re either rusting out or unserviceable — or because mechanics can’t be trained because regulations decree that they can only trained by regular-force members and there aren’t enough of those around.

Most cruel is that the reserves are being deliberately starved and the culprit starving them is, as usual, the bureaucracy of the regular (or full-time) army itself

In other words, for Canada’s beleaguered militia — the 117 reserve units, many of them among the country’s oldest and most storied regiments, based in 130 cities and towns across the country — it is in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, deja vu all over again.

Most cruel is that the reserves are being deliberately starved and the culprit starving them is, as usual, the bureaucracy of the regular (or full-time) army itself.

But if the situation is dire, as reserve leaders say, it is also familiar.

The gutting of the militia is an old, familiar story. It always happens the same way.

First, reserve units have their quotas cut.

This last happened in 2010, when Brigadier-General John Collin, then the commander of Joint Task Force Central Area (this means Ontario) held a series of town hall meetings at which he said the army was looking to chop 5,000 reservists.

That’s pretty much what they’ve done.

As federal Auditor-General Michael Ferguson said in a spring report on the state of the army reserve, units have lost about 1,000 soldiers a year for several years, and instead of the 21,000 reservists the army purported to fund in its budget of last year, there were only 13,944.

Then, since recruiting is always laughably slow (last I looked, it took an average 180 days to enrol a soldier for a part-time job), the bodies coming in the door don’t begin to fill the holes left by those who are going out even by way of normal attrition.

Eventually, some of the regiments either run out of bullets (seriously, that happened once, years ago) or courses to send their soldiers on or leaders to run them, and someone like me writes about it, at which point, government and regular army folks who control the purse strings for the reserves deny or minimize the crisis, swear there’s nothing to see here, and move on.

And while governments have been more or less inept or uninterested, the problem is not one created by politicians; rather, by craven officials in the regular army who see any increase in militia size or power as a threat and who even get away with ignoring the will of the government of the day.

The previous Conservative government, for instance, promised to increase the reserves by 10,000, reneged on that promise, then slashed reserve pay budgets and made things worse. Then-defence minister Peter MacKay ordered his department to develop policies to stop militia paycheques being used for other purposes, but never got an answer, let alone a result.

As the military scholar Jack English wrote in a scathing report several years ago, for the military, compliance with government orders has come to be seen as a voluntary matter.

Ten years ago, the Canadian army, in the form of Task Force Orion in Kandahar — the core regiment the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, but with plenty of reservists too — was on the ground in Afghanistan.

That wonderfully nimble battle group, headed by then-Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Hope, was punching way above its weight and about to suffer some of its most significant losses.

And a century ago, on July 1, in the village of Beaumont-Hamel, France, 700 members of the First Newfoundland Regiment were being slaughtered in the first phase of the Battle of the Somme.

Yet with these two historic events on the military calendar, one modern and one from the First World War, the biggest mission on the Canadian Forces’ radar today is Op Honour, the purported “fight” against harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the military.

How very sad that this army — under-led, over-managed and risk-averse as it is — may just be up for that fearsome task.

The F-35 may be about to face even more delays

By: JEREMY BENDER, Business Insider

The oft-troubled F-35 may be on the verge of facing an even greater series of delays that could affect the supply chain of the aircraft and work agreements with jet-partner Great Britain.

At the root of the problem is the still-unresolved issue of the F-35’s ejection seat, which runs the risk of causing fatal whiplash in pilots under 200 pounds.

The issue is most pronounced with lighter-weight pilots, with those weighing under 136 pounds now barred from flying the aircraft for safety concerns related to the F-35’s Martin-Baker ejection seat, Defence News reports.

The problem with the ejection seats has been known since at least October 2015. But so far, fixes from Martin-Baker have focused on small issues without resolving the overall design flaw that could cause the fatal whiplash, according to two anonymous officials who spoke to Defence News.

In light of this, the F-35 program has begun to look at other manufacturers for its ejection seats. Chiefly, the program is looking at the United Technologies ACES 5 model.

“We believe it is prudent to look at what it would take to qualify the ACES 5 seat as a potential risk mitigation step if additional things happen as we go through the testing of the Martin-Baker seat,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch told Defence News. “We believe it’s prudent to determine what it would cost, how much [effect it has on] the schedule, what the timeline would be, if something else happened and we wanted to go a different way.”

Should the F-35 project decide to replace the F-35’s ejection seats, costs of the program could increase and the aircraft could take longer to deliver. Martin-Baker is a British company, and its role in the construction of F-35 jets allows Britain to reap economic benefits from being a part of the F-35 program. Should the project decide to scrap Martin-Baker and use United Technologies, a US company, then the UK could demand a greater work share in other portions of the F-35.
(Martin-BakerA test of the F-35 ejection seat.
This would likely drive up costs for the program, as the supply chain and logistics of the project would need to be significantly altered.

The risk of fatal whiplash was previously thought to be caused by a combination of the way in which the ejection seats rolled forwards combined with the weight of the F-35’s helmet.

During simulated low-speed ejections, the heavy forces at play during the acceleration or deceleration of the advanced fighter jet would snap the neck of lightweight dummies. The problem was initially thought to have been caused by the ejection seats rotating too far forward. This movement, combined with the force of ejecting from the aircraft, would snap the dummies’ necks.

However, Reuters reported in October 2015 that the risk from the ejection seats to even lighter pilots was still exceptionally small. Pilots weighing under 136 pounds had a one-in-50,000 chance of hurting their neck, while pilots weighing 146 to 165 pounds had a one-in-200,000 chance.

Gagetown to get new IED disposal training facility

DND Press Release

As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensure Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have the support they need, including safe and modern facilities in which to work and train, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan today announced $38 million in funding to improve critical infrastructure and training facilities at the 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown.

The Department of National Defence will allocate $36 million to new training facilities for identifying and disposing of improvised explosive devices and other explosive ordnance. The development of skills sets for explosive ordnance disposal is essential to support Canadian military operations.

“As a proud former member of Canada’s military, I know how essential it is that the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces have the facilities to train and develop the essential skills to do their jobs safely and effectively, said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. "These military infrastructure projects at Gagetown are so important, and these investments ensure our military is prepared to protect our security, both at home and abroad.”

The Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at 5 CDSB Gagetown currently lacks sufficient space to conduct critical training. These investments in new training facilities will include buildings to house the main training centre, as well as upgrades to roads for field exercises. Suitable infrastructure will increase the quality of training, which is crucial for supporting operations.

An additional $2.3 million, part of the $200 million for defence infrastructure announced in the 2016 Federal Budget, will allow 5 CDSB Gagetown to repair a vital crossing located within another training area, and to upgrade the airfield’s lighting and storm water collection system. The airfield asphalt will also be replaced. Work on these projects is to begin later this summer.

The new explosive ordnance disposal facilities will conform to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver level, and integrate green building concepts and sustainability into planning, investment analysis, and programming activities for operations.

As announced in the 2016 Federal Budget, the Department of National Defence will invest an additional $200 million in infrastructure at defence facilities across the country.

Sustained improvements to military infrastructure are necessary to provide the women and men of the CAF with the facilities they need to train and operate successfully, well into the future.

Monday, June 27, 2016

HMCS Charlottetown leaves for OP REASSURANCE; First Deployment since 2012

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Charlottetown departed from Halifax today as the designated forward deployed ship of the Royal Canadian Navy, replacing HMCS Fredericton in that role, the RCN said.

HMCS Fredericton has been on Operation REASSURANCE since January 2016.

HMCS Charlottetown’s last international deployment was in 2012, when the ship served on Operation METRIC, Canada’s support to enhanced security in the eastern Mediterranean region, and Operation ARTEMIS, Canada’s support to counter-terrorism and maritime security in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and the Indian Ocean, according to the RCN.

English / Anglais
January 26, 2012
Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown

Aerial image of Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Charlottetown at sea during OP Metric with, Standing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) maritime Group 1 in the Mediterranean Sea.

Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) maritime operation. It operates in the Mediterranean Sea to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction, and enhance the security of shipping in general.

HMCS Charlottetown's tasks while on Operation ACTIVE ENDRAVOUR include locating, tracking, and reporting 'vessels of interest', suspected of involvement in terrorism. Although their mandate is limited to detection and deterrence of activities related to terrorism, the NATO fleet deployed on Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR has enhanced security and stability in the Mediterranean Sea to the considerable benefit of trade and commerce. 

Photo by Cpl Ronnie Kinnie, Formation Imaging Services,
HMCS Charlottetown in 2012. Photo courtesy DND
HMCS Charlottetown has been upgraded as part of the Halifax-class modernization. It completed the Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension (HCM/FELEX) program in June 2014.

The program provided the ship with a new Combat Management System, new radar capability, a new electronic warfare system upgrade, upgraded communications and missiles, as well as a new Integrated Platform Management System.

The ship’s mission will be the third to employ one of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Enhanced Naval Boarding Parties, a specialized team that is capable of executing a full range of maritime interdiction operations.

JTF2 is “jewel in the crown” of Canada’s Special Forces

By: BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH Ottawa Bureau Toronto Star

PETAWAWA, ONT.—They deployed to Vancouver in 2010, ready to intervene if terrorists took aim at the Winter Olympics.

When a gunman murdered a soldier at the National War Memorial and stormed Parliament Hill in 2014, these soldiers readied their gear and helicopters prepared to move the team into action.

They are Canada’s insurance policy against the worst-case scenario when a terror strike proves more than local police forces can handle.

At Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, members of the Canadian Special Forces go through a variety of training exercises, including a live-fire drill.
At Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, members of the Canadian Special Forces go through a variety of training exercises, including a live-fire drill. (RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR)
Joint Task Force 2 is the oldest and most skilled of Canada’s special forces units. Its experienced members — the average age is 37 — are known as “assaulters” and if they’re coming in your front window, it’s a bad day for someone.

In April, the Toronto Star and CTV News were given exclusive access to Canada’s special forces mission in northern Iraq, where Canadians are training Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, and later to their training facilities at Garrison Petawawa.

With its counterterrorism mandate, JTF2 is at the heart of what Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau calls the “home game” for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, which he heads.

JTF2, along with the unit trained to handle chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, make up the “national mission force,” to respond to a domestic terror incident.

“JTF2 is always on a pretty coiled spring to be able to respond,” said Rouleau, himself a former JTF2 member.

“We can see the nature of crises, the Paris attacks, what happened in Brussels. These things happen very quickly. The modus operandi of the terrorist is actually to kill as many people in as short a time as possible,” Rouleau said.

Yet Rouleau cautions that JTF2’s involvement in any crisis would come only after consultations with cabinet ministers and it was clear that the incident was beyond the ability of local law enforcement to manage.

“We’re not first responders,” he said.

“You don’t use military force of that description unless you’ve exhausted what’s available in the law enforcement portfolio. Clearly, using JTF2 in a counterterrorism sense means that the situation has gotten to the point where you need that level of tool for the problem,” Rouleau said.

He offered the example of a hijacked aircraft at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as one scenario that might call for an intervention by JTF2.

“That is a very, very complex problem to go and rescue hostages in a structure like that. . . We train for that rigorously,” Rouleau said.

“We are capable of assaulting what we call any stronghold in Canada, whether it’s a train, an airplane, a ship, a building, moving vehicles,” Rouleau said.

“That’s the domestic counterterrorism mandate for that worst-case scenario, should it ever happen,” he said.

Even as Rouleau took the wraps off some elements of special forces capabilities and personnel, JTF2 was kept firmly in the shadows. But in an interview, he offered some details about the unit, which he calls the “jewel in the crown” of the special forces command.

“It is the one that has the most highly specialized and precise skill sets in CANSOFCOM (the acronym for Canadian Special Operations Forces Command). Precision shooting, moving, communicating, intelligence support, sustainment. All of it is extremely precise. It has enormous value added in a non-lethal sense as much as a lethal sense,” Rouleau said.

“It’s a unit that can be deployed against a wide spectrum of issues or crises. It can be very low signature. It can be very clandestine in the way that it is used,” he said.

One source familiar with JTF2 said the skills of the unit’s members come from the time devoted to training.

“What makes JTF2 good is the training. The missions are demanding and the intensity in planning is much more demanding,” the source said. “When you’re not on mission, you train.”

Operating from their base in Dwyer Hill, just outside Ottawa, JTF2 dates back to the early 1990s, when the military took over the role that had been done by the RCMP’s special emergency response team.

In those early days, JTF2 had fewer than 100 people. By 2006, its capabilities and manpower had significantly expanded, primarily as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

Today, Rouleau describes it as a “very big unit” though he doesn’t disclose numbers. It’s organized into squadrons — several of them assault squadrons — while others provide support in areas such as technology.

From its original domestic mission, JTF2 has done missions abroad in places such as the Balkans and Rwanda. Its members protect the prime minister and other high-level VIPs when they visit hot spots such as Iraq.

JTF2 soldiers have also readied for potential rescue missions when Canadian citizens have been taken hostage abroad. Yet JTF2’s role, if any, in the release of kidnapped Canadians has never been publicly disclosed. Nor will the military discuss whether JTF2 troops were in the Philippines, where two Canadians were recently killed by their captors.

Rouleau says it was in Afghanistan that JTF2 proved its mettle and earned the respect of allies. JTF2 first deployed there in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks and remained for almost a year. During that first tour, the unit was largely unknown among other allied soldiers. “At the beginning, people said, ‘Who the f--- is JTF2?’ ” one soldier recounted to the Star’s Allan Woods in a 2010 interview.

JTF2 returned to Afghanistan in 2005. Their task was often what Rouleau describes as “kill and capture” missions.

“We would work essentially only at night, basically doing raiding on specific targets of interest, bomb makers, commander and control facilitators, key commanders with a view to capturing them so that they could be exploited for their intelligence value,” Rouleau said.

Similar raids by American special forces soldiers proved controversial at times when Afghan leaders complained that innocent civilians were being caught in the crosshairs.

Rouleau, who commanded Canadian missions in Afghanistan, said the work of special forces troops saved many Canadian lives by “chipping away at the IED networks and the command and control structure of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”

“There’s no question about it that JTF2 really earned its international bona fides after 9/11,” Rouleau said.

Why BREXIT Might Make a Difference to the CF-18 Replacement

Image result for brexit

For many, the possibility of a European fighter jet replacing the RCAF's ageing fleet of CF-18 Hornets stands at zero chance - while others; like myself believe the Dassault Rafale provides the best options for the RCAF in operations in the Arctic and our responsibilities to both NORAD and NATO. This is especially true if Dassault agrees to built part of the fleet in Canada as previously announced.

That all sounds nice and good; then came last weeks BREXIT. With the 17+ million people of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, Europe is left with one major anchor economy: Germany (sorry France; you don't qualify as a anchor economy). What does this mean for Canada's CF-18 Replacement? It could mean a lot - or absolutely nothing. We don't know yet.

With the BREXIT, similar sentiment in several other European nations might cause a domino effect, and see numerous countries leave the EU - which might mean a lower likely hood of not only military exports, but lower likely hood that nations will not send manufacturing jobs outside their borders; and this could mean no option to built Rafale's in Canada.

I have heard from some that Dassault will not establish a manufacturing chain in North America for 65 Aircraft. While that might be true - other companies have set up a base of operation in Canada for a lot smaller orders. Take a look a TEXTRON; who opened offices in Ottawa after receiving the contract for Tactican  Armoured Patrol Vehicles (TAPV) for the Canadian Army; and that was only a a $1.2 Billion agreement. The CF-18 replacement will be above $15 Billion.

Why is this all a problem? This might make the F-35 or the F/A-18 Super Hornet Canada's only options (not that either would be built in Canada).

International Observers of MAPLE FLAG

RCAF Press Release
By Lieutenant Peter Broussard

Exercise Maple Flag has many participants, a number of whom are front and centre during the event with their aircraft and participation in the training missions during its four weeks. As well, every year, nations whose aircraft and personnel are not directly involved play in a more passive role: these observers come from all over the world to learn about Maple Flag and the Cold Lake community.

During Exercise Maple Flag, a CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft (left) moves into position to refuel from a CC-130 Hercules aircraft over 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, on June 21, 2016, while two French Air Force Rafale fighter aircraft fly alongside. PHOTO: Corporal Manuela Berger, CK01-2016-0510-214
During Exercise Maple Flag, a CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft (left) moves into position to refuel from a CC-130 Hercules aircraft over 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, on June 21, 2016, while two French Air Force Rafale fighter aircraft fly alongside. PHOTO: Corporal Manuela Berger, CK01-2016-0510-214
The International Observer Program (IOP) is an integral part of Exercise Maple Flag. It is designed to allow representatives of non-participating nations the opportunity to observe the exercise and the local area, and to assess the opportunities for their country presented by 4 Wing/Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake and Exercise Maple Flag. This year, the IOP had 22 observers from 11 nations – the largest number in the program in Maple Flag’s history. They came to 4 Wing/CFB Cold Lake to witness how Exercise Maple Flag runs and how it could help with their training needs in the future.

Major (Ret) Keith Agar, program manager international observers (PMIOP), has been running the IOP for the last 9 years and has seen the program grow over his tenure. “Having new countries participating in the IOP helps us gauge the program,” he said, “and shows us there is interest in Maple Flag. The IOP is designed to highlight the professionalism, planning and training available at CFB Cold Lake.”

Mr. Agar explained that it is important to remember that Maple Flag does not compete with other nations’ exercises, but rather can be used in conjunction with other similar exercises in North America. This opportunity to attend multiple exercises can be an important factor for countries that have a great distance to travel in order to participate.

The IOP saw representatives from new nations take part in the observers program this year, and those from nations which have done so in the past. If a nation is unable to actively participate in the exercise, sometimes it will show support for future Maple Flags through its observers in the IOP. This year, three nations all showed their support for future exercises by taking part in in the observers’ program.

Comments from several IOP observers spotlighted the purpose of the program. “We come here, not to make a decision on participation, as that is not our role at Maple Flag; rather, we collect information to take back to our decision-makers,” explained one observer. Another agreed, saying: “We were allowed unfettered access to planning, briefing and debriefing, and exercise staff. The decision my government makes on future participation will be made with all of this information weighed and in mind.”

4 Wing Air Force Tactical Training Centre officer in charge Major Christopher Horch explained that the IOP is a key tool for the RCAF because it showcases Exercise Maple Flag to potential participants. “They have the opportunity to assess the exercise against the needs of the individual nation,” he said, “and report back to their chain of command on the training value. We have received positive feedback this year and hope some of the nations who were a part of the IOP during MF 49 return as active participants in the near future.”

An RCAF Icy Rescue

RCAF Rescue Story:

Transcript Warrant Officer Aaron Bygrove: We parachuted and were able to rescue two hunters and a helicopter pilot who had crashed through the ice out on Hudson Bay. My name is Warrant Officer Aaron Bygrove, this is Master-Corporal Bruno Robitaille. Master-Corporal Bruno Robitaille: For myself, at nine years old I saw a program about search and rescue, and since that day I did everything I could to be a Search and Rescue Technician. We parachuted with medical and survival needs for him and myself. When we landed on the ground there were three patients. There were Inuit and the pilot, who was submerged in water. It was –36, plus the wind. I personally took care of the medical aspect for the patients and everything having to do with logistics and extraction. I warmed up the pilot, who was still submerged during that time. Aaron started to put up the tent. We brought the three patients inside. We were able to bring the three patients to a suitable temperature. And then later, about two hours from when we’d jumped, the 417 Squadron from Cold Lake came to extract us. We were busy the whole time. Trying all the time to do something to improve our quality of life because, yes, you know the helicopter will come, but you never know if it will really happen. But we have all that we need to spend the night, no matter what. It's a team effort. Warrant Officer Aaron Bygrove: We took some calculated risks, risks that needed to be taken to save lives. We worked our crew, as well as Search and Rescue as a whole. At Rideau Hall we were both honored with a Meritorious Service Medal. I feel, and we feel, honoured today to receive this. Not only for ourselves, but also for the Canadian Forces Air Force who is tasked with almost a thousand missions every year to help bring back people and save lives. Master-Corporal Bruno Robitaille: Anytime, anywhere, we’ll be
there. That’s what we do.


Press Release
National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

After 1,945 hours flown over the course of 1,137 sorties, 1,300 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel along with 400 members from partner nations concluded Exercise MAPLE FLAG, the largest and most complex international training event of the year led by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The exercise was successful in accomplishing the goal of preparing Canadian and international aircrew, maintenance, and support personnel for the rigours of operations in the modern aerial battlespace.

“The feedback we received during Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49 has been extremely positive, pointing to an overall successful experience for everyone involved. It was a great opportunity for the RCAF to enhance our agility, reach, and power, while increasing operability with our domestic joint partners and allies.” - Major-General Christian Drouin, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division

“Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49 was a tremendous success. The months of planning and hard work paid off, providing a world-class training opportunity that will directly contribute to the continued success of the RCAF and our allies. A highlight for me was the absolute professionalism and dedication of all those involved.” - Colonel Eric Kenny, Commander 4 Wing Cold Lake

The exercise began on May 30, and brought together over 1300 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel from across the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army, and over 400 personnel from five allied and partner nations. Aircraft which flew as part of the exercise included:

From Canada: 
  • CF-18 Hornet fighters, 
  • CH-146 Griffon helicopters, 
  • CP-140 Auroras, 
  • CC-177 Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft, 
  • CC-130 Hercules air-to-air refueling and transport aircraft, 
  • and contracted Dornier Alpha Jets;
From the United States: 
  • C-130 Hercules aircraft 
  • and E-3 Sentry aircraft;
From France: 
  • Mirage 2000-5 
  • and Rafale fighter aircraft;
From the United Kingdom:
  •  E-3 Sentry aircraft.
Participants used a fictitious scenario in which they fought against simulated threats using tactics, weaponry, and technology. The goal was to hone their skills within a realistic, evolving, and challenging operating environment.

Some notable statistics from Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49 include:
  • Sorties flown: 1,137;
  • Air-to-air fuel transferred: 1,070,400 pounds;
  • Total hours flown: 1,945.08;
  • Live munitions dropped: 8;
  • Inert munitions dropped: 69;
  • Number of target complexes attacked: 257; and
  • Number of simulated air-to-air kills: 1,063.
  • Participants from allied and partner forces included:
  • The United States Air Force;
  • The United States Air Force Reserve;
  • The Kentucky Air National Guard;
  • The United States Marine Corps;
  • The Royal Air Force;
  • The French Air Force;
  • The German Army; and
  • The Belgian Army