Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

CANADIAN FORCES TO SHIP MORE TANKS TO AFGHANISTAN; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN DEFENCE REPORT

January 26, 2010

Canada to ship 20 tanks to Afghanistan as pullout looms

The Ottawa Citizen

Tue Dec 29 2009

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

Canada will ship another 20 tanks to Afghanistan in the fall of 2010 to replace those that have been destroyed by insurgents or worn out through repeated use.

The Leopard 2 tanks will be shipped directly from Germany, where they are being refurbished, to Kandahar starting in September.

Although the tanks will only be on the ground for nine to 10 months before they have to be shipped back when the Canadian military mission ends in July 2011, Defence Department officials say the armoured vehicles are essential.

“The tanks currently deployed to Afghanistan have been operating under some of the most austere field conditions in the world,” said Defence Department spokeswoman Lynne Rattray. “They will soon require repair and overhaul beyond that possible by regular in-theatre maintenance.”

The cost of shipping the tanks from Germany to Afghanistan has not been determined, as that will depend on the type of transport used, according to DND spokeswoman Annie Dicaire.

The government spent $1 million to transport each tank when the first group of Leopards were originally sent from Canada to Kandahar in the fall of 2006. At the time, it used commercial aircraft and U.S. military planes. Since then, Canada has received its own C-17 transport aircraft, which could be used to move the Leopards.

The Canadian Forces already had deployed 20 Leopard 2 tanks to Afghanistan and before that as many as 15 Leopard 1s.

Dan Ross, the Defence Department’s assistant deputy minister for materiel, told the Senate earlier this year that several tanks had been damaged. Military officers say insurgents have damaged three Leopards beyond the level of repair available in Kandahar.

Replacement parts are in short supply, making repairs on the tank fleet difficult. The government did not put in place a proper system for parts, those familiar with the tank project pointed out.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay had approved the deployment of 20 more Leopard 2s in the spring, but details of when the tanks would arrive in Kandahar hadn’t been figured out at that time.

Military officers say the tanks save lives by providing soldiers with a high level of protection.

When he was in charge of the army, Gen. Rick Hillier called the Leopards a “millstone” around the military’s neck and said they had limited use for Canada. The army was in the process of destroying or selling its Leopards when the request came in from officers in Kandahar that the tanks were needed. Since then, the tanks have been used extensively in Afghanistan, saving lives of troops in the process, officers say.

Canada is spending $1 billion on the tank project, which saw the purchase of 100 used Leopards from the Netherlands.

The tanks are being refurbished by the manufacturer, Krauss Maffei-Wegmann of Germany. That firm was awarded an $87-million contract in June for the repair and overhaul of some of the armoured vehicles.

FOR MORE NEWS SEE DAVID PUGLIESE’S DEFENCE WATCH

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

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CANADIAN TROOPS HEADING TO AFGHANISTAN GET SCREWED ON PAY; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN DEFENCE REPORT

January 26, 2010

Foulup leaves troops out pay, benefits

‘Administrative error’ to blame: National Defence

By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

December 8, 2009

Troops now training at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa for a mission to Afghanistan next year are in the midst of a battle against the military bureaucracy over pay and health benefits.

It’s the second time in less than eight months that reserve soldiers assigned to the Afghan mission have run into pay problems. In February, soldiers contacted the Citizen after their pay was cut off while they fought in Afghanistan.

This time, soldiers say they have lost the extra pay they are entitled to because of a bureaucratic screw-up. According to the soldiers, the pay problems are due to a backlog in processing paperwork and an inadequate pay system at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.

As well, there are problems with health coverage for families of the part-time soldiers.

“A caveat to the fact that they aren’t inputted into the regular force pay system is that their families (eligible dependents) at home are not eligible for medical coverage under the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP),” one individual wrote to the Citizen, complaining about the problem.

“Soldiers who once had coverage under their previous civilian careers are left with the medical expenses for their children and spouses until their contracts are processed.” About 300 reservists training at CFB Petawawa will head to Afghanistan in the spring.

Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen confirmed there are problems with pay. “The army is aware of pay issues affecting some reservists conducting pre-deployment training at Petawawa and we’re working quickly to address them,” he said.

Janzen said the soldiers are receiving their basic pay, but the problem centres around incentive pay they would receive. That problem is “due to an administrative error.”

Janzen didn’t have specific numbers affected, but added it is believed to be fewer than 100 reservists. He said that once the problem is sorted out, the soldiers would receive the money owed. A military source said the health-care issue will also be taken care of once the paperwork goes through for the reservists and they are assigned to the full-time regular force.

It’s not the first time there have been pay problems for part-time soldiers. From December 2008 to February of this year, some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan said they had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.

The troops continued to serve, but some told the Citizen they were worried they would not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they were injured in battle.

At the time, the army confirmed in an e-mail that there had been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”

The e-mail also added that emergency financial assistance was offered to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed.

In 2006, former Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home. The investigation, completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists injured in the course of duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

CANADA GETS SURVEILLANCE AIRCRAFT TO HELP IN INSURGENT HUNT: DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN MILITARY REPORT

January 26, 2010

DND steps up hunt for IEDs; New surveillance aircraft to patrol Afghanistan’s skies by summer

The Ottawa Citizen

Jan 2 2010

By David Pugliese

The Canadian Forces plans to have new surveillance aircraft operating out of Kandahar by the summer to help hunt down insurgents planting improvised explosive devices.

The aircraft will be flown by private contractors, but the Department of National Defence is declining, for reasons of national security, to name what firm it has hired for the job.

The U.S. has used similar aircraft to detect Iraqi insurgents as they planted IEDs. Those aircraft are now also being used in Afghanistan by the Americans.

The U.S. army had originally reported that work on the surveillance planes to be used by Canada would not be finished until June 2011. Canada’s military mission is scheduled to end in July that year.

But according to information provided to the Citizen by Canada’s Defence Department, the aircraft are expected to be ready by mid-2010.

The aircraft will be leased by Canada, but the surveillance equipment has been purchased outright by the military.

The department declined to discuss many of the details about the project; the type of equipment to be used and the firm providing the pilots is considered secret.

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have claimed the lives of more than half the 138 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

On Dec. 30, four Canadian soldiers and a journalist were killed when an IED exploded as their vehicle passed through what was supposed to be a safe area just south of Kandahar City.

Killed were Sgt. George Miok, Sgt. Kirk Taylor, Cpl. Zachery McCormack and Pte. Garrett William Chidley.

Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang, on secondment to Canwest News Service, also died in the blast. Four other Canadian soldiers and one Canadian civilian official were seriously injured.

York University strategic studies professor Martin Shadwick said the Canadian air force has pilots who could operate the propeller-driven planes, similar to those currently being used at CFB Trenton.

But DND spokeswoman Lynne Rattray noted that it made more sense to use contract pilots.

“The aircraft will be flown by civilian contractors, who would be employed on a dedicated basis, as it is more efficient than training and diverting CF pilots to this short-term task,” Rattray said.

“These planes will see significant use in Afghanistan and are anticipated to be an extremely valuable surveillance asset,” she added.

The King Air 300 commercial aircraft will not stay in Afghanistan after the end of the Canadian military mission. Telford Aviation in Bangor, Maine, was awarded the $12-million contract to outfit the surveillance systems on the planes. The bulk of the installation on the small propeller-driven aircraft will be done in the U.S., but about a quarter of the work will be done in Afghanistan.

No details are being released at this point on how much the hiring of the pilots or purchasing of the surveillance equipment is costing.

The aircraft are available to, and in support of, Joint Task Force Afghanistan, Rattray noted.

A DND official close to the project said the equipment on board the planes is extremely sophisticated and marks a significant increase in the capability of such systems, even over that currently used by allied forces. Once the Afghan mission is finished, the surveillance equipment will be removed from the leased planes, but will stay in the Canadian military’s inventory for use in other operations.

The U.S. military flies similar aircraft as part of its Task Force ODIN, which has been used in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. The task force’s aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles use various sensors to detect insurgents as they are planting roadside bombs. After the insurgents are spotted, other aircraft are used to hunt them down and kill them. The U.S. army is also using a private firm to conduct some of its surveillance in Afghanistan. It recently hired L-3 Communications to provide and fly King Air 350s outfitted with high-resolution cameras for intelligence missions.

The company will begin operating three such aircraft in Afghanistan in 2010. As part of its $99-million deal, L-3 Communications will provide maintenance crews as well as intelligence specialists to interpret the data.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

GIVE PEACEKEEPING A CHANCE IN AFGHANISTAN: DAVID PUGLIESE DEFENCE WATCH

January 26, 2010

GIVE PEACEKEEPING A CHANCE IN AFGHANISTAN

DEFENCE WATCH COMMENTARY

BY WALTER DORN

Associate professor of defence studies at the Canadian Forces College

As Barack Obama contemplates the future role of US and, by extension, Western forces in Afghanistan, he would do well to consider an option that is apparently not yet on the table.

The options currently being examined in Washington are variations of a “counter-insurgency” campaign designed to defeat the Taliban by winning Afghan hearts and minds and a “war-fighting” approach featuring special forces and drones to attack Al Qaeda and ill-defined “allied” groups. The first is essentially an evolution of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, while the second can be thought of as a beefed-up version of Operation Enduring Force (OEF), the US-led mission that toppled the Taliban government in 2001 and now operates in parallel with ISAF.

Unfortunately, neither of these approaches holds out much hope for any kind of “victory” or sustainable peace in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. A third option worth considering is the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force to operate, initially at least, with the other missions.

There is already a small UN “good-offices” mission, called the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), mandated to support democratization and reconciliation in Afghanistan. But a true peacekeeping mission—call it UNAMA II—would require a much larger military and police component, numbering in the tens of thousands. It would have to be deployed with the consent of the belligerent parties, including the Afghan government, NATO, the US, and the main insurgent groups. That all the parties would accept such a deployment cannot be taken for granted, but it cannot be dismissed either. As the fighting continues with no end in sight, the prospects for a UN peacekeeping force are likely to increase.

The initial goal of a UNAMA II mission would be to bring a modicum of peace to Afghanistan. Reducing and then ending the conflict will probably require making compromises with some unsavoury Taliban leaders, which would pose difficult ethical challenges. But continuing a war that kills thousands of people a year with little or no hope of victory poses even greater ethical problems.

Ideally, the UN mission would include a large number of troops from Muslim nations to help establish local legitimacy and to avoid the perception of being part of a Western occupying force. It would need to be impartial and clearly distinct from the US/NATO missions in the country. The force would adopt a defensive posture, using its limited combat power only when necessary, as a last resort. It would therefore be implicated in many fewer civilian fatalities and would likely be more popular with the local population.

Could such a mission succeed in Afghanistan? Almost certainly not on its own. In the absence of ISAF/OEF forces, the Taliban would probably push the UN force aside. But if the mission began while ISAF/OEF forces were still in Afghanistan, the Taliban would not have the option of simply imposing their rule.

As the peace process gained strength, the counter-terrorism (OEF) and counterinsurgency (ISAF) efforts would be able to decrease, while the peacekeeping mission could increase in size and influence. Such a force might be especially attractive to Western governments, as it could become part of the exit strategy for the coalition forces now in Afghanistan.

In fact, the UNAMA II mandate could be seen as complementary to that of ISAF, although not identical. UNAMA II would foster peace not war. It would contribute mediation, negotiation, and facilitation, relying on a strong sense of the indigenous traditions of Afghan reconciliation. It would be a robust protection force, but it would not adopt an enemy-centred mentality. The envisioned mission would place much greater emphasis on support and participation of the local populations. It would identify a broad range of appropriate interlocutors for the peace negotiations and help implement local and regional cease-fires. In the end some form of peace agreement would be put in place. As was the case in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge, this strategy could splinter the insurgents and bring more of them to the negotiating table. NATO and US forces would indirectly help this process by continuing to deny the prospect of an easy victory of the Taliban over the Afghan government. As in peacekeeping more generally, the UN strategy would be less offensive; the method less aggressive; and the approach more inclusive.

Most civil wars of the past century have ended in some form of negotiated settlement. The United Nations has gained tremendous experience helping settle internal conflicts through negotiations and peacekeeping. Its track record since the end of the Cold War is impressive, with successful missions to help end civil wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte D’Ivoire, Nepal, and East Timor. Some other missions (notably Somalia and Rwanda) have been less successful, even failures. But the UN learned a lot from those difficult experiences, and it continues to build its peacekeeping and peacebuilding capacity.

As an erstwhile leader in UN peace operations and a current combatant in Afghanistan, Canada should strongly encourage the US and other countries now considering their future in Afghanistan to give the United Nations a strong role in that war-torn land.  The war-fighting role has shown its limitations now it is time to give peacekeeping a chance.

Walter Dorn is an associate professor of defence studies at the Canadian Forces College and the Royal Military College of Canada. He recently visited UN missions in the D.R. Congo, Haiti, Cyprus and Lebanon at UN behest to recommend improvements to the capabilities of these field missions.

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN CANADIAN TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN HIT BY PAY PROBLEMS

December 9, 2009

Red tape ties up paycheques for reservists fighting in Afghanistan; Soldiers whose contracts expired overseas also worried about health coverage, benefits

The Ottawa Citizen

Feb 14 2009

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

Some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan have had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.

The troops continue to serve, but some have told the Citizen they are worried they will not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they are injured in battle.

Military staff in Afghanistan have told the reservists they can sort out the problems once they return to their home units in Canada. However, the soldiers are worried they will face an uphill battle with the military bureaucracy for entitlements such as leave and benefits. They are also concerned that if they are injured overseas, their families will have to fight the bureaucracy for assistance.

At the heart of the problem are the contracts the part-time soldiers have signed with the military.

The contracts, for temporary full-time employment for either a six-month or nine-month period, are supposed to be monitored so they do not expire while a reservist is in the middle of a tour in Afghanistan.

But that hasn’t happened in some cases and as contracts expired, the pay for troops was cut off.

It is not clear how many reservists are in that predicament. It is estimated that about 20 per cent of Canada’s military force assigned to Afghanistan is drawn from reserve units.

According to soldiers in Kandahar, the head of the army, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, has directed that all of the contracts in question be extended to cover the rest of a soldier’s tour. However, the response in Kandahar has been slow and some troops are still having problems, these soldiers say.

The army declined to provide a spokesman to discuss the issue.

However, an e-mail sent from the army confirmed that there have been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”

According to the e-mail, when the issue was first identified in December, immediate action was taken to extend the contracts of the reservists in question.

There have been some “administrative” delays in processing the extensions for all the soldiers, the e-mail acknowledged.

“There were some disruptions in January and February pay for some, but the administrative supervisor in-theatre was aware of this and was able to provide emergency financial assistance to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed,” the e-mail said, adding, “All outstanding pay issues have now been dealt with.”

In the past, the Canadian Forces ombudsman’s office has raised concerns that reservists, particularly those who have been injured in Afghanistan, were falling through the cracks of the military bureaucracy.

In 2006, then-ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home.

The investigation, which was completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists who were injured in the course of their duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.

The federal government has promised to take care of injured reservists.

U.S. NOT WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS OF AFGHANS BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

November 20, 2009

 

U.S. lacks human touch: NATO adviser

 

Mission at risk because army can’t connect with people, military told

 

By David Pugliese

 

The Ottawa Citizen

 

September 11, 2009

 

The U.S. could be stuck fighting in Afghanistan for a long time because its army doesn’t have the training to connect with the population or understand that country’s complicated culture, a senior NATO adviser warns.

 

Stephen Henthorne says the U.S. army puts too much emphasis on combat while paying lip service to working with civilian agencies and Afghans, and figuring out a plan to establish stability in Afghanistan.

 

In a letter to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Henthorne notes that army commanders are well trained in kinetic operations, a term used to describe combat, but don’t understand how to successfully use their resources to provide for civilian-military co-operation.

 

“The real problem is that almost all of these U.S. Army Generals are ‘War Fighters,’ ” writes Henthorne, an American and the senior adviser to NATO’s Civil-Military Co-operation Centre of Excellence in the Netherlands.

 

The Citizen has obtained a copy of the letter he sent to retired Gen. James Jones.

 

Henthorne, who stressed his comments didn’t reflect the views of his employer or NATO’s member states, said other countries have had more success in making inroads with the Afghan population.

 

“The Canadians, the British and the Dutch do better at this because they do listen and they understand the culture,” Henthorne said in an interview. “We claim we have tons of culture classes for our soldiers and even for our civilians, but we really don’t have a clue. We think one Muslim is just like any other Muslim.”

 

He noted the U.S. “hearts and minds” campaign in Afghanistan is designed only for the short term. True civil-military co-operation is working with civilians in disputed areas, Henthorne added.

 

The U.S. army provides most of the troops in Afghanistan.

 

For Americans, Henthorne said, an overemphasis on combat means “we’ll be spending a lot of time, money and resources going back constantly redoing things or we’ll be stuck where we don’t want to be stuck for long periods of time.”

 

Henthorne said U.S. operations, such as eradicating the opium trade, do not take into account the long-term effects on the Afghan population who rely on that harvest for their livelihood.

 

“We’re not just dealing with Taliban. We’re dealing with people who need to grow the crops, we’re dealing with people who sell them the seed, we’re dealing with drug lords who we originally paid to create stability in 2001 and 2002, and we can’t wean these people off of this stuff. It is a form of currency ingrained in their everyday life. We’re not doing anything realistic about that at all.”

 

The Pentagon is working on designing a civil-military campaign plan for Afghanistan over the next 16 months, but he pointed out that the team consists of one senior public servant and an officer, with little staff or budget. “I really believe that it’s doomed to fail and its failure is intentional,” he added.

 

Col. Daniel Roper, director of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Centre, said he hadn’t seen Henthorne’s letter so he could not comment.

 

But Roper noted the U.S. military is continually improving its training based on lessons learned from places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The military uses sociologists and cultural anthropologists to help it understand local cultures, he added.

 

Roper noted that since 2001, U.S. military doctrine has changed. There is emphasis on what is called “clear, hold and build,” meaning that insurgents are killed off or forced to retreat from a region. After that, U.S. units control the particular area and provide support to local communities.

 

“The holding and building is where you win,” Roper said. “It’s no longer offensive and defensive. It’s offensive, defensive and stability.”

 

Roper said a counter-insurgency campaign is a long-term undertaking, and that while combat gets noticed, it is much more difficult to perceive subtle changes in attitudes of the local populations since those take place over a lengthier period.

 

“It requires time to adjust and learn,” Roper said.

 

Henthorne said aid for Afghanistan should be appropriate, and not about quantity or pre-existing agendas.

 

“From the American perspective, we build you a school whether you want one or not,” he said. “You may need something else, but we don’t care.”

 

Read Stephen Henthorne’s letter to Gen. James Jones at Defence Watch,

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

 

NO CANADIAN LEOPARD TANKS FOR AFGHAN ARMY; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

November 12, 2009

NO CANADIAN LEOPARD TANKS FOR THE AFGHAN ARMY SAYS NATYNCZYK

 

BY DAVID PUGLIESE

Ottawa Citizen

 

The Canadian Forces could end up leaving some of its surplus supplies and equipment for NATO and the Afghan National Army and police after officers finish deciding what needs to be shipped back to Canada as the mission winds down.

 

But Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk told Defence Watch the one weapon system that won’t be provided to the ANA are Canadian tanks. The ANA has requested that the Canadian Leopard 1s be left for its use.

 

“We’ve given them a lot in terms of weapons and flak jackets,” Natynczyk said in a interview. “I know (Afghan Defence) Minister Wardak wanted some of the heavier equipment but some of the parts are no longer made. He wanted Leopard 1s but there are no parts made for Leopard 1s.”

 

“We anticipate the Americans and others will give them other vehicles that are still being supported by parts,” Natynczyk added. “It’s not reasonable to give them equipment and not give them parts because parts are not being made anymore.”

 

In August Natynczyk issued directions for Canadian officers to begin planning the drawdown of equipment in preparation for the end of the mission in July, 2011. He said shipping equipment and supplies back to Canada will be a year-long process.

 

In 2007, NATO and Canada examined the issue of transferring Leopards to the Afghan National Army, according to U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. Robert Durbin, who at that time was head of the effort to help develop Afghanistan’s army and police forces.

 

He said in a May 2007 interview that any move to supply the tanks would be handled through NATO. “So we’ve had some interesting discussions,” Durbin told the Citizen. “Canada is one nation. You’ve got Germany. Even New Zealand has Leopards,” he said.

 

Asked whether plans could involve the Canadian Forces turning over the Leopard tanks it already uses in Kandahar to the Afghan army, Durbin responded, “that might be one option that could make sense.”

 

Durbin said he favored a mix of equipment from NATO and Russian stocks. Ground equipment, most weapon systems and communications gear would be NATO standard so the ANA and ANP could be interoperable with coalition forces, he said.

 

The provision of surplus M-16s and M113 armored vehicles was planned, among other deliveries to the Afghans, he added.

 

But Durbin wanted Russian and former Warsaw Pact helicopters for the Afghan military because he considered such aircraft are highly reliable and well suited for Afghanistan’s rugged and often mountainous terrain.

 

For fixed-wing aircraft the Afghan air corps would continue over the short term to use its existing Antonov transport planes but Durbin said there was interest in acquiring western-built aircraft. C-130s, C-27s were among the planes he mentioned.

 

 

 

 

For a related David Pugliese’s Defence Watch article on this subject go here:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/archive/2008/01/03/is-giving-c-7s-to-the-afghan-national-army-the-right-move.aspx

 

For a related story on the proposed provision of Leopard tanks to the ANA go here:

 

https://davidpugliese.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/afghan-army-wants-canadian-leopards-by-david-pugliese-ottawa-citizen/

 

PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT IMPROVED FROM LESSONS LEARNED IN AFGHANISTAN BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN

June 27, 2009

War-torn equipment helps provide better safety for Canadian soldiers

By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

June 26, 2009

Canadian soldier of the NATO-led coalition take a rest after six hours foot patrol in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, as seen in a file photo.

Canadian soldier of the NATO-led coalition take a rest after six hours foot patrol in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, as seen in a file photo.

Photograph by: Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

The battered equipment of Canadian troops killed in combat is providing clues for a team of defence scientists to improve gear and to save the lives of soldiers.

Staff from Defence Research and Development Canada have had such a program in place since the fall of 2006 and expanding it to include examinations of the equipment of those wounded in action is a possibility.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to ensure that the equipment did what it was supposed to do and to see if there is anything that could reasonably be done to modify the equipment or add additional equipment that could help mitigate further injuries of that nature,” said Maj. Stephen Boyne, head of the soldier systems integration group at DRDC.

The process builds on the work from the coroner’s office in Toronto where autopsies are conducted on Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. At the end of that examination, a soldier’s personal protective equipment, such as helmet and bulletproof vest as well as other items of clothing, is sent to DRDC facilities where a team begins to look for clues. Each piece of gear is examined.

“They’ll try to relate that damage back to the autopsy findings so (what they’re) looking at was the equipment involved in mitigating any injuries, what was the threat (and), if there were fragments recovered, what were they within?” explained Boyne.

Fragments recovered from the equipment are sent for further analysis.

Staff from DRDC Toronto and the Canadian Forces Environmental Medicine Establishment, DRDC Valcartier, Que., and, at times, DRDC Suffield, Alta., are all involved in the effort. Staff from the military’s various equipment offices are also part of the team.

The tests have already resulted in a number of modifications. For example, shoulder protectors on fragmentation vests have been lengthened and extended to cover more of the upper arm, Boyne said.

“We’ve added throat protection to protect the front of the neck and we’re in the process of developing a protector for the rear of the neck,” he added.

Although such improvements may have been considered before, the equipment analysis allows the military to decide priorities for what extra protection should be developed, Boyne noted.

A similar analysis is done on Canadian vehicles damaged or destroyed in Afghanistan. A technical officer does an on-site assessment and when the vehicle is returned to Canada, a team examines it in more detail.

“They use the findings combined with injury reports and autopsy reports to determine what modifications, if any, need to be made to the vehicles to provide better protection to the troops,” Boyne said.

Boyne said expanding the program to include the wounded and even uninjured would be useful, though the extent of such an expansion is unclear. Because medical records are considered confidential, privacy flags have been raised.

At the same time, the team has to make sure that it doesn’t make changes to equipment that might somehow inadvertently alter its life-saving capabilities, Boyne explained.

“(You want to) make sure that in trying to make something better for an injury that you saw, you aren’t actually making it worse for a bunch of injuries that didn’t happen because of the way the equipment is currently configured,” he added.

The United States military also has a program to examine the bodies of those killed in action as it searches for ways to improve gear. Besides autopsies by military pathologists, a CT scan to create a profile of the injuries of the deceased also is done. So far, approximately 3,000 bodies of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been examined.

Boyne said Canada does not use CT scans in its process. The coroner’s office in Toronto does not yet have a CT scanner but a DRDC official also said that the information gathered through the various Canadian examinations is enough that CT scans are not needed.

To read more by David Pugliese Ottawa Citizen journalist go to:

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

CANADIAN FORCES LOOKS FOR COUNTER ROCKET RADAR

January 3, 2009

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Published Jan. 2, 2009

The Canadian Forces is looking to spend at least $50 million on a new radar to warn troops about incoming rockets and mortar bombs.

 

The new program follows an earlier attempt which saw $33 million spent to lease a similar system but that project produced mixed results.

 

This time around the army is looking for a radar that has a range of up to 30 kilometres and can be quickly set up by several soldiers.

 

For its 2003-2004 Afghanistan mission, the Canadian military had leased a radar, dubbed Arthur, from Sweden but soldiers complained it had mis-identified friendly aircraft and electrical power lines as incoming enemy rockets. Out of 3,200 incidents the radar identified as enemy fire, only two could be confirmed as real, according to a report filed by Canadian military personnel.

 

At the time the army shelved plans to purchase what were known as counter-bombardment radars, citing the concern the technology was not developed enough to make their use practical. It decided to wait until the U.S. military figured out what it would do in terms of such technology.

 

But now the Canadian army has revived its plan to purchase such radars. A contract for a new system is expected sometime in 2010 but it is unclear whether the equipment would be delivered in time to protect Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that Canada will withdraw the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan in 2011.

 

Afghan insurgents have fired Chinese-made rockets at Canadian soldiers as well as mortar rounds and home-made rockets.

 

The new system would not only warn that a warhead was incoming but it could determine the location from where it was fired from.

 

The Citizen asked the Defence Department in November for comment on the radar project but received no response. It is now common practice at the department not to respond to questions about how money is being spent on equipment.

 

Defence insiders, however, say the army wants up to 10 radars.

 

Several firms with Ottawa-based offices are expected to bid on the project.

 

Lockheed Martin officials say they will offer Canada its EQ-36, a new radar system now being developed for the U.S. army.

 

Mark Starr, Lockheed’s vice president of radar programs, said Canada has requested information on the radar, which can detect and locate mortar, artillery and rocket fire. “We’re very interested in making our system available to the Canadian Army,” he added.

 

Raytheon Canada intends to offer its improved Sentinel radar which can detect rockets and mortar rounds and other aerial threats at longer ranges.

 

Luc Petit, business development manager at Raytheon Canadian, pointed out that the Sentinel is being used in Iraq by the U.S. army and is also being used by the British military. Mr. Petit noted that Raytheon can also offer a land-based gun system than can be integrated with the radar and used to destroy incoming warheads.

 

Gary Hollink, president of Saab International Canada, said the firm will offer the army an advanced version of its Giraffe radar which can provide 360 degree detection and tracking of incoming warheads. Mr. Hollink noted that the Canadian navy already uses a version of the radar on its Halifax-class frigates.

 

He said the army could install a Giraffe at Kandahar airfield and “provide coverage and surveillance to a very significant range.”

 

In 2006 Saab acquired the company which built Arthur, the artillery and rocket detection radar used by Canada earlier in Afghanistan.

 

Despite the ongoing problems with that system the army concluded that Arthur did provide “a psychological morale booster for soldiers living in camp” since the troops knew that a radar was available to warn against incoming warheads.

 

 

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

 

December 30, 2008

 

 

 

Canadian Forces to spend $100 million to detect roadside bombs in Afghanistan; Surveillance balloons, towers to be installed near Kandahar bases

By David Pugliese 

The Ottawa Citizen

 Monday, October 20, 2008

 

 

 

The Canadian military will spend $100 million on surveillance balloons and towers equipped with high-tech sensors, as well as other related equipment, as it tries to deal with the ongoing threat of roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

 

Up to five balloons and as many as 20 towers could be purchased for installation around Canadian bases in Kandahar province. They would be equipped with various sensors and long-range cameras, capable of providing surveillance of the surrounding countryside potentially as far out as 20 kilometres.

 

The U.S. military uses similar equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

The Defence Department project, which has already received approval from Treasury Board, also includes the purchase of new flail-equipped vehicles. The specialized vehicles churn up the ground, destroying landmines and improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, in the process.

 

In addition, the project would see the purchase of equipment to outfit a forensic laboratory that could be used to uncover clues that might lead to the identity of insurgent bombmakers.

 

IEDs are the weapon of choice of insurgents in Afghanistan.

 

Roadside bombs and landmines have contributed to a large number of the Canadian deaths and injuries in the war.

 

Defence Department officials did not respond to several requests for information about the new project.

 

It is expected that a contract for the equipment would be signed by next summer, with deliveries to follow quickly after that. The flails would be the first to be purchased, but it is expected that the surveillance towers and balloons could be installed in Kandahar by late next year.

 

The balloons, or aerostats, as they are called, would likely be used around the main Canadian installation at Kandahar Air Field, while the towers could be installed at forward operating bases.

 

There are a number of firms that can provide such equipment. At least one, Raytheon Canada of Ottawa, has indicated it is interested in providing towers and balloons once the Defence Department releases further details to industry.

 

The company’s RAID (Rapid Aerostat Initial Detection) system, which includes surveillance balloons and towers, is already in wide use in Iraq. Company officials said the U.S. military in Afghanistan is also using the tower version of RAID.

 

If selected for the project, Raytheon would be the prime contractor, integrating surveillance systems from other firms onto the towers and balloons.

 

“We’re talking about having the capability of 24/7 coverage where you can monitor an area or a road over that period,” said Raytheon official Mike Pulchny. “It will also give you an indication of what has changed within that 24-hour period. Are there new mounds of dirt or areas that have been disturbed? Or you could see the people actually planting (IEDs).”

 

Depending on the type of surveillance equipment installed, the systems could have a range of five to 20 kilometres.

 

Luc Petit, business development manager for Raytheon Canada, said RAID’s ability to provide early warning about IEDs has made a big difference to the U.S. army, particularly in Iraq. He said such equipment is a logical next step for Canada in its attempts to reduce casualties from roadside bombs.

 

“They’ve put as much armour on people and on vehicles as practical,” said Mr. Petit. “The next step is to conduct police-type work, where you do protection and early detection.”

 

Last year, the Canadian Forces launched a new strategy aimed at dealing with IEDs. It is focusing its efforts on defeating the IED networks, going after not only those who build the bombs, but those who finance them. Military officers are working closely with RCMP forensic specialists to try to identify telltale signs that might indicate the source of the weapons.

 

In an earlier interview, Col. Omer Lavoie, head of a special IED task force, said the effort also involves working closely with Afghan civilians. “This really speaks to targeting networks and winning the support of the people so that they’re reporting the builders and the transporters before they do put (IEDs) in place,” said Col. Lavoie. “It’s also trying to change the mindset,” he said. “This is not an undefeatable bogeyman out there.”

 

Members of the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 and the Petawawa-based Canadian Special Operations Regiment have also been tracking down bombmakers. A team from the government’s Communications Security Establishment, also from Ottawa, has been using its skills to intercept insurgent radio and cellphone transmissions in an effort to locate those who are involved in the IED networks. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has also been contributing with its agents in Afghanistan.

 

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/