Posts Tagged ‘Canadian Forces’


February 11, 2010



Federal government officials say the security is in place for the Olympic Games with more than 16,000 police and military personnel involved in the operation.

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games open in Vancouver on Friday but Rear Admiral Tyrone Pile, commander of Joint Task Force Games has told Defence Watch that the Canadian Forces presence is expected to be low-key.

“Our role has always been to be behind the scenes and low profile to support the RCMP as the lead security agency,” he said. “But obviously as we deploy into theater with a total of 4,500 Canadian Forces personnel we will be visible. There will be ships and aircraft and people moving about. It’s still our intent to be there to take on those unique roles that really nobody has the capacity to do.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is expected to visit military personnel at the Games either Thursday or Friday.

On Wednesday federal representatives held a press conference in Ottawa as well as a technical briefing to outline security details.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the Olympics was a good example “as to how organizations can come together effectively.”

Naval, air force and army units, as well as those from CANSOFCOM are all contributing the Games security. Other federal departments and various police forces are also involved.

“We have Auroras, we have maritime helicopters, and Griffon helicopters for land surveillance,” Pile said in a recent interview. “We’ll have NORAD dealing with aerospace surveillance, writ large and that will be a bilateral effort between Canada and the United States. We’ll have an AWACS aircraft deployed assisting with that and Canadian F-18 aircraft.”

The military contribution is varied. A component of JTF2 is expected to be on standby in the Vancouver area. A Port Security Unit, made up of naval reservists from across the country, is now actively enforcing security zones 24 / 7 in Vancouver Harbour. It is supporting the RCMP for waterborne security operations within Vancouver Harbour, including Force Protection of the three temporary accommodation vessels sheltering Olympic security forces.

The Combined Operational Dive Team, comprised of clearance divers and port inspection divers from across the country, has completed more than 115 dives since Jan. 7. CODT has also conducted searches of waterside Olympics venues such as Canada Place and the Athletes’ Village.

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard units will also be involved on the American side of the border. “They will have Coast Guard cutters deployed,” Pile said. “They will have United States Navy assets deployed. It’s in their security interests and it is a border area. That’s why we want to share information rapidly and correctly with them.”

At the Wednesday press conference Toews also mentioned the security co-operation with the U.S. “We’ve been working every closely with the Americans, part of the security area does include parts of the United States,” he said.

Protests are expected against the Games but according to the RCMP it does not plan to be heavy-handed in how it deals with such issues. “In terms of the Olympic Games, it will be a measured response,” Bill Sweeney, deputy commissioner of the RCMP, said at Wednesday’s press conference.



January 28, 2010


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The Politics of Procurement: Military Acquisition in Canada and the Sea King Helicopter

By Aaron Plamondon

254 pages

Publisher: UBC Press

ISBN-10: 0774817143

ISBN-13: 978-0774817141

With black and white photos

In The Politics of Procurement, University of Calgary military historian Aaron Plamondon skillfully lays out the multi-decade saga of the Defence Department’s quest to replace the air force’s aging Sea King helicopters.

Plamondon argues that the procurement of military weapons and equipment in Canada has often been controlled by partisan political considerations and not by a clear desire to increase the capability of the Canadian Forces. As a result, he maintains that Canada has often failed to be effective in the design, production, or even the purchase, of weapons and equipment.

Plamondon touches on some early Canadian military equipment procurements to prove his point but his prime example to argue his case is the Sea King helicopter procurement.

It is probably the most famous or (infamous) military procurement of recent time. The EH-101 was originally selected in the early 1990s to replace the Sea Kings but that contract was cancelled by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien when he came to power in 1993. Chrétien had made the EH-101 an election issue and he cited the helicopter as an example of how the Conservative government was poorly using taxpayer’s dollars. His government paid $478 million in cancellation fees to scuttle the deal.

The military had to restart the process to buy a Sea King replacement, with the project divided into two elements, the acquisition of a search and rescue helicopter and the eventual purchase of a maritime helicopter.

In 1998 the winning search and rescue aircraft was selected but much to the embarrassment of the Chrétien government, the Canadian Forces had selected the EH-101 variant, the Cormorant.

After that there were more delays on the purchase of the maritime helicopter,  allegations of political meddling and legal battles.

Plamondon’s coverage follows the early days of the Sea King replacement program to Chrétien’s cancellation of the EH-101 and on to the purchase of the Cormorant. The book also takes the reader into the current controversial and much delayed Cyclone maritime helicopter project.

The strength of the book is that it ties together the story of the helicopter procurement over many years. Plamondon uses DND documents obtained through the Access to Information process, records from the National Archives and DND’s history branch, interviews with former procurement officials as well as news articles from over the years about the EH-101 and Cyclone acquisitions (including some of this writer’s articles – ones I had forgotten I had penned since the Sea King replacement stretches back more than two decades).

The book is a very good read for anyone interested in Canadian defence policy and a must read for those studying procurement issues.

One suggestion, however, for readers. Unless you are independently wealthy I would take a pass on hardcover version of this book which costs $85. Instead try to get the more reasonably priced softcover version at $32.95. UBC Press says the publication date for the paperback is July.


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


January 26, 2010

Forces attack expenses to save $190M; Money to be redirected to Harper government’s Canada First defence strategy

The Ottawa Citizen

Dec 28 2009

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian military is looking for savings of more than $190 million by March to help pay for the Harper government’s defence strategy.

The navy will cut training for its reserve forces in January and reduce infrastructure maintenance and repairs while the air force will scale back on non-operational training, cut some of its flying time as well as scale back non-essential repairs.

The army recently revealed its cuts including trimming some training and reducing the number of reserve soldiers employed full-time.

The reductions come as the federal deficit has climbed to more than $55 billion this year and the Conservative government has signalled the public service will face cuts.

The air force is required to cut $59 million while the navy has $52 million in reductions to make, according to the Canadian Forces. It was recently revealed that the army’s portion of the reduction is $80 million.

The air force’s reductions represent seven per cent of its annual budget; the navy’s is six per cent. The army’s share is five per cent of its budget.

All three services are reducing travel and attendance at conferences.

The Defence Department could not say whether other organizations within DND are also facing reductions.

The Canadian Forces is not calling the reductions a “cutback.” Officers are instead referring to them as “adjustments” as the money saved is being redirected toward the priorities of the Canada First defence strategy.

The strategy, the Harper government’s blueprint for the future military, promises to spend tens of billions of dollars on new equipment.

Steve Staples, president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa, said DND is in a better position than other departments to weather the expected cuts to the federal government. He said social, health and arts spending will likely be hit hardest as the Conservatives tighten budgets.

“These cuts that DND has to make are a drop in the bucket since the department has been enjoying large increases each year for many years,” said Staples, who has criticized what he calls excessive spending on the military. “Compared to other departments, DND is the teacher’s pet of the government.”

The money saved is to be “allocated to best meet responsibilities defined by the Canada First Defence Strategy,” an e-mail from the Canadian Forces noted.

Some defence analysts had questioned where the money would come from for the strategy, but in May 2009, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the policy was fully funded. “The funding will be there, I assure you. It’s locked in,” he told an audience of hundreds of industry and defence representatives in Ottawa during a military trade show.

MacKay also assured the audience the recession would not affect Canadian Forces’ plans to spend billions on new equipment and that he had the support of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Military officers characterized the “adjustments” as a normal part of the Defence Department’s financial management process.

A recently released report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, done in conjunction with the Rideau Institute, determined that for the fiscal year ending in March, Canada will have spent a little more than $21 billion on national defence. That’s nearly 10 per cent of all federal spending.

After adjusting for inflation, Canadian military spending this year was up 9.6 per cent compared to last year and is 15 per cent higher than Canada’s defence spending at the peak of the Cold War in 1952-1953, the report noted.

But other groups have argued that more money needs to be spent on the Canadian Forces to re-equip it for the future.

Air force spokesman Maj. Jim Hutcheson said most of the cuts for that service are based on its fuel and oil budget. “While some of this year’s budget adjustment is absorbed due to the fact that fuel prices have remained lower than last year’s average, there may be some selective reduction in flying hours,” Hutcheson explained.

He did not give further details on what aircraft flights might be reduced.

Although the navy is cutting its spending on petroleum and oil, those reductions will not affect ship operations, Lt.-Cmdr. Sue Stefko noted.

Normally the navy would use extra money at the end of the government’s fiscal year to buy additional fuel for its strategic reserve. As a result of the reductions, there will less fuel for that reserve.

Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen said the money saved by that service will be used to support other higher priority programs such as training soldiers for international and domestic operations and purchasing new equipment.

The army has a $5-billion plan to purchase several types of new armored vehicles as well as refurbish light-armored vehicles damaged or heavily used during the war in Afghanistan.

The reductions that hit the army reserves, however, have angered some of the part-time soldiers who said they left their civilian jobs for temporary full-time work with the regular forces, only to be told they are no longer needed.


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:


November 20, 2009


Canada won’t arm Afghan drones



By David Pugliese


The Ottawa Citizen


November 20, 2009




The Canadian military has decided against putting missiles on the unmanned aerial vehicles it now operates in Afghanistan.


Defence Minister Peter MacKay was briefed in March by air force officials on the various options for arming the drones, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.


Such aircraft, also known as UAVs, are used by various militaries in Afghanistan to conduct surveillance on insurgent activities. In addition, the U.S. uses armed UAVs to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on insurgent leaders.


The Canadian Forces is currently leasing Israeli-built Heron UAVs from MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C. That deal, worth $95 million, has a number of Herons operating out of Kandahar airfield. The UAVs are flown by Canadian Forces personnel, but maintained by civilian contractors.


Canadian air force spokesman Maj. Jim Hutcheson said a number of factors were considered before the idea of arming the UAVs was dropped. “After due consideration of all relevant factors, including costs, capabilities and timelines, it was decided that no project would be initiated to arm the Heron UAVs,” he noted.


The lease on the Herons runs until January 2011. There are also options in the contract to extend that.


Stephen Priestley, a researcher for the Canadian-American Strategic Review, noted that there are no technical hurdles to arming the Herons. But there would have been additional costs, requiring the existing contract to be amended, he added.


The Canadian military has plans to eventually purchase long-endurance UAVs over the next several years. Dubbed the Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) program, it is not expected that those aircraft would be flying until after 2012.


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:



November 20, 2009



Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire is warning that impending cuts to the defence budget from an ongoing Strategic Review could see military spending in some areas  scaled back.


Defence Department officials confirm that the department is now undergoing a Strategic Review to try to find savings. Dallaire says the review is focused on the department’s operations and maintenance budget.


Last year, the Strategic Review process saw 14 federal organizations examine their spending. Savings of $586 million were determined and redirected to fund new initiatives as part of the Economic Action Plan announced in the 2009 budget, according to Treasury Board.


Dallaire says he is worried that any budget cuts imposed by such a review would eventually impact other programs as well and hurt, in particular, quality of life programs for Canadian Forces personnel. He brought up the concerns about the Strategic Review during question period in the Senate.


But Senator Marjory LeBreton, the government leader in the Senate dismissed Dallaire’s concerns, noting that the Harper government has “massively increased” the budget of the Department of National Defence.”


I am not talking about the Capital Acquisition Support Program; I am not even debating the personnel envelope,” Dallaire responded. “I am speaking of the operations and maintenance envelope, and it is going through a strategic review, like every other department, and rumours are it is being cut to the 2006 level.”


He asked LeBreton to review the situation and update the Senate about the extent of the budget cuts that could happen at National Defence as part of the Strategic Review.

LeBreton, however, declined. “I am quite certain that, as we go through the whole strategic review process, rumours will run rampant,” she said. “We have known that for years, but I cannot and will not respond or answer a serious question based on a rumour.”


As part of the Strategic Review process, organizations examine their direct program spending and the operating costs of their major statutory programs to assess how and whether these programs: are effective and efficient; meet the priorities of Canadians; and are aligned with core federal responsibilities.


Defence Department officials privately say they expect some impact from the Strategic Review but at this stage it’s too early to tell what that might be. They note that defence and the Canadian Forces has been a priority for the Harper government. “We’re confident the savings can be absorbed,” said one official.


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:



November 19, 2009




Ottawa Citizen


The positioning of Canadian Forces search and rescue aircraft as well as the speed in which SAR crews respond continues to be an ongoing issue for some of those who make their living at sea or in the remote areas of the country.


Laurie Sullivan, the owner of a Newfoundland-based fishing vessel which sank in September, has criticized the fact that a SAR helicopter was not based in St. John’s to assist in responding to emergencies in the North Atlantic. Two crew members died in that sinking.


The recent rescue of an Inuit teenager on an ice floe in the North has also raised questions about whether more SAR assets should be based in the Arctic while other have suggested that the Air Force should increase its SAR posture to a 30-minute continuous readiness posture.


Defence Watch has obtained a report on that issue, with the Air Force firmly coming out against a 24/7 30-minute readiness.


The current position is that when tasked, an aircraft must be airborne within 30 minutes during normal working hours and within two hours during all remaining quiet hours, according to the Air Force.


Unlike the two-hour SAR posture where crews and technicians hold a recall standby away from the squadron, a 30-minute SAR posture requires aircrews remain poised to launch from the flight line.


A 30-minute SAR posture is too expensive and would provide little benefit, according to The Canadian Forces Search and Rescue 30-minute Continuous Readiness Posture Force Generation Analysis obtained by Defence Watch.


An analysis of incidents between the years 2000-2004 determined that had a 30-minute posture been in effect on a 24/7 basis, “only a small increase in the probability of victim survival would have been gained by adopting a 30-minute posture.”


To reach the increased level of readiness would add more maintenance, require more aircraft and infrastructure upgrades, the report noted. According to the Air Force it would cost $387 million in extra capital costs and $540 million in overall annual recurring costs.


The Air Force also concluded that the timeline to achieve the enhanced posture would likely require six to eight years.


The end result is that the status quo will be maintained well into the future.


In January 2008, DND’s Chief of Review Services examined SAR and concluded the Canadian Forces “component of SAR operations functions quite well and remains highly relevant.”


That conclusion, however, will likely not be accepted by some of those who have called for improvements.




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:





November 13, 2009

Reserve units to form core of new Arctic force

By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
March 22, 2009

The Canadian army has designated four reserve units to form the backbone of a new Arctic force to be created over the next five years.


Eventually the units, with about 480 personnel in total, could conduct exercises up to four times a year in the North. They would also be available to respond to any incident in the Arctic.


At the same time the Canadian Forces is continuing with its expansion of the Canadian Rangers, made up of First Nations and Inuit reservists. That expansion to around 5,000 personnel is expected to be completed by 2012.


The reserve units are 1 Royal New Brunswick Regiment, Voltigeurs de Quebec, Grey and Simcoe Foresters from Ontario and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.


The army will start off with small numbers of soldiers but eventually work its way up to having company size units, with about each having around 120 personnel, said Lt. Col. Bernie Ciarroni of the directorate of land force development, responsible for reserve issues.


“It will take place over a five-year period,” he said. “We’re now looking at what resources could be put toward this.”


The work up will give troops a chance to develop the skills they need as well as get additional equipment for Arctic operations, Ciarroni said.


Depending on the situation, regular army units may respond first or combine to join forces with the reserve units in reacting to an incident in the Arctic.


But Ciarroni noted the selected reserve units will constitute the leadership of the Arctic companies. “Our focus is getting them up there so they can understand the environment and survive in it,” he said. “That’s our principle thing at this stage of the game.”


Initially the units will go up North once or twice a year but other initiatives would be included as time goes on. The first operation could be scheduled for the fall.


Ciarroni said that the focus is to have units working in the fall and the spring. “Our intention is to work up there in peak periods,” he explained. “If it is 72 below zero and pitch dark I don’t think we’ll be up there unless we really had to be.”


Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized that Canada will increase its military presence in the North as part of his government’s Canada First defence strategy. Over the years the government has announced a series of initiatives, ranging from the proposed construction of Arctic and offshore patrol ships for the navy, an icebreaker for the Coast Guard, and an Arctic training centre for troops. Such initiatives are still years away from becoming reality.


Harper has also signalled concern about incidents where foreign military vessels, including those from the U.S., have entered Canadian northern waters without permission from Canada. There have been a number of sightings of mysterious vessels in the country’s northern waters, the latest taking place last summer. Some in the military believe the vessel, sighted by hunters at the northern portion of Baffin Island, was a foreign submarine.


Harper has pointed to the oil, gas and mineral deposits in the country’s Arctic region, resources which he noted are critical to the country’s economic growth. “Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic; we either use it or lose it,” Harper said in July 2007. “And make no mistake — this government intends to use it.”


But Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate’s defence committee, questioned the government’s focus on the use of military forces in the Arctic. He said while having a military capability for the North is useful, the emphasis should be on adding more RCMP and employees from other government agencies to boost the Canadian presence in the region.


Kenny also said that more resources should be directed to the Canadian Coast Guard so it can expand its operations in the North.


Ciarroni said the Arctic companies will develop good relations with the Rangers and the local population, ensuring those links continue on a regular basis.


The navy and air force are also looking at ways to increase their presence in the north.



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:


November 9, 2009


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen


Defence Minister Peter MacKay has said the first Cyclone maritime helicopter is expected to arrive at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater “soon” but sources say the minister’s claims are somewhat misleading.


The sources say while the first helicopter is expected to arrive in early December from Sikorsky, it is not being actually accepted by the Canadian Forces; it is still sometime away from being on the Canadian Air Force’s flight line.


The first Cyclone (MH02) has just finished being painted at West Palm Beach in Canadian Forces colors but with its US/Sikorsky Experimental registration number on the tail.


This paint job is essential as protection against the elements during the sea trials for which the Cyclone is being sent to Canada.


The sea trials should have been completed almost 20 months ago according to the delivery schedule contracted with Sikorsky in 2004.


Successful completion of the sea trials, followed by development and approval of the ship-helicopter operating limitations (SHOL) for the new helicopter, which will require several months at least, are a MHP contractual obligation that must be met long before Canada accepts delivery of the first aircraft and can begin training its own pilots on the Cyclone, according to sources.


The first “sea trials” MH is currently scheduled to arrive at Shearwater sometime in early December 2009. The actual sea trials aboard HMCS MONTREAL are expected to begin in February 2010 if all goes well.


Sikorsky still has not responded to a Defence Watch request for comment.


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:


August 21, 2008



by Colonel Gary H. Rice, CA/CF Ret’d



Recently, the Globe and Mail reported that the Conservative government has revised its expectations of success in Kandahar. Knowing that the situation on the ground in Regional Command South is ever changing and our military commitment there is evidently slated to end in 2011, such a policy shift may indeed prove to be a politically good one.


What does not seem to tally, however, is the absence in Mr. Harpers governments Canada First Defence Strategy of any provision for the Canadian Forces Expeditionary Command (CEFCOM) that would enable it to fully discharge its intended role through the acquisition of a capability to field a Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF).


This omission is puzzling, considering that Conservative party defence policy under his leadership had long recognized the need for strategic sea and air mobility of rapid reaction forces by heavy airlift and amphibious ships. The recent purchase of four C-17 Globemaster III aircraft adequately addresses the former but the latter requirement remains unsatisfied.


If correct, the reduction of CEFCOMs mission capability arising from the abandonment of prior notions to field a SCTF embodying an amphibious capability is seen to be a most worrisome turn of events, given that in 2005 the government of the day’s intention was to increase the deployability of Canadas forces to trouble spots around the world through the creation of such a force.

Without sea lift amphibious carriers for the delivery of combat and logistic support of our ground forces in security and humanitarian missions CEFCOM will remain a largely hollow command unable to field rapid response and contingency task forces.   


It is noteworthy that in a speech delivered at the April 29, 2008 Navy Summit, Honourary Navy Captain, Conservative Senator Hugh D. Segal, boldly advocated the addition of an entirely new and global maritime capability in the form of amphibious ships and said “we need to be able to have it in more than one theatre at a time.”


Later, the esteemed military historian, Dr. Jack Granatstein wrote and expanded upon Senator Segals suggestion. “Our sailors must be able to transport and support Canadian troops operating overseas, sometimes perhaps on a hostile shore. The presently planned three Joint Support Ships can’t do this; four might be able to manage, but six would be better, along with what General Rick Hillier called “a big honking ship” that could transport four to six helicopters and a battalion-sized expeditionary force. Such ships can also do humanitarian work -in tsunami-hit Indonesia, for example- that we can scarcely tackle today.”He said. And he was right.  


Similar viewpoints addressing the need for a Canadian amphibious capability were also recently expressed in the Conference of Defence Associations Institutes 2008 Vimy Paper by the former commander of our Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral (Retd) Roger Girouard  and Rear Admiral (Retd) Ken Summers, the former Commander CF Middle East during the 1990 Gulf War. These highly insightful and pointed assessments reinforce the fundamental need and critical lack in Canadas capability to deploy and support our forces in the worlds littorals from their bases in Canada.


Based at Shearwater, Nova Scotia, and employing a whole of government approach, the envisaged SCTF was to be comprised of navy, army, air, special operations, and representatives of key government department ready to deploy anywhere in the world with ten days notice.


Indeed, the recent construction at Shearwater of a force headquarters building and the Minister of National Defences wise decision on March 28 to regain a priceless strategic national asset by recovering Crown ownership of Shearwaters upper airfield and other lands that were previously sold to the Canada Lands Corporation gave every indication that the future of CEFCOM and the SCTF was assured.


Implicit in past governments vision for a SCTF was the requirement to acquire one or more amphibious assault ships specifically designed for the embarkation and transportation of a militarily credible battle group comprised of 700-800 troops, their vehicles, weaponry other paraphernalia, and the enabling sea and air connectors.


With no requirement for a sitting Prime Minister to secure prior air space or port clearances the SCTFs amphibious ships would afford political decision makers and military commanders unparallelled maximum flexibility and allow them the currently unavailable option of pre-positioning it in international waters in the vicinity of a gathering security crisis or an impending natural disaster.


This joint seaborne quick reaction force was to have had an initial operating capability by 2007, but unforseen budgetary and operational pressures arising largely from our mission in Afghanistan obliged Mr. Harper’s  government to direct the former CDS, General Hillier, to suspend further development until after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

At this time, according to the International Institute For Strategic Studies publication: “The Military balance 2008,” Canadas navy comprises a total of 47 ships: four SSK, three DDG, 12 FFG, 12 MCDV, two AOR eight YDT, and six TRG.


Current plans call for: the commissioning of three JSS to replace the existing two AORs, the addition by 2010 of two more TRG vessels and up to eight Polar-class 5 Arctic Patrol Vessels; and starting in 2015, the construction of 15 ships to replace Canadas old Tribal Class destroyers (DDG) and its Halifax Class frigates (FFG). This could ultimately increase the fleet size to some 58 ships.


Significantly, though, nowhere in the Canada First Defence Strategy is there any hint of any plans for the future construction of the additional amphibious warships that would be required by CEFCOM to enable it develop the previously envisaged SCTF amphibious capability.

Numerical objectives and force capability requirements assume meaning only in the context of rigorous political and military assessments and approved programme goals, they do not validate the worth or relevance of a given strategy. They beg two larger issues: what political, economic, and security interests are Canadian naval forces intended to serve? And what is to be the navys distinctive contribution to Canadas national security in this new century? It was thought that part of the answer would lie with the SCTF and its fully developed amphibious capability.


Acknowledging that the Harper government is fully aware that in addition to its responsibility to adequately provide for the defence of our northern attic, carrying on with the transformation of our forces, and successfully pursuing to its successful conclusion Canada’s current mission in Afghanistan, it must also be fully cognizant of its obligation to prepare our nation and its armed forces to respond to the rapidly evolving global geo strategic revolution that is now underway. In short, there will be wars to fight after Afghanistan and Canada must stand ready to carry it share of the West’s burden.  


This is a change that is rapidly shifting North Americans and Canadians focus from Europe and the Atlantic Ocean to the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean and peoples of the teeming nations of the Asia-Pacific littoral. This is where Canadas future prosperity lies. This


This is where Canadas future security challenges will arise. This is where Canadas future battles will be fought. This where Canadas future body politic must be engaged. And this is where Canadas future military must be fully prepared to fight in the defence of Canadas national interests.


Recognizing the importance of the burgeoning two way flows of people, commerce and natural resources between Canada and the Asia-Pacific Region implies that Canada, perforce, must turn its national face westward and significantly expand its now lilliputian diplomatic, intelligence, and military presence.


To properly defend and advance Canadas interests in this vast area will require the use of all of its available instruments of national power. Soft power government initiatives underpinned by a standing military presence in the waters off our west coast and in the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean will represent the nations’ bulwark and help assure its continued security and prosperity.


To adequately secure Canadas interest the nations’ hard power elements must comprise a militarily credible surface, sub surface fleet, and a joint seaborne amphibious capability. For maximum efficiency and effectiveness this force must be fully interoperable with the armed forces of our closest allies in the region: the United States and Australia; the former possessing the worlds most powerful navy and amphibious forces, the latter now swiftly moving to acquire its own modern amphibious capability through the acquisition of a new class of highly capable, minimally crewed and cost efficient amphibious warships.


The sad reality of the apparent current situation with regard to the uncertain future of the SCTF, however, may well be that visionary efforts made under the former CDS to implant “jointness” within the CF may now be beginning to give way to much of the same old myopic, parochial and service-centric approaches to the nation’s defence strategy that have so often failed Canada in the past. In this context our navy’s long and continuing lack of purpose built expeditionary amphibious shipping to deliver and support security and humanitarian forces in the world’s littorals at effective and viable levels is seen to represent a critical deficiency in military capability.


It may also be that some politically compliant and newly minted admirals and generals may have failed to face up to the stark reality that the future JSS will have only very limited usefulness in supporting even small unopposed landings. Contrast this with the nations amphibious capability that was so effectively demonstrated in 1956 during Operation Rapid Step by Canadas aircraft carrier, HMCS Magnificent, when it was quickly reconfigured for troop lift and speedily despatched by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in response to the United Nations request to send a peace keeping force to Egypt.


Sadly such a national capability, was destroyed long ago with the scrapping of our last carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, in 1970. Since then we have seen the humiliating consequence of leasing civilian cargo ships and the the GTS Katie incident and in the gallant effort by the ships of Atlantic Command to deliver aid at New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.


So long as Parliament, the government of the day, and the Canadian Forces leadership, remain willing to accept that our nations future strategic, political and military options will be unnecessarily reduced by the absence of a militarily credible seaborne joint expeditionary capability, Canada, in my opinion, will never live up to its full potential as an influential global middle power.


In view of the geo political importance of this matter and its relationship to the future defence and well being of Canada and its peoples it is time for Mr. Harper to clearly state his governments intentions with regard to the future fielding of a SCTF with a militarily credible enabling amphibious capability. An early  decision to join with the Australians and secure a Canadian equivalent to their new Canberra Class amphibious ships would be a positive and most welcome sign.