Friday, 7 April 2017


HMCS Queenston is one of a class of naval auxiliaries for the Royal Canadian Navy that are being acquired as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. This program will see the RCN acquire two multi-role vessels to replace the Protecteur-class auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels that were formerly operated by the RCN.

Currently the budget for the JSS project is $2.3 billion (excluding taxes). In addition, $2.6 billion is expected to be spent on personnel and operating costs during a 30-year service life. The in-service support allocation for 30 years will be approximately $1.9 billion.

According to the DND “The first JSS, the future HMCS Queenston, is scheduled for delivery in 2021 and should be operational later that year. Following its delivery by Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd., the RCN will conduct a series of trials to ensure that the ship meets its requirements. The second ship, the future HMCS Châteauguay, is expected to be operational by 2022.”  Based on the history of Canadian attempts to recapitalize the military’s major fleets there is no reason to believe that these timelines will be met.

The two ships being procured to replace the Protecteur-class vessels will be based on the Berlin class vessels designed by TKMS and will be built by Seaspan Marine Corporation at the Vancouver Shipyards facility located in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The design was chosen over BMT Technology’s Aegir design.

The Berlin class vessels are in service with the German Navy while a variant of the Aegir design is just coming in to service with the Norwegian Navy. HNoMS Maud, a Logistic Support Vessel, was ordered in 2013. This AEGIR 18 design is based on the British Tide-class tanker from BMT, and is being built by Daewoo for delivery and service entry in 2017-18. The 26,000t vessel will allow replenishment at sea of fuel and some solid stores, as well as having hospital facilities and a helicopter hangar which makes it comparable to the Berlin class vessels.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the Berlin class vessels, of the kind Canada is purchasing from Seaspan and the Support Vessel built for Norway.

Queenston Class
Length overall                    
175.00 m
173.7 m
25.00 m
24 m
12.50 m
7.6 m
Propulsion and power generation
Speed 18 knots
Range  10,000 nm at 16 knots
2 x Diesel 7,500 kW each
4 x 500 kW  diesel generators
Speed 20kn
 Range 10,000 nm at 14 knots
2 × MAN Diesel 5,340 kW each
4 × 1200 kW diesel generators
26,000 tonnes
20,240 tonnes
Fuel cargo volume
Approx. 16,000 m3
27,014 m3
Fresh water cargo volume
Approx. 650 m3
Stores capacity
1,350 m3
4,500 tonnes
Replenishment stations
4 x abeam fuelling at sea stations
One astern refuelling rig
2 x abeam fuelling at sea stations
One astern refuelling rig
Single/multi berth cabins for 80; complement 57
Total of 239 onboard accommodations
Aviation facilities
Flight deck and hangar for 10 tonne helicopter
Hangar and flight deck
4 x Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone

As can be seen, the ships are very similar; there are really only two major differences. HNoMS Maud is almost finished and expected to see service in 2017-18. HMCS Queenston has not been started and nobody who follows the program believes that it will be ready for duty by 2022.

Another difference is that HNoMS Maud cost the Norwegian taxpayers approximately $300 million in Canadian dollars, whereas one Queenston class is currently budgeted at $1.15 billion in those same Canadian dollars. In other words our as yet unbuilt ships are going to cost almost 4 times as much as the Norwegian ships. If we had purchased 2 of these ships, using the same formula for construction that Norway and Great Britain used, that is building the hulls in Korea and outfitting them in the home country, we could have saved $1,700,000,000.00 Canadian dollars. (that's 1.7 Billion, that's billion with a B)

Things you can do with $1,700,000,000.00 Canadian dollars

You could hire 2,125 workers at $80,000 per year for ten years.  These would probably qualify as the “good, middle class jobs” we keep hearing about.

You could hire 3,400 privates for the Canadian Armed Forces for ten years, which would have the effect of bringing the ratio of privates to generals back into balance. At $50,000 per year they might also be considered “good, middle class jobs’ but oddly enough no one has ever considered increasing the size of the military so as to provide these much sought after jobs. Possibly because nobody who actually uses the phrase "good, middle class jobs" has ever been in, or even knows anybody in, the military.

You could buy 20 F-18 Super Hornets, at $85,000,000.00 each or 15 F-35’s at what is probably going to be the real cost of around $115,000,000.00 each.

You could have the satisfaction of being able to end one of those annoying telephone calls from Rex Tillerson about defence spending by saying “Oh alright, how about we buy 3 battalions worth of Leopard II tanks, will that get ‘the Donald’ and his damn tweets off my back?”

You could buy lease four converted supply ships for more than four years, at $100,000,000 per year, and still have money left over.

You could hire legions of accountants to try and figure out just where and how the money is being spent at Seaspan to insure that our ships are costing almost four times as much as they should, There is, however no guarantee that you would ever find out

You could make a good start on ensuring that every person in Canada has assured access to clean water. You might think that in a country as wealthy and ‘progressive’ as Canada that would be a given, you would be wrong.

Yes it’s a game that’s fun for all ages, “What could we buy for $1,700,000,000.00” but it is just a game. We do not have an extra 1.7 Billion dollars; instead we are going to spend almost four times more than is needed to purchase two supply ships. 

You could ask your government, you could petition your MP, you could write to the Department of National Defence but be assured, nobody knows why and nobody can stop it.

Joint Support Ship

Berlin Class Fleet Auxiliary Vessels, Germany

BMT AEGIR® Logistic Support Vessels

Future vessels

Tide-class tanker



Thursday, 30 March 2017


Canadian Defence Matters finds itself in receipt of the latest newsletter from Randall Garrison, Member of Parliament for Esquimalt - Saanich – Sooke, entitled “Spring 2017 Update”.

Under the heading The Role of NATO in Promoting Stability” he writes; “As defence critic for the NDP, monitoring and working with NATO is an important part of my job.

I believe that Canada needs to be a force for stability in this increasingly unstable international climate. This role is especially important for Canada and NATO as a counterweight to the erratic nature of the Trump administration’s policies.
In order to achieve stability, we must protect the commitment to the defense (sic) of all NATO allies.

Stability also requires action to deter proliferation of weapons and weapon systems. Nuclear proliferation poses grave threats to us all. Canada should not join the US ballistic missile program. We should also be working towards de-escalation of increasingly hazardous weapons and weapon systems like depleted uranium.

New Democrats believe that Canada needs to put forward adequate investments in National Defence, ensuring that we can meet our international obligations and that the Canadian Forces have the support, training and equipment they need.”

It is a short, seemingly innocuous, statement but one that raises a number of questions.

For many years NDP was a consistent critic of Canada’s involvement with NATO. In 1987 the NDP released a white paper on defence. Entitled Canadian Sovereignty, Security and Defence, it they confirmed the NDP's long standing intention to pull Canada out of NATO. Although that declaration has disappeared from NDP position papers in the intervening years this may be the first time that a member of the party has moved all the way towards favouring the multi-national military organization.

These revelations of an apparently new NDP policy lead inevitably to a search of the national party’s current position on defence which in turn leads to section 4.6 of the Policy of the New Democratic Party of Canada Effective April2016 which is found on their web site.

Section 4.6, entitled Defence and sovereignty starts off with the phrase “New Democrats believe in:” and then runs to some thirty points from “a” through to “z” and on to “dd”.

One of the reasons that the NDP needs thirty points to outline their defence policy is that at least twenty one of them deal with military and RCMP veteran’s benefits. Another would be that at least some of the points are simply repeated. It would seem that nobody on the committee that prepared these talking points, for that is what this list appears to be rather than a policy statement, even noticed that “responding to the concerns” and “call for public inquiry” is essentially the same thing.

It is equally possible that no one has ever penetrated as far as points “w” and “x” of Section 4.6 of the “Policy of the New Democratic Party” or at least not read far enough to notice the typos. Unless of course “atomic trials” and “atomic trails” really are two different things, in which case both ‘responding to concerns’ and calls for ‘public inquiries’ are really quite restrained responses.

This same paper, in point’s c, “Affirming that the primary purpose of the Canadian Forces is peace-keeping, defence and support during emergencies” and f “Prioritizing peace operations for each of our armed forces” would not seem to completely embrace NATO’s commitment to collective security through military strength. 

However, within the context of MP Garrison’s comments on the importance of NATO in light of “erratic nature of the Trump administration’s policies”, it is possible that the NDP’s new found enthusiasm for NATO is based on a doctrine of automatically opposing anything Donald Trump says. Given some of his musings on the efficacy of the organization the NDP may have simply decided that if President Trump is against NATO then, ipso facto, they must be for it.

The problem with using an anti-Trump stance as a rule of thumb is that given what the party itself refers to as the administrations “erratic nature” it is quite possible that after a night of binge viewing vintage CBC documentaries President Trump is quite capable of tweeting out “greatest politician of all time!! #TommyDouglas”.  Where would that leave the party?

It might be pedantic to comment, upon reading Garrison’s comments that “We should also be working towards de-escalation of increasingly hazardous weapons and weapon systems like depleted uranium.” that he probably means to say something like “weapons and weapons systems that use materials like depleted uranium" as there is no such thing as a depleted uranium weapons system.

One takeaway from the Spring 2017 update is the continued belief that Canada “should not join the US ballistic missile program”. This is certainly in accord with point ‘e’ of the policy paper “Standing against nuclear arms build-up and rejecting any ballistic missile defence program”. Unfortunately it is in stark contrast to NATO’s declared policy which is “Nuclear weapons are a core component of NATO’s overall capabilities for deterrence and defence alongside conventional and missile defence forces.”

The divide between “rejecting any missile defence program” and reality has always been a difficult one for its proponents to explain. Currently, because of Canada’s refusal to join the U.S. program through NORAD or any other mechanism, we have no way of being even consulted on, let alone having any control over, U.S. use of their anti-missile defences.

Even if there were some way for Canadian authorities to be appraised of U.S. intentions the reaction times involve minutes, sometimes seconds, and there would be little point in contacting Canada to tell them about battles taking place above Canadian territory that were already over.

For an anti anti-missile policy to be effective it would have to be made clear, ahead of time, that under no circumstances will we permit the U.S. to use its defences to even try to shoot down nuclear armed missiles aimed at Canada. Should a rogue state, such as North Korea, launch atomic weapons which threaten Canada then it will have to be clear in advance that parties such as the NDP would not countenance the use of American missiles in our defence.

I am sure that NDP and the majority of Canadians who oppose participation in the U.S. missile defence program would agree that it would be hypocritical to suggest that these dangerous U.S. weapons should be used in any circumstances. It is up to the NDP to articulate the concerns of these citizens and urge the Federal Government to clearly state that there are no circumstances imaginable in which we will permit ourselves not to be nuked if it means the use of these destabilizing and dangerous defensive weapons.

In fact, given the danger that the U.S. might be tempted try to shoot down incoming missiles over Canada without Canada’s permission it might be necessary to add another point to section 4.6 (that would be “ee”) which would urge that Canada immediately fund research and development of anti anti-missile missiles.

Perhaps, in his capacity as defence critic for the NDP, Randall Garrison, Member of Parliament for Esquimalt - Saanich – Sooke, could work towards such an amendment.

Randall Garrison, Member of Parliament for Esquimalt - Saanich - Sooke

Policy of the New Democratic Party of Canada Effective April 2016

NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy and forces


Thursday, 16 March 2017


The U.S. Air Force is expected in the near future to order a study on the potential purchase of a low-cost, light-attack fighter fleet to augment the A-10 Warthog and other aircraft flying close-air support (CAS) missions in Iraq and Syria.

This study is based on recommendations for the FY 2018-FY 2022 U.S. Defense Budget in a paper by Senator John McCain, the Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, entitled Restoring American Power.

This will not be the first such study. The Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) or Light Air Support (LAS) program was established in July of 2009 with the aim of enabling the United States Air Force to buy a light counter-insurgency, ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft.

That 2009 Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance program was born out of the perceived need for a new close air support aircraft that was suited to the type of combat the United States was facing in post 2003-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan.

In some ways the new requirement is a result of the failure of the previous program to convince the U.S. Air Force to acquire the low-cost, light-attack fighter fleet many observers feel is needed to supplement the aircraft currently flying close-air support (CAS) missions in Iraq, Syria and other low to medium threat environments.

It would be fair to say that the U.S. Air Force did not look kindly, in the past, on the idea of a light attack aircraft for, comparatively, low threat environments. They saw funds earmarked for such a program as coming from their preferred objective of a force capable of engaging in high end combat against a near peer adversary. The feeling was that while an F-35 could be used for close air support, however inefficiently, a propeller driven light counter-insurgency ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft could never be used to attack or threaten the sophisticated integrated air defence systems fielded by some potential opponents.

It may be that the current study will run into the same kind of institutional bias and be no more successful in producing a more cost efficient attack aircraft useful for the kind of lower intensity warfare that has become commonplace for U.S. forces.  However in this case one of the drivers is the growing belief that between the wear and tear of constant operational use on the existing fleet and the cost of replacing that fleet the U.S. Air Force will not be able to maintain the numbers of aircraft that they would like.

In the past it was assumed that the so-called “fourth generation” fighters currently fielded would help to fill the gaps in numbers caused by the higher costs associated with a new generation of aircraft.  However it is becoming apparent to Air Force planners that those aircraft are not going to be available if airframe flying hours continue to be used up at the current rate.

Any discussion of a low-cost, light-attack fighter invariably comes back to the same candidates. Available U.S. manufactured types are the Textron Scorpion, the Embraer/Sierra Nevada Corp. A-29 Super Tucano, the Textron-Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine and, rather less likely, the IOMAX AT-802 Archangel. Another option would be an attack version of whichever jet trainer candidate wins the T-X program, which was established to find a new two-seat jet trainer for fast-jet training to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon. It should be noted that the T-38 itself was a development of the F-5 light fighter.

Previous iterations of the search for an effective light attack and reconnaissance aircraft have always had similar results. The AT-6 is less expensive and more compatible for U.S. pilots because it is used in their training syllabus and the Super Tucano is more expensive and can carry a heavier weight of weaponry a longer distance.

As it happens the A-29 Super Tucano was declared the winner in 2011 of the US Light Air Support contract competition over the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II. The original competition assumed that approximately 100 aircraft were to be ordered but USAF has reduced the number of aircraft sought to 15 .That contract was canceled in 2012 citing concerns with the procurement process,  but re-won in 2013 when twenty of these light attack aircraft were purchased for the Afghan Air Force.

One aircraft not available at that time which now meets many of the criteria proposed for the low-cost, light-attack fighter fleet is the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

This twin-engine surveillance and strike platform was designed using, for the most part, commercially available components and is priced at around $20 million apiece and costs $3,000 per flight hour to operate. Armed with observation and targeting sensors and a growing assortment of guided bombs, rockets and missiles, Scorpion is designed as a low-cost alternative for operations in non-threatening environments or perhaps even combat training and adversary “red air” services.

These figures compare favourably with the prospect of providing armed over watch with a $20,000 per flight hr. Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper or $27,000 per flight hr. Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. Even the more affordable A-10 is reported to cost more than $11,500 per flight hr.

It is not known if the U.S. Air Force will ever be able to overcome institutional inertia and purchase an aircraft suitable for the wars it is fighting now. What is more relevant in the context of ‘Canadian Defence Matters’ is the question of whether the Canadian government and the R.C.A.F. will be able to find a way to purchase the kind of aircraft needed by our forces for the kinds of conflicts they are most likely to find themselves in.

Those conflicts, based on recent history, involve irregular forces, be they guerrillas, bandits, narcotics groups or smugglers. And as the possibility of conflict with non-traditional state actors has increased so also have these groups become increasingly well-armed and dangerous. Adding to the danger is a focus on avoiding or at least minimizing, civilian casualties and collateral damage which require precision attacks that can bring longer exposure to enemy fire.

However the growing range of small and light precision weapons available has, despite their cost, restored the edge that the aircraft have traditionally enjoyed over irregular forces.  It is up to Air Forces to select the aircraft and weapons mix appropriate for the missions which can provide both adequate security for pilots along with reasonable affordability.

Textron has always insisted that they originally developed the Scorpion to perform a "Multi Mission, ISR/strike platform" role. It is designed to use precision weapons to attack ground targets from a safe distance out of range of enemy defenses. Just as important from a Canadian point of view is the emphasis on ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) which informs the design of the Scorpion.

If the RCAF were to purchase the Scorpion in affordable numbers it would fill a long standing gap in ISR. Currently the only sophisticated airborne ISR platforms available to the CAF are the 14 Lockheed CP-140 Auroras included in the life-extension and modernization program. This is nowhere near the number needed to maintain reasonable surveillance of our own territory and its approaches, let alone contribute to overseas ventures or adequately support our ground forces.

Scorpions could also allow 414 Electronic Warfare Squadron to field its own aircraft rather than using, and paying for, Contracted Airborne Training Services.

Savings could also be found by using RCAF Scorpions, instead of  the industry contracted services now used, to provide Red Air threat replication, Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training, practice munitions drop, air-to-air gunnery training and naval target towing. Many of these services are contracted out because Canada's Air Force does not currently have suitable aircraft for these roles. Procurement of Scorpions would not only fill this void, but allow service personal to get the training and experience that is now going to private industry.  

From a purely political point of view the ability of these aircraft to communicate with ground forces, to find and fix a target and to loiter up to five hours will allow the government to kick the potentially divisive debate on armed drones down the road while still providing the CAF the capabilities it needs but currently lacks. 

It is not easy to determine what the best fighter for Canada is, what may be easier is trying to find the aircraft that are 'good enough' for Canada.  There is renewed pressure on Canada to spend more on defence. If there is to be increased spending then we should insure that it is smart spending. The Scorpion, or some other low-cost, light-attack aircraft, can provide the resources the CAF needs at a price it can afford.

U.S. Air Force Study On Light Fighter Fleet Takes Shape

Recommendations for the FY 2018-FY 2022 Defense Budget
By Senator John McCain, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance
Canadair CF-5

Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano

Textron AirLand Scorpion

This chart shows the incredible cost of operating the US Air Force's most expensive planes


Could This Airplane Replace the A-10 Warthog?


CP-140 Aurora

414 Electronic Warfare Squadron

Contracted Airborne Training Services

U.S. defence secretary tells NATO countries to increase military spending

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


It has been said that while amateurs study tactics professionals study logistics. Whether this is true or not, what is certain is that large scale warfare inevitably consumes munitions and supplies in quantities that are always an order of magnitude greater then was ever envisioned in peacetime. 

The difficulties of supplying sufficient amounts of material in wartime are compounded by the lack of attention, and prestige, given to the subject by peacetime armed forces.

One of the other things commonly re-discovered by even the most professional armies when they encounter genuine large scale warfare is the importance and lethality of artillery. The necessity of providing a greater number of artillery shells then was ever imagined seems to be a constant.

The way to provide for munitions on an industrial scale is to bring the national manufacturing base in alignment with the goal of maximum production of the necessary munitions. Writing in his book “Allied Artillery of WWII” Ian V. Hogg notes that in Britain ‘19-ton’ steel was adopted as the standard shell material. It was an industrial grade of steel that could be handled by virtually any engineering shop.

The drawback of this material was that the shell had to have rather thick walls to withstand the forces exerted when being fired. American shells used ‘23-ton’ steel which gave thinner walls which in turn meant a greater percentage of explosive, in general using  ‘19-ton’ steel yielded an explosive content of 8% by weight whereas ‘23-ton’ steel shells had an average of 13% explosives.  In the end the need to provide the necessary quantity of shells overrode any advantages that ‘23-ton’ steel might have afforded.

Modern artillery shells have come a long way from the simple steel and high explosive munitions of World War I. Guided or "smart" ammunition have been developed in recent years, but have yet to supplant unguided munitions in all applications. Modern guided shells offer greater accuracy at the cost of greater expense.

Expense is of course relative. The point at which the cost of a given number of “smart shells” is less than the cost of a greater number of more basic (but individually cheaper) shells to accomplish a given mission is the point at which the guided shells actually become less expensive to use.

This is also the point at which the supply of large numbers of modern shells becomes a necessity in the event of a great or prolonged conflict. Attempting to supply the number of shells demanded by high tempo warfare is a sure way to discover the limits imposed by industrial constraints.

Like the British during the Great War (as it was originally referred to before it became apparent that we were going to have enough of these things that it would be worth using numbers to keep them in order) we are going to have to think about how we are going to manufacture our modern artillery shells with an eye to mass production. If the limiting factor for modern shells is determined to be the guidance systems then it would be advantageous to design systems which can be built by non-traditional manufacturers.

The burgeoning domestic consumer electronic industry may not think in terms of marketing armaments but that does not mean that they could not do so in an emergency. It would be easier to do this if, before the aforementioned emergency, some thought had been put in to designing guidance mechanisms that were compatible with standard, nationally manufactured, electronic components.

It may be that to do this we will have to accept some compromises in capability in order to insure that standard manufacturing processes can be used. But in the event that mass production becomes necessary it will turn out to be a compromise well worth making.

What the Thunder Said by John Conrad

Allied Artillery of World War II by Ian V. Hogg

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


History affects us all. The echoes of decisions made centuries ago continue to shape our lives in ways both large and small. A case in point would be the current attempt by the Canadian Armed Forces to procure a new service pistol.

As unlikely at it seems the past and future of this acquisition is connected with U.S involvement in the Spanish-American War of 1898. At the end of that conflict the United States found itself in possession of the former Spanish colony of the Philippines. This fact was the cause of much rejoicing by the forces for Philippine independence, as represented by the First Philippine Republic, until it became obvious that the force of some11, 000 U.S. ground troops sent to the Philippines intended to stay.

The Philippine–American War lasted from February 4, 1899 to July 2, 1902. At the same time US forces were engaged with the Moro Rebellion (1899–1913), a conflict between Moro indigenous Muslim ethnic groups and the United States military which took place in the southern Philippines.

It was in the fighting against the Moro tribesman that the U.S. Army became dissatisfied with the .38cal side arms they were then equipped with. Legend had it that the guerillas they faced shrugged off the effects of the small caliber weapons.
This perceived lack of lethality lead to the purchase, in 1902, of 4,600 Colt Model 1878 revolvers to equip the Philippine Constabulary. These revolvers had a 6-inch barrel, a hard rubber grip, and were chambered for the .45 Colt round.

Colt Model 1878 Revolver

By coincidence this same weapon, the Colt Model 1878 Revolver was Canada's official military-issue handgun at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. 1001 of these pistols had been hastily purchased in early 1885 to arm the military forces mobilized to deal with the North West Rebellion. No other pistol having been acquired by the Department of Militia and Defence since that date, this double-action revolver model, with a 7.5" barrel and chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge was issued to appropriate members of the First Contingent of the Canadian Special Service Force dispatched to South Africa in late 1899 for service during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

Colt Model 1911 Pistol

With the outbreak of the First World War Canada's military once more found that they lacked modern weapons. Pistols acquired for the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force were again obtained from Colt: this time, the handgun adopted was that company's "state-of-the-art" Model 1911 semi-automatic pistol. A total of 5000 self-loading ("semi-automatic") pistols with a 5.03 in (127 mm) barrel and chambered for .45ACP cartridge with a detachable magazine with 7-round capacity were acquired, all coming from Colt's 1914 "Commercial" production .

This Colt Model 1911 had become the standard U.S. Army side arm largely because of the experiences of the Philippine conflict. Looking for a more powerful and modern weapon they adopted the Colt M1911. It served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1986.

Browning Hi-Power

The Inglis made Browning Hi-Power a semi-automatic pistol chambered for 9mm Parabellum with a 118mm barrel and detachable 13-round magazine has been in service in Canada from 1944 to the present.

Designed just before the outbreak of World War II by FN in Belgium, the factory that made the Hi-Power was used after the Germans occupied the country in 1940 to provide a variant of these hand guns to Hitler’s forces.

In Canada John Inglis and Company, with a little help from Dieudonné Saive, the Belgian firearms engineer who helped design the gun in the first place, started manufacturing the weapon in Toronto. These guns at first were meant to be shipped to China but in the end most of them never made it to the Asian theater of that global conflict and were instead used to arm British and Canadian troops. Even after Inglis ended their production of the Hi-Power in 1945 Canada was left with enough that they have been using them ever since.

In the United States the M1911 was replaced by the 9mm Beretta M9 pistol as the standard U.S. sidearm in October 1986, but due to its popularity among users, it has not been completely phased out. Modernized derivative variants of the M1911 are still in use by some units of the U.S. Army Special Forces, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

The competition to replace the Colt 1911 in US service was bruising; highlighting the importance the military puts on what is a very minor weapons system. It may not be necessary to invoke the shades of Freud in a discussion of why this is so, but it is true none the less that the selection of a personal sidearm tends to gather to itself an enormous amount of attention. The Americans wanted a new pistol which used 9mm NATO caliber ammunition. Rather than simply ordering new Colt 1911’s in 9mm they started a procurement exercise in which they discovered, to their horror, that no American company could meet the specifications they desired. Several attempts to recast the competition to find an American pistol that could meet those specifications only resulted in the, unwelcome in some quarters, conclusion that the Beretta M9 was the best choice.

The U.S Army first began the attempt to replace the M9 and procure a new pistol or “Modular Handgun System” in 2008 and work with the small arms industry started in early 2013. After a process almost as protracted as the original competition to acquire the Beretta M9 the U.S. Army announced on January 19th of this year that they had awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the next service pistol based on the company's P320 handgun.

In Canada the Canadian Armed Forces have announced that sometime early next year a nation-wide survey of the military will be conducted about the future of pistols and “to define the general concept of employment” and a replacement program stood up to retire the Inglis made Browning Hi-Power and replace it with a new gun.

There is no question that these weapons need replacing. Although the guns have been refurbished over the years and a smaller number of SIG P225 pistols were acquired in 1991 for use by military police and Royal Canadian Navy boarding teams, operations in Afghanistan have only accelerated the rate of non-serviceable pistols. The wear and tear on the Brownings has reduced available weapons to 13,981 and of those 1,243 are in the process of being disassembled for spare parts, in order to keep the other guns going until a replacement can be found.

Last year army procurement officers briefed industry representatives about their quest for a new pistol. Industry officials were told that between 15,000 and 25,000 handguns are needed and the military estimated the project would cost around $50 million, according to documents recently obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

Sometime in 2019 or 2020 the requirements for a new gun will be defined and then by 2022 the military will seek approval from the federal government to proceed with a purchase of a new general service pistol or GSP. If the purchase is approved – and there are no delays – all the new pistols will be in hand and being used by 2026.

The Citizen also reported that industry representatives have privately questioned why Canada would take so long to buy a new pistol, noting that the process could be completed in about a year or two at most. It should also be noted that the Browning Hi-Power is one of the most widely used military pistols and is still in production and in service in many countries.

There is a clear way ahead for this procurement program. Using the example of the government’s recent purchase of F-18 Super Hornets a suitable number of firearms should be purchased as an “interim” measure to deal with the newly discovered capability gap. One no doubt caused by a previous Conservative government’s mismanagement of the Small Arms Modernization project.

At the same time it is vital that a competition for all aspects of the Small Arms Modernization project should be held, later in the government’s mandate. To re-enforce interim nature of the weapons to be purchased they should be designated as a Provisional interim substitute transitional ordnance-limited service (P.I.S.T.O.L.S.) in all future discussions.

A quick browse of the internet suggests that Browning makes a comparable weapon which sells in Canada for about $1,200.00 which means that 15,000 of them would cost taxpayers $18,000,000.00. An even better deal can be found for a Canadian made weapon, the O’Dell Engineering Canuck Hi-Power, a Canadian made clone of the Browning weapon. With their connection to Colt Canada and with a cost of about $700.00 per unit they could probably make 15,000 of them for about $10,500,000.00 and that would include a spare magazine and that cool maple leaf on the grip.

Either of these choices would also leave a great deal of money in the budget for the more important business of having a proper procurement competition to find a permanent replacement for the Inglis made weapons. As well as achieving the goal of delivering the right equipment to the CAF in a timely manner this procurement must also leverage the purchases to create jobs and economic growth in Canada and at the same time be seen to be streamlining the defence procurement process. As has been pointed out this would entail briefing industry officials and getting feedback, defining requirements, getting government approval and then moving ahead with the acquisition.  Needless to say these steps will only be the beginning of the process.

All this must be run through the Defence Procurement Secretariat (DPS) which in turn reports to a Deputy Ministers Governance Committee (DMGC), chaired by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), which consists of deputy ministers from DND, Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), Global Affairs Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (which is responsible for the Canadian Coast Guard) who act as the key decision-making body for defence procurement. The DMGC then provides guidance on defence procurement to a Working Group of Ministers, chaired by the Minister of Public Service and Procurement, which includes the ministers of National Defence, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. It is the function of the Working Group of Ministers to ensure shared accountability in defence procurement as well acting as the forum for discussion, advice and to resolve issues in the implementation of major procurement projects.

The Armed Forces will have to provide a Statement of Requirements (SOR) to start the process. This will be the opportunity to exhaustively explore issues such as the need for a Picatinny style rail, suitability for suppressor attachment and magazine capacity.  This in turn leads to a discussion of caliber, and surely no discussion of handgun caliber could be complete without a mention of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol and the need to fend off polar bears. This will undoubtedly raise the question in some quarters as to why the government is endangering already endangered species with its decisions.

This is not to forget the whole question of ergonomics which must ensure that all members of the Canadian Forces are equally comfortable with the new acquisition. Which surely means consultations with the LGBTQ2 community or else face the question of why the DND is ignoring this important demographic.

No matter how the Armed Forces formulate their Statement of Requirements it will be reviewed and possibly challenged by the Independent Review Panel on Defence Acquisition to insure a countervailing weight to the opinions of the DND and CAF. Of course this panel may be superseded by the recently appointed Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Defence Procurement.

Cost is always going to be a consideration and how that cost is expressed is at least as important as how much money is actually spent. The DND is quoting a budget of 50 million dollars (less cost for P.I.S.T.O.L.S. of course) although as they say they have not actually “defined the general concept of employment” or had discussions with industry it is not clear how this figure was arrived at. This fact alone gives plenty of scope for the parliamentary inquiry into the whole matter which will inevitably occur.

At some point the whole cost issue will no doubt be turned over to the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer who will find that the figures provided by the DND relate only to the acquisition cost and not, as it properly should, to the total cost of purchasing, maintaining, providing ammunition and training for a period of at least fourty years. Not to mention the added costs of disposal. This new figure will be at least ten times more than the initial estimate and will be widely quoted and discussed but there will be no reason for anyone in the process, least of all the media, to ever explain that these figures are for two entirely different things.

Part of the acquisition process can also involve direct intervention by the Minister of Defence or for that matter any senior cabinet member.  At any time in the process it is perfectly reasonable to expect that having met some constituent over lunch who says that they can provide a Canadian made product, from the ministers riding, for “half the price” that the minister will insist on restarting the whole procedure with a new emphasis on those elements of the proposal which will lead to the ministers acquaintance getting the contract. Of course by the time the SOR has been restated, the inevitable lawsuits from the other competitors have been settled and the competition re-run the new entrant will have gone out of business, but that is a small price to pay for ensuring that our troops get only the best and that high quality Canadian jobs are protected.

Once Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) as well as international trade regulations (ITAR) have been factored in it will be up to the Armed Forces to conclude that the best option is to contract for a uniquely Canadian weapon, one under development and not currently in the service of any other nation, to be built by a company with no experience of firearms. Even though when this approach has been used in the past it has invariably lead to a final result that combines decreased capability with late delivery at higher than anticipated costs there is no reason that anyone in the system can possibly be blamed for not foreseeing this outcome.

This inability to blame any participant in the process for the outcome is a result of the fact that no one is really responsible for the outcome. It is important to remember that at no time in the course of acquiring a new handgun for the Canadian Armed Force would it be appropriate for anyone in the process, not the politicians or the bureaucrats or the Media or even the DND to ever ask what combat value is being added, or subtracted, from the Canadian Armed Forces by the either the process, the amount of time it takes or the outcome of the procurement. Questions of whether our Forces are more or less able to be successful in their ultimate mission of armed conflict simply do not matter when put in context with far more significant issues such as relative political advantage and public perception of the procedure itself.

History, as has been noted, affects us all and history is a river that runs from the past to the future. Given the example of a sixty year time line on the Sea King replacement there is no reason not to believe that Canadians as yet unborn can hope to contribute to the ongoing saga of replacing the 75 year old sidearms that our forces currently use. In fact there is every reason to believe that entire lifetimes will be spent in search of the perfect P.I.S.T.O.L.S. replacement. This is the Canadian way of military procurement.

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Small Arms Modernization project

Browning Hi-Power Mark III Pistol

O’Dell Engineering 9mm Semi Auto Single Action [CANHP9]

Defence procurement strategy

Sirius Dog Sled Patrol

Industrial and Regional Benefits Policy

CHARLIE FOXTROT: Fixing Defence Procurement in Canada