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 DieudonnĂ© 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.

Canadian Forces looking to replace Second World War-era pistols but it could take another 10 years

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

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


According to Canadian Forces Joint Publication CFJP 01 Canadian Military Doctrine: The Role of Military Forces “Military forces in democracies are subordinate to the elected civil authority and are prohibited from operating outside the bounds of jurisdiction set by that authority. In addition to combat operations, they are often used for domestic missions such as search and rescue, assistance to other government departments and agencies, aid to civil power and for disaster relief operations both at home and abroad.
However, despite the inherent flexibility and domestic utility of modern military forces, their raison d’ĂȘtre remains armed conflict. This distinction separates military forces from other security arms of the government such as police and border patrol.”

Subordination to the elected civil authority means that that government direction involves defining what the Canadian Armed Forces must do for the nation and in turn, at least in theory, the military dictates how those objectives can and should be achieved.

By stipulating what general military objectives are to be achieved, government defence policy gives the CAF the orders it needs to get on with the job of enhancing the safety and security of Canadians, supporting the Government of Canada’s foreign policy and achieving other national security objectives.

Defence policy also indicates into what military capabilities the Government is willing to invest in order to achieve its objectives. This is an important point as Government direction comes in two forms: defence policy and the provision of resources.

It is this last point, the provision of resources, that concerns us here. Writing for the CBC Tony Keene has suggested that there is a myth widely accepted by many in the military, by veterans and by the civilian public that the Conservatives are the party of the Canadian Armed Forces. He points out however that defence spending in Canada raises and falls no matter which government is in power.  The argument can even be made that almost all significant improvements in equipment, pay and allowances and family support came under Liberal regimes.

It can be argued that governments, particularly Canadian governments, often use the “provision of resources” as their main form of direction. Those governments, regardless of party, have found it easy to say that they support defence spending while restricting the resources available to the CAF to those necessary to carry out the government’s actual policies.

This is an easy theorem to test.

Writing in the Air Force Journal in an article entitled “What Air Forces Do” Lieutenant-Colonel Brian L. Murray observes that “Air forces exist to provide four fundamental services to the nation: control of the air, movement of things through the air, observation of things from the air and space, and when necessary, attacking things from the air.”

If this is true then the question becomes, has the government provided the resources for the RCAF achieve these ends.  The answer is no. Even the provision of 16 new C-295’s for Fixed Wing Search and Rescue has little or no effect on the core responsibilities of the Air Force. These are responsibilities which it cannot meet with the resources provided by this and previous governments.

The government of Canada’s general military objectives would appear to be clear. They want a military which appears to be capable of enhancing the safety and security of Canadians, supporting the Government of Canada’s foreign policy and achieving other national security objectives but one in which they do not have to invest the amounts necessary to actually achieve those objectives.

With words having little or no meaning in our new ‘post truth’ environment it is only the provision of resources that can signal the governments true direction to the Canadian Armed Forces and tell them, and us, what it is that they want them to be able to do for the nation.

Canadian Forces Joint Publication CFJP 01 Canadian Military Doctrine: The Role of Military Forces

The myth of one-party support for the Canadian Armed Forces

Trudeau was Canada's top defence spender: study

What Air Forces Do, Lt. Colonel Brian Murray

Sunday, 1 January 2017


The Department of National Defence announced on December 13th of this year that three ships from the China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) would arrived in Victoria  as part of a scheduled port visit.

The visiting People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ships consisted of a Type 903 Replenishment Ship, the Taihu, and two Type 054A Guided Missile Frigates the Yancheng and the Daqing.

The last time ships from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) visited Victoria was in 2006, on this occasion the ships were open for tours on several days of their scheduled visit.

It may have come as a surprise to the Chinese sailors to be welcomed by an unusual Victoria snowfall, but at least it will have reinforced Canada’s reputation for serious winters.

In their press release the RCN noted that “Foreign navy vessels routinely visit Canada, helping to strengthen cooperation, goodwill and trust.” They go on to state that “Canada and China have a defence relationship based on senior-level dialogue as well as discussions and cooperation on defence issues including Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response, peace support operations, and military education.” And that “As Pacific countries, our navies have a shared interest in maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

According to the press release visits of foreign navy vessels are seen as an important part of Canada’s commitment to collective security on the world’s oceans and an integral part of strengthening relationships and promoting cooperation among world navies. They state that they believe that they are building their relationship with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by promoting bilateral cooperation and an ongoing defence dialogue between the two nations

In terms of size and displacement, a comparison of the type 504a frigate and Canada’s Halifax class frigates shows that they are vessels of a similar class.

Canada’s Halifax class displaces 4,770 tonnes, has a length of 134.1 m (439.96 ft) a beam of 16.4 m (53.81 ft) and is powered by two  General Electric LM2500 gas turbines for a total of 47,500 shp, and a SEMT Pielstick diesel engine which gives it a top speed of 29 knots and a range of 9,500 nautical miles. The ships have a crew of which numbers 225.

Halifax class ships are armed with eight MK 141 Harpoon SSM, sixteen evolved Sea Sparrow Missile SAM/SSM, one Bofors 57 mm Mk 2 gun, one Phalanx CIWS and twenty four Mk 46 torpedoes as well as six M2 Browning machine guns and a CH-124 Sea King or CH-148 Cyclone helicopter.

A type 504A frigate, such as the  Taihu has a reported displacement of 4,053 tonnes with a length of 134.1 m (440 ft), a beam: of 16 m (52 ft) and is powered by a CODAD arrangement of 4 x Shaanxi 16 PA6 STC diesels giving 5700 kW (7600+ hp @ 1084 rpm) each for an estimated maximum speed of 27 knots and a range of approximately 8,025 nautical miles. These ships are reported to carry a crew of 165 sailors and marines.

The Type 054A (NATO codename Jiangkai II) frigates first entered service in 2007. The class is planned to comprise 24+ vessels. As of 2016, 22 are in service, 1 is fitting out, and 2 are under construction.

The Type 054A carries HQ-16 medium-range air defence missiles and various anti-submarine rockets in a VLS system. The HQ-16 provides area air defence from all engagement angles up to a range of 50 km. HQ-16 launcher, with 32 cells, appears to adopt a hot launch method  with the same design principle of US Mk 41 VLS: a shared common exhaust system is sited between the two rows of rectangular launching tubes. The VLS system is also capable of firing Yu-8anti-submarine missiles, a weapon believed to similar in operation to the U.S. Navy ASROC.

The ships also carry 2 Type 730 CIWS. The autonomous Type 730 provides defence against close-in threats.
The main gun armament is an H/PJ26 stealthy 76 mm dual purpose gun mount, which is a Chinese development of Russian AK-176.  H/PJ26 utilizes advanced synthetic material such as fiber glass to achieve a lowered radar cross section and the gun is capable of a high rate of fire for air defense, including defence against sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.

Other armament consists of 2 × 3 324mm YU-7 ASW torpedo launchers, these torpedoes are carried inboard so as to maintain the ships stealthy profile.
These ships are also armed with 8 YJ-8 "Eagle Strike 83” subsonic anti-ship cruise missile. A turbojet powered anti-ship / land attack cruise missile sometimes referred to as the C-803 it in similar to the Harpoon missile, although it trades a somewhat smaller warhead for a longer range, reported to be 180km.
The ship also carries 2 × 6 Type 87 240mm anti-submarine rocket launcher for a total of 36 rockets carried, an older but still effective weapons system.
Counter measures include Type 726-4 18-tube decoy rocket launchers on both port and starboard sided of the ship
 Chinese marines, equipped with bullpup Type 95 (QBZ95) 5.8x42mm assault rifles, appeared to be a part of the ships complement.
It is also possible that the Chinese navy has adopted the odd US. Navy practice of wearing seagoing “camouflage” fatigues.
The Taihu, like the other ships of her class, have facilities to carry 1 Z-9C ASW helicopter. The Harbin Z-9C (NATO reporting name "Haitun") is a the Chinese licensed variant of the French Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin. The naval version, introduced in the 1990s, is known as the Z-9C. As well as SAR and ASW duties, the Z-9C can be fitted with an X-band KLC-1 surface search radar to detect surface targets beyond the range of shipborne radar systems. The helicopter is normally outfitted with a pulse-compression radar and low frequency dipping sonar to aid in ASW operations.

With a maximum take-off weight of 4,100 kg (9,039 lb) and powered by two 632 kW (848 hp) turboshaft engines, the Z-9C is not really in the same class as the Canadian CH-148 Cyclone whose takeoff weight of 12,993 kg (28,650 lb) and powerplant consisting of two 28,650 lb (3,000 shp) each engines, along with advanced sensors and electronics, puts in an entirely different category then the Z-9C. Of course, another difference is that Z-9C’s are actually flying on active service which is more than can be said of the Cyclone.
The Type 054A with a design like that of advanced western ships, such as the French La Fayette class, has a number stealth features, including sloped hull design, radar absorbent materials, and a clean profile.  It is reported that the ship also features information systems (IS) for maintenance and inventory control, which automatically provides information to shore based facilities or supply ships so that parts in need can be provided more quickly.
These frigates come with an impressive array of sensors and processing systems which includes: a Type 382 Radar 3D air/surface search radar, a Type 344 Radar OTH target acquisition and SSM fire control radar, 4 Type 345 SAM fire control radars, an I-band MR-36A surface search radar, a Type 347G fire control radar for the 76mm gun as well as 2 Racal RM-1290 navigation radars. ASW sensors include an MGK-335 medium frequency active/passive sonar system.
The ships include a modern combat data system in the form of the ZKJ-4B/6, which was developed from Thomson-CSF TAVITAC. Communication systems include an HN-900 Data link (the Chinese equivalent of Link 11A/B) as well as SNTI-240 and AKD5000S Ku band SATCOMs.
Known electronic warfare systems comprise a Type 922-1 radar warning receiver, the HZ-100 ECM & ELINT system and the Kashtan-3 missile jamming system.
Sadly the visiting Type 903A replenishment Ship, the Taihu, has no equivalent in the RCN. These Qiandaohu-class ships (NATO codename: Fuchi) have a displacement of 23,400 tonnes, a length of 178.5m, beam of 24.8m and draught of  8.7m.  Propulsion consists of 2 diesels generating 24,000 hp. through 2 shafts for a maximum speed of 20 knots and a range of 10,000 nm at 14 kts. It has a capacity for 10,500 tons of fuel oil, 250 tons of fresh water and 680 tons of cargo and ammunition. These ships have a complement of 130 personal and carry an armament of 4 x H/PJ76F twin 37mm dual purpose guns.  The ships come equipped with a hanger and flight deck and can embark one  Z-8 helicopter or one Z-9 helicopter.
By all accounts the visit to Canada by this Chinese Navy squadron was well received and attracted many visitors. The ships themselves made a first rate impression. It was the newness of the ships and their excellent condition that was so striking.
It was Mao Tse Tung who said that power grows out of the barrel of a gun, but just as notable as the firepower on display was the demeanor and professionalism of the Chinese service personal. It is in the small things that one can sometimes judge abilities and so it was the complete lack of noticeable corrosion on board the ships and the traditional bosun's whistle cupped in the hand of the petty officer at the head of the boarding gangway with its suggestion that, as unlikely as it was with a crowd of tourists pushing their way on board, if an officer should show up he would be rendered appropriate honours that struck this observer as a sign of just how capable a force the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) has become.

What also must have been obvious to any observer was that these ships and their capabilities exceed those available to the Royal Canadian Navy.  It is not just the lack of new ships but the complete lack of any form of replenishment ship that makes it impossible for Canada to send a similar delegation to China or even hard pressed to match this squadron with a comparable force in Canadian waters.

News Release Article from National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces
Chinese naval ships visit Victoria
December 13, 2016 – Esquimalt, B.C. – National Defence / Royal Canadian Navy

Type 054A frigate

Type 903 replenishment ship

Chinese Z-9C Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Helicopter

Chinese navy visit to Victoria raises questions
Katie DeRosa / Times Colonist

Friday, 9 December 2016


On December 8th of this year, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote, and RCAF Commander, LGen Michael Hood announced that the Airbus C-295W is the winning Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Aircraft Replacement Project candidate.

From the outset this has always been seen as a contest between the C-295 and the Alenia C-27J Spartan.

During the course of the project and following the report of the National Research Council on the FWSAR Project Statement of Requirements it was decided that rear ramps were a necessity for the successful deployment of SAR Techs and the safe loading of stretcher cases. It can also be argued that the desire for ramps also reflected the FWSAR aircraft's secondary role as tactical transports.

It was widely believed that the C-27J was the RCAF preference, based on a degree of commonality with the in-service CC-130J Hercules and it should be noted, the perception that the Spartan had greater utility as a military transport.

There is no question that the chosen aircraft, the C-295W will be a capable aircraft for Search and Rescue purposes. Equally there is no question that the government has opted for a status-quo response to whole issue of  Search and Rescue and that there is no thought of changing our current Search and Rescue system or of tasking some other government agency with the role.

In the past it was assumed that the RCAF could use its assets, specifically fixed wing aircraft, to aid in Search and Rescue while at the same time maintain a fleet of transports with military utility. In choosing an aircraft for this role that has a lesser military utility the government and the Air Force have signalled that this is no longer the case.

To a certain extent, the tail now wags the dog. While the government should be congratulated for making a decision, any decision, on the FWSAR file, the choice they have made reflects a troubling development.

 In the “Summary Report – The Evaluation of Options for the Replacement of the CF-18 Fighter Fleet” provided by DND the department makes the unusual claim that “Canadian engagement in future state-on-state conflicts will be highly unlikely”. Far more likely, according to this report are military engagements that are not clearly defined and that can choose to take part in “on a case-by-case basis”. They believe that not only will the Government “not be obliged to undertake such a mission” but that “the Government has choices regarding the type, degree and duration of Canada's involvement in, and contribution to, an expeditionary mission.”

Rather than trying to determine what are the threats to Canadian security  and trying to decide how those threats can best be met, within an affordable economic framework, the department has decided that the above description of use of military force as being at the governments discretion means that “The capability-based planning process for the Canadian Armed Forces uses these considerations when deciding what type of capability, if any, is required.”

“What type of capability, if any, is required” appears to be the guiding sentiment behind the choice of the C-295W. While it may be a perfectly good SAR aircraft, it’s more limited utility as a military transport means that using it to replace DHC-5 Buffalo and C-130 Hercules aircraft means that Canada will have less strictly military strength after this project is completed then we did before.

The fond belief that we will always be able to pick and choose our military engagements flies in the face of everything we know of history and common sense.  In the long run, equipping our Armed Forces based on this fallacious belief is a mistake that will be paid for in both treasure and the lives of our service people.

Summary Report – The Evaluation of Options for the Replacement of the CF-18 Fighter Fleet

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


It was announced today in Ottawa that the government intended to purchase 18 F-18 'Super Hornets' to augment Canada's fighter fleet. 

Canadian Defence Matters has argued for some time that one reasonable answer to Canada's fighter replacement problem was a mixed buy. 

A mixed fleet of approximately 60 F-18 Super Hornets along with about 20 F-35 'Lightnings' would meet Canada's need for continental defence as well as coalition warfare.

Given the published costs of procurement and sustainment of both aircraft, but without detailed financial analysis, it seems likely that such a force would not cost more then the sixty-five F-35's that were envisioned at one time.

A fleet like this would see the Super Hornets used mainly for NORAD duties while the F-35's would be co-located with 2 Wing for expeditionary tasks.

It should be noted at this point that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a mixed fleet. If the RCAF finds it possible to maintain mixed fleets of transport aircraft, mixed fleets of helicopters and even mixed fleets of training aircraft of mixed ownership, then it is not impossible for it to manage a mixed fleet of fighters.

It is also true that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the government "kicking the decision down the road" as some critics have characterized this recent announcement. The idea of decreasing the average age of Canada's fighter fleet is perfectly reasonable, as is the idea of hedging our bets against a still troubled F-35 program.

It has been argued that the governments contention that the current inventory of F-18's is in desperate need of renewal is not true. The claim that there is a need to immediately replace the CF-18s has been undercut by some Air Force officers who have pointed out the aircraft can keep flying until at least 2025.

In fact, both positions are correct. Our fighter jet fleet is aging and managing airframe hours is becoming a problem. At the same time, as any airshow patron can attest, in theory a war bird can be kept going indefinitely with enough care, attention, money, and a gentle life style.  It is also true that those RCAF officers who believe that Canada is capable of first running a competition, procuring new aircraft and having them in service inside nine years have not been paying attention.

What is not reasonable is the troubling idea that the government may be trying to find a way to avoid renewing the fleet entirely. 

Canadian Defence Matters advocates a mixed fleet of F-18 Super Hornets and F-35's as a way of maintaining a reasonable number of fighters in service, a way of 'future proofing' our decision and a hedge against the possible failure of the F-35 program. It is not a strategy guaranteed to achieve the lowest cost of ownership.

If it is the governments intention to start the process of renewing Canada's fighter fleet then this is a positive sign.  If the intention is to attempt to save money by maintaining an aging fleet of CF-18 Hornets for domestic tasks with a small increment of Super Hornets for all extra-national tasks then it is a recipe for failure.

The future of Canada's fighter force has started, as with all military decisions, the outcome will not necessarily be what is expected.

Canada says it will buy 18 Super Hornet fighter jets — but the cost of aircraft is unknown, David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

2 Wing - Air Expeditionary Wing

The U.S. Military Will Bring F-35s Into Service Without Finishing Them Program office cuts development short by DAN GRAZIER 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has led to a certain degree of panic in the general population and the media in particular.  After a hard fought and bitter campaign south of the border it is difficult not to be caught up in the wave of anxiety which accompanies all discussions of a Trump presidency.

Many observers are making the same mistake which caused Mr. Trump’s victory to come as such a surprise to so many.  The president elect is such an overwhelming presence as to overwhelm a clear view of his policies, their support among the American public and their relative legitimacy.

By Canadian standards Donald Trump is not an electable figure. The tactics he uses and the chest-thumping braggadocio that accompany them are fortunately alien to the standards that Canadians expect of public figures in this country. Add to that the frankly reprehensible organizations that were allowed to align themselves unchecked with his campaign were enough to swamp all rational discussion of the forces and beliefs that he championed. 

The truth is that even though president-elect Donald Trump is such an unlikable figure does not change the fact that some of the causes he espouses have deep and reasonable roots in the American political scene. One of these causes is what might be sometimes called “isolationism” by those who oppose it, or a re-ordering of strategic priorities by those who favour it.

For almost the first one hundred and fifty years of its existence the foreign policy goals of the United States were, at least as publicly articulated, to stand apart from foreign entanglements.  Their failure to achieve this goal, especially in modern times, does not make it any none the less a genuine part of the American ideal.

In her book, “American Umpire”, and the subsequent PBS documentary of the same name, Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman argues that “the United States acted not as an empire in modern foreign relations, but as a kind of umpire, to compel acquiescence as necessary with rules that had earned broad legitimacy.”

Her position is that although America is no angel, and while the nation’s lofty rhetoric often falls short, “this does not make it an empire, nor does it mean that America’s highest ideals are hollow illusion”.

It is true that her thesis that, although actions in countries such as the Philippines saw America “briefly embracing European-style imperialism”, in the end “unprecedented in all of human history, America soon gave up its principle colony and protectorates voluntarily. It backed into imperialism and then turned around and backed out.” appeals to the American ego. However the fact that this interpretation of events puts American actions in a positive light does not make her argument less valid.

In the same vein Hoffman argues that post 9/11, “calling the United States an empire has yielded no practical solutions because the nation and the world system in which it fits are simply not structured in that way.” Instead, Hoffman sees America as “the enforcer of what is, most of the time, the collective will: the maintenance of a world system with relatively open trade borders, in which arbitration and economic sanctions are the preferred method of keeping the peace and greater and greater numbers of people have at least some political rights.”

Taking this critique a step farther she makes the claim that “American diplomacy in the twentieth century has been far more triumphant than tragic.” America is not an Empire, but rather a “player-umpire.” This is “not completely fair to anyone, the umpire or the other players. But it is often better than having no ump at all”

Despite having said that “it is often better than having no ump at all” Hoffman goes on to explore the idea that being the “umpire” is no longer working for her country. While the United States has benefited, it has come at a cost. U.S. defence spending represents about 20% of the federal budget; they regularly spend more on defence than the next 28 countries combined. In 1947, the U.S. represented roughly half of the world's manufacturing capacity. Today it is less than 20%. Yet allies fail to meet their minimal commitments on defence spending confident that the U.S. will defend them. This is an argument that Canadians in particular will have difficulty disputing.

In the end, 95% of all military personnel around the world who are stationed outside their home counties are American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. Their job is difficult, unpredictable, and often thankless. The question is, how long are they prepared to keep doing it?

Under a Trump presidency there is every possibility that these feelings, the desire to avoid foreign entanglements, long dormant but still alive in the American psyche, may come to have a greater influence on U.S. policies.  After we get over the shock of seeing Donald J. Trump in the White House Canadians are going to have to think of how they are going to react to the major changes happening with our most important ally.

American Umpire by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman