Friday, 26 August 2016


It was hot and sunny in Abbotsford this year, perfect weather for an  Airshow. With Mount Baker gleaming in the background the stage was set for an aircraft fans perfect day. 

Fitting this years theme of "Heroes of the Skies" the flying display included an all star flight with an A1 Skyraider, a P51 Mustang, an F8F Bearcat and, best of all, a Mark IV Spitfire

It's always a pleasure to see and hear these vintage war birds in action. Watching the flying bomb truck that is the Skyraider you couldn't help but wonder if the USAF couldn't solve some of its close air support problems by putting those grand old attack aircraft back in production. (I know it sounds silly, but if they are seriously thinking about putting the F-22 back in production, then anything is possible)

Speaking of Air Superiority, it was thrilling to see  the above P-51 Mustang along with a Mk.IV Spitfire,

and an F-8F Bearcat in the line-up.

Also along was the Heritage Flight Museums Mitusbishi A6M Zero clone. 

In keeping with that same theme, the show was also highlighting the accomplishments of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada. Which meant lot of bright yellow trainers.

Although flying with US Navy colours, this Boeing PT-17, seen above, was representative of Canadian wartime trainers.

A pair of vintage T-6 Harvard trainer were joined by their modern equivalent, all in traditional yellow.

The modern T-6 was painted in the traditional colours. In the distant past it was believed that this was the best shade for visibility. 

Now, it appears, black is favoured for avoiding air-to-air encounters of the expensive kind.

Not, of course, that the choice of colour has anything to do with the 'cool' factor.  Not that it hurts, as this CT-155 Hawk testifies.

As any trainer aircraft, such as this CH-146 Griffon and CH-139 Jet Ranger, can tell you, black is the new yellow.

Colours can matter. Needless to say "Air superiority gray" is ' de rigueur' for any self respecting fast jet.

Which explains this F/A-18,

although how this A-10 qualifies as a "fast jet" is not so clear.

but at least it makes more sense then this SH-60, Seahawk on detachment from the USS Nimitz.

You can't help but think that, as good as our long promised CH-148 Cyclones are suppose to be, how long could we have been flying aircraft like this off our frigates, if only our procurement system had been capable of acquiring them.

Which brings us to this CH-149 Cormorant, which shows that 'high vis' yellow is still fashionable in some quarters.

Speaking of paint jobs, this A-4N Skyhawk,
originally from Israel and now the property of CAE/Draken stood out. The pilot, a twenty year RCAF veteran, advised that they also operated ex-New Zealand A-4K's equipped  with APG-66 air-to-air radar that saw a lot of use at Red Flag in Nevada. Discovery Air may have some real competition here.

One of the great things about a visit to any airport are the weird and wonderful 'planes that can be found around the outskirts of the field. Case in point, these Conair S-2 Firecats.

The folding wings remind you of their naval origins and that, like the A-4, they are still used operationally by the Brazilian navy.

One can only hope that these C-130's at Cascade Aerospace will one day find a new life. (Search and Rescue, anyone)

-Of course the star of the show was the first 
appearance in Canada of the F-35. The air police and rope line reminded some spectators of a certain age of the occasional appearance of the F-117 Nighthawk at events like this in the past. 

But with a little maneuvering it was possible to get an unimpeded shot of the aircraft, albeit one that seems to emphasize its rather portly lines.

This rear view shows the complex geometry of the design which would appear to confirm reports that the aircraft has lower "stealth" from this angle.
It was interesting to see, as this stock photo provided at the Abbotsford Airshow site shows, that unlike it's competitor the F-18 Superhornet was able to provide a flying demonstration as well as static viewing.

A great airshow and great aircraft.

Thursday, 21 July 2016


The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016

The final question asked by the Consultation paper is in many ways the most important, and the one whose answers should form the basis for a new Defence policy.

Under the section labeled “Questions relating to contributing to the Defence budget” question ten asks “What resources will the CAF require to meet Canada’s defence needs?

The section goes on to point out that “This new vision for defence must be affordable” and that the Canadian military has been, on average, resourced at around 1% of Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the past decade while noting that NATO guidelines indicate that member nations should aim to move toward spending 2% of GDP on defence.

Perhaps the most important part of the guidelines offered makes it clear that: Canada assesses its defence spending in terms of the level of resources required to support an effective and capable CAF. Ultimately, the level of ambition we defi­ne for the CAF must be properly resourced, which will require clear priorities and strategic decisions about how to invest limited resources with maximum impact.

Paying for the defence resources we need is paramount.  In many ways military spending is a form of insurance. No one likes paying for insurance because, like the military, the chances are that we will never really need it. But if we do need it, like the military, Canada will be very glad that it made the investment.

Just like a homeowner, Canada needs to decide how much insurance we need, how much we can afford, and what are the risks we are facing. Writing almost seventy five years ago in his book “The Military Problems of Canada” about the period between the First and Second World Wars C.P. Stacey, that doyen of Canadian military historians, said “For sixteen years (it would almost seem) no responsible Canadian statesman ever paused to ask himself these simple and fundamental questions: If this peace proves fleeting, what is the nature of the menaces that will threaten Canada? What form of organization would offer the greatest security against them? How far does the existing organization satisfy these needs?” 

In some significant ways the domestic attitude towards defence spending in Canada today is not that different from the conditions that prevailed in Stacey’s time.

Like Raoul Dandurand, Canada’s delegate to the League of Nations from 1927 to 1930, it is still the opinion of many that in international affairs Canada is “a fireproof house, far from inflammable materials.” Of course, it is no truer now than it was then.

The majority of Canadians, and their elected representatives, believe that war is discretionary, essentially a matter of choice. Even in the face of everything we know about human nature and everything we have learned from history it is still widely believed that we will always be able to pick and choose our military involvements. 

If it were true we could have a very different military then the one we need, one that could put an emphasis on using its resources for a wide variety of useful, if not strictly military purposes.  We could have a military that prioritized activities such as domestic search and rescue, infrastructure building, peace keeping and job creation.

But what we need is a military based on a Defence Policy which considers a combination of known threats and strives to maintain the broad range of military capabilities that are necessary to a well-balanced force within a budget that we can afford.

Military capability cannot be created overnight. Unlike insurance, you cannot buy a military at the last minute. Modern militaries are tremendously complex and equipment can take decades to acquire. Even more important are the people, it will take decades to produce the leaders and organizations that can properly use the technology on a modern battlefield.

“What resources will the CAF require to meet Canada’s defence needs?”  The resources the Canadian Armed Forces will require to meet Canada’s defence needs are politicians and a general public willing to ask the question; If this peace proves fleeting, what is the nature of the menaces that will threaten Canada? What form of organization would offer the greatest security against them? How far does the existing organization satisfy these needs? and find the resources to pay for the answers.

Defence Policy Review

Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016

Monday, 18 July 2016


The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016".

Question nine asks “What additional measures could DND undertake, along with partner departments, to improve defence procurement?”

According to the Public Consultation Document “An effective defence procurement process and a strong and vibrant Canadian defence industrial base are important to Canada’s security and economy – not only for reasons of economic prosperity – but also to ensure a range of capabilities available to provide Canada with an operational and technological edge. It is imperative that the CAF have the tools they need to carry out their day-to-day duties at home and abroad.”

It would not be unreasonable to point out that the DND has faced challenges in delivering both large and complex defence procurement project as well as smaller ones. To be fair, as the department points out, the DND has let over 40,000 contracts a year for both services and goods since 2009, with an upward trend to 60,000 in the last two ­fiscal years.

What is needed, according to  Douglas Bland in his introduction to Allan Williams’ Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement: A View from the Inside, is “a predictable defence-management system that joins strategic analysis to statements of defence requirements to efficient procurement, which in concert produce appropriate military capabilities. The system in its entirety” he says “ought to sustain the Canadian Forces by flowing force development and the resultant future force into the engaged present force”.

Currently defence procurement as practiced in Canada does none of those things. The truth is that the current Canadian defence-procurement ‘system’  is, in Alan Williams’ words, “a bureaucratic muddle,” characterized by a lack of accountability at all levels.

What is not needed is adding more layers of ‘accountability’ to the system, it will not help. Departmental reviews and new studies will not make things better; in fact these are exactly the kind of things that have given us our current convoluted and drawn out process, one overburdened by non-defence considerations, overly bureaucratic, and rife with political interference

What is needed is a single point of responsibility for defence procurement.

It is long past time that a single agency, one with cabinet level representation, be responsible for the 53 percent of federal government acquisition dollars that are devoted to defence outputs. In the past three years alone 52 percent ($10.3 billion) of all government contracts in excess of $100 million were for defence materiel and 56 percent of the total asset base of the federal government is held by the Department of National Defence.

The additional measures the DND could undertake, along with partner departments, to improve defence procurement would be to create a stand-alone  defence procurement agency, under the direction of the minister of National Defence, which would be exclusively  responsible for all military procurement contracts.

Defence Policy Review

Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016

Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement Foreword by Dr. Douglas Bland

Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement: A View from the Inside

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016, Question 8 – What do these things have in common?

The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the “Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016”.

Question eight asks” What type of investments should Canada make in space, cyber, and unmanned systems? To what extent should Canada strive to keep pace and be interoperable with key allies in these domains?”

It is hard to understand what prompted the belief that these three issues had anything in common, other than the perceived need to “keep pace” with and “be interoperable with key allies in these domains”.

The paper points out that “Space technology is increasingly critical for Canada’s economy and society” as well as being essential to national security and defence. What “space technology” does, for Canada, is provide GPS capacity, communications and a reconnaissance capability through satellite systems like RADARSAT-2 and Sapphire.

In terms of Cyber systems the Public Consultation Document also makes the point that dependence on information technology has become central to the military. It is, as noted, “a highly complex threat environment that poses significant challenges for the CAF and for Canada as a whole.”

With the premise that “Unmanned Systems have become integral to modern military operations” the paper goes on to outline the difficulties inherent in addressing the cultural road blocks imposed by using robotic systems to fulfill tasks which previously gave value to the humans that accomplished them. 

One example of this dislocation is the continued preference for the term ‘drone’ by those who oppose arming remotely piloted aircraft, while those who do not oppose “weaponization” use the term ‘unmanned systems’. Both sides of the argument apparently believing that nomenclature can determine outcomes.

One thing these three areas do have in common is that there seems to be no obvious reason that Canada needs to “keep pace” with our allies in these areas. At the same time it seems equally obvious that we do need to be “interoperable with key allies” with regard to these capabilities.

The other thing these seemingly disparate “domains” do have in common is that our dependence on them could become areas of vulnerability for our Forces.  

At a minimum, the “investments should Canada make in space, cyber, and unmanned systems” should involve a thorough and ongoing threat assessment. What are our vulnerabilities in these fields? How can we deal with the loss of capabilities in areas which we depend on but do not control? What expenditures are necessary to maintain the ability to work with the systems of our allies with minimum effort.

These are the questions we need to ask, and the answers to them are the things we need to invest in.

Defence Policy Review

Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


The recent announcement that Canada would establish and lead a rotational multinational NATO battlegroup, one of four to be provided as a reassurance measure to smaller countries, more recent NATO members who feel threatened by a perceived Russian military buildup, raises a number of questions

A battlegroup in modern military theory is the basic building block of an army's fighting force. A battlegroup is formed around an infantry battalion or armoured regiment, which is usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel.  The battalion also provides the command and staff element of a battlegroup, which is complemented with an appropriate mix of armour, infantry and support personnel and weaponry, relevant to the task it is expected to perform.

According to Wikipedia a Commonwealth battle group is usually named after its major constituent; for example, the Canadian Army's "1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group" (shortened to "1 RCR Battle Group") on an operational tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007–08.

It would require the army to rotate one of its infantry battalions and a headquarters into the position once every six months, dependents would not be stationed “in country” as was the case in the past with our decade’s long deployment of Fourth Brigade to Germany.

The Canadian Army currently uses a 36 month training cycle in which one of three brigades is at full strength and completely available for one year while the other two are in earlier stages of training. It is not clear if the battle group for NATO would come from the ‘duty’ brigade, thereby lessening its ability to “generate, employ and sustain combat ready combined arms forces to conduct operations at home and abroad” or if it would come from a unit at a different stage of readiness.

It would also be easy to get caught up in the question of just what equipment our troops would be equipped with. One assumes that it would be a LAV equipped infantry battalion, perhaps with a squadron of TAPV’s for reconnaissance.

An interested onlooker would not find it difficult to think about just what else such a force would need to have to be militarily viable. Items such as increase anti-tank defences, TOW under armour for example, fire support in the form of 81mm mortars carried in LAVs or TAPVs, short range anti-aircraft weapons similarly mounted and some kind of short to medium range reconnaissance drone such Scan Eagle are obvious choices.

The same onlooker might also wonder if our procurement system is agile enough acquire any of those items not now in the system in a reasonable length of time.

Questions about rotation schedules and equipment, however, miss a far more important issue.

What is the military rational of this force, particularly the Canadian contingent?

It has been pointed out that the deployment goes contrary to the NATO-Russia Founding Act signed in 1997 where the military alliance explicitly agreed not to station troops along the Russian border in former satellite states.

Neither Russia nor NATO has officially withdrawn from the treaty, which commits both sides to “build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security.”

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

If the plan is to signal Moscow, in a way that does not threaten them, that we will support our new NATO military allies and that an attack on them is an attack on the alliance at large, then how do we make that message credible.

If our forces are not there simply to act as ‘speed bumps” for passing Russian armoured forces then there must be a plan to reinforce or extract them in the event deterrence fails and major hostilities occur. They must be equipped with the systems necessary to provide, at the very least, for their own survival until such actions can be taken.

Canada must answer the question for itself, before Moscow asks it for us, how far we are prepared to go to defend our Eastern European allies and what measures are we willing to put in place to deal with the responsibility of putting one thousand Canadian soldiers in harms way?

Canada assumes leading role for NATO's enhanced presence in Eastern and Central Europe

Battlegroup (army)

1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group

Background –CF LAV TUA (TOW - Under - Armour) Project

Canada’s Baltic conundrum – Part 2

Monday, 27 June 2016


The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the public consultation paper.

Question seven is "Should Canada strive to maintain military capability across the full spectrum of operations? Are there specific niche areas of capability in which Canada should specialize?"

In a report entitled “The State of Readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces” prepared by the Standing Committee on National Defence in 2012 it was noted that “ Overall, it is essential to have a multi-purpose force that is trained and equipped to fight through the full spectrum of combat — from low to high intensity warfare.”

The Canada First Defence Strategy set out six core missions for the Canadian Forces, those missions were;

·        Conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including in the Arctic and through NORAD;
·        Support a major international event in Canada, such as the 2010 Olympics;
·        Respond to a major terrorist attack;
·        Support civilian authorities during a crisis in Canada such as a natural disaster;
·        Lead and/or conduct a major international operation for an extended period; and
·        Deploy forces in response to crises elsewhere in the world for shorter periods.
In order to fulfill these missions it was expected that the Canadian Forces would need to be “a fully integrated, flexible, multi-role and combat-capable military”.  

It seems unlikely that the Canadian Armed Forces, or the any government, would wish to eliminate one of these basic missions. That being the case, then a “fully integrated, flexible, multi-role and combat-capable military trained and equipped to fight through the full spectrum of combat — from low to high intensity warfare” would appear to be a given.

It further stands to reason that any “niche capabilities” that the government or the DND might wish to pursue should never come at the cost of losing the ability to maintain military capability across the full spectrum of operations that are seen as core missions.

Defence Policy Review

THE STATE OF READINESS OF THE CANADIAN FORCES Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence James Bezan, M.P. Chair DECEMBER 2012

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the public consultation paper.

Question six is “How can DND and the CAF improve the way they support the health and wellness of military members? In what areas should more be done?”

The most common complaint most of the public hear about how military members are being treated relates to the management of Canadian Forces veterans benefits.

As it happens those issues are not within the mandate of the Department of National Defence. Veterans Affairs Canada is the department within the Government of Canada which has the responsibility for the pensions, benefits and services for veterans, retired and still-serving members of the Canadian Forces, as well as their families.

This has been the case since 1928 when the Departments of Pensions and National Health became responsible for caring for ill and injured soldiers returning from that war.  After World War II the volume of soldiers returning home made it clear that the Government of Canada would require a department dedicated to serving ill and injured veterans. This is now Veterans Affairs Canada and at this time it reports directly to a cabinet level minister.

In other words, there is nothing, beyond advocacy, that the DND can do for veterans.

As for serving members of the Canadian Forces it would appear that within the DND “health and wellness” are within the purview of Military Personnel Command.

According to the Defence 101 Presentation found at the Defence policy review the command structure is made up of four commands. They are;

  •  Combined Joint Operations Command
  • Canadian Special Operations Forces Command
  • Military Personnel Command
  • Canadian Forces Intelligence Command

The Chief of Military Personnel “provides functional direction/guidance to the Canadian Forces on all military personnel management matters, monitors compliance with Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel management policies, and is accountable for the effective management of the CAF Personnel System”.

According to their website the CMP's current priorities are to:
  • To provide Defence Team members of Military Personnel Command with a healthy work environment built on trust and respect for each individual, where everyone is afforded the opportunity to reach their optimal potential;
  • To maintain a responsive and flexible personnel generation system through research-based planning, innovative attraction, representative selection, and challenging professional development to produce tomorrow’s warriors and leaders;
  • To care for our personnel and their families, in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, by providing the programs, services and support they need to afford them a rewarding and fulfilling career and assist their transition from military service;
  • To recognize the service and sacrifices of all by providing the spectrum of care that is compassionate, agile, and responsive to their needs while responding to those of the Canadian Armed Forces; and
  • To enhance the resiliency and well-being of military personnel and families with mission support capabilities by training, equipping and organizing Medical, Dental, Chaplaincy and Personnel Support services.

In other words it is the duty of the Chief of Military personnel and Military Personnel Command to provide “Health and Wellness.”

Therefore it would seem that the way for the DND and the CAF improve the way they support the health and wellness of military members is to take whatever steps are necessary to improve the ability of Military Personnel Command to deliver those services.  Possible they could start with a concentrated attempt to remove as many buzzwords as possible from their ‘mission statement’.

Defence Policy Review

Defence 101 Presentation

Chief of Military Personnel