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 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