Wednesday, 2 August 2017


The Department of National Defence announced on July 26 that they would purchase 1148 new C6A1 FLEX General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) from Colt Canada. The announcement made note of the fact that the contract with Colt Canada would result in approximately 13 new jobs and that it would contribute to maintaining approximately 100 jobs at the company. The press release indicated that first deliveries of the new C6 were anticipated for September 2018 with final deliveries anticipated for June 2019 and that the value of the contract is $32.1 million (taxes included).

 Brent Davis, writing in the Waterloo Region Record provides more details on the specifics of the contract.

The initial contract is to replace aging C6 machine guns in the military's arsenal that are showing wear and tear or have been taken out of service. With about 3,500 C6s in active service a second contract with Colt Canada, yet to be formally approved, would replace the remaining 30-year-old C6s that have reached the end of their effective service life according to a Department of National Defence spokesperson. Although the second contract hasn't received formal, approval to proceed it is considered a high priority and according to the same spokesperson “it's in the plans."

The article points out that the $32.1-million contract for 1,148 guns implied a cost of nearly $28,000 per weapon. However Department of National Defence spokesperson Ashley Lemire said that about one-quarter of the contract cost goes toward setting up a production line at the Colt Canada plant, including engineering validation and certifications. It was noted that although the company has supplied parts and components for the older C6s, it has never built a complete C6 from scratch.

It is also reported that each new gun will be supplied with a second barrel, as well as ancillary items including cleaning and repair kits, spare parts and carrying slings. Those components are included in the total contract cost, which also includes taxes.

However National Defence isn't disclosing the exact cost per unit.

On the face of it this is a good news story. The C6, a 7.62-mm is a fully-automatic, air-cooled, gas- and spring-operated medium machine gun that is well liked by the troops of the many western nations which use some version of this weapon. Based on the Fabrique Nationale (FN) MAG it has been used by more than 80 countries, and is made under licence in several countries, most notably the USA where it is known as the M240. It is many ways the standard machine gun, used by all our allies.

A closer look suggests that this announcement reveals everything that is wrong with Canadian defence procurement.

For our $32.1 million we get 1148 new C6A1 machine guns (with cleaning and repair kits, spare parts and carrying slings), 13 jobs which it seems reasonable to assume are for the length of the contract, i.e. two years, and a production line including engineering validation and certifications. Or perhaps more accurately, Colt Canada gets a production line at the Colt Canada plant.

Even if we accept that the implied a cost of nearly $28,000 per weapon should be informed by the fact that about one-quarter of the contract cost goes toward setting up a production line it still means that each weapon is costing almost $21,000 each.

The price of the equivalent US weapon, the M240, is somewhere between $6,600 US and $9,200 US depending on which model is being purchased. This means that,   at current exchange rates, if we were to purchase the weapons from FN’s U.S.plant they would cost us about $10,000 each, in Canadian dollars. This in turn suggests that we would save at least $12, 628,000.  If you assume that in this case we don’t have to buy Colt Canada a new production line it works out to a savings of almost $20 million dollars.

This is the real cost of those 13 jobs for 2 years, over $750,000 for each job per year.

One would think that jobs that cost taxpayers $750,000 per year would raise questions.

Questions like; do we need to make our own machine guns, especially when we consider that they are almost universally available from a number of our allies and that we have the proven ability to maintain them ourselves? 

If Colt Canada wants to move the production line for machine guns that we purchased for them to one of their operations in another country is there anything we can do to stop them?

Is there any way we could use $20 million to create more than 26 person years of work? 

Did anyone ever consider using the money to hire 50 soldiers to operate machine guns for eight years might be a more consistent with the governments stated goals of properly equipping the Armed Forces and providing “good middle class jobs”?

Let us be clear, C6 machine guns are not Ross Rifles, they are not dangerously inferior weapons, on the contrary they are excellent pieces of equipment that our army needs.  Where they mirror the Ross rifle, and so many other examples of Canadian military procurement, is in the political calculations that went into this announcement.

Who will ask the questions? Who would want to question defence dollars being spent in Canada and jobs being created? What political party would want to miss the opportunity for press releases and photo ops and a little grass roots patronage?

This then is the real tragedy of Canadian military procurement. For most of those involved the purpose of the defence budget is not to secure the military defence of Canada, it is to secure political advantage, no questions asked.

New Machine Guns for Canadian Armed Forces

Second machine gun contract likely for Kitchener’s Colt Canada

C6 7.62-mm Medium Machine Gun


M240 machine gun M240 7.62mm Machine Gun

The M240L: The Myth of the $86,000 Machine Gun

FN America, LLC, U.S. subsidiary of FN Herstal, S.A.

Ross Rifle

Wednesday, 12 July 2017


 Writing at Information Dissemination  'Lazarus' notes that when rising warship prices at the beginning of the twentieth century threatened the Royal Navies' budgets they responded by opting for "quality over quantity and produced fewer, but larger and more powerful warships as the means to reduce the budget and increase combat capability."

 Whether planned or not that is what seems to be happening to the Royal Canadian Navy. As the price of individual warships has gone up, and budgets have declined in real terms, the result has been to acquire fewer ships. 

 The question that goes unasked is, was this the right strategy for the Royal Navy, and by extension the RCN, to pursue? Confronted with the growth of the German High Seas fleet the Royal Navy chose to concentrate on a relatively few powerful ships designed to meet and defeat the German force.  This meant that the smaller ships, the often derided ‘gunboats’, on foreign stations such as Esquimalt and Halifax were recalled and paid off. Although not appreciated as being such at the time, it was the beginning of the end of Empire.

 Another effect of this strategy was that as the number of ships became smaller so the importance of these ships became greater as did the consequences of design choices. 

 For example, some of those powerful new ships designed by Admiral Fisher combined the functions of the battleship and the armored cruiser to form a new kind of hybrid, the battlecruiser. They were designed to have the speed and range to overhaul and destroy surface raiders as well as the firepower and advanced fire control needed to engage any opponent at long range. 

 They were not designed to stand in the line of battle with the purpose built battleships, but that is exactly where they found themselves at the battle of Jutland. The results were predictable and the battlecruisers as a class suffered the greatest proportion of losses.

 These losses had even greater consequence given the lack of ships available to replace them. Both German and British Navy strategy was sometimes dictated by the fear of losing ships. At Jutland Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commander of the Grand Fleet faced a capable enemy with ships and men 
equal to his own. He could not afford to take risks in pursuit of a “decisive” victory because he commanded Britain’s only modern battle fleet.

 Writing in The Strategist Andrew Davies has pointed out that several hundred years ago ships described as frigates were “capable of sustained and independent cruising operations. They were heavily tasked for trade protection and trade attack—one of the reasons there was a shortage for fleet reconnaissance. The ability to sustain independent operations later came to define the ‘cruiser’—which is what many of today’s ‘frigates’ actually are.” Davies makes the case that today’s frigates and destroyers are, in form and function, actually cruisers, that is to say, large vessels capable of prolonged independent action.

 It has been decided through a process not clear to anyone that Canada needs to have a navy that consists of fifteen of these ‘cruisers’. Even the number of ships, fifteen, seems to be arbitrary. The thinking seems to be something like “we had four air defence destroyers, the 280’s and twelve Halifax class frigates, but we found out we could get by with just three destroyers so let’s call it fifteen”.

 It has now been decided that all these ships are to be built to common design. It is believed, in the face of no evidence at all, that this will lower the cost of the ships. What has not been considered are the costs that will accrue if this fleet of similar ships should contain a flaw in either design or purpose.

 The National Shipbuilding Strategy is designed to develop a “sustainable, long-term shipbuilding plan that benefits Canadians and the Canadian marine industry”. The hope is that it will bring predictability to federal vessel procurement and to eliminate the boom and bust cycles of vessel procurement that have characterized Canadian shipbuilding in the past.

 These are worthwhile goals; it remains to be seen if they can be achieved. What seems more likely is that federal vessel procurement will maintain its status as a political football, at the expense of predictability and sustainability. Even more likely is that the charade of political deniability which surrounds the program will continue as a substitute for real discussion as to just what kind of Navy Canada needs.

The Ship is an "Electronic" Being

Maths swayed the Battle of Jutland – and helped Britain keep control of the seas

The expanding of the shrew


National Shipbuilding Strategy

Friday, 7 April 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joint Support Ship

Berlin Class Fleet Auxiliary Vessels, Germany

BMT AEGIR® Logistic Support Vessels

Future vessels

Tide-class tanker



Thursday, 30 March 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Policy of the New Democratic Party of Canada Effective April 2016

NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy and forces


Thursday, 16 March 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance
Canadair CF-5

Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano

Textron AirLand Scorpion

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


Could This Airplane Replace the A-10 Warthog?


CP-140 Aurora

414 Electronic Warfare Squadron

Contracted Airborne Training Services

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