Into Africa – Peace Operations 2016

The Toronto Star’s 28 August 2016 editorial “Canada finally dusts off its blue helmet” has the subtitle “Canada is ready to assume its rightful role as a nation dedicated to UN peacekeeping following a welcome new commitment of troops and money.”  The helmets never got dusty; to so state is an affront to those who deployed the last decade.  And there is no ‘rightful role’ – no one gave Canada that right.  Intervention, with expenditure of lives and national treasure, needs to be based on something more than ‘it is the right thing to do.’  What are the national interests involved?  What is Canada’s Africa strategy?  Really, what is Canada’s peace operations strategy other than the country is committed to doing them? There needs to be a lot more information out in the public, and there need to be public debate, before Canada commits its Armed Forces.  It would not be good for our troops to be undertaking challenging and protracted activities in countries where connection to our national interests is tenuous.

But at least the editorial recognizes that peace operations now are not what peacekeeping was when it started (and from which there has been continual and far development).  There should be no call for a return to peacekeeping.  That time is past.  It’s 2016.

Airships and Canada

There’s a certain attraction to these huge airships.  That attraction has both historical and current aspects.  Reading articles and viewing photos about airships, one wonders whether modern engineering and technology will allow for their general re-introduction and practical employment.  Could a suitably built airship serve in the Canadian Arctic as a transport or surveillance platform?  Lots of challenges in that inhospitable environment, and not just in the air.

Apparently the Royal Canadian Air Force recently had an aerostat capability (there’s a language there, of balloons, blimps, zeppelins and airships, that needs to be understood), believed to have been one of the Canadian Armed Forces’ surveillance systems in Afghanistan.  What happened to it?  Aerostats do show up in current RCAF thinking and writing, see the Air Force’s “Arctic Alternative Futures” and Defence Research & Development Canada’s “Air S&T Strategic Road Map Methodology.”

Comments on:
Airlander 10: Aircraft leaves hangar for first time
Airlander 10: is this the dawning of a new age of the airship?”
The Airlander 10, the world’s largest aircraft, nicknamed the ‘flying bum,’ takes off for the first time

RCAF Aircraft Colour Schemes

A recent photo of Canadian soldiers embarking in a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-150 Polaris transport aircraft is interesting for the colour scheme of the aircraft.  It appears the aircraft is painted for government use and not in the usual RCAF colours.  Interest is piqued what with the soldiers flying into an area of operations in an aircraft with non-tactical colours.

Polaris CC-15001 (note 1) received that colour scheme a few years ago when it went in for scheduled heavy maintenance (the RCAF’s blue is a different pantone from that of the then-Government, something that has had to be repeatedly stressed).  Jim Belliveau, graphic designer for 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron, 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, was the creator of the inspired design.  (For more about Jim Belliveau, see “High-flying design.”)

Whilst 01 was the aircraft intended to be used for high-profile flights (Governor-General, Head of Government, trade missions), it was made clear that 01 was still a RCAF transport.  And its first mission in fact was to fly Forces soldiers off on a deployment, just as pictured here.

As an aside, the term ‘livery’ is used in connection with civilian aircraft and airlines, and largely by UK-based aviation magazines.  In North America and for RCAF aircraft, the term ‘colours’ is more widely used.

Note 1: An aircraft of the RCAF is type designated with two letters indicting primary role (CC = Canadian transport [‘cargo’]), three numerals for the specific type of aircraft (150 = the Airbus A310 in RCAF service), and two or three numerals for the particular aircraft.

Comment on “Western Canadian soldiers relieve Quebec-based counterparts on Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine.”

Further, 9 August 2016: RCAF staff have brought attention to “The True North Strong and Free – New Look for the RCAF’s CC-150 Polaris Aircraft 15001.”

Multi-national Tank Programs

Multi-national tank programs have a rocky history.  A previous attempt, the US-German MBT-70 had all the qualities of a committee tank in that it was overpriced and delayed due to various problems caused by its revolutionary design (F-35 anyone?).  The entire crew was housed in the turret and as a result the driver became nauseous and the 152mm gun did not function as designed.  When the Germans pulled out they went on to develop the Leopard 2, and the Americans developed the M1.  The Israelis had been hoping to buy the MBT-70 but instead created the Merkava.

It will be interesting to watch the Franco-Polish-German program.  The Leopard is serving the Canadian Forces well, and there does not appear to be any reporting of a replacement in the Forces’ capital program, or any speculation on need of a replacement.  Besides any lessons from the multi-national programs, the main lesson, emphasized in the last decade or so, is to bear in mind the necessity of retaining a tank capability in the Canadian Army as part of being a balanced combat-capable force.

Comment on the article “Franco-Polish-German Tank

Holding on to Older Aircraft

Comment on article “Air Force works to keep older planes in air longer”

Sadly, the situation the United States Air Force finds itself in is due to a number of factors.

First is the national debt which climbed from 9 trillion dollars in 2009 to 19 trillion today. The result was the closing down of the F-22 Raptor fighter production line, the elimination of numerous fighter wings, reducing the force from 42 to 26 wings, and no plans to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft and other role specific aircraft.

Second was the sequestration implementation by the Obama government which drastically reduced operational readiness, training and needed upgrades.

Finally, for the past 15 years, combat operations and indeed logistic resupply et al have been conducted without an enemy air force threat of any kind. Complacency resulting from these postponed the need for forward thinking and for pursuing a doctrine of future air dominance should a real air war take place against a high tech enemy. The last minimal threat faced by the USAF was the Kosovo air war, and they faced a third rate enemy.

Overhauling and updating the current older aircraft will not stand the rigours of facing a determined enemy with fifth generation fighters with a significant inventory, e.g., the Russian federation and the Chinese.

The F-22 production line be reopened at the expense of futile upgrades and there should be a push ahead with all three versions of the F-35 Lightning II fighter for all three services. And more fighter wings and squadrons should be re-established with the additional aircraft.

There is a lesson to Canada here is that continual upgrades for an ancient airframe (the CF-188 Hornet) will not enable our pilots to fight and win the next war.

Large Guns in Frigates

The United Kingdom Royal Navy sees the utility of procuring a large gun (5″ or 127mm) for their future frigates. It is evidently for naval fire support ( = shooting at targets ashore). There is a point there for Canada and procurement of the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC), a globally-deployable general-purpose frigate (though the Royal Canadian navy has not announced the ship type as such). A big gun would provide more options in situations short of major combat at sea for naval commanders and for national decision makers. It is much preferable to put a few kilos of explosive into a situation rather than one of a limited number of large missiles carried onboard. It can be hoped that whatever proposal is made by industry for the CSC includes such a gun.

Undersea Warfare for the 21st Century

In response to: CIMSEC July 22, 2016 – Putting It Back Together Again: European Undersea Warfare for the 21st Century

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) used to be very good at theatre and local anti-submarine warfare (ASW). How they rate now is not going to be something available to the general public, as ASW is one of the very classified areas of defence. The Canadian public will see how good the RCN and RCAF are these days if and when there are public reports of submarines off our shores including the Arctic. ASW was and remains a high end capability that Canada can contribute to our alliances, especially now that there seem to be more frequent not-friendly submarine deployments in the sea approaches to Canada. It will be interesting to see what mention ASW gets in the outputs from the current defence policy review.

Fighters and Bombers with No Pilots?

A good article, The Future of Warfare: Fighters and Bombers with No Pilots?

Unmanned fighters and bombers will come sooner rather than later. The US Navy will first have an unmanned refueling aircraft and that will lead the way forward. The nature and use of unmanned systems in the Canadian Armed Forces, other Canadian federal departments, and indeed all of Canada needs a lot more attention.

Naval Expeditionary Forces

Response to:  Navy Expeditionary Forces Providing Expeditionary Capabilities and Training during RIMPAC 2016

It is often underappreciated that a mark of a global navy is not just the number and type of major combatants in that navy’s fleet, but the variety and capabilities of specialized units within the navy itself.

The United States Navy’s Expeditionary Forces are an example of the tremendous range of capabilities the US can contribute to a situation whether it be humanitarian assistance/disaster response or combat. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) can only offer the Canadian government more limited options. The RCN does have, though, resources such as divers and small boats units in addition to frigates and submarines, and it is great to read that these are participating in such a major exercise as RIMPAC from which they will come back with valuable experiences.


The laying of the keel of a ship is one of the significant dates in that ship’s life.1 The date in effect marks the birth of the ship. It has been years since there was a keel laid for a ship of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The keel for what became Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Summerside was laid 28 March 1998. Now, on 9 June 2016, the keel was laid for what will become HMCS Harry DeWolf, first of the patrol ships of the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) project.2 This event was the first of a number of traditional naval ceremonies in the coming years as the RCN obtains ships under the National Shipbuilding Strategy

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