Tag Archives: State of the CF

US Air Force Trying to Shake, Rattle…(and note NORAD)

…and roll those aviation pots and pans, what with near (how long just near?) peers, A2/AD barriers, prolonged procurements etc. and with AI, machine learning, advanced manufacturing/digital engineering etc. top of mind. Further to this post,

Can’t See a Congress with a Chamber Controlled by Republicans Agreeing to “nationalize warfighting capabilities and the defense industrial base” of US Air Force

here’s a selection of recent pieces on the USAF’s rapidly moving efforts to reshape and revolutionize itself in a various fields to cope with emerging threats and, er, challenges. Whether or not these efforts will succeed, both within the passageways of bureaucracy (military and civil) and of Congress, is another matter. And note the matter of “mass” at the end of the post:

1) The U.S. Air Force’s New Mission: Accelerate Change or Lose?

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. is a wrecker and a builder. The new U.S. Air Force chief of staff wants to uproot post-Cold War attitudes toward air warfare—attitudes premised on everlasting U.S. air supremacy—and implant a mindset premised on competitive entrepreneurship. Can he succeed?

2) The Air and Space Forces Want to Break the Mold. Here’s How They’re Starting.

The Department of the Air Force’s top officers are beginning to lay the groundwork for changes to how they manage and provide air and space forces to commanders around the world.

In his first month as Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. has warned that the service needs to overhaul its inventory and quicken the pace of warfare, or risk falling behind other global powers.

To get after that goal, the service’s operations policy team is thinking of new ways to bring in, train, and employ Airmen for global operations, Brown said. Their findings may affect the fiscal 2022 budget request, which is due early next year, and could soon shape deployments overseas…

Proponents say combining pieces of the Air Force make Airmen consider how various fields connect and how they could affect or bolster each other in combat. Brown has foreshadowed hard decisions ahead to cut certain aircraft and other parts of the force. He wants to focus on what’s most valuable for fights against digitally savvy, advanced militaries like Russia and China, like smarter sustainment, technology-driven training, and evolutions in unmanned aircraft, artificial intelligence, and networking…

3) AI To Fly In Dogfight Tests By 2024: SecDef

After an AI beat humans 5-0 in AlphaDogfight simulations this summer, [secdef] Mark Esper announced, a future version will be installed in actual airplanes for “a real-world competition.” But military AI will adhere to strict ethical limits, he said.

4) Could the F-15EX Transform the U.S. Defense Industry?

…interesting…is the idea that the F-15EX may offer a pathway into the Digital Century Series (DCS). To review, the Century Series concept (associated most notably with Air Force chief of acquisition Wil Roper) involves designing and building an evolutionary set of airframes in small batches with open-source architecture. Roper has embraced the “Century Series” metaphor…

In the DCS concept, digital engineering technologies would allow the separation of production and design, while the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies would remedy some of the problems associated with the multiplication of spares and maintenance procedures. More importantly, the system would enable to continuous integration of new technologies into new airframes, as opposed to the much slower process necessitated by the precise requirements of stealth airframes. Thus, the “Digital Century Series” represents an entirely new way of thinking about aircraft acquisition, and indeed could lead to a substantial restructuring of the US aerospace industry…

5) New Air Combat Commander Kelly Wants AI ASAP

“We absorb more data that we can process, that’s just a non-negotiable fact,” says Gen. Mark Kelly.

6) Air Force To Train ‘Lead Wings’ For Major Wars; First Test Next Month

Instead of sending individual squadrons to the Middle East, the newly created 15th Air Force wants to train entire wings together for rapid deployment against Russia, China and other “near peers.”

7) The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet

The development is certain to shock the defense community, which last saw the first flight of an experimental fighter during the battle for the Joint Strike Fighter contract 20 years ago. With the Air Force’s future fighter program still in its infancy, the rollout and successful first flight of a demonstrator was not expected for years.

“We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it,” Will Roper told Defense News in an exclusive interview ahead of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference. “We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”

Almost every detail about the aircraft itself will remain a mystery due to the classification of the Next Generation Air Dominance program, the Air Force’s effort for fielding a family of connected air warfare systems that could include fighters, drones and other networked platforms in space or the cyber realm…

8) Secret NGAD Fighter Flies, Sets Records, Raises Lot Of Questions

“All I can say is that the NGAD test flights have been amazing — records have been broken,” Will Roper says.

Air Force acquisition czar Will Roper revealed today that the service has built a full-scale prototype now in flight testing under the highly classified Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program —  raising myriad questions about future force structure and potential impacts on the five-year budget plan beginning in 2022…

UPPERDATE: See third comment, from an important article on USAF’s NGAD project at The Drive‘s “War Zone”.

Meanwhile on the NORAD front:

1) Beyond the North Warning System

Andrea Charron [tweets here]

Aug. 18 marked the 80th anniversary of the Canadian-U.S. Permanent Joint Board on Defense. This binational board of experts provides advice to the prime minister and president on how best to defend North America. The pressing topic today is North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) modernization and the renewal of its aged radar sensors in the Arctic.

The North Warning System, a series of unmanned, long- and short-range radars dotting the North American Arctic and Greenland in support of air defense and frontier control, is reaching its end of serviceable life. The American and Canadian defense industries are racing for a chance to provide both militaries with the latest technology to replace the old radars. But to what ends? More sensors are not the magic solution to “modernizing” NORAD. Sensors are but one very small part of a wider effort to reconsider what it means to defend North America — beyond technology and the North Warning System…

Washington and Ottawa are rethinking how to defend North America. Adversaries, especially Russia, have access to advanced technologies and capabilities and can strike from multiple directions. The United States and Canada need to focus on increasing “all-domain” awareness, improving command and control, and enhancing targeting capabilities for a new security environment and peer adversaries. Upgrading the North Warning System exclusively in a NORAD context is not sufficient. Canada and the United States need new sensors capable of dual-use data and information collection for military and civilian government agencies and allies in multiple domains including land, space, maritime, and subsurface zones, in addition to the aerospace domain. And these sensors — which will be subject to probing, denial of service, and cyber attacks — are but one layer in an ecosystem (beyond even system of systems) informed by a reconsideration of what it means to defend North America. Canada and the United States should embrace a posture that includes active and direct defenses (i.e., anticipating attacks by pooling and analyzing multiple sources of data from a variety of sources and systems at much longer ranges vs. responding to attacks via system-specific information) of North America. This will enable the simultaneous deterrence from attack and defense of North America rather than simply the latter.

The impetus for the creation of NORAD and for the North Warning System was the recognition that the Canadian and continental U.S. airspace were functionally indivisible. They still are, but so too are the other domains. NORAD, however, operates in the aerospace domain and only warns in the maritime domain. New systems need to provide information and data that can be analyzed through what the outgoing NORAD and U.S. Northern Command commander Gen. O’Shaugnessy called “predictive analysis.”

Governments and industry are focusing too narrowly on technology and a North Warning System 2.0 as the solution to modernize NORAD. What is more, the dependence on technical solutions from the defense industry to provide solutions may contribute to confining modernization efforts to the North Warning System only, at the expense of a more strategic overview of what it means to defend North America globally…

2) NORAD Modernization: Report One: Awareness & Sensors

NORAD’s defences are challenged by advanced new weapons like hypersonic glide vehicles.  These new weapons have proliferated across all military domains, designed to threaten North America and place its political autonomy and financial stability at risk. North American homeland defence needs to modernize to meet these new threats. A major component of this new thinking is the development of All Domain Awareness capabilities provided by a multi-layered sensor system (an ecosystem) that can detect, identify, and track these and other new threats at great distances and provide the right information to the right assets at the right time.

High financial costs and tight timelines are major obstacles to NORAD implementing an All Domain Awareness capability. These factors necessitate an approach to All Domain Awareness that emphasizes the technological readiness levels of industry. What ‘off the shelf’ technology is available that can be modified and brought to bear quickly?

Experts from across the defence industry elaborated on the design of the multi-layered sensor system that will enable a future All Domain Awareness capability. Sensors should be multi-mission, able to detect, identify, and track more than one threat from “birth to death”. These sensors should be modular, scalable, and software-defined with an open architecture for quick adaptability and upgradability. Throughout the discussions, the need to integrate these multi-layered sensors into a holistic system was emphasized. The goal is to create All Domain Awareness that seamlessly converges with renewed Command and Control (C2) and defeat capabilities to enable NORAD’s deter, detect, and defeat mission.

Many decisions have yet to be made that will drive the design of the multi-layered sensor system.  Where should these sensors be placed that provides the best coverage? Furthermore, the data this system provides will be valuable and could be partly shared with allies and industry. How can industry ensure the integrity of this data? Lastly, where and how does human decision-making come into a largely autonomous system…

3) Hardening the Shield: A Credible Deterrent & Capable Defense for North America

With innovations in long range missiles and foreign missile defense systems as well as a changing Arctic landscape, threats to U.S. national security are closer and less deterred than ever from attacking the U.S. Homeland. Without compromising fiscal resources set for alleviating the COVID-19 crisis [USAF Gen. (ret’d), O’Shaughnessy and [USAF Brig. Gen.] Fesler lay out where enemy forces, notably China and Russia, are targeting weaknesses in U.S. Homeland defense and how U.S. defense strategies and organizations can be adapted to match the muscle of its offensive force. Their recommendations include the use of existing technologies to elevate equipment, data collection from space systems, data analytics for decision making, augmented communication between certain defensive lines, and cross-cutting collaboration on shared challenges. Retiring from his post in August of 2020, O’Shaughnessy is the former Commander of the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). O’Shaughnessy is joined by Peter Fesler, NORAD’s Deputy Director of Operations…

UPDATE: Andrea Charron responds to the Shield paper above, raising a number of concerns from a Canadian perspective–her conclusion:

Finally, there is much emphasis on the paper on receiving information “at the speed of relevancy” to make fast and better decisions. After all, seconds literally do count in some scenarios. On many occasions, however, disaster has been averted because a soldier or analyst doubted what a computer screen was telling him/her or questioned the data blinking on their screen. What if NORAD wanted to exploit or surveil or probe a target rather than defeat it? The AI assisted processes that girds SHIELD is needed but how it is configured, with what OODA loop parameters (i.e. observe–orient–decide–act), and filters will be crucial. It is important that NORAD and USNORTHCOM do not become linear in thinking or response options. Further, Canada will find it difficult to keep up the predictive analysis and joint all domain command and control plans being recommended not because the Canadian armed forces aren’t capable but because it can barely manage what is expected of it now–50% of CAF missions respond to domestic events such as floods and fire. Will the governments see financial sense in investing in computer assisted defence (notwithstanding concerns about them being hacked or compromised or rendered redundant) against great power competition, which so far has done more damage with a few bots on twitter, than on flood, fire and other support to overwhelmed national authorities?

Nineteen years to the day when the U.S. was attacked from within North America by suicide bombers, the response was very costly wars conducted “away” to deal with terrorism at its source as well as the impetus finally to pay for badly needed feeds of civilian air space information into the NORAD HQ. NORAD adapted, created Op NOBLE EAGLE [story from 2005 here, still going on], and focused attention within North America. Post 9/11, NORAD and USNORTHCOM focused almost exclusively on Sunni-based terrorism. It has not disappeared and the challenges of COVID mean that all forms of terrorism have the perfect grounds in which to thrive. Too close a focus on great power competition may leave North America vulnerable to other threats –especially non-state based actors and what is rapidly taxing governments around the world, including CJOC [Canadian Joint Operations Command] and USNORTHCOM, responding to the effects of climate change at home.

NORAD was and remains a bold idea. After WW II, it was the air forces that recognized the air space above North America as indivisible and requiring joint defence, and this recognition has been deeply embedded in the defence thinking of both countries at the political and military levels. I think we all agree that the need to modernize NORAD, and that the CANUS defence relationship for North America is vitally important. The authors provide a useful and insightful starting point from which to move forward with detailed discussions between Canada and the US, and the means to do so already exists –the PJBD [the binational Permanent Joint Board on Defence] and its Military Cooperation Committee are the obvious places to create the basis for moving forward, as it was in WWII and since.

Moreover, despite all the anticipated techno-wizardry now in the pipeline and yet to come, keep in mind that mass still matters–David Alman (tweets here) and Heather Venable (tweets here) make their case:

Bending the Principle of Mass: Why That Approach No Longer Works for Airpower

It is one of warfare’s oldest questions: What is mass, and what advantages accrue from sheer numbers? The concept has variously been defined as being about “the superiority of numbers,” or “concentrating the effects of combat power.”

While commanders often desire numerical superiority over their adversaries, they are not always able to achieve it. Instead, commanders use methods such as maneuver to achieve a local superiority in combat power. Maneuver is just one of many ways commanders attempt to artificially inflate the mass of their forces. Others include improving command and control, enhancing lethality, and seeking to possess better information than their opponents. All of these methods can allow assets to contribute relatively more to a fight, thereby potentially offsetting a requirement for mass. Over the past 50 years, the United States has progressively placed more emphasis on artificial mass — command and control, lethality, and superior information — as a substitute for actual mass.

A critical question, however, is what happens when an adversary combines these measures with actual mass? If both sides are lethal, networked, and effectively commanded, then what factors determine who has the advantage? As Lawrence Freedman argues, the “sensible application of superior resources tends to be successful.”

As a result, this question is becoming increasingly relevant for the Department of Defense as a whole. After decades of either a qualitative and/or quantitative advantage against likely opponents, it is now facing a massive buildup of increasingly modern Chinese forces. Just weeks ago, China announced that its fifth-generation fighter, the J-20 Mighty Dragon, would be entering mass production. How will the United States fare if faced with modernized mass?

The Department of Defense, and more specifically the U.S. Air Force, should evaluate its definition of mass in the context of future air warfare. While relying on numbers alone is too simplistic, Air Force leaders should recognize the importance of having sufficient numbers to fight, take losses, and continue to provide relevant capabilities to combatant commanders. The geography and threats in the Indo-Pacific necessitate hard thinking about requirements such as range, basing considerations, and survivability. Thus, for example, it is not enough to merely have numbers of short-range systems if the region demands longer range. Similarly, it is not enough to build attritable systems hoping the adversary will expend resources combating them. Adversaries will attempt to target all elements of American airpower. The Air Force should lead the Department of Defense in thinking through the implications of peer conflict — namely, that artificial advantages in mass may no longer be sufficient and that real numbers might be required to sustain a war effort within an anti-access/area denial bubble…

Let’s face it. The USAF, along with the US Navy and US Marines, are facing increasingly sticky wickets, especially in the Western Pacific. But they are giving furiously to think about their predicaments (see links at preceding sentence).

One wonders how much thinking the Canadian Armed Forces, notably the RCAF, are able to do, especially under the inevitable COVID-19 budget pressures coming. And under a government that seemingly has no serious interest in the substance of defence matters. See this post: “COVID-19 Facing the Canadian Government and Military with Major Decisions on Force Structures, Employment and Equipment–how Radical a Re-Shape?“.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme song:

What are the British Military for in the coming World (Dis?)Order? What do They Need to do it? And the Canadian Armed Forces?

Further to this post based on a piece by Sir Humphrey,

Whither the British Military, Part 2? And the Canadian?

excerpts from another post at Thin Pinstriped Line that, to my mind, have great relevance to the Canadian military as we move along in the world begat by COVID-19:

Defence in the Round – Thoughts on the Integrated Review

…it is interesting to spot that the MOD has issued a surprisingly defensive press release talking about how the Secretary of State for Defence has held an away day to discuss the preparation for the forthcoming Integrated Review and wider comprehensive spending review due to be held this year [see from April: “UK hits pause on defense review due to coronavirus“].

It seems likely that it is leaks from this meeting (sorry, background briefing) that have helped shape some of the articles emerging today as the Armed Forces attempt to build popular support to shield them from potentially difficult cuts. But, Humphrey is actually incredibly sympathetic to the argument of asking some very deep and probing questions about what it is that the Armed Forces do, and whether things could, or should, be done differently…

There is perhaps a regular inferred negativity about the state of the modern armed forces – every conversation that is had on capability often seems to stray into a well worn rut of ‘isn’t it depressing, when I joined we had X of this, and at least twice the headcount’ – people perceive the debate about defence not as one of saying ‘what is it that the armed forces are here to do today’ but instead look back at times gone by and wonder why there is so much less.

The debate has become stuck on being framed around capabilities and numbers and not roles. When the Navy is worried about funding, it leaks about losing carriers, or the Army will threaten the lose of Battalions or tanks. There seems to be a perpetual fear of less money meaning less kit, but not a sense of having a deep discussion about what does this change for what Defence can contribute to UK national security objectives?..

Instead of seeing a sensible debate openly around where UK interests lie, what benefits are gained from one approach or the merits of it over another – for example the discussion around whether UK interests lie in defending Eastern Europe via NATO or a more global role as peacemaker / enforcer, there instead seems to be a sense of going ‘we matter less if we do these cuts because we have less of the people and kit’ without asking whether there is actually any UK interest in us mattering in the first place…

What is needed is perhaps some genuinely honest and painful discussions about why we have the armed forces that we do, and move to actually remodel them in a way that is best for our national security needs.

If you were creating the British Armed Forces today, you would not end up with either the organisation or real estate that it currently has…

We have to work with the hand we’ve been dealt, but is the discussion on defence planning going to focus on retaining what we have, accepting that what exists isn’t the answer necessarily to every problem, or walking away and reinvesting in new areas?

The challenge for the military is that as threats evolve and grow, they move increasingly into murky domains where it is much harder to spot a direct military role or organisation. For all the focus on cyber warfare, the armed forces have yet to really embrace this in a way that is effective – there has been much talk of cyber forces, but little in the way of action.

Notwithstanding the suggestions around the importance of the Law of Armed Conflict when it applies to cyber warfare, there is perhaps a sense that cyber is seen as a difficult sell because it breaks the existing career models, needing people who are not necessarily natural officers and leaders, and it needs talent that is not necessarily drawn to a career in a structured and disciplined military.

[As for the Canadian military and cyber, an excerpt from a news story, “CAF has only recently received approval to engage in active and offensive operations at scale (though specialized activity has been present for years)” and an official CAF careers webpage: “Cyber Operator Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time: Cyber Operators conduct defensive cyber operations, and when required and where feasible, active cyber operations.”]

At the same time, pushing the case for cyber is hard because it isn’t something tangible that you can design a uniform for or put on an ORBAT. Saying we have invested in cyber means investment in infrastructure like PCs, not investing in easily quantifiable metrics like more tanks or planes. For Defence the challenge ahead is to show that it is the right organisation with the right mixture of skills and people to solve these sorts of challenges, and that its force structure accurately matches the needs of national security now and for the future.

This will require a narrative shift away from talking about assets and numbers and instead focusing on outputs. It requires talking about Defence as an enabler that solves strategic challenges by providing a variety of options, and not about Defence as a long list of equipment in search of a mission.

It also requires an explanation that reducing capability in some areas does not threaten national security – rather it requires a more adult explanation that national security is about trade offs, and reducing in one area allows uplifts in another, and setting out the overall benefits gained from the decision…

One has to hope that the Integrated Review genuinely means an integrated review. It hopefully means that the discussion reaches above that of force structures into a wider discussion around what it is that the British Armed Forces bring, and what they no longer need to do in such a way that we can set the stage for the next 20-30 years of operations.

The worst possible outcome for Defence is that more of the same continues – that there is a lack of tough decisions taken on stepping back from roles, that the budget continues to fail to balance, and that salami slicing on the pretence of doing a little bit of everything continues rather than radical reinvention and change to survive.

The next few months will be critical, for they mark a real chance to have a genuine debate about what role armed force plays in the security needs of a globally focused 21st century power, and whether these forces are properly configured to handle the tasks ahead…

Now have a look at this recent post of mine and consider the proposals at the end:

Covid-19 Facing the Canadian Government and Military with Major Decisions on Force Structures, Employment and Equipment–how Radical a Re-Shape?

I fear the CAF may over time be turned into services whose main mission is domestic response to emergencies of various sorts (cf. RCAF SAR) with actual mlitary/defence capabilities a distant concern. A few specific thoughts to stimulate discussion…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

COVID-19 Facing the Canadian Government and Military with Major Decisions on Force Structures, Employment and Equipment–how Radical a Re-Shape?

Further to this post,

COVID-19 may well be the End of the Canadian Armed Forces as we have Known them…and of our Effective Sovereignty

here’s the latter part of a most thoughtful article at the Canadian magazine FrontLine Defence; with the certain funding crunch coming it seems clear that without an unprecedented for decades revamp of the Canadian Armed Forces they will become an increasingly ineffective, irrelevant military:

Getting ahead of COVID defence curve

….

Inconvenient truths…

Are there things that practitioners of strategic thought in Canada have long suspected, but seldom articulated in defence white papers? Does defence policy ever give voice to ruminations on, for example, the relative importance of the three principle tasks of the CAF: the defence of Canada, of North America, and contributions to broader international peace and security? One suspects not, as such might pose uncomfortable questions regarding the form and function of Canada’s military. It has been the ambition of successive governments to play, or seen to be playing an out-sized role on the international stage (the last of the principle tasks). It has been the preference of the military to retain a general-purpose structure, both as a way of adhering to policy but also as a matter of self-definition as a fighting force. But what if policy direction, propelled by resource scarcity, makes that less viable going forward? 

However harshly Canada is judged for its parsimony regarding United Nations peacekeeping or its non-adherence to NATO’s spending goals, these are clearly less important to Canadian voters and their governments than whether a major civil or military call close to home can be effectively answered. For decades, the political class has successfully endured whatever reputational damage has resulted from being viewed as an ‘easy rider’ on the allied defence bandwagon. Like it or not, herein lies the basis of a distinction between defence tasks that are compulsory and those that are discretionary [emphasis added].

While Canada has been content to pool its (modest) resources in coalitions of the willing acting externally, it must to be able to act unilaterally in its own backyard – if for no other reason than mission failure or inaction at home could be more consequential for citizens and their governments than mission failure/inaction abroad. Canada has been steadfast in support of allied causes. But neither the costly stalemate in Afghanistan, the unintended consequences of the 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya (leading to that country’s violent dissolution), nor Canada’s ignominious withdrawal from the UN operation in Mali after only six months have provoked public backlash or dented government poll numbers. The mission to bolster deterrence in Latvia was undertaken as a matter of alliance management rather than perception of a clear and/or imminent threat to Canada from a revanchist Russia. To a large extent, Canadians acquiesce to these commitments and tolerate their shortcomings (if any) because they instinctively know them to be of second- or third-order importance. They also know themselves to be largely insulated from their effects.

Outside a general war between great powers, it is unclear how much and what types of instability abroad will demonstrably perturb the physical security of Canadians. (Even participation in major regional conflicts are apt to fall somewhere within the ‘discretionary’ category.) Being concerned or offended by goings-on elsewhere is not the same thing as being materially affected. In contrast, government powerlessness in the face of a pandemic, natural disaster, terrorist attack, or repeated/prolonged incursions by others into sovereign territory will be ruthlessly scrutinized and may be severely punished come election time [emphasis added]

This is not an argument for an exclusive focus on national/continental security. One can accept that some instances of instability abroad may sufficiently agitate Canadians to spur them to action. The point is that along the continuum of ambition/engagement, one can also envision a ‘restrained’ or ‘focused’ internationalism which does not amount to either rigid continentalism or inward-looking nationalism. Canada can continue to look outward, actively favouring an international order that conforms to its interests and values while being more selective in how, when, and where it engages militarily [emphasis added].

To a great extent, Canada already practices such restraint. The funding goals articulated in SSE [“Strong, Secure, Engaged“–the Trudeau government’s 2017 defence review that was essentially a shopping list with major planned funding, largely back-loaded, attached] amount to an explicit rejection of NATO’s target of two per cent of gross domestic product devoted to defence. However much (or little) Canadians see their military as a tool of statecraft, they seem quite content that this particular tool will remain, to borrow Teddy Roosevelt’s metaphor, modest-sized stick.

…and their implications

A cursory review of successive Canadian defence policies reveals a high degree of continuity regarding the main tasks of the Canadian Armed Forces. The security of Canada, and then of North America, tops the list, with overseas contingency operations coming in behind. This is for good reason, as the political consequences of crises close to home will typically be felt more acutely than those happening at a distance. To be sure, not every crisis can be held at bay, and Canada may feel compelled to lend a hand abroad if government perceives that vital interests are at stake. But, with national/neighbourhood security and defence consistently ranked so highly by successive governments, it stands to reason that the tasks and capabilities required to carry them out should have first call on resources [emphasis added].

Canada’s geographical position is favourable, being physically isolated from pockets of persistent instability manifested by war, refugee flows, etc. Other security threats – such as disease, terrorism, and adversary information operations – easily transcend borders and the CAF will clearly have some role in addressing these. Yet military threats to Canada and North America – the rasion d’etre of the CAF – are arguably more circumscribed.

Capable state adversaries have the ability to reach Canada/North America by sea, air and through cyber space. Navies are mobile and can bring to bear weapons with strategic range and precision effects. Aerospace forces have the same, while information warriors can reach across oceans without leaving their desks. New technologies – including hypersonic weapons – pose significant challenges to continental defence by virtue of their speed and manoeuvrability. The technologies required to detect hypersonic missiles, and give defenders adequate time to classify the threat and respond, have not yet been invented. (It is a statement against the thoroughness of SSE that hypersonics were not even mentioned as a strategic game-changer [emphasis added, lots more on hypersonics here].)

By contrast, Canada faces no conventional terrestrial threat. No potential, capable state adversary has designs on any part of the Canadian land mass. Serious ground combat within Canada (or North America) is unrealistic – not least due to the vast distances that must be overcome by an attacker. It may therefore be argued that much of Canada’s highly professional army is trained and equipped not for national or continental defence, but for overseas contingency operations [emphasis added]. While few would argue with the need to maintain at least a residual ground combat capability as a measure of national will, much of the current army is of scant relevance to the military threats that are likely to directly befall the homeland. Therefore, an argument can be made that greater prioritization of the ‘home game’ – both as a matter of strategic logic and as a response to Canada’s expected financial position – means de-prioritization of the ‘away game’.

Rubber, meet Road

If defence austerity returns in the short-to-medium term and capability reductions are required, Canada may be wise to consider sacrificing capabilities that do not conform to the nation’s highest policy priorities. Cuts should not fall symmetrically on all branches of the CAF. However painful it might be to regiments and cap badges, and however untimely given the billions of dollars spent on re-capitalizing the army’s combat vehicle fleets in recent years, significant de-funding of the Regular land force may be required in order to preserve protection against the military capabilities than can actually reach Canada and North America [emphasis added]. This is certainly not an argument for the disbanding of the Canadian Army. Rather, it is to question the necessity of its current size and/or configuration, as well as its ability to deliver on concurrent overseas operations.

The emphasis the army places on mechanized forces – with all their re-capitalization, maintenance, and power-projection challenges – needs to be reconsidered in the context of a resource-constrained and more homeward-focused defence effort. A reduction in size of the Regular force’s combat arms, coupled with an inversion of the current structure, should be explored. Lighter forces, with only a small core of mechanized troops (if any), would lessen financial burdens over the medium-to-long term while still giving Canada options for dealing with some overseas contingencies, including combat against a capable adversary [emphasis added–really?]. By virtue of their relevance to both domestic and international tasks, combat support/service support units would be less affected.

The Royal Canadian Air Force brings to bear a variety of capabilities germane to territorial protection and assistance to civil partners. Aerospace protection, domain awareness, transport, support to maritime security, and search-and-rescue make for a largely unchanging mandate. Yet even here the government may have to re-consider its ambitions. The announcement in SSE that the ageing CF-18 would be replaced by 88 new fighter aircraft, enabling Canada to undertake domestic and foreign operations simultaneously, may have to be re-scoped in the face of budgetary austerity.

While Canada has asked bidders to quote prices for 88 airframes, this may be in excess of both what is affordable and what is necessary for a more restrained defence effort. Re-visiting the requirement for concurrent fighter operations – something that was pointedly not substantiated in SSE – may allow a reduction in the number of aircraft needed [emphasis added, i.e. for both NORAD and NATO roles, latter being largely abandoned], with both short- and longer-term savings in capital, operations and maintenance demanded by the government

The Royal Canadian Navy has shown its versatility in responding to transitional and non-traditional security threats, but may also have to give ground in the battle to restore public finances. This may not be an entirely unwelcome prospect. The $60-billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project promises to begin delivering 15 frigates to the RCN toward the end of this decade. Yet no contract for the construction of the ships has yet been signed, and it is unclear if the government, faced with the political optics of such a large outlay for defence, will proceed as originally anticipated.

On one side, there are powerful political and industrial constituencies that wish the CSC project to move forward. On the other, there are pre-existing obligations to purchase and crew the forthcoming Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and Joint Support Ship (JSS), both of which are under construction. (AOPS is, if anything, a symbol of government commitment to playing the ‘home game’ better.) In addition, the RCN continues to face recruiting and retention challenges, with sailors in the technical trades constantly being lured away by private industry.

The price of the CSC program, combined with policy direction that favours operations closer to home, may provide a way of reconciling these various challenges. A truncated program of 12-13 frigates may indeed drive up unit costs. The navy would have to adjust its ambitions, eschewing presence in the most distant oceans, sending single ships on international deployments, and deploying the multi-ship task group only in extremis [emphasis added]. However, such a move is likely to reduce overall project costs, satisfying the Treasury’s desire for post-COVID financial concessions, while sending a message to Canadians that the armed forces are sharing in the task of restoring public finances. The RCN to would maintain a credible and sustainable combat capability while fulfilling the need to crew other classes of vessels coming into service.

Even as it restrains the re-capitalization of major fleets and re-directs the force development effort in the manner outlined above, the CAF could still generate other leading-edge capabilities (such as cyber operators, special forces) to deal with non-traditional security challenges at home and abroad [emphasis added].

Crisis or opportunity?

Although COVID-19 is an unexpected development, its probable financial effects only accentuate the need for Canada to come to grips with questions that SSE did not resolve – namely what Canada and its armed forces must do versus what government would like to be able to do.

The perennial challenge of reconciling ambitions with resources, distinguishing the compulsory from the discretionary, has been put into sharper focus by the effects of a global pandemic [emphasis added]. If history is any indication, a financial reckoning will soon be at hand.

To master this situation, government needs to be clearer on where and to what degree threats to Canada manifest themselves, and prioritize finite resources accordingly. To be sure, Canada has interests far beyond its borders. However, a rigorous examination and ranking of these should help separate the metaphorical wheat from the chaff, resulting in realistic and aligned foreign and national security policies, as well as a defence policy that is focused, coherent and achievable.

Priority should be given to threats that would bring greatest distress to Canadians. The author suggests that these will tend to manifest themselves closer to home. Yet even a re-focused defence effort would still generate useful, if reduced, capabilities in support of Canada’s allies further afield.

Therefore, in expectation that COVID-19 mitigation programs, along with broader global economic stress, will put unsustainable burdens on the Treasury and, by extension, on the defence budget, the Government of Canada should:

*Identify, through rigorous and iterative analysis, those core interests which require a military response, recognizing the primacy of threats that can reach close to home; publicize these in an integrated foreign and domestic security policy document within 12 months;

*Re-evaluate the ambitions articulated in Strong, Secure, Engaged based on the findings above;

*Allow for asymmetric development of the Regular Force, prioritizing capabilities that block the most likely avenues of attack on Canada:

*Restrain any inclination by DND/CAF to raid the readiness account to preserve capability that the new policy orientation does not call for;

*Accept that the involuntary separation of some personnel from the CAF will be necessary [emphasis added].

All this may seem painful to the defence establishment – particularly in the wake of SSE, which pledged to restore funding stability to the CAF. Yet broader national priorities must take precedence, and defence will inevitably be asked to contribute substantially to economic recovery. Meeting these challenges by simply idling personnel and mothballing equipment in the hope that ‘better days’ soon will return is a recipe for poor morale and policy failure.

If, on the other hand, COVID-19 and its effects compel decision-makers to return to the drawing board and reconsider the nation’s ambitions, distinguishing between that which must be done and that which is merely desirable, Canada’s military can be set up for success over the long term [emphasis added].

Time to get ahead of the curve and start planning. 

I fear the CAF may over time be turned into services whose main mission is domestic response to emergencies of various sorts (cf. RCAF SAR) with actual mlitary/defence capabilities a distant concern. A few specific thoughts to stimulate discussion:

1) The Army’s capital costs for equipment are much lower that those of the other services and there are currently few major procurements in view–so how much money can be saved in the near/medium term other than in personnel, training and deployment costs? But given the Canadian public’s, and hence our politicians’, aversion to any combat fatalities abroad it may be that the idea of serious expeditionary actions (Afghanistan) should be given up (see also second paragraph at 2).

2) If we give up a firm commitment to provide a small number of fighters to NATO from time to time some money will be saved. But if one wants really big RCAF savings consider this heretical idea: stop trying to defend against US help and get out of the fighter business as New Zealand did some years ago. Invite the US Air Force to set up permanent bases in Canada for NORAD missions and offer to pay for the operational and basing costs. Meanwhile, to be nice people internationally, make more use of RCAF transports and helicopters to work with UN peacekeeping missions and to assist NATO missions and some of those of partner coalitions.

But if getting out of fighters is a jet bridge too far, how about this? Procure enough capable fighters to carry out the NORAD mission with effectiveness. At the same time reduce the Army essentially to a reserve/ militia force for domestic emergencies, with a much reduced regular army (e.g. three infantry battalions rather than nine?). Those regulars would provide, along with special forces, a very limited overseas deployment capability for presence and minimal combat missions, along with equipment, logistics, communications etc. for domestic operations. On the other hand who would want to join such a regular army?

3) The RCN has about half of its main surface assets (twelve frigates, twelve small coastal defence vessels) and of its four submarines based on the west coast. Why other than the politics of bases? What adversaries are they actually likely to engage with, especially in the Eastern Pacific? Is being able to show the flag in the Western Pacific that important? Canada has no alliance commitments there.

Meanwhile there is a resurgent threat from Russian submarines in the North Atlantic that our Navy won’t even talk about (see this post: “Subs and Russian Nuclear Weapons Doctrine, Note Cruise Missiles“). So move at least half the six west coast frigates to Halifax along with both the subs (leave the coastal defence vessels in British Columbia).

Then we would have a substantial force of nine frigates for NATO anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the RCN’s primary focus during the Cold War, together with four subs though heaven knows how many will ever be operational at one time. The Alliance and the US would welcome that shift (and NORAD which has had maritime domain responsibilities for some time) as we would be making a seriously useful surface navy ASW contribution.

If only fewer than fifteen CSCs can later be afforded, keep them concentrated on the east coast unless the overall international situation has significantly altered to justify a more Pacific posture. Remember there are several capable navies in the area to face China: the USN, the Japanese (JMSDF), the Taiwanese and the Australian. Plus the Marine Nationale and the Royal Navy from time to time. Any Canadian contribution would add very little to deterrent/combat power.

In any event don’t replace our minimal fleet of four submarines when they submerge for the last time sometime in the 2030s. Replacements will be very expensive, cannot be built in Canada (no votes! votes! votes!) , and a four boat fleet simply isn’t worth it for any combat contribution it might make.

4) Finally, keep in mind that the current government has also committed effectively to replacing all the large vessels of the civilian (this government likes that) Canadian Coast Guard–which for one thing does a lot to help trade/shipping in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence river, esp. icebreaking, big Quebec attention to that. Those acquisitions will take a long time and lot of scarce capital procurement dollars–for the plans see here, here, here. The CCG’s website is here.

Your knotage may differ.

Very relevant:

Radically Re-Shaping US Marines to Take on China–e.g. no more Tanks

Whither the British Military, Part 2? And the Canadian?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Whither the British Military, Part 2? And the Canadian?

Further to this post based on piece by Julian Lindley-French (tweets here)–note pieces by Thin Pinstriped Line at end–here is the conclusion of another post at Thin Pinstriped Line that is also very relevant to the future of the Canadian Armed Forces:

The Post COVID BBQ Of Sacred Cows – Defence in a post COVID19 world

….

Working out how to define what our national security interests are, versus what can be afforded and what is credible in a post pandemic world where so much has changed will be extremely difficult. Armed forces continue to be seen as a key tool of national security, but are they going to be more difficult to use in coalition operations, and will the deployment of troops be credible in a world of restricted movement and flaky supply chains?

Perhaps the most difficult to answer question is, regardless of the risk to global security, is Defence still a priority for funding? Facing a significant recession and difficult public spending decisions, is maintaining large and capable armed forces still a priority at a time when so many other decisions need to be taken?

Or, are we approaching the point when perhaps the unthinkable is possible. If the size of the recession and change means that large parts of the UK defence industrial supply chain may be at risk of collapse anyway, have we reached a potential tipping point when large scale changes and cuts to defence spending is possible in a way not previously deemed possible?

If you no longer have an industrial base to protect in the same way, and the willpower and need to deploy large armed forces is diminished, then why not use this as an opportunity to slash defence spending, freeing up money for other more politically high priority projects?

COVID-19 has shown that the international system is changing, and this is one of those moments when it may be possible to forsee changes and decisions being taken on a scale that would never previously have been looked at. The biggest challenge facing the UK armed forces right now may be a sense that they are, for all the popular support for the concept of the armed forces, deemed far easier to cut in significant amounts now than at any time in the last 75 years.

It is not clear what the next 12-18 months hold, and it is far too early to predict what the next defence review will conclude. But it is clear that significant change is ahead, and so is turbulent times. Realistically nothing Defence does is sacred anymore, and no matter how much the armed forces will wish to protect their sacred cows from major cuts, there is no certainty that they will survive the post COVID BBQ party.Without doubt, we live in interesting times.

No kidding. As for Canada:

COVID-19 may well be the End of the Canadian Armed Forces as we have Known them…and of our Effective Sovereignty

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

“VIMY PAPER 44–COVID-19 AND THE CANADIAN ARMED FORCES: OVERVIEW, ANALYSIS, AND NEXT STEPS”

Further to this post,

Will COVID-19 Kill the Canadian Military? Its Budget, that is

here are the beginning and end of an analysis at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute that raises important questions, by Adam MacDonald and Carter Vance:

Executive Summary

Like governments and public institutions across Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have enacted a series of drastic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two primary, inter-linked but distinct objectives underpinning these moves. First, to protect its personnel and assets to preserve capability to fulfill defence duties during the pandemic. Second, and relatedly, to carve out capacity to support governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic if requested.

As unprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic is, it represents the continuation of a larger trend in terms of ever-increasing demand for CAF support to domestic emergencies. Answering these requests is perfectly reasonable, as providing assistance to civil authorities during domestic disasters or major emergencies is one of eight core missions of the CAF as outlined in the current defence policy. Furthermore, a recent poll by Ipsos, commissioned by the CDA Institute, indicates 9 out of 10 across the entire country are supportive of the CAF being called upon to assist governments in their fight against COVID-19. But such domestic demands question the organization’s’ ability to meet these requests alongside others defence duties.

Once the current conditions of the pandemic have passed, a Royal Commission or other high-level review should be initiated to look at Canada’s COVID-19 response from a whole-of-government perspective. Such a review will touch on many aspects, including but not limited to public health, federal-provincial responsibilities in terms of emergency management, and the effectiveness of social programmes in responding to the economic fallout.  The issues outlined in this paper make it clear that such a review must also include a separate report about the CAF’s domestic role and the distribution of duties, mandates, and resources for the organizations in Canada’s security communities.

The CAF will always be ready to defend Canada and help Canadians through a crisis, but are they properly mandated and should they be tasked with the increasing domestic duties they have been asked to take on? Is a more dedicated force, either functionally tasked to do so within the military, or a new civilian agency a better fit to meet the growing demand from domestic emergencies?  These are questions that do not have easy answers. Further, they are not exclusively or even primarily questions of logistics, funding or technical capabilities. Above all, they are questions that must be answered by policymakers and the public at a more overarching political level and rest on fundamental beliefs about what their military is for.

Introduction 

Like governments and public institutions across Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have enacted a series of drastic measures, many unprecedented in the history of the organization, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two primary, inter-linked but distinct objectives underpinning these moves. First, to protect its personnel and assets to preserve capability in order to fulfill defence duties during the pandemic. Second, to carve out capacity to support governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic if requested.

Balancing between these priorities is no easy task. However, as recently stated by a Department of Defence (DND) spokesperson: “The Canadian Armed Forces does not see any greater threat to ourselves or Canadians than what has been described by health authorities.”[i] The priority is and should remain on determining the best ways for the CAF to protect its personnel, ensure core (non-pandemic) defence duties are maintained, and prepare options which best leverage the organizations’ resources and competencies towards any requests made by governments.

The COVID-19 pandemic, represents the continuation of a larger trend in terms of ever-increasing demand for CAF support to domestic emergencies, questioning the organizations’ ability to meet these requests alongside others defence duties. Such matters are not simply technological, capability and/or budgetary in nature. These are political questions about what Canadians’ think the military’s role should be to confront and operate within an ever-evolving security environment with a growing impact on the domestic front. The military’s mandates, roles and responsibilities should be reassessed and thoroughly reviewed when this pandemic is over, as part of a re-evaluation of the resources and relationships between all of Canadian’s national security agencies.

This paper will start by examining the rationales, goals and details of the measures undertaken by the CAF to date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second section will outline the possible ways in which the CAF could assist governments and civil society within the current context. The third section provides an overview of the publicly available requests made thus far to better ascertain the nature and extent of the demand for direct COVID-19 support which is and could be placed on the military. The longer-term trends and challenges due to the pandemic to the CAF comprises the fourth section [note the discussion of the role of the Reserve Force]. The final section will emphasize the need for a post-pandemic review and highlight certain issue areas which should be taken into consideration…

Conclusion

Once the current conditions of the pandemic have passed and day-to-day life in Canada resumes in the context of whatever level of new normality emerges, a Royal Commission or other high-level review to look at Canada’s COVID-19 response from a whole-of-government perspective should be initiated. Such a review will touch on many aspects, including but not limited to, intelligence gathering and sharing (both within Canada’s intelligence community and between other countries in multi-national intelligence organizations such as Five Eyes[lxv]), public health, federal-provincial responsibilities in terms of emergency management, and the effectiveness of social programs in responding to the economic fallout.  The issues outlined in this paper make it clear that such a review must also include a likely separate report about the CAFs domestic role and the distribution of duties, mandates and resources for the organizations in Canada’s security communities.

The CAF will always be ready to defend Canada and help Canadians through a crisis, but are they properly mandated and should they be tasked with the increasing domestic duties they have been asked to take on? Is placing such burdens on the CAF fair to its members and the public and what are the public’s expectations of its military? Is a more dedicated force, either functionally tasked to do so within the military, or a new civilian agency, a better fit to meet the growing demand from domestic emergencies?  These are questions that do not have easy answers. Further, they are not exclusively, or even primarily, questions of logistics, funding, or technical capabilities. Above all, they are questions that must be answered by policymakers and the public at a more overarching political level and rest on fundamental beliefs about what their military is for.

For too long, the question of what Canadians expect from their military, and to what extent they are comfortable with military personnel operating on the Homefront in peacetime, has gone without serious consideration. Rather, this drift into serving as the de facto disaster response option for the federal government has been a result of reflexive policy-making without a clear vision of the future. The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first scenario to raise these questions, but it could prove definitive in charting the path forward.

One has a nervous suspicion that this Liberal government will be much inclined to give priority to the CAF’s domestic emergency operations over their traditional military/defence ones. And one really does wonder how much of the very large funding for such things as new RCAF fighters and new RCN frigates (far and away the most expensive procurement program) will be there over the next several years as federal deficits and the debt balloon. Will the Liberals succumb to the temptation to orient the CAF as a largely constabulary force as opposed to a combat-capable one?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Will COVID-19 Kill the Canadian Military? Its Budget, that is

Further to this post,

So Will the Canadian Government Put Some Big Bucks into Modernizing NORAD’s North Warning System?

Matthew Fisher (see the end of the quote below) is exceptionally gloomy about the future of the Canadian Armed Forces in light of the vast amounts of federal government money that trying to cope with the pandemic and its effects will suck up. He may be a bit too pessimistic but not I think by much given our politicians’ underlying attitudes towards the military, which he well describes:

COMMENTARY: How the coronavirus crisis is bad news for Canada’s military budget

After COVID-19, will Canada ever buy new fighter jets, new warships or new submarines? Probably not in your lifetime.

Will Canada ever pay its multi-billion-dollar share for new northern warning radars or continental ballistic missile defence? Highly unlikely for a very long time.

Will Canada ever come close to honouring its longstanding commitment to NATO and Washington to spend two per cent of its GDP on defence? Fat chance.

Such opinions are almost universally held in the Canadian Armed Forces today.

Government spending is about to be turned upside down by the demands placed on the treasury by COVID-19. The first casualty in the looming battle for public money will almost certainly be what is the biggest line item in the current budget: $22 billion in military spending.

With a $113-billion deficit suddenly a prospect, the last thing any government will want to pay for are military purchases that will cost tens of billions of dollars, however badly the new kit has been needed for many years.

Spending more on defence was a tough sell in Canada, even during the boom years that ended a couple of weeks ago. Equipment was allowed to become more and more antiquated over the decades despite an endless stream of shameless promises that the shortcomings would soon be addressed.

This never happened because the politicians always had other priorities to try to entice voters into supporting them. Stephen Harper’s mantra was, balance the budget. Justin Trudeau wanted to spend heavily on programmes that advanced his pet progressive projects.

Both prime ministers and those before them seemed content to hang on to the U.S.’s coattails, even as those tails became shorter and shorter and U.S. foreign policy became more erratic at a moment when Russia and especially China presented very real new security challenges.

The public bought into the archaic idea that Canada was a leading global force for good in peacekeeping and that the force’s top priority no longer had to be defending the country or helping its NATO and NORAD partners. The Trudeau government regarded the armed forces as a glorified constabulary to help out with forest fires, floods, tornados, and, if it ever came to that, earthquakes…

As small a contribution as Canada could get away with was made to the NATO mission that the Trudeau government finally and reluctantly agreed to lead in Latvia.

The only other meaningful initiative was a small blue beret medical mission in Mali in support of the prime minister’s romantic pursuit of a temporary seat on the UN Security Council. After two years of indecision about whether to go, the African operation only lasted 12 months, causing the troops involved to throw up their hands in disbelief and despair…

Beyond China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and ISIS continue to cause mischief when they are not causing mayhem. Moreover, looming like a dark cloud over Canada is whether Washington still has Ottawa’s back or whether it will ever be able to rediscover the internationalist vision and the mojo that has kept the world on a more or less even keel since 1945.

With Canadian politicians mostly uninterested in any of this even before COVID-19 struck, those who regard it as an imperative to warn of these perils, and that Canada must play its part in containing them, must find ways to reach past the political echelon to get defence and security on the national agenda.

To get from here to there when millions have lost their jobs and others have already been pressing for massive public spending on green programmes is an immense challenge that will require persistence, imagination and an artfully presented but brutally rigourous security assessment that takes into account growing public unease with China’s behaviour.

As well as the small band of people who have always been interested in security issues, new allies must be found in politics, academe, the business community, media and, crucially, among the greater public…

It is a cruel irony that if national defence had been taken more seriously by previous Canadian governments or those now in power, Canada would not be in this jam. The RCAF would have F-35s today and the country would already be well along in the process of building radars and missile defences in the north as well as new surface and sub-surface warships for the Royal Canadian Navy.

As a result of poor planning and expedient political decisions that helped win federal elections, much smaller countries such as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands and poorer countries such as Italy and the United Kingdom are already flying stealthy F-35s.

But the problems are bigger than that. Barring a rapid full recovery from the economic consequences of the coronavirus, the RCAF and RCN will have to continue making do with nearly 40-year-old F-18s and 30-year-old plus frigates until the middle of the century.

Also ditched from the list of badly-needed acquisitions will be long-awaited replacements for the rickety nearly 40-year-old Airbus aircraft the RCAF uses to fly the prime minister around and equally old maritime surveillance turboprops.

The excuse that will be heard today and for many years to come is that because of the coronavirus rampage, Ottawa has no money to spend on national defence. There will be little talk of emerging threats such as cyber and information warfare or how the Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Harper and Trudeau governments dithered forever over whether to acquire vital new military platforms before deciding to postpone almost every decision basically leaving Canada’s defence in the lurch…

Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas

Quite a cri de coeur. If Mr Fisher is actually only half-right the Canadian Armed Forces are nonetheless in for some very dark days for quite some time to come. Pity governments just kept dithering.

The title of this post is of course a bow to Canada’s great historian, especially of our military, Jack Granatstein–author of, amongst other things, Who Killed the Canadian Military?

Who Killed the Canadian Military book cover.jpg

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Mark Collins – "Part 2: Interview with Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of [Canadian] defence staff"

At Vanguard magazine, with a link to Part 1–interesting (curious?) that there is no specific mention of either NATO or NORAD.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Last RCN Destroyer Hors de Combat 2017

HMCS Athabaskan (commissioned in 1972!), last of the Iroquois class, will enter harbour for the last time:

Incoming capability gap [long-distance air defence]: Canada’s last destroyer leaves service in early 2017

Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) ATHABASKAN alongside Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Jarrod David FranaisHer Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) ATHABASKAN alongside Sydney, Nova Scotia…

Lots here on the planned Canadian Surface Combatant, some number of which are supposed some day to replace both the Navy’s destroyers and frigates.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Defence Budget One Percent GDP: What Balance Between Canadian Armed Services?

A retired Army colonel regretfully assesses that the regular Army is too large–an excerpt from a very cogent piece at the “CDA Institute Blog: The Forum”:

Core Challenge for the Defence Policy Review: Creating the Right Balance

…Does Canada, with no credible conventional land threat and no legacy colonial responsibilities, but very substantial maritime and air approaches to police and defend, have the proportions right?..

It very much pains this proud former Canadian Army officer to conclude that this country very probably does not have the right balance. The Canadian Armed Forces have only a few “no-fail’ missions. Disaster response at home and, in a supporting role, domestic security are two of them but these will rarely require significant numbers of well-equipped and highly trained combat-capable forces. They need flexible, well-organized and disciplined troops in adequate numbers, and the means to get them to where they are needed quickly. Two missions that do need well-equipped combat-capable forces are protection of our maritime (surface and sub-surface) and air approaches, and it is a national imperative that we do these tasks well enough to hold the confidence of both ourselves and our US continental defence partners [note: defending our maritime approaches does not necessarily require the same  type of naval vessels as for blue water expeditionary operations–nor need they be built in Canada at extravagant cost other than for political reasons] .

Most other Canadian military capabilities have to be considered optional, or at least scalable to the level of national ambition. In the context of a pretty clear multi-party political consensus on limiting defence spending to about 1 percent of GDP, this means that appetites for maintaining and employing military forces also have to be limited and governments have to pay close attention to priorities. Capabilities needed to do the nation’s “no-fail” missions must be adequately resourced first. What’s left is what’s available to resource expeditionary capabilities for tasks like international peace operations…

Colonel Charles Davies (Ret’d) is a CDA Institute Research Fellow and a former Logistics officer who served for four years as the strategic planning director for the Material Group of the Department of National Defence and three years as the senior director responsible for material acquisition and support policy in the department…

As for air and maritime threats:

NORAD to Face Escorted Cruise Missile-Carrying Russian Bombers?

USN “Admiral Warns: Russian Subs Waging Cold War-Style ‘Battle of the Atlantic’”–and RCN?
[note “Comments”–and those subs can also carry cruise missiles, more here]

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Canadian Government’s Peacekeeping Heart: With France in Africa it Seems

Further to this post and “Comments”,

Latvia with NATO vs UN Peacekeeping: Where Government’s Heart Truly is

the well-informed Matthew Fisher of Postmedia writes that

Truck attack in France ups the ante for Canada’s peacekeeping mission in Mali

Canada’s impending peacemaking mission to Africa took on a more urgent tone Thursday night when a Tunisian man drove a truck through crowds enjoying Bastille Day fireworks on Nice’s palm-lined waterfront.

French President Francois Hollande immediately announced that France’s already overstretched armed forces would mobilize 10,000 troops and every member of the army reserves to guard French streets, border crossings and airports.

France needs Canada’s help — and Canada will answer the call. The army and air force will be heavily involved in Africa and no unit more so than the French-speaking brigade built around the Royal 22nd Regiment, known as the Van Doos [unofficial website here].

As Postmedia first reported on July 6, the Trudeau government intends to send troops to French West Africa [story here]. Mali is their most likely destination, but the Central African Republic and a couple of other nearby countries are in the mix, too.

Ottawa and Paris have been talking for some time about where Canadian soldiers would fit into one of France’s multiple troop deployments there. No date has been set for the mission. The Dutch and the Germans have already been helping France with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA [website here]). That is because even before the murderous attack in Nice, the Hollande government was having difficulty sustaining the tempo of its African missions as well as operations against the Islamic State in the Middle East and against terrorists on French soil. It is why the RCAF has already spent a lot of time in Africa, using its C-17 Globemasters to provide essential logistical support for French forces.

Canada’s Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, had intended to travel to French West Africa next month to help hammer out the details of Canada’s mission there. After France’s latest terror attack, and the call-up of forces to defend France, that trip may have to be moved up…

Read on, note the risks involved; this is not the “traditional” peacekeeping of which so many Canadians are mindlessly (and a-historically) enamoured.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds