NDVA Committee Report
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CHAPTER 4: CANADIAN MILITARY CONTRIBUTIONS TO INTERNATIONAL STABILITY
Canada has recognized many times in the past that it cannot ensure the security of its territory and of its citizens without making any contribution to the maintenance of international peace. Canada has participated in major wars and in peacekeeping and other multinational operations, not without sacrifice, to end aggression, to restore peace in troubled regions, and to help maintain international stability. Even in times of peace, some elements of our naval, air, and land forces can be found in various parts of the world either training with and developing closer ties with our allies or participating in the enforcement of sanctions or in peacekeeping operations established by the United Nations or other international organizations. When the members of multinational coalitions determine that combat operations are necessary to stop aggression and restore peace, Canadian military units are on the frontline, as in Kosovo in 1999 and currently in Afghanistan. Canada’s involvement in multinational operations in recent years is both proof of the ability of our military forces to make a contribution to international peace efforts and one of the factors that has weakened their operational readiness, especially in the Army’s case.
Indeed, the last decade has been one of the busiest periods in the history of the Canadian Forces. They have gained considerable operational experience during this time, but their readiness for combat has suffered somewhat in the process given the strain of so many peacekeeping and other operations. Since much of the burden has fallen on the Army during the last decade, because of the large number of ground troops deployed to various trouble spots around the world, it is the Army’s readiness that raises the most concerns. Indeed, the Army’s burden will not be relieved significantly any time soon given Canada’s long-term commitment to some peacekeeping operations, notably those in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where considerable time and effort are required to prevent the resumption of fighting between ethnic communities. Furthermore, it would be imprudent to predict that the demand for peacekeeping, if not combat deployments, will decline significantly enough during the next decade to give the Army a needed respite. Recent events have again demonstrated that we can be caught by surprise.
Thus, the Army will no doubt continue to be preoccupied with the training of new contingents or rotations of troops cobbled together from units in Canada to replace the contingent operating overseas every six months. As Major-General (Retired) Lewis MacKenzie described it, “…the army turns itself inside out to produce a couple of thousand folks to rotate in there. And while they’re doing that, because we’re so small, they can’t train for the combat roles that are dictated by the white paper.”47 In short, in addition to the sacrifice made by some Canadian peacekeepers who gave their lives for the cause of peace, there have been costs, in terms of readiness, attached to Canada’s participation in peacekeeping operations. Soldiers training for the particular circumstances involved in peacekeeping such as monitoring cease-fires and negotiating with combatants have less time to train for combat operations. It has often been said in the past that Canadian troops carry out their peacekeeping duties effectively because they are well trained for combat and thus have the discipline and the leadership skills required to deal with all sorts of complex situations. If combat skills are allowed to decline too much, the readiness of the troops for peacekeeping will also come into question.
This does not mean that peacekeeping is a bad thing and that it is the cause of all the Army’s readiness problems. On the contrary, the experience gained in peacekeeping operations helps ground forces test their command, communications, and logistics capabilities in an operational environment and learn lessons that will be useful in combat as well as other situations. Besides, the outstanding performance of the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Light Canadian Infantry in Afghanistan demonstrates that units in the Army have maintained a level of readiness necessary to operate in combat operations together with U.S. units. The fact remains that combat training has suffered because of all the preparations for the overseas missions. The cobbling together of contingents for the next rotation with personnel from various units has undermined the cohesiveness of various elements of the Army while pushing personnel to exhaustion.
Lieutenant-General Mike Jeffery, Chief of the Land Staff, is fully aware that the tempo of operation and budget cuts during the last decade have had a significant impact on the Army’s training. The Committee welcomes his determination to change the training regime to ensure that, as he described it, “…all operational units within the army in a regular cycle go through the proper full type of training, combat-type training….”48 Indeed, well-trained troops can respond quickly and effectively no matter the kind of operational situations they may find themselves in and should therefore be in a better position to avoid taking many casualties. We therefore recommend that:
The Army proceed as quickly as possible with changes in its training regime to ensure that all its units undergo, on a regular basis, the full extent of combat training required to improve and maintain its state of readiness at a high level, including training at the battalion and brigade levels.
While the tempo of operations has certainly had an impact, the cuts made in the Army’s budget during the late 1990s, as a result of reductions in overall departmental spending, have also given a body blow to the Army’s readiness. Lieutenant-General Mike Jeffery, Chief of the Land Staff, stated bluntly before our Committee and in other venues that the Army has been living beyond its means in recent years. While scrambling to meet its commitments, the Army has seen its operating budget decline or in other years stagnate at a level below what is needed for comprehensive training and equipment acquisitions. Many witnesses deplored the fact that there have not been training exercises at the full brigade level for many years. Some also pointed out that for every new Coyote or LAV III vehicle introduced into the Army’s inventory, there are many old vehicles like the Iltis jeeps which are long overdue for replacement. Limited budgets have no doubt complicated the Army’s efforts to keep training at the required level and to ensure the timely replacement of old equipment. Besides, the Committee is far from certain that recently announced increases in defence spending will provide the Army with all the funding it needs to resolve its training and equipment problems. We therefore recommend that:
The budget for the Land Forces be increased in the next fiscal years to provide sufficient funding to improve its level of readiness, especially with regards to combat training and the replacement of obsolete equipment.
Even with budget increases, the Army faces an uphill battle to raise its combat training and equipment inventory to a more than adequate level. As if the Army does not have enough problems, it must also transform itself into the type of ground forces that can deal effectively with the challenges of the 21st century battlefield. This means that the Army must shape its units and command structure so that they can operate effectively and survive on the modern battlefield. While not losing sight of the kind of training required to deal with all types of terrain and conditions, like those seen in Afghanistan, it must take advantage as much as possible of the technological capabilities being developed as part of the Revolution in Military Affairs.
Much has also been said about the need for armies to concentrate more on forces that can be easily and rapidly deployed to any trouble spots around the world. The emphasis is no longer on ground forces more suited for the massive tank battles and troop movements that Cold War military planners had expected on Europe’s central front if hostilities had broken out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. Advances in technology make it possible to use combat vehicles that are lighter and more easily air transportable than main battle tanks and other heavy vehicles and provide adequate levels of firepower to support the infantry. The U.S. and other NATO countries are currently developing new combat vehicles that will have basically the same capabilities as their heavy tanks, but that will weigh much less and feature new materials.
However, the death of the main battle tanks as we know them today has been announced many times in the past and they still remain an important part of modern armies. There are a number of situations, even in some peacekeeping missions, where they can be used, but some witnesses were not certain about the value of retaining and modernizing Canada’s old Leopard tanks, especially given the Army’s limited budget. Lieutenant-General Jeffery stated that the Army knows that it needs the capability, but it is not certain if the tank is the best way to provide it. He stated that a replacement armoured fighting vehicle would be more like the LAV III wheeled vehicle with as much if not more firepower than the current tanks.49
However, the acquisition of such a vehicle could be many years away and if Canada wants to continue to make a valid contribution to multinational efforts to ensure world peace, the Canadian Army will have to keep pace with most if not all of the technological developments changing the way ground forces operate on the battlefield. Just to keep pace with the high technology weapons and communications equipment that promise to significantly increase the capabilities of infantry soldiers may require considerable efforts and funding. Thus, the kind of new fighting vehicle the Army decides to obtain will depend a lot on the future shape of Canada’s ground forces and on the resources available to effect the change. Difficult decisions will have to be made on whether or not to retain all of the current capabilities or only concentrate on those that can be effectively sustained.
The Army has already made significant efforts to keep pace with technological developments, the highly praised surveillance capabilities of the Coyote vehicles being one of the best examples. This also demonstrates that Canadian defence industries can meet the Army’s technologically advanced requirements and also compete with foreign manufacturers to provide similar capabilities to allied forces. Besides, the ability of Canadian industry to play an important role in high technology developments for military use can also generate benefits for the civilian sector.
Some of the technological developments can be of use to civilian requirements in the security, health, and other domains while the ability of Canadian companies to compete on the international market benefits economic growth. With technology playing a more important role than ever before in providing the military with the capabilities needed, research and development in the defence field must continue to be encouraged and sustained. Over the years, Canada has lost some of its shipbuilding and other defence manufacturing capacity, but it cannot afford to lose much more of its defence industrial base, especially when computers and other high technology equipment are more and more vital to the effectiveness of Canada’s military.
However, in the rush to acquire new technologies, the Army and other parts of the military will have to be very careful in selecting and acquiring equipment. The experience of past acquisition projects, notably with regards to high technology equipment such as satellites, has not always been a happy one. The problems and delays encountered with the new combat uniforms are but one example of the difficulties the Army has had in introducing new equipment.
During this Committee’s quality of life study in 1998, there were many promises from those involved in the Clothe the Soldier project designing the new uniforms and numerous complaints by the rank and file about the delays in getting new uniforms. The new combat clothing are finally reaching units, but the desert camouflage version is in the early production stage while the old desert uniforms have already been discarded. The Army will have to be much more careful in managing its stocks of combat uniforms and other pieces of equipment to ensure that there are no gaps in the availability of essential pieces of kit for the troops.
Nevertheless, the problems encountered here and there with the introduction of new equipment should not discourage the military from seeking Canadian developed technology, especially when the latter is as good if not better than what is available on the world market. The purchase by many allied countries of Canadian-manufactured light armoured vehicles or LAVs and the attention the equipment aboard the Coyote vehicles has received overseas are clear demonstrations of what Canadian industry can achieve. Canadian industries will be able to meet Canadian military requirements so long as they are able to carry out the research and development necessary to produce equipment which can serve the purposes of our allies as well as our own. The Department must also pursue its efforts in the area of defence research and development as part of its efforts to improve the Army’s readiness for the high technology operations of today and tomorrow. We therefore recommend that:
The Department of National Defence maintain its strong commitment to research and development in the defence field and its cooperation with Canadian industries to ensure the design and production of state‑of‑the-art military equipment.
While the Army transforms itself into a highly mobile and technologically advanced force, it will have to pay attention to changes in doctrine and the experience of the armed forces of other countries. For example, one of the most noted features of combat operations in Afghanistan has been the extensive use of Special Forces that have not only confronted the enemy in its lair, but also identified targets on the ground for allied combat aircraft. The combination of Special Forces on the ground who can designate targets and combat aircraft that have an easier time in locating targets has worked effectively.
The Special Forces operations in Afghanistan hold some important lessons for the Canadian military. Indeed, Canada contributed some members of its Joint Task Force 2 or JTF2 counter-terrorism force to operate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. JTF2 has an important role to play in the context of counterterrorism efforts here in Canada. In our November 2001 interim report, the Committee recommended an increase in the number of JTF2 personnel to improve the unit’s capacity to respond to hostage taking and other terrorist incidents within Canada and to contribute meaningfully to international efforts against terrorism. The Committee therefore welcomes the government’s decision to provide additional funding in its 2001 Budget to increase both the capacity and capability of JTF2.
However, it is not clear to what extent JTF2 is becoming a special force like the U.S. Special Forces and whether or not this is a desirable development for the Canadian military that is already hard pressed to obtain all the resources and personnel it needs. While there is clearly a need to maintain JTF2 as a high readiness counterterrorism force, the implications of using JTF2 personnel on overseas operations have to be examined closely, both in terms of its effects on the readiness of JTF2 to deal with terrorist incidents in Canada and this country’s ability to make worthwhile contributions to coalition operations overseas. There could also be some consideration of the possibility of recruiting some members of JTF2 from the ranks of civilian police forces. We therefore recommend that:
The Department of National Defence undertake a study on the future of JTF2 to determine its long-term requirements in terms of resources, the implications of overseas deployments of some of its personnel, and the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a Canadian special force unit similar to U.S. and U.K. special force units operating in Afghanistan. The Department should communicate to this Committee the general conclusions of this study and its decisions, if any, concerning the need for a special force.
The efforts by ground forces and other elements of the military to adjust to the new realities of the combat environment also imply a transformation of their reserve forces. Modern ground forces, even those of powerful states like the U.S., count on reserves to provide a pool of trained troops who are not full-time members of the military, but who can easily integrate with units preparing for deployments because of an apprehended or real crisis at home or abroad. Canada’s Reserve Force is an important element of Canada’s military capabilities. The Army Reserve is by far the biggest element of the Reserve Force with about 15,326 personnel in November 2001 out of a total of 27,851.50 Indeed, a number of Reservists have served overseas during peacekeeping operations. As Major‑General (Retired) Lewis MacKenzie, among others, has noted many times, Reservists were just as effective and as dedicated as Regular Force personnel during such operations.
However, armies must transform themselves in order to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and their reserve forces must be part of this evolution. Since Canada’s Army intends to transform itself into what it calls the “Army of Tomorrow” during this decade in order to become an “Army of the Future” in the next decade, the Army Reserve must also adapt itself to the new operational context.
On October 6, 2000, the Minister of National Defence announced the revitalization and restructuring of the Army Reserve. He indicated that the Land Force Reserve Restructure (LFRR) would be guided by the recommendations of the 1999 report by the Honourable John A. Fraser and the Strategic Plan for LFRR drafted by the Chief of the Land Staff. He also announced measures designed to facilitate the timely and effective implementation of the restructure. These include an increase in Army Reserve strength to about 18,500 by the end of the 2005-2006 fiscal year; further consideration of national mobilization planning; the appointment of the Hon. John A. Fraser and Major-General (Retired) Reginald Lewis to monitor the process; and, the appointment of a LFRR project manager.
On the same occasion, Lieutenant-General Jeffery stated the three fundamental tenets of his strategic plan. The first is the improvement of the operational capability of the Army Reserve in step with the changes being made within the Army as a whole. The second tenet is what he described as respect for the institution, in other words the “acknowledgement of the values and acceptance of the purpose of the Army reserve within a unified army.” The third tenet was described as stewardship where all stakeholders (i.e., Regulars, Reservists, and others) are consulted. Lieutenant-General Jeffery reassured the Reserve community that they will continue to have a voice and a key role in the restructuring process.
Lieutenant-General Jeffery also explained that the restructure would be done in two phases. Phase 1, between 2000 and 2003, is supposed to restore the “health and trust” of the Army Reserve by, among other things, improving recruitment and raising its strength to 15,500 by 2002. Meanwhile, during Phase 1 of the LFRR, the blueprint for the “Army of Tomorrow” is supposed to be developed before it transforms itself into the “Army of the Future” after 2011. Thus, in Phase 2 of the LFRR, slated to begin in 2003‑2004, the alignment of the Army Reserve with the “new” Army is supposed to take place.
However, concerns have been expressed about the Department’s commitment to Phase 2 since funding for it is uncertain. The February 2002 Report on Land Force Reserve Restructure of the Minister of National Defence’s Monitoring Committee (chaired by John A. Fraser) states on page 2 that while resources were allocated to Phase 1, the policy statement of October 6, 2000 “does not offer unqualified commitment to carrying through with expansion of the Army Reserves in Phase 2.” Meanwhile, Lieutenant‑General Jeffery stated at a recent Conference of Defence Associations meeting that the Army is short of resources while carrying out its many commitments. When he appeared before the Committee to discuss the restructuring, he stated clearly that he “cannot take any more money out of the regular force to put into the reserves. I’m already walking a tightrope.”51 In the absence of a clear financial commitment by the Department to Phase 2 of the restructuring, the whole future of the process becomes uncertain.
This uncertainty causes us great concern not only because it risks delaying the restructuring process, but also because the Land Reserve is in great need of revitalization and restructuring and should not be left in limbo again. When the restructuring was announced in October 2000, considerable emphasis was put on rebuilding trust between the Reserves and the Regular Force. As part of that commitment, a lot of importance was attached to providing information to the interested parties on the progress being made during the restructuring process. Given the often tense relationship between the Reserves and the Regular Force noted in the past, such measures are to be commended. However, the job of building trust between the two camps is by no means over and the last thing everyone needs at this point is a long delay in undertaking Phase 2.
Reservists have been promised more attention and more equipment many times before only to see the anticipated resources disappear into thin air or end up elsewhere. If the situation occurs again with the restructuring announced only two years ago, the sceptics will once more be proven right and both the Army Reserve and the Army will suffer. Some witnesses and, indeed, some members of the Committee have expressed concerns about the state of some Army Reserve units across the country. They are by no means reassured that when an emergency occurs, whether in Canada or overseas, these units will provide all the personnel which are expected to be available. In short, the revitalization of the Reserves must go ahead as quickly as possible otherwise the situation within the Army Reserve will continue to deteriorate. We therefore recommend that:
The Department of National Defence make a commitment as quickly as possible to fund Phase 2 of the Land Force Reserve Restructure project so that the revitalization and restructuring of the Army Reserve can proceed as currently planned.
While the restructuring of the Army Reserve is crucial, the Naval Reserve and the Air Reserve should not be neglected even though they are small in numbers compared to the Army Reserve. The Naval Reserve plays an important role within the Navy, both on foreign deployments and especially in the protection of Canada’s coastal waters since most of the crewmembers aboard the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels are Reservists. By the same token, members of the Air Reserve fill key positions within the Air Force. Some pilots are Reservists, but some of the support units vital for Air Force deployments at home and abroad also depend heavily on members of the Air Reserve. Members of the Communications Reserve also make an important contribution to the readiness of the Forces. Another important element of the Reserve Force, especially for operations in Canada’s North, is the Rangers. The Committee trusts that along with the Army Reserve, the other elements of the Reserve Force will be revitalized so that the Forces can maintain a high level of readiness.
One measure that can help ensure that the Reserves can make an effective contribution to readiness is job protection for Reservists called up for duty during major emergencies such as an international conflict. Although such call-ups seldom occur and hopefully will remain so, job protection in such circumstances would encourage Reservists to respond to such call-ups without worrying about the effects of their absence on their employment. It would help reassure commanders and military planners that a large number of Reservists would report for duty in emergency situations, thereby ensuring a high level of readiness among the units called to action. Job protection for Reservists in major emergency situations was one of the proposed amendments to the National Defence Act included in Bill C-42 introduced in the wake of the events of September 11th and in the revised bill, Bill C-55, tabled in April 2002. The Committee strongly supports job protection for Reservists in major emergencies and continued efforts by the Department and notably the Canadian Forces Liaison Council to encourage employers to give time off to Reservists for military exercises and training courses. We therefore recommend that:
The National Defence Act be amended as quickly as possible to provide job protection to Reservists called-up for duty during major emergencies such as conflicts and that efforts be maintained, notably by the Canadian Forces Liaison Council, to encourage employers to give Reservists time off for military exercises with job protection.
The revitalization of the Army Reserves, the transformation of the Army as a whole, and the modernization of equipment are key elements in ensuring the readiness of Canada’s ground forces. Some might argue that the Army would not have fallen behind in terms of combat training if Canada had participated in fewer peacekeeping operations in recent years while others might claim that it would not be necessary to keep pace with all the technological developments on the battlefield if the Army concentrated only on peacekeeping operations. However, the line between combat and peacekeeping operations has become so blurred that it would be imprudent to deploy peacekeepers who could not defend themselves if and when a cease-fire breaks down. It would also be inefficient to maintain highly trained combat troops who could not also carry out peacekeeping operations when such missions are vital to efforts to prevent international instability.
Besides, Canadians want their country to make a worthwhile contribution to multinational efforts to restore peace in troubled regions, whether combat missions or peacekeeping operations are involved. Professor Denis Stairs of Dalhousie University, while noting that he is a foreign policy expert rather than a military specialist, agreed that it is the Army that “most needs our immediate attention.” However, he explained that the Army is carrying the bulk of the burden because of “…the constant expectation of the political leadership, and indeed of the public at large, that Canada will be there to be counted every time we’re called upon to fly our flag, whether the call comes from the United Nations, the United States or NATO, and no matter where the flying of the flag is expected to occur.”52
This constant expectation can push the military to exhaustion if it is not managed carefully. However, this country has responded so many times in the past that Canadians and allied countries expect the Canadian Forces to make a contribution to multinational action whenever called upon. This is a natural outcome of this country’s recognition that international stability cannot be allowed to deteriorate to levels that will undermine the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of the citizens of this and other countries.
Canada’s commitment to international stability is demonstrated by its strong support for the Multinational Standby High-Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) that can be used in UN operations. SHIRBRIG was established in the wake of the problems encountered by the UN mission in Rwanda that was unable to prevent the outbreak of mass murders in 1995. A number of countries including Canada, Finland, Poland, and Sweden have made the commitment to provide personnel in order to create on short notice a brigade of between four and five thousand peacekeeping troops. Canada has committed a battle group and seven augmentation staff officers to SHIRBRIG.
When the recent conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea finally came to an end thanks to a cease-fire agreement, Canada was able to participate in the UN peacekeeping operation that helped to restore peace in the region. The Canadian brigade committed to SHIRBRIG was ready to deploy personnel for the peacekeeping operation. In situations where two countries have finally reached a cease-fire agreement after a bitter conflict, peacekeepers often have to be deployed quickly to prevent the conflict from re-igniting. Thus, SHIRBRIG plays an important role in ensuring the international community’s ability to quickly respond when a conflict ends or tensions threaten to engulf a region.
However, whether the deployment of Canadian troops is within the context of SHIRBRIG, a NATO commitment, or multinational action against international terrorism, it is necessary to transport Canadian troops and their equipment to the zone of operation. During the Cold War when Canada had large numbers of troops in Europe, some of the personnel and equipment could be deployed to another zone of operation. Today, except for the personnel already committed to peacekeeping and combat operations around the world, almost all of Canada’s military personnel and equipment is here in Canada and must be quickly transported wherever they are needed in the world. Shipping troops, equipment, and supplies is a difficult task at the best of times. For Canada, given its limited resources, and the long distances involved, there is added expense and complexity.
For example, Canada’s Navy has only two remaining replenishment ships that in a pinch could carry a few troops and small quantities of their supplies. However, these ships are desperately needed by the Navy itself to transport the fuel and supplies the frigates and destroyers need during long deployments throughout the world’s oceans. Besides, the two support ships are fast approaching the end of their service life and will have to be replaced sometime in the near future. If they are not replaced, the Navy’s ability to undertake long overseas deployments will be significantly limited. Canadian frigates and destroyers can refuel at sea with the help of support ships of allied navies, especially during coalition operations. However, Canada cannot always count on foreign support ships to be in the best location at the most appropriate time to refuel our frigates and destroyers. Besides, as explained by Rear-Admiral Ron Buck, Chief of the Naval Staff, one navy makes its support ships available to refuel the warships of an allied navy in the knowledge that the cooperation will be repaid in kind at another time when its ships will need to refuel at sea.
Indeed, there is an opportunity to combine two capabilities. When Canada undertook its first major peacekeeping operation, Suez in 1956, the Army was able to rely on the Navy’s aircraft carrier, HMCS Magnificent, to transport its vehicles to the zone of operation, but none of today’s warships can carry out such a role. Thus, the only alternative is to rent cargo ships or space on them to transport vehicles and supplies. Canada’s experience with the leasing of cargo ships has not always been a happy one, as demonstrated in 2000 when Canadian military personnel had to board the GTS Katie because a contractual dispute delayed its arrival in port to offload vehicles and weapons returning from overseas. If the contractual dispute had occurred with a cargo ship carrying Canadian vehicles and equipment to an overseas operation instead of during the return to Canada, one can only imagine how the delays and uncertainties of such a situation could have jeopardized the success of the mission and caused embarrassment to Canada’s reputation. Thus, there are arguments in favour of providing Canada’s Navy with new support ships with a roll-on roll-off capability to transport combat vehicles, trucks, and other equipment required by ground forces deploying to an overseas peacekeeping or combat operation.
With a few of its own military transport ships, Canada would not be completely at the mercy of the vagaries of the maritime transport industry. Space on civilian cargo ships would of course still be used, but at least key parts of the ground units like their weapons systems would be safe and secure onboard Canadian naval ships. At a time when there is greater awareness of the terrorist threat, the possibility that weapons carried onboard civilian ships might fall into unauthorized hands must be taken into consideration. Since these new ships would also be capable of refuelling and re-supplying Canadian warships during their deployments, whether off Canada’s coasts or overseas, they would be used extensively even if the deployment of ground forces were few and far between.
Since ships need periodic and extensive maintenance and must undergo refits every few years or so, at least three new replenishment ships would have to be acquired to provide the fleet with the required flexibility. With its two current replenishment ships, there are long periods of time when there is no refuelling capability on one of Canada’s coasts because one of the ships is undergoing a refit. The refit of HMCS Protecteur based on the West coast took place while HMCS Preserver operated for many months in the Arabian Gulf. In other words, with only two replenishment ships currently in the fleet, the ability to sustain a naval task group far from Canada’s shore is therefore quite limited. The Committee therefore recommends that:
The government approve the funding for the acquisition, over the span of a decade, of at least three replenishment ships with roll-on roll-off capabilities to provide a strategic sealift capability for overseas deployments and to replace the two replenishment ships currently in service.
As noted in Part C, Canadian industries have made and continue to make an important contribution to the state of readiness of the Canadian Forces by producing equipment equal and often superior to what is available on the world market. Indeed, the Halifax class frigates are state-of-the-art warships capable of operating with U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and other technologically advanced ships. Every effort must be made to retain Canada’s shipbuilding capabilities in order to ensure a strong industrial base which can continue to supply the Canadian Forces with much of the equipment they need. We therefore recommend that:
New replenishment and other ships acquired for Canada’s Navy be constructed in Canadian shipyards in keeping with efforts to maintain this country’s shipbuilding capability and defence industrial base in general.
However, there are circumstances where time is of the essence and while some equipment and supplies can be shipped by sea, troops and much of their equipment often have to be dispatched by air transport so that they can undertake peacekeeping or combat operations as quickly as possible. Canada now has a limited strategic and tactical airlift capability with a fleet of 32 C-130 Hercules, 19 of which were acquired in the mid‑1960s, and five Airbus 310s (called C-150 Polaris by the Canadian Forces). The Airbus 310s provide a major part of the strategic airlift capability by transporting troops and some equipment, but not vehicles. The Hercules also contribute to this capability, although as the Chief of the Air Staff pointed out, they do not have sufficient range to make them efficient strategic transports.53
Besides, out of the current fleet of 32 C-130s, some are used for search and rescue operations within Canada while others must undergo routine or unscheduled maintenance, so only part of the Hercules fleet is actually available for airlift duties at any given time. The Hercules and the five C-150s can transport a good portion of the personnel and supplies required for overseas operations, but if some of the aircraft available for transport duties become temporarily unserviceable, this results in embarrassing delays, as occurred during the East Timor operation.
Thus, the age of the existing fleet of Hercules creates uncertainties about Canada’s ability to efficiently deploy troops to trouble spots. In addition, their limited ability to transport combat vehicles, trucks, and other pieces of equipment, because they are too large or too heavy, causes more delays. A Hercules can carry a Coyote reconnaissance vehicle, but the turret must be dismantled so that the vehicle can fit into the aircraft. The time required to dismantle and reinstall equipment can hamper the speed and efficiency of a deployment while adding another burden for personnel. However, the fact remains that the Coyote is still air transportable. Furthermore, despite the constraints of the dimensions of its cargo hold, the Hercules is still a valuable transport asset, as demonstrated by its presence in the aircraft inventory of most air forces around the world.
However, to speed up deployments or to transport equipment too big or heavy for the Hercules and C-150s, Canada has often requested the help of U.S. Air Force heavy transport aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy or C-141 Starlifter. On other occasions, Canada has chartered large Russian-built Antonov transport aircraft from Russian, Ukrainian, or other companies. Chartered heavy transport aircraft are not always available when needed, especially because many other NATO allies also want to charter them when a crisis occurs. Meanwhile, the U.S. transport fleet is sometimes hard‑pressed to meet the demands generated by the overseas deployments of U.S. forces and some of the older aircraft have their own readiness problems. In other words, Canada can usually count on some space on U.S. transport aircraft to assist its deployments or for special needs, as occurred during the Ice Storm when U.S. transport aircraft were requested to fly heavy equipment to locations within this country. However, Canada must wait its turn while U.S. requirements are being met and cannot be certain of having access to the U.S. aircraft at the most opportune time.
The risks and disadvantages of counting on chartered or allied aircraft to provide heavy airlift capabilities have prompted proposals that Canada should acquire some heavy airlift aircraft of its own. Indeed, Recommendation 10 of the Committee’s interim report of November 2001 recommended that Canada should “acquire additional heavy transport aircraft and replace older models to ensure the strategic and tactical airlift capability required” for rapid and efficient deployments. With a few heavy lift aircraft, Canada would be less dependent on its allies or on chartered aircraft, something that, among other things, can help it assert its sovereignty. For example, on some peacekeeping missions where U.S. forces are not involved or welcomed, Canada could rely on its own heavy lift aircraft to deploy its troops and their equipment. There might also be situations where it would be necessary to quickly evacuate Canadian peacekeepers from a theatre of operations because of the collapse of a cease-fire agreement and an escalation in violence which threatened to overwhelm the peacekeeping force. With its own heavy lift aircraft, Canada could quickly extricate its military personnel from a very dangerous situation.
The Department, as explained by Colonel Pat Dowsett, the Program Manager ― Future Strategic Airlift and Strategic Air-to-Air Refuelling, has been studying a number of options to improve Canada’s strategic air transport capability. Among other things, Canada might have to decide between buying aircraft or leasing them for a number of years, possibly with a lease to buy agreement. However, as Colonel Dowsett pointed out, both the short-term and long-term implications of a purchase or lease agreement must be taken into account. He also raised the possibility of buying or leasing aircraft and then leasing them to a third party for a short period of time, when not required for Canadian operations, to generate revenues to pay for the acquisition and operating costs.
Such measures might be necessary because otherwise the costs of acquiring heavy airlift aircraft could necessitate cuts in resources in other parts of the air force or possibly cause delays in the replacement of some equipment such as the oldest aircraft in the Hercules fleet. Indeed, the advantages of buying heavy lift transports could be lost to a large extent if the level of readiness of the fleet of C-150s and Hercules is not improved. In other words, the acquisition of heavy lift transports is not just a question of choosing one of the very capable large transport aircraft which are now on the market or soon will be, but also involves determining what will be the impact on Canada’s existing air transport capability.
Thus, the Committee believes that the Air Force is wise to continue its examination of the needs and capabilities of its whole fleet of transport aircraft and to look at all the options available. For example, one issue is the possible retention or replacement of the Buffalo aircraft scheduled to be withdrawn from service when the new Cormorant search and rescue helicopters become operational. If the Buffalo is not replaced, additional Hercules aircraft might have to be assigned to search and rescue duties on Canada’s West Coast, possibly causing more strain on Canada’s fleet of transport aircraft. Besides, the heavy lift aircraft are too big to be used efficiently on search and rescue operations, so a modern version of the Hercules or similar new aircraft will still be needed whatever the decision concerning strategic airlift.
In short, our existing strategic and tactical airlift capability is under strain and if Canada wants to continue to be able to deploy overseas as quickly as possible most if not all of the personnel, equipment, and supplies required, decisions will soon have to be taken on enhancing this capability. The acquisition of heavy lift transport aircraft can definitely enhance the capacity of the Canadian Forces to meet the expectations of Canadians and allied countries to go to any trouble spot in the world and contribute to multinational efforts to restore stability. Whether or not heavy lift aircraft are acquired, it will be necessary to replace at least a portion of the current transport aircraft fleet in a few years. Therefore we again recommend that:
Canada acquire additional heavy lift transport aircraft and replace older models to ensure the strategic and tactical airlift capacity required to rapidly and effectively deploy the personnel and equipment required for overseas operations.
Getting the troops and their equipment to a world trouble spot is one thing, but sustaining the operation over a period of weeks if not months is another. Indeed, Napoleon is once reported to have said that “amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics.” The importance of logistics to any military organization cannot be overstated. Once the troops and equipment have been delivered to an overseas destination, whether by air or by sea, there is still a need to establish a stable supply chain between Canada and the zone of operation. At the present time, Canada’s fleet of transport aircraft is the main link between the troops on the ground and their sources of supply in Canada. Once the troops and equipment are in place, the aircraft have to continue flying back and forth to bring all of the supplies needed and to replenish stocks. In the absence of a strategic sealift capability, space on cargo ships can be obtained to ship some supplies.
Indeed, ground forces need vast quantities of supplies to carry out their operations. They must have ammunition for their weapons, communications equipment, spare parts for vehicles, food, and many other items. Some material can be provided by coalition partners, but Canadians bristle at the thought of Canadian soldiers depending on allies for essential supplies, if only while waiting for supplies from Canadian sources to be delivered. Delays in the shipping of supplies and equipment to the troops in Afghanistan raised concerns among Canadians, including family members of the soldiers. Because of the quantities of supplies required and the heavy demands placed on Canadian and allied transport resources, all the supplies cannot arrive simultaneously with the troops in a theatre of operation. Nevertheless, efforts have to be made to ensure that Canadian troops get most of their supplies as quickly as possible.
The Forces have a limited airlift and, through the chartering of cargo ships, sealift capacity to deliver supplies to deployed units, the availability of supplies here in Canada and the privatization of many elements of the supply chain and support services raises questions. The Office of the Auditor General in various reports over the years and other observers have expressed doubts about the ability of the Forces to sustain, in logistical terms, deployed units over long periods of the time. The problems encountered during the late 1990s just with the supply of various elements of combat uniforms are but some of the situations which have raised doubts in the past about sustainability. Shortages of spare parts for equipment or delays in getting them to theatres of operations can have serious effects on readiness, not to mention morale.
Some vehicles and aircraft sometimes cannot be used operationally pending the arrival of replacements for small but key parts. When the parts from other vehicles or aircraft are cannibalized to keep other pieces of equipment in operation, the problem is simply compounded instead of resolved. Recent studies by the U.S. military have highlighted the negative effects of cannibalization of equipment on the morale of personnel as well as on readiness. In order to avoid cannibalization and prolonged periods where equipment is unserviceable because of the lack of spare parts, adequate supplies must be maintained.
There are advantages in using to some extent the “just in time” methods so that supplies are provided to units when they are required. However, because of the nature of combat operations and the need for quick delivery when supplies are needed, large stocks of ammunition and other materiel must be maintained and prepared for quick delivery. Soldiers in combat operations running short of ammunition cannot afford to wait for contracts to be awarded back home for the production of new stocks. Indeed, stocks of vital materiel must not be reduced in the name of frugality. It is “penny wise and pound foolish” if our troops do not have enough ammunition to carry out effective training and combat operations.
We are interested in and hope to further study the administration of the Canadian military’s supply chain and the ability to deliver supplies and spare parts as quickly as possible to deployed units. The privatization of various elements of the supply system and various support services and its benefits remain to be determined. Privatizing support services such as food catering to the troops in operational theatres like the one in Bosnia to date has shown promise. There is always a concern with privatized support services that if and when the situation in an operational area deteriorates and combat operations must be undertaken, civilian employees leave and vital services might be left in limbo. Ensuring contingency plans are clearly in place is imperative. The resources required to ensure security and stability in supply chain functions in both hot and mature deployments will be critical.
In short, logistics are a critical but often overlooked element contributing to the capacity of ground forces to carry out peacekeeping and other types of operations. Ground forces need vast quantities of supplies as well as a vast array of weapons and communication equipment. However, maintaining an effective Army is only one part of the equation. Indeed, naval and air forces, with all their complex equipment and logistics requirements, must also be kept at a high level of readiness. In some situations, the ground forces need the support of naval and air forces to carry out their operations successfully while in others, Canada can only contribute naval or air forces to multinational efforts to restore peace in a region. For example, Canada’s maritime forces have made a major contribution to multinational efforts to enforce United Nations sanctions against Iraq and have also played an important support role during NATO’s Kosovo campaign in 1999. Current operations in the Arabian Sea as part of the war against international terrorism are another illustration of the contribution maritime forces can make.
Canada’s maritime forces have been able to make effective contributions to multinational efforts to maintain peace not only because of the dedication and professionalism of the crews of ships and surveillance aircraft, but also because of the quality of most of the equipment used. As a number of witnesses mentioned, the Navy is in relatively better shape than the Army and Air Force, in terms of equipment, because it is now enjoying the fruits of all the efforts made in the 1980s and 1990s to provide the fleet with modern ships. The 12 new frigates that came into service during the 1990s have state of the art weapons and communications technology and their interoperability with U.S. Navy aircraft carrier task groups has been demonstrated many times. The four older Tribal class destroyers, thanks to the Tribal Class Update and Modernization Project (TRUMP), can also operate effectively in NATO or other multinational operations. As was demonstrated shortly after September 11th, Canada’s Navy can deploy ships to any region of the world on short notice without scrambling to add weapons as happened in 1990 prior to sending ships to participate in the Persian Gulf War. However, in terms of the readiness of Canada’s maritime forces, there are still many areas of concern.
First of all, long deployments at sea take a toll on the personnel aboard the ships so it is important for the Navy to constantly monitor quality of life issues and try to ensure the best conditions for crewmembers. As discussed in the chapter on personnel, quality of life issues influence the rate of retention and recruitment. While the Navy appears to have met many of its goals during the current recruitment drive, the recruitment situation has to be watched carefully. Canada’s fleet of warships is very small so when a ship like the destroyer HMCS Huron has a skeleton crew and stays in the harbour all the time so that other ships on the Pacific coast can have all the personnel they need, there is inevitably cause for concern. Given the time required to train new recruits and the burden of long deployments at sea on personnel and their families, the Navy has to pay special attention to quality of life issues and increase its recruitment efforts.
As for equipment, even though the frigates are still relatively new, like all warships, they will inevitably need refits in the near future and their weapons and communications equipment will have to be upgraded to keep pace with developments. Our pride in having ships that can operate with the most technologically advanced navy in the world, the U.S. Navy, could evaporate in the coming years if the inevitable upgrading of the frigates is delayed because of the Department’s limited capital budget. Canada’s warships must be able to defend themselves despite any new developments in the high technology environment of modern naval warfare. At the same time, their maintenance must not be neglected in the name of short-term cost cutting because otherwise they will not be available when really needed because of mechanical breakdowns.
As Rear-Admiral (Retired) Moore of the Canadian Naval Officers Association of Canada pointed out, we cannot afford to let the frigates and other warships deteriorate to a level of obsolescence that bedevilled our Navy during the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, our ships were often more of a burden than an asset for NATO or other multinational fleets. To avoid a repeat of this situation and to maintain our ability to contribute meaningfully to multinational efforts, Canada will have to make a commitment at the most opportune time to the upgrading of its frigates.
The upgrading if not the replacement of the four Tribal class destroyers will also be of growing concern in the next few years. With the Trump modernization, these destroyers gained air defence, command and control capabilities which increase the effectiveness of operations by a task group of ships. The time is fast approaching where a decision will have to be taken on whether to again upgrade the equipment aboard these ships or to replace them with new ships, which given the age of the Tribal class destroyers, might be the most cost-effective solution. With only 12 frigates and 4 destroyers available to make valid contributions to multinational efforts to maintain peace as well as to patrol Canadian waters, Canada cannot afford to simply let the capabilities of the four Tribal class destroyers deteriorate and then not replace them. We therefore recommend that:
The project for the replacement of the four Tribal class destroyers with new warships with superior command and control as well as air defence capabilities should proceed.
We further recommend that:
The mid-life upgrading and refit of the 12 frigates be given a high priority so that Canada’s naval capabilities are not allowed to slide into obsolescence as happened so many times in the past.
The Navy’s capabilities will also be enhanced, in due course, by its fleet of four Victoria class submarines recently acquired from the United Kingdom. The subs will eventually give the Navy much improved below the surface capabilities compared to the Oberon class boats they replace and will therefore help it fulfil its commitments to the defence of Canada and multinational operations. The word “eventually” is used in this context because of the delays encountered in preparing the subs for their journey across the Atlantic after years of inaction, which has in turn delayed the modification of the boats for Canadian operations and the training of the crews. We recognize that complex machinery often takes time to be brought up again to operational standards and reaffirm that the safety of the crews transferring the boats from the U.K. to their new home and undertaking training must be the main criteria while making the subs operational. Nevertheless, we trust that the Navy will clear up the technical difficulties as soon as possible so that the subs will be able to contribute significantly to Canada’s maritime capabilities, as was the intention of the deal to acquire the boats from the U.K.
While our fleet of surface vessels is generally in good shape and the sub-surface capability will hopefully be a reality in the not too distant future, the state of our maritime aircraft, especially the Sea King helicopters, continues to be a source of great concern. The Sea Kings have been operating from the decks of frigates, destroyers and other ships since the 1960s and like all aircraft, despite outstanding service, there comes a time when replacement is absolutely necessary.
For one thing, the Sea Kings were originally designed mainly for anti-submarine warfare, but in the post-Cold War world, the electronic equipment aboard modern maritime helicopters are more focussed on surface surveillance and littoral operations than on sub-surface surveillance. With state of the art equipment, maritime helicopters significantly increase the surveillance capabilities of surface ships. However, the replacement of the Sea Kings is also necessary because the airframes are tired and because the number of hours of maintenance work continues to increase for each hour of flight. The Air Force, which operates the Sea Kings, has put a lot of effort to ensure that the helicopters can operate safely during the years it will take to select and acquire the new helicopters. New engines and gearboxes have been installed with the result that not everything in the Sea King is forty years old.
Nevertheless, given that the personnel operating the Sea Kings is younger than the aircraft and that the costs of maintaining old aircraft reach a point where the purchase of new ones makes much more sense, the replacement of these helicopters must not be delayed any further. Regardless of the many assurances given, there is still considerable concern about the safety of operating such old aircraft. Besides, it is incongruous to have frigates as capable if not more so than similar ships in foreign navies operating with forty‑year-old helicopters which are not always serviceable. It is true that the Sea Kings have been able to make an effective contribution to operations in the Arabian Sea and elsewhere, but this is due largely to the dedication and hard work of the personnel who fly the aircraft and those who maintain them. With the recent retirement of the T-33s and most of the Tutor jet trainers, the Sea Kings, together with some of the earlier models of the Hercules, are now definitely the oldest aircraft in the Canadian Force’s inventory.
While the government has finally decided to proceed with the acquisition of new maritime helicopters, the Committee is greatly concerned that the process of selecting and acquiring the new helicopters is taking too much time. The Committee does not have the expertise to determine whether or not the specifications for the new helicopters provide for enough range, adequate hot weather performance, and other capabilities deemed necessary for effective operations. Based on the experience it gained through the operation of maritime helicopters over many decades, we trust that the military has carefully designed the performance requirements of the airframes and equipment to match Canadian operations. However, there is less confidence in the contract process adopted to acquire the new maritime helicopters.
Some witnesses questioned the need to divide the new maritime helicopter project into two contracts, one for the airframe and one for the electronic equipment. There will also be one contract for support for the airframe and one for the support of the electronic equipment. Splitting the contract into two parts may complicate the integration of the electronic equipment with the new airframes. While some within the Department argued that such an approach would ensure that Canada would get the best helicopter and equipment at the best possible price, our main preoccupation is the possibility that the acquisition process, because of its complexity, will cause more delays. The time required by the Clothe the Soldier project to design new uniforms and to finally deliver them to the troops does not inspire confidence that the Department’s procurement process will deliver the new maritime helicopters without delay.
Even if everything goes according to plan, it will take time to introduce the new helicopters into the Air Force’s inventory and complete the training of the pilots and the maintenance technicians. The new search and rescue helicopters, the Cormorants, have only recently begun to arrive from the factory and it will still take some time before they completely replace the old Labradors. Besides, the new search and rescue helicopters have relatively little in terms of electronic equipment compared to the complex mission suites that will provide most of the capabilities of the new maritime helicopters. Thus, it cannot be assumed that if the introduction into service of the new search and rescue helicopters proves to be relatively trouble free, the process of bringing the new maritime helicopters to full operational status will be as easy.
In short, the reality is that many years will go by before the new maritime helicopters are fully operational and before all of the Sea Kings have been withdrawn from service. When the first new airframe arrives in Canada, a major milestone will have been reached, but pending the installation of the electronic equipment or mission suite, the process will be far from over. This means that the Department will have to administer the acquisition process as carefully as possible to avoid further delays. We therefore recommend that:
The process of selecting and acquiring the airframe or basic vehicle and the electronic equipment for the new maritime helicopter project be accelerated to ensure that all of the Sea King helicopters will be replaced by the end of the decade.
When fleets of old aircraft approach the end of their service life, there is a tendency among defence planners to hesitate to provide some new equipment like better radios or navigation equipment. Public opinion sometimes views as wasteful spending any expenditure for old aircraft a few months before their retirement. However, there are situations where such expenditures are important for the continued safe operation of the aging aircraft. Since the Sea Kings are so old and since the capabilities they provide are significant both for the surveillance of Canadian waters and overseas deployments, some of their equipment may have to be replaced or refurbished during the many years the aircraft will continue to operate until the new aircraft are operational. It would be false economy, especially in terms of safety, to skimp on expenditures on various equipment for the Sea King because they will soon be taken out of service. We therefore recommend that:
No efforts be spared to provide the Sea King helicopters with all the mechanical, electronic, and other equipment necessary to ensure their effective and safe operation until they are withdrawn from service.
Canada’s other maritime surveillance aircraft, the Aurora long-range fixed-wing patrol aircraft, is only half as old as the Sea Kings. However, the Auroras have been due for an upgrading for some years now and the Air Force has finally undertaken the process, albeit in a number of stages. The upgrading is basically a mid-life overhaul which will help keep the Auroras in service for many more years while bringing its electronic equipment more in line with the realities of the first decade of the 21st century.
Indeed, like the new maritime helicopters, the modernized Auroras will focus more on surface surveillance than anti-submarine warfare. The upgraded aircraft will also be able to provide a strategic and tactical reconnaissance capability which will serve the needs not only of the naval forces, especially in littoral operations, but also of the ground forces. Some of the U.S. Navy’s P-3 Orion aircraft, basically the same airframe as the Auroras, played an important role in U.S. operations in Afghanistan by providing the Special Forces and other ground units with information on enemy troop movements. The upgraded Auroras will be able to provide similar information to Canadian commanders in all types of overseas deployments, including peacekeeping operations.
However, as seen in other NATO countries, increased capabilities often mean some reductions in the number of aircraft or vessels remaining in operations in order to balance the costs of the upgrades with the ones for operations. In recent years, the Air Force has steadily reduced the number of types of aircraft in its inventory in order to stay within its operating budget. Withdrawing from service old jet trainers is one thing, but plans to reduce the number of aircraft in the Aurora fleet inevitably raise concerns. Besides the numerous operations overseas that can involve Auroras in one capacity or another, Canada has one of the longest coastlines in the world, not to mention vast territories in the North. At a time when surveillance capabilities are more important than ever, the possibility of losing any part of them is troubling. Since Auroras often assist search and rescue operations in Canadian waters and on the high seas, thereby giving some respite to the hard-pressed Hercules fleet which bears the brunt of such missions, there is even more reason to keep as many of the Auroras as possible. We recommend that:
All 18 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft be modernized and kept in the Air Force’s inventory of aircraft so that they can continue to fulfil all their roles, including search and rescue and surveillance flights in Canada’s North.
During testimony, the Committee heard some mention of the studies undertaken by the Department to determine how uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs) might be used to provide surveillance capabilities along Canada’s coasts and possibly during overseas operations. Indeed, U.S. UAVs have played an important role during operations in Afghanistan and there is now added impetus on the development of such vehicles for reconnaissance and other roles. However, it remains to be determined to what extent UAVs can supplement if not replace current surveillance assets such as the Auroras. For a country with limited resources like Canada, UAVs offer some interesting and affordable capabilities, but the technology will likely need a few more years of development before Canada can take full advantage of such surveillance vehicles.
Meanwhile, more and more attention is being paid to the possibility that in two or three decades, combat UAVs will be able to supplement if not replace manned jet fighters because they will be able to drop bombs or fire missiles with the same accuracy as current aircraft. Developments in the U.S. and in other NATO countries will have to be monitored carefully to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of introducing and of eventually equipping the Air Force with such technology.
However, the age of the manned fighter bomber is by no means over and the development by the U.S. and its partners of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and other fighter projects in the U.S. and elsewhere hold the promise of much improved capabilities in the coming decade. Canada’s decision to become one of the secondary partners in the JSF project is opportune because it allows this country to be involved in a major high technology project that can be of significant benefit to Canadian industry. At the same time, it still leaves Canada with many options open if and when it decides to replace the CF-18s jet fighters in a decade or two.
For now, Canada can still count on its fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft, which are supposed to remain in service until about 2020, to make valuable contributions when multinational operations become necessary to maintain or restore peace and stability. During the Kosovo campaign in 1999, NATO relied mainly on fighter-bombers to create the conditions necessary to deploy multinational peacekeepers to help restore stability in the region. In Afghanistan, carrier-based U.S. fighter-bombers have played a key role in combat operations. Thus, there is no doubt that a fleet of fighter bombers is still a valuable asset with which Canada can operate with allied forces in overseas deployments. There are situations where Canada is better off offering other types of contributions than fighter-bombers to international missions. For example, in Afghanistan, carrier-based fighters were used extensively because of the lack of airfields close to the target areas. In other circumstances, the CF-18s may be required to support Canadian ground troops involved in a peacekeeping or coalition combat operation.
However, the CF-18 fleet has to be kept as close as possible to the state of the art in terms of fighter-bomber operations. The radar and other electronic equipment aboard the CF-18s are the same as when the aircraft were delivered in the 1980s and, as everyone knows, computer technology from the 1970s and 1980s hardly compares with what is available today. While the airframe part of the CF-18 is still basically in good shape, the dated electronic and communications equipment are jeopardizing the ability of the fleet to operate safely and effectively with allied forces in combat situations.
In order to maintain its capacity to make valid contributions to multinational peace efforts, Canada has wisely invested in the upgrading of its CF-18s in order to improve the capabilities of the radar and weapons systems. However, the Committee is concerned that the upgrading is only now starting, that it will be 2006 before the project is completed, and that only 80 of Canada’s 120 or so CF-18s will be updated. Some follow-on projects will be required in later years to provide more capabilities. Hopefully, the modernization process will not encounter any delays and that a steady stream of updated CF-18s will return to operations so that Canada can make the most effective contribution possible whenever multinational operations become necessary.
While Canada is finally proceeding with the modernization of its fleet of fighter aircraft, it has also taken steps to ensure that when required, the CF-18s can deploy quickly and efficiently. In order to take full advantage of the enhanced capabilities of the upgraded CF-18s, the Canadian Forces must have its own capability to provide air-to-air refuelling to the fighters on overseas deployments. The Air Force currently has a limited air-to-air refuelling capability provided by a few Hercules equipped for such operations. However, for long strategic deployments, for example across the Atlantic, jet transports can ensure more efficient operations because they have more range than the Hercules and can fly faster, making it easier for the CF-18s to refuel in midair and maintain a good cruising speed.
When the Air Force had two 707 transport aircraft modified for air-to-air refuelling, it could not only quickly deploy overseas a number of its CF-18s, but also contribute, as it did during the Persian Gulf War, to the fleet of allied tankers assisting coalition fighters during their sorties. Thus, the Committee welcomes the project undertaken to modify two of the Air Force’s five C-150 Polaris transport aircraft (Airbus A310s) for air-to-air refuelling. The fact that the German air force is modifying its Airbus 310s at the same time will help the project avoid much of the risks and limit the costs involved in pioneering modifications on a type of aircraft not used for air-to-air refuelling before.
More importantly, in about two years, Canada will have both strategic and tactical air-to-air refuelling capabilities and will not be dependent on allied aerial tankers or those chartered from a private company to deploy its CF-18s overseas. In short, together with the upgraded CF-18s, the Airbus A310s modified for air-to-air refuelling will enhance Canada’s ability to meet its commitments to contribute an effective fighter aircraft capability to NATO and other multinational efforts to ensure international stability.
The gap between the loss of much of Canada’s strategic air-to-air refuelling and the recovery of such capabilities in the near future is quite similar to the situation with regards to the submarine capability where the old subs have been withdrawn from service long before the fleet of new boats attain full operational status. Indeed, the history of Canada’s military is replete with cases where capabilities have been lost or allowed to deteriorate significantly and later recovered, though not necessarily always in full.
Readiness inevitably suffers because equipment has to be kept in service long after it has become obsolescent or has past the point of economical operation. The funds spent on the higher maintenance costs of old aircraft, ships, and vehicles may mean less money to buy new equipment or just enough to purchase equipment that is only adequate. Budgetary realities and the tempo of operations are some of the main reasons why these situations continue to occur. Furthermore, even powerful military forces like those of the United States continue to operate a large inventory of old equipment while introducing a few technologically advanced weapons systems now and then. For example, the growing age of many U.S. fighters and transport aircraft is causing some concern among U.S. military observers.
However, in Canada’s case, there is room for concern that the military is approaching a point where the efforts to introduce new equipment simply cannot keep up with the combined effects of delays in the acquisition of new equipment, the cost of operating old pieces of equipment well past their prime, and not enough spending on defence. The result of such a situation could be a constant decline in readiness. Indeed, the pace of technological development is so rapid that upgrades may have to be undertaken many times during the service life of pieces of equipment.
The problem facing Canada is that many major pieces of equipment will have to be replaced in 10 to 15 years and considerable expenditures will have to be made for this, as well as for the upgrading of other equipment. As Colonel (Retired) Brian MacDonald, President of the Atlantic Council of Canada, pointed out, the portion of the defence budget allocated to capital spending has declined significantly over the years.54 If Canada continues to allocate so little of its defence budget on equipment projects, the readiness of the Forces will inevitably suffer because they will be saddled with the costs of keeping old equipment in service beyond their prime and will not be able to invest in new technology that can act as a force multiplier.