Quotulatiousness

November 29, 2017

Something rotten at the Royal Military College of Canada

Filed under: Cancon, Education, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell discusses the concerns about the Royal Military College (RMC) in the latest Auditor General’s report:

Aerial view of the main RMC campus in Kingston, Ontario.
Photo from Ted Campbell’s Point of View

As you can well imagine, despite the almost zero interest in government and the media ~ reflecting the fact that taxpayers neither know much nor care even a tiny bit about the military, unless there’s a scandal with sexual overtones ~ this is a hot topic amongst many of my friends. Reactions range from:

  • Hey, RMC is doing just fine, it is meeting its assigned mission ~ “The mission of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) is to produce officers with the mental, physical and linguistic capabilities and the ethical foundation required to lead with distinction in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)” ~ and who cares if it costs a bit more than, say, getting a tainted BA from Laurier?
  • … through to …

  • Burn. It. To. The. Ground.

Most of my military friends and acquaintances agree, broadly, with the Auditor General:

  • The Royal Military College is a pretty good university that produces well educated men and women, most of whom are, perhaps, somewhat less than adequately prepared for further military training; but
  • The Royal Military College is notably weaker than in years (decades) past and weaker than it should be, today, at producing young men and women who are physically fit, even tough, who have high ethical standards and who display an acceptable level of leadership skill and ability.

So, why, one might ask, is The Royal Military College an academically fine college but not so good at the military stuff?

Friends and acquaintances who are reasonable closely connected to RMC (current and former academic and military staff and/or officers in the parts of the HQ that have responsibility for RMC) suggest that the academic staff (currently led by the College Principal, Dr. H.J. (Harry) Kowal, CD, rmc, BEng, MSAe, MA(SS), MDS, PhD, PEng, BGen (Ret’d)) has a better focus on what it is doing and why it is doing it than does the military staff (currently led by the Commandant, Brigadier General Sébastien Bouchard, an Army officer from one of the engineering branches). Should BrigadierGeneral Bouchard be fired and replaced with someone better? No, the problem is not his leadership ability, it is that Dr. Kowal’s mission is clearer, simpler and easier to accomplish than is General Bouchard’s. In theory the reverse ought to be true, but …

Most of my friends and acquaintances who are “in the know” agree that RMC’s biggest problem is that the military, proper, has far, far too little say in who gets in and once in students are not allowed to fail out for fitness (athletic), ethical or leadership deficiencies.

A while ago a friend related a story (it’s actually three or four stories, all put together) about one of the courses at the College ~ it was about a mid-term exam: one student was caught cheating, one simply failed to even write the exam and a third had to be given a second chance because (s)he had a learning disability. “Wait!” I exclaimed, “How in hell did someone with a learning disability get into RMC in the first place? How in hell will someone with a learning disability ever stand watch on the bridge of a ship, command a troop of tanks in battle or fly an airplane?” “Not to worry,” my friend said, “(s)he will never get that far … but (s)he will graduate.” He went on to explain that no one in “official Ottawa” is wiling to enforce standards any more. No one believes that a person with a learning disability severe enough to require special attention like an exam re-write can ever do any useful job as an officer in the CF, but no one has the courage to say, up front, “sorry, Margaret or Mike, but you are not qualified to study at RMC because we, the military, have our own, valid, operationally required standards and you don’t meet them.” In the 21st century we all know that every snowflake is special and every special snowflake will go to some human rights tribunal if the military ties to enforce reasonable, legitimate standards, and the admirals and generals and bureaucrats and politicians are far more afraid of a human rights story in the media than they are of North Korean missiles.

“But,” I said, “what about the one who cheated and the one who just ditched the exam?” They, I suggested, must, surely, have been given the old “heave-ho.” “Nope,” my friend answered, “the exam was just declared optional ~ it will count as, say, 15% of the final course mark so the young person who ditched it will still, most likely, graduate and the cadet who cheated was given a bureaucratic rap on the knuckles because no one in the military chain had the balls to fail him/her.” Failing someone, he said, is very, very difficult because even the military has adapted to a social system in which everyone must pass everything … only, he said, in a few (hard science and engineering) departments is there some doubt about everyone passing everything.

November 28, 2017

The Canadian Army’s Leopard tanks

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In a discussion on Facebook the other day, I’d mistakenly stated that the Canadian Army had initially sent the “new” Leopard 2 tanks leased from Germany (20 refurbished Leopard 2A6Ms) to Afghanistan to support the Kandahar mission. In fact, as a lengthy article linked by John Donovan pointed out, our poor zipperheads had been operating non-air-conditioned Leopard 1 tanks until the government made arrangements with some of our NATO allies to get modern MBTs into the combat zone. I suspect the reason for my confusion was that the old Leopard 1 tanks were designated as “C2” by the army and I’d confused that with the more general “Leopard 2” name for the modern tank. This article in Defence Industry Daily sets out the details:

Leopard 2A6M in Afghanistan

A number of options for renewing Canada’s tank capability were considered, ranging from refurbishment, to surplus, to new. Delivery time was of the essence, and DND’s examination determined that the cost of any new vehicles involved paying up to 3 times as much as buying the same basic tank models on the surplus heavy tank market. New medium tank options like the 32-tonne CV90-120 light tank also offered full tracked mobility and similar firepower at less cost, but Canada had learned that heavier weight was often a tactical plus in theater, and decided that they needed vehicles sooner rather than later.

Accordingly, the Canadian government approached 6 allied nations regarding surplus main battle tank sales, and received proposals from 3 of them. It then went ahead and made 2 purchases, plus another 2 follow-on buys.

Their tank choice is a modern mainstay for many countries. Thanks in part to the great DeutschePanzerSchlussverkauf (German Panzer fire sale), the Leopard 2 and its variants external link have now been bought by Germany, Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, and Turkey.

Canada’s 1st step was a lease, in order to get modern, air-conditioned tanks to the front lines immediately. Germany won that order, and 20 German Leopard 2A6M mine-protected tanks were delivered by the summer of 2007 to replace existing Leopard 1A5/C2 tanks in Afghanistan. The new tanks’ electric turret systems produce less heat than the C2s did, and air conditioning was added to the new German tanks in theater. This was a relief to Canadian tank crews, who had needed protective suites in the 140F/ 60C interiors of their Leopard 1A5 tanks.

The 2A6M is the most modern serving Leopard variant, though KMW had proposed a “Leopard 2 Peace Support Operations” variant with improved protection, and integrated combat engineering capabilities. By the time modifications were finished, the Leopard 2A6 CAN turned out to fall somewhere between the conventional 2A6M and the PSO. Canada actually ended up keeping the leased and modified German tanks, and sending 20 Leopard 2A6Ms from its follow-on purchases back to Germany.

The follow-on purchases of 127 tanks were won by 3 countries. The biggest order for 100 tanks went to the Dutch, who are serving under NATO ISAF beside Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan. Training for 5 years and initial spares will also be provided. Cooperation between these nations is not new. Dutch PzH-2000 mobile howitzers have already proven very helpful during Operation Medusa external link, and so had their CH-47 Chinook medium-heavy helicopters – some of which were bought as surplus from the Canadians in the 1980s. The cycle continues. And so it goes.

In the aftermath of their sales to Norway, Denmark, and now Canada, The Dutch were left with 110 Leopard 2A6-NL tanks in their arsenal. Other sales dropped that total further, and on On April 8/11, the Dutch Ministry of Defense announced that the last tank unit was to be dissolved and all remaining Leopard tanks sold.

The additional Leopard 2 buys totaled 27 tanks/ hulls. First, another 15 Leopard 2A4s were bought from Germany, to be used for spare parts. This hadn’t been contemplated in the initial plan, but it was necessary. The initial set of 20 leased German Leopard 2A6Ms were experiencing readiness problems, as tanks were cannibalized in order to keep others running. A 2010 buy from Switzerland added 12 stripped Pz 87s (Leopard 2A4 variants) for conversion to specialty vehicles, under Canada’s Force Mobility Enhancement (FME) program.

The earlier Leopard 1 tanks had been purchased in the late 1970s (very much against the preferences of the government of the day) to replace the late 1940s vintage Centurion tanks the Canadian Army had been operating:

Canadian Leopard 1A3 (Leopard C1) at the Bovington Tank Museum.
Photo by Chris Parfeniuk, via Flickr.

When 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group was moved from Westphalia to Lahr on the Rhine frontier with France, some policy-makers apparently sought to do away with Canada’s tanks entirely.

For some years, the brigade continued to use their Centurion tanks, an excellent tank in its day but one that could not be used on long road moves. In 1975, the Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, visited Germany to ask the Chancellor for his support for getting Canada special trade status with the European Common Market. He was told to come back to discuss the matter once Canada had replaced its antiquated tanks.

The contract for the Leopard tank acquisition followed quickly. Consideration had been given to totally rebuilding the Centurions with new power pack as the Israeli army has done with their Centurions. Before the order could be delivered Canada negotiated a deal with the German Government to lease 35 Leopard 1A2’s to train their crews on the new tanks.

The upgrade from the initial Leopard C1 to the C2 model began in 1996:

Late in 1996 it was announced that the Canadian Forces were to carry out a major update on their fleet of Leopard C1 tanks (The C1 was the equivalent of the Leopard 1A3), which involved the replacement of the existing turret with the complete turret of the German Leopard 1A5. The Leopard 1A5 turret features the STN ATLAS Elektronik EMES-18 computerized fire-control system which incorporates a Carl Zeiss thermal imager.

The 105mm L7 rifled guns in the Leopard 1A5 turrets were not retained but were replaced with Canadian Leopard C1 original 105mm guns, the L7A1. The ballistic computers were reprogrammed to match 105 mm Canadian ammunition.

The turret rebuild was carried out in Germany and commenced in June 1997 with the first turret being shipped to Canada in December 1997. GLS refurbished the turret, removed the 105 mm gun, modified the turret where required, including the installation of the new radios ordered under the Tactical Command, Control and Communications System project.

The turrets were shipped to Canada where a subcontractor installed the 105 mm L7A1 barrel and mounted the turret on the existing chassis for final delivery to the Canadian Forces. It was expected that about six turrets a month would be upgraded with each turret taking six months to upgrade. The program was completed by late 2001.

November 22, 2017

The Canadian version of the Sterling submachine gun

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Canadian army kept the Sten as their standard SMG for several years after the war, but eventually had to come up with a replacement weapon. The selection committee eventually settled on Sterling SMG, which the British army had been using, with a few modifications. Historical Firearms has the details:

…in November 1956, the first Anglo-Canadian Submachine Gun Steering Committee meeting was held. The Canadians liked the Sterling and requested a manufacturing license. They did, however, wish to make some changes to the weapon before they adopted it.
These changes included a small bayonet boss and redesigned lug reinforcement for the L1A1 rifle bayonet, a simpler trigger mechanism designed by Sterling engineer Les Ruffell, a height adjustable front sight taken from the L1A1, an adjustable rear sight with wider sight protectors. In early 1957, these changes were encapsulated in a sample model assembled from Fazakerly-made L2A3s, these were re-designated the L2A4. Later changes were also made to simplify the Canadian Sterling’s end cap and a squarer brass deflector and hand stop.

The primary internal departures from Patchett’s original design were the decision to have a single rather than double return spring and to use a non-helically grooved bolt. Instead using an improved Sten breech block, this had a number of advantages including being able to use existing tooling, avoiding paying royalties for Patchett’s bolt and simplifying production. Compared to the Sterling-made guns the C1 was certainly simpler using stampings and spot-welding.

However, the C1 retained a surprising level of parts commonality with many parts interchangeable between both Canadian and British weapons. This commonality included magazines, however, the Canadians also simplified the magazine’s design. They dispensed with Patchett’s roller system and designed their own magazine which held 30, rather than 34 rounds, but could be used in all Sterling-pattern guns.

Two experimental suppressed C1s were made by Long Branch to replace the Sten MkII(s) and the MkVI, but the Sterling-Patchett L34A1/Mk5 was adopted instead. Canada purchased at least 5 L34A1s.

The Long Branch Arsenal was just west of Toronto along Lakeshore Road in what is now Mississauga (my cadet hall was adjacent to the former factory site):

I didn’t realize the site had been active that late … I’d assumed it was demolished shortly after the Korean War.

October 28, 2017

QotD: Special forces are not a “cheaper” alternative to large, conventional forces

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Special Forces are a good tool, and an old one … their origins go all the way back to colonial (mid 18th century) North America when units like Butler’s Rangers and Rogers’ Rangers were formed. The British kept skirmishing troops alive in the form of The Rifles (heirs to the traditions of numerous, famous “rifle” and “light infantry” regiments) and many 21st century Canadian regiments still bear similar titles. Special Forces had a rebirth of sort in World War II when the British made raiding and commando operations into an important tool ~ because they, the Brits, did not have the resources to take the fight to the Germans in Europe in 1941 and ’42. Modern history is full of raiding exploits from Entebbe to the killing of Osama bin Laden and it all encourages penny pinching politicians to believe, incorrectly, that a few Special Forces soldiers can replace battalions and brigades … they cannot, they do not: they are (relatively) narrow specialists who do a few, small things very, very well but cannot conduct major combat operations or even their own specialized tasks for anything like a sustained period.

Canada needs some Special Forces ~ maybe 2,500 is the right number, I do not know. But good Special Forces are always drawn from a large pool of tough, superbly disciplined, well trained sailors, soldiers and aviators. If the government wants to use more and more Special Forces in a variety of roles then it needs, above all, to maintain a large enough, high quality base from which to create and sustain them. Special Forces are part of a modern, combat capable (and, therefore, expensive) military … they are not a low cost replacement for it, no matter what the Liberal Party of Canada might want.

Ted Campbell, “Special Forces”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-10-16.

October 12, 2017

That Time Canada Tried to Make a Literal “Gaydar”

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 10 Oct 2017

Never run out of things to say at the water cooler with TodayIFoundOut! Brand new videos 7 days a week!

In this video:

We are all familiar with the colloquialism “gaydar” which refers to a person’s intuitive, and often wildly inaccurate, ability to assess the sexual orientation of another person. In the 1960s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) attempted to use a slightly more scientific, though equally flawed, approach- a machine to detect if a person was gay or not. This was in an attempt to eliminate homosexuals from the Canadian military, police and civil service. The specific machine, dubbed the “Fruit Machine”, was invented by Dr. Robert Wake, a Carelton University Psychology professor.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/06/when-the-canadian-government-used-gay-detectors-to-try-to-get-rid-of-homosexual-government-employees/

September 17, 2017

American military command and control, as adopted by the Canadian military

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell explains why he feels the complex and cumbersome system used by the US Army (and derived from the US experience of raising, training, and running a vast army in WW2) is not well suited to the much smaller Canadian Army, yet has become the “way things are done” in Canada:

The problem, as I see it, with the American command and control system is that it is totally systematic. This is born, to some degree, out of the practical necessity that the US faced in the 1940s when it fielded a force of over 15 million men and women but it, systematic management, became something akin to a cult when Robert McNamara, who had been a pioneer of systems analysis in the US Army Air Corps in World War II and was recruited to be one of Henry Ford II’s Whiz Kids who would use those tools to help reshape American industry in early the post war years, became President John Kennedy’s Secretary of Defence (1961 to 1968). He reshaped the US military using systematic management as his main tool. It works for the administrative management of very, very large organizations … it, American style systematic management, may not work as well as many would hope, but it can, and did, bring order, to a very large enterprise. But it stifles individuality and initiative, which are essential for command ~ even, I have read, American unconventional forces are forced into a very conventional systematic matrix.

Systematic management requires a great deal of rote learning and adherence to doctrine. There is a “school solution’ to every problem and that is the one that second lieutenants and lieutenant generals, alike, are required to offer … there is little room for, say, a Robert Rogers, T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate or David Sterling … and, in fact, even the missions of the much discussed US Seal Team 6 seem carefully managed by check lists and risk analysis and other tool of the systems analysts. The notion, as one American special forces commander had, for example, of using local animal transport in Afghanistan in 2001, remains unpopular: systems analysis says that only the latest technology can be employed and officers who break the rules do not become generals because riding horses, rather then helicopters, is not the “school solution.” The fact that it worked didn’t really matter because it violated the process.

Why does Canada follow along, uncritically?

First: we, our military, has long had a “colonial” mindset. Until the 1950s we were, for most intents, a sub-set of the British military. It went beyond “buttons and bows” (scarlet mess jackets and the same rank badges, and so on) and included important traditions, like the regimental system, tactical doctrine and equipment. Canadian officers, especially, served, often, in the British Army, in jobs up to and including (during my service) a Canadian major general serving as commander of a British division that was “on the front line” in West Germany, and attended British training courses. In the 1970s we began to shift, more and more, to be a sub-set of the American military and many Canadian generals have served in senior (but generally powerless) “exchange” postings as deputy commanders of large American formations. They come home deeply influenced by the “American way.” The same things happen to Australian and British generals. The American aim is to have all its allies adopt its systematic approach which will make interoperability (by which the US means doing what they want their way) simpler. Exchange postings, as they are called, with other forces are never bad things, not even when the lessons we learn are the wrong ones … IF we understand what we are learning. My complaint with Canadians serving in senior “exchange” posts with the US military is that the post are less about exchanging information and ideas (learning from each other) and more about indoctrinating Canadians (and Australians and Brits) with US ideas about command and control and organization and management which, to my mind, anyway, are less than useful.

July 23, 2017

In military training, “similar” is not the same as “identical”

Filed under: Cancon, Education, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell looks at one of the legacies of the 1968 integration of the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Airforce as the unified Canadian Armed Forces:

Our problem, in Canada, goes back to a fairly simple mistake that former Defence Minister Paul Hellyer and his minions made in the mid 1960s. First I must declare that a lot of what Mr Hellyer proposed was good ~ the unification of the armed forces, creating proper joint commands in which Navy, Army and Air Force units and formations served together, under one single commander, just as history taught they they would fight together in war, made excellent sense. Some of what he introduced ~ like the integration of the military into a single service and introducing common occupation and training systems ~ made less, little or no sense at all.

The logical trap into which Mr Hellyer and his team fell and the consequential problem which still infects the Canadian Armed Forces today is that they failed to grasp that similar ≠ identical. Consider, for example, a Navy helicopter pilot and an Army attack helicopter pilot ~ both must fly rotary wing aircraft at a basic level, in that they are almost certainly identical, but, after that, the differences between landing a very big helicopter on the heaving deck of a very small warship and flying a small helicopter at high speeds at near treetop level are very large and the two pilots are very, very dissimilar. Does it make sense to train them together at the primary flying school level? Yes! Does it make sense to mix them together into one pool of “pilots” on the grounds that they are very much the same? No! The same applies to cooks and radar technicians and pay clerks and, and, and … they are, very often, similar but rarely nearly enough identical to merit having them in a single “trade” or group. But, Mr Hellyer was, valiantly, trying to solve a funding crisis and savings in personnel and training were seen as the equivalent of the brass ring on the old fashioned carnival carousel. For almost fifty years Mr Hellyer’s deeply flawed notion of integration has been sacrosanct even as his very good ideas about unification were pushed aside by empire building careerists in the most senior ranks of the Canadian Forces and by lazy superiors, including disengaged ministers and bureaucrats.

We can start the fix by recognizing that some things do work: there should be, just as an example, one, single, integrated primary flying school, where all helicopter pilots learn to fly a basic rotary wing aircraft. But Navy, Army and RCAF pilots (and, yes, each service should have its own) should, then, be trained in their specific specialities by their own service specialists. Similar things should apply to many skills ~ integrate the education and training when the similarities outweigh the differences, but train, usually, in single service, specialist centres, when the differences are dominant. Some training ~ staff training, for example, to produce officers who can serve in joint HQs ~ must be integrated, however, if we ever want to have a proper unified force.

Will it cost more? Yes … superficially. But the savings for which Mr Hellyer so fervently hoped, in 1968, never really materialized; instead the training system used, as it was directed to do, minimum common standards to achieve economies and, thereby, financially “burdened” the other commands with special to function training: teaching Army cooks to drive trucks and use field (gas) stoves, for example, and teaching Navy supply people how to work in a ship. It is possible, even likely, in my opinion, that Canadian military education and training could be reformed at low cost. Some education and training can be contracted out or done, as is the case now, using a kind of public-private partnership (P3) arrangement. I will return to this later with a thought on the the Royal Military College, the Staff Colleges and so on.

June 20, 2017

The Guardian turns on Justin

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Last week, Martin Lukacs savaged Justin Trudeau by way of contrast with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the pages of The Guardian, which must count as one of the most unexpected sources of criticism for our mediagenic PM:

Their depiction in the international media couldn’t be more different.

You know Justin Trudeau from the Buzzfeed photo-spread or the BBC viral video: the feminist prime minister of Canada who hugs refugees, pandas, and his yoga-mat. He looks like he canoed straight from the lake to the stage of the nearest TED Talk – an inclusive, nature-loving do-gooder who must assuredly be loved by his people.

Then there’s what the columns of trans-Atlantic punditry told you about Jeremy Corbyn: the rumpled, charmless leader of UK’s Labour party whose supporters are fringe lunatics and his stances out-of-date utopianism. If he dared run an election with his political program, he would just as assuredly be rejected by the electorate.

So far, so conventional … and then the gloves come off:

Trudeau’s coronation as a champion of everything fair and decent, after all, has much to do with shrewd and calculated public relations. I call it the Trudeau two-step.

First, he makes a sweeping proclamation pitched abroad – a bold pledge to tackle austerity or climate change, or to ensure the rights of refugees or Indigenous peoples. The fawning international coverage bolsters his domestic credibility.

What follows next are not policies to ambitiously fulfill these pledges: it is ploys to quietly evacuate them of any meaning. The success of this maneuver – as well as its sheer cynicism – has been astonishing.

In this manner, Trudeau has basically continued, and in some cases exceeded, the economic agenda of Conservative Stephen Harper: approved mega fossil fuel projects, sought parliamentary power grabs, cut-back healthcare funding and attacked public pensions, kept up the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, undermined the prospect of universal childcare, maintained tax loopholes for the richest, and detained and deported thousands of migrants.

Out of breath? He has also broken an electoral reform promise, initiated a privatization scheme that is a massive corporate handout, left un-repealed a Tory political spy bill, launched air strikes in Iraq and Syria despite pledging a withdrawal, and inked the largest-ever weapons deal with the brutal, misogynistic Saudi Arabian regime.

Not exactly what those who voted for “real change” were expecting? Before you answer, here’s something titillating to distract and disarm you: Justin and Barack Obama rekindling their progressive bromance at an uber-cool Montreal diner. Jeremy Corbyn has shown us the meaning of a politics of genuine hope: what Trudeau has deployed has only ever been a politics of hype.

Trudeau’s latest progressive posturing is over foreign policy. Last week his government announced, to wide-spread acclaim, a brave course for their military that is independent of the reviled US administration. Except they will boost wasteful military spending by more than $60bn, a shocking seventy percent budgetary increase, and are already entertaining new Nato missions — exactly as Donald Trump has demanded. The doublespeak seems to have escaped the navel-gazing pundits: this is utter deference masquerading as defiance.

I don’t think Justin’s fans on the left need to be too worried about all that mucho-macho military posturing … until the promised spending is actually in the budget, it’s just politico-military theatre for our American allies than anything that will make a material difference to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. Once Trump is satisfied that Justin is doing his bidding, it can all be allowed to quietly go away (like the last government’s promises to beef up the armed forces and live up to our NATO commitments).

H/T to Ted Campbell for the link.

June 10, 2017

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

While we hear a lot about the special forces of some of our allies — US Navy SEALs, US Army Rangers and Delta Force, the British SAS and SBS — we generally hear very little about our own special forces. Some of that is natural: maintaining operational secrecy is very important, but long after the event, we still hear very little from official sources. A few years back, I posted a quick crib on the organization of Canada’s special forces, based on what was available at the time. Here, cribbed directly from the pages of Strong, Secure, Engaged [PDF], the new Canadian Defence Policy document, is a description of the role of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command:

Special Operations Forces are small, highly skilled, adaptable, multi-purpose forces held at very high readiness levels. Special Operations Forces are employed in situations that pose an imminent threat to national interests, where the use of larger military forces is inappropriate or undesirable, in operational environments where access is limited, and against high-value targets.

These situations benefit from small, well-planned or precision tactical operations. Such activities include: domestic and international counter-terrorist response, discrete intelligence collection, surveillance and reconnaissance activities, specialized capacity building to assist allied host nation forces, and immediate reaction in response to emergent or imminent threats. Flexible, scaleable Special Operations Task Forces often play a role in longer-term military missions but the limited numbers of highly skilled individuals at the heart of such forces typically deploy for limited durations of time.

Canada’s Special Operations Forces structure is lean. It consists of a headquarters commanding Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2) – Canada’s military counter-terrorism unit; the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU) – Canada’s military Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear detection and response unit; the Canadian Special Operations Regiment; the Special Operations Aviation Squadron; and the Canadian Special Operations Training Centre.

At its core, Canada’s Special Operations Forces are focused on a cooperative joint, inter-agency, and multi-national approach to operations. In order to meet future challenges, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command will continue this cooperation to support government decision-making in security situations, including counter-terrorism efforts. Additionally, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command will support international peace and security missions, and contribute to and harness the ‘Global Special Operations Forces Network’ consisting of allied Special Operations Forces.

The lean nature and unique characteristics of Canada’s Special Operations Forces require sustained and tailored investment to ensure continuity and effectiveness over the long-term

June 9, 2017

The new Canadian defence policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Unlike all the other issues that might have moved the Canadian government to finally address the weaknesses of the Canadian Armed Forces (including the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the high-tempo troop deployments to Afghanistan, escalating tensions in Ukraine and eastern Europe, and the rather embarrassing ongoing rusting-out of the RCN’s ships), Donald Trump appears to have been the trigger … and the first visible result (after Chrystia Freeland’s rather … muscular speech the other day) is the publication of Strong, Secure, Engaged [PDF].

It certainly says a lot of the right things, from personnel to equipment to training and deployment, but as always with a big government announcement, the devil will be in the details. From Defence minister Harjit Sajjan’s introduction:

The pages that follow detail a new vision for the Defence team for the coming decades. It is about our contribution to a Canada that is strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world. In a rapidly changing and less predictable world, we recognize that the distinction between domestic and international threats is becoming less relevant. Therefore, we cannot be strong at home unless we are also engaged in the world.

The policy also includes a new framework for how we will implement that vision. “Anticipate, Adapt and Act,” sets out a way of operating that addresses the challenges we face today, and the ones that will emerge tomorrow.

Canadians take pride in their Armed Forces, and its members serve their country admirably every day. Whether it is responding to natural disasters, providing expert search and rescue, defending our sovereignty, or contributing to greater peace and security in the world, our military answers the call wherever and whenever it occurs

So, along with all the verbiage, what is the new policy going to mean for the Canadian Forces?

This is the most rigorously costed Canadian defence policy ever developed. It is transparent and fully funded. To meet Canada’s defence needs at home and abroad, the Government will grow defence spending over the next 10 years from $18.9 billion in 2016-17 to $32.7 billion in 2026-27.

(more…)

June 7, 2017

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:56

That’s Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland with a statement that would cause the late Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau to throw her out of cabinet … because Canada has been relying solely on the US security umbrella since shortly after the elder Trudeau became Prime Minister in 1968. The interesting thing is that the federal government is reportedly going to announce significant new funds for the Canadian Forces in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Ottawa will forge its own path on the world stage because Canada can no longer rely on Washington for global leadership.

In a major speech setting the stage for Wednesday’s release of a new multibillion-dollar blueprint for the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Freeland rejected Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and its dismissal of free trade, global warming and the value of Western alliances in countering Russian adventurism and the Islamic State.

While she did not mention the U.S. President by name, Ms. Freeland expressed deep concern about the desire of many American voters to “shrug off the burden of world leadership.”

[…]

Ms. Freeland said Canada has been able to count on the powerful U.S. military to provide a protective shield since the end of the Second World War, but the United States’ turn inwards requires a new Canadian approach to defend liberal democracies.

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” she said. “To put it plainly: Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power.”

Giving Canada’s military “hard power” will allow it to meet global challenges, she said, listing North Korea, the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Baltic states and climate change as major threats to the world order.

“We will make the necessary investments in our military, to not only address years of neglect and underfunding, but also to place the Canadian Armed Forces on a new footing – with new equipment, training, resources and consistent and predictable funding,” she said.

Wednesday’s defence-policy review is expected to lay out the military’s priorities for future overseas deployments, and outline Ottawa’s 20-year plan for spending billions of dollars to upgrade warships and fighter jets, among other things.

Amazing. I didn’t think it would fall to Freeland to announce that we’re planning to stop being freeloaders on the US military…

May 27, 2017

Canada’s hollow army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Thanks to a post at Army.ca, here is the rough outline of the NATO battle group that Canada will be leading in Latvia later this summer (oddly lacking in attached artillery support):

… the Canadian-led battalion level battle group will be composed of about 1,138 soldiers, as well as armor, armored transport and combat support. Of that number, 450 will be Canadian mechanized infantry bringing with them armored vehicles and various support elements. A specialized Canadian reconnaissance platoon will also be on the ground. Albania will send 18 combat (explosive ordnance disposal) engineers. Italy will send a mechanized infantry company consisting of 160 soldiers plus armored fighting vehicles. Poland will send a tank company with 160 troops. Slovenia will send 50 soldiers specializing in defense against weapons of mass destruction, (chemical, biological and nuclear weapon defense, decontamination operations etc). Spain will send the second-largest contingent: 300 soldiers from a mechanized infantry company and armored vehicles, combat engineers and support elements.

As Ted Campbell points out, this is an odd and unwieldy formation and seems unnecessarily multi-national for such a small tasking. Why isn’t the Canadian Army just sending a full battalion with the necessary supporting troops (artillery, armour, engineers, medical and logistics, etc.) to minimize operational and linguistic friction? It’s because we don’t have enough troops to do that successfully:

There is an old, tried and true, military expression to describe this: “it’s a dog’s bloody breakfast!” Can you imagine trying to command and control that organization? Especially under NATO’s rules that, as we saw in Afghanistan, allow each country to impose caveats on what where when and how its forces may be told asked to do anything at all.

So how did we, Canada, get to this? How is it that we cannot, it appears, deploy a complete battle group without Albanian, Italian, Polish, Solvenian and Spanish troops? After all, we had a full battle group in Afghanistan just five years ago, didn’t we?

Well, yes, but …

First, a “battle group” is rarely a formed unit (never in the Canadian Army). It is, usually, either a full up armoured (tank) regiment or infantry battalion with add-ons: tanks or infantry, artillery in direct support, engineers and so on and so forth. Our battle group in Afghanistan was always based on one of Canada’s nine infantry battalions with attachments from a tank regiment, an artillery regiment and so on. But even the infantry battalion, the “base” of the battle group had to be augmented. Canada has not had one, single, full strength, properly organized and equipped infantry battalion for more than a decade. A battalion ought to have 950± soldiers and its own, organic, mortars, heavy machine guns, anti-tank or assault weapons, and, and , and … but many years ago, in an effort to “balance” the army the infantry was (stupidly) stripped of its mortars ~ the artillery will take care of it, it was said … and, bless ’em, the gunners have not let the infantry down, but that doesn’t mean the decision to strip the mortars, especially, from the infantry made any military sense at all. It didn’t; it was a dumb decision ~ the wrong thing for all the wrong reasons. But, a good friend tells, me, the prevailing view in the Army, especially, is that nothing must ever be cut because it will never, ever be gotten back. Thus we strip the battalions but leave the empty shells ~ a Canadian battalions circa 2017 has 500+ soldiers, not the 1,000- it needs. Even at the height of the Afghan campaign, when Major General (then Lieutenant Colonel) Omer Lavoie led Operation Medusa (you know, the one which Harjit Sajan said he conceived as “the architect”) his battalion, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment 1RCR) had to be augmented with a company from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry because there were not enough companies in all three of the RCR battalions that had not been deployed within the last 18 months … the Army, in other words, had been hollowed out for years, even decades.

March 15, 2017

Sensible reasons to reject a Canadian peacekeeping mission in Africa

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ted Campbell explains why it would not be a good thing for Canada to send a peacekeeping force to Mali (or to anywhere else in Africa right now):

The Globe and Mail, in an editorial, asks the key question:

“Is there a Canadian national interest in sending troops to Mali?”

I suggest that unless and until the Trudeau government can say, “yes,” and can explain that vital interest to most Canadians that sending Canadian soldiers off to Africa on a United Nations operation is problematical. “The Canadian Armed Forces shed blood and lost lives during the decade-long mission in Afghanistan,” the Globe‘s editorial says, “Sending them into a similar campaign in Mali may further Liberal political interests. But does it serve the national interest?

Now, I believe that I can make a sensible, mid to long term case for Canada to be “engaged,” politically, economically and militarily in Africa:

  • Africa will be, after Asia, the “next big deal” for economic growth, trade and, therefore, profits;
  • Canada will want to be involved as a trusted friend when Africa is ready to “blossom” and have an economic “boom” of its own; and
  • Despite Chinese and French incursions there are still plenty of opportunities for Canadian engagement.

In other words, we have interests in Africa; even, perhaps, in the mid to long term, we have vital interests, at that.

I cannot make a case for getting involved in any United Nations mission in Africa. I cannot, even with rose coloured glasses, see one single United Nations mission in Africa that is working, much less succeeding and doing some good.

I’m not opposed to the UN. In fact, I’m one of those who says that if it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it. The current UN is better than the old League of Nations, and some UN agencies, like the International Telecommunications Union, for example, do good work for the whole world and are, alone, worth our entire UN contribution, but we ask too much of the UN and it is neither well enough designed or led or organized or funded to do even a small percentage of what is asked of it. Peacekeeping is one of the things that the UN cannot do well in the 21st century. Peacekeeping was fine when it was ‘invented’ (circa 1948, by Ralph Bunche, and American and Brian Urquhart, a Brit, not by Lester Pearson in 1957, no matter what your ill-educated professors may have told you) but it could not be adapted to situations in which there is:

  • No peace to be kept;
  • A plethora of non-state actors who are not amenable to UN sanctions.

A few days ago I wrote about the risks involved in sending soldiers to Africa. The Globe and Mail‘s editorial just adds some more fuel to that fire.

February 25, 2017

Updating the junior rank structure of the Canadian Army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Earlier this week, Ted Campbell offered his suggestions on how to address some issues he notes in the lower ranks of the Canadian Army, based on both Canadian and allied armies’ experiences:

There was always a problem with the old (1850s to 1960s) Army rank structure: there was some need to tie rank to trade, but not as tightly, many military people believe, as […] in the Canadian Armed Forces today. Some branches (corps) used to have fairly strict rules; in the old (1960s) Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, for example, the technicians, amongst the very highest paid soldiers in the whole army, could not attend the long, difficult and expensive, advanced (3rd of 4 levels) technician course until they had passed the junior leadership course and they could not attempt the senior leadership course until they had passed the advanced technician’s course, and so on. But that system always excluded some good people. There were, and still are today, many people who can be excellent, even outstanding technicians but cannot lead or manage soldiers. The United States Army addressed this same issue by creating the “specialist” grouping which allowed soldiers to “advance” through part of the pay system ~ higher salaries for technical skills ~ but not the other ~ even higher salaries for leadership. In past years there were many different (paid) grades of specialist but now it is a “rank” equivalent to the US Army corporal for soldiers who have not yet or cannot pass the first level junior leader course. The British Royal Air Force has a similar and, in my opinion, better system …

… which recognizes both technical skill and leadership requirements.

In my opinion we should undo much of what Mr Hellyer did, while thanking him for addressing the pay problem, and restore the junior leadership positions, especially the tank and rifle section commanders, to the real, and younger, junior leaders: those in the rank of master corporal. This will restore the senior leaders to their traditional roles as “guides” and mentors to the junior leaders: both to the corporals and the lieutenants. The ranks of sergeant ~ in several “grades” and warrant officer are often, and very correctly, referred to as the backbone or even the “heart and soul” of the army. That is partly because, traditionally, they stood ever so slightly “aloof” from the rank and file. The lieutenants gave orders, advised, coached and mentored by the sergeants, to the corporals who, then, directly led the riflemen but were also mentored by the sergeants. It was, to repeat the words I used to describe the US constitution, “a fine and finely balanced system;” we upset the balance 50 years ago to solve a pay problem. We should, also, adapt the RAF’s aircraftman/technician to our own needs to allow some soldiers to advance “up” in their technical field (and be paid more) without becoming leaders (and being paid more for that, too).

To do that the Army will have to reform itself.

First, it will have to repose trust in its junior leaders; that’s something that will be hard to do, even after the Army, of absolute necessity, makes junior leader training ~ making privates into corporals and civilians into second lieutenants ~ its highest priority and the job it assigns to its very, very best senior leaders.

Second, it will have to restore the “sergeant’s mess” to its traditional pride of place in the Army by giving the sergeants and warrant officers back the senior supervisory and management duties that have, in far too many cases, migrated “upwards” until they are now done by captains and even majors. Once again, it is a trust issue and we live in a world where many of the most senior leaders are timid because they have been “burned” too often, by their own superiors, when a subordinate makes a mistake. Mistakes are part of human nature; they have to be corrected, forgiven, in most cases, and, very often, used as teaching aids.

Third, the government will need to revise the pay system so that junior leaders are paid more and, meanwhile, the gap between corporal and master corporal and sergeant is maintained.

Fourth, promotions, in the Army, at least, to corporal and to captain must not be automatic. Promotion to corporal must require that one pass a very tough junior leaders course; promotion from lieutenant to captain should be by examination.

But, doing these four things will, in my opinion, give the Army a firm foundation upon which to build and fight.

January 17, 2017

Vice Chief of the Defence Staff relieved of duty

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Vice Admiral Mark Norman, former head of the Royal Canadian Navy, was relieved of duty as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on Monday. Details are sketchy, but Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on the highly unusual activity for the Globe and Mail:

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was relieved of his duties as the Canadian military’s second-highest-ranking officer over alleged leaks of highly classified information, The Globe and Mail has learned.

A source said General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, ordered Mr. Norman’s removal after an investigation of “pretty high-level secret documents” that had allegedly been leaked.

The source would not provide further information on the nature of the sensitive leaks. It is unknown whether the alleged leaks were to journalists, business interests or another country.

The military is offering no explanation for this extreme measure which took place Monday morning.

Vice-Adm. Norman has served in the Forces for 36 years and was previously in charge of the Royal Canadian Navy. He commanded the Royal Canadian Navy for more than four-and-a-half years until General Vance appointed him as vice-chief in January 2016.

The use of the term “temporary” to describe Admiral Norman’s relief may indicate that further investigation is required (my speculation), but no official explanation has been provided yet.

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