Quotulatiousness

May 7, 2016

The Canadian Forces’ obesity problem

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

The Canadian military (all branches, but especially the reserve forces) have an obesity problem that needs drastic measures to address. Ted Campbell offers his prescription to trim down the bloat:

Command of the Armed Forces should flow from the Governor General, who is, by the Letters Patent of issued by King George VI in 1947, the Commander in Chief, through the Chief of the Defence Staff who should also, for clarity, be styled “Commander Canadian Armed Forces” (COMCAF) and to four regional joint commanders: Commanders of Pacific, Western, Eastern and Atlantic Commands. Each of those commanders should have subordinate and appropriately ranked Naval, Army and Air “component commanders.” (Appropriately means according to the size and scope of the forces in their commands. The Naval Component Commander in Western Command, which has only a handful of Naval Reserve Divisions, might be a Navy Captain while the Army Component Commander in each of Pacific and Atlantic Commands might be an Army colonel or, at best, a brigadier general.)

Staffs should be lower ranked and as [a] firm, absolutely inviolable rule no staff officer in any headquarters may outrank the principal commanders who are directly subordinate to the commander that staff officer serves. In some, rare, cases principal staff officers might be equal in rank to subordinate commanders so that the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the officer who heads the national Joint Staff might both be three star officers (vice admirals/lieutenant generals) as would be the commanders of the four Joint Commands. But in an army brigade group, which, given its size and combat power, ought to be commanded by a brigadier general (not by a colonel), where the principal subordinate commanders are lieutenant colonels, the principle operations and support staff officers ought to be majors.

In short almost every staff officer currently serving in almost every HQ, large and small, high and low, in the Canadian Armed Forces is, right now, one (in a few cases two) rank higher than (s)he needs to be. This (over-ranking) is a serious problem because it contributes to HQ bloat and it clouds what should be a very, very clear “chain of command.” It should change, soon. Change would be unpopular and moderately difficult but not, at all, impossible.

Fewer, smaller, leaner and meaner, and lower ranked HQs will, I am 99.99% certain, be more efficient and effective and they might be forced to actually understand the unique pressures that face reserve force members ~ most of whom have full time, civilian jobs (or are full time students) and who do their reserve force work after the “bankers’ hours” that almost all Canadian Armed Forces HQs work. (If I had a penny for every horror story I have heard about army staff officers who know far, far too little about the reserve force units in their areas and who give, sometimes just silly but often quite stupidly impossible orders guidance or tasks, that cannot possibly be met on time, if at all, I would be a wealthy man. Now, it may not be clear that lower ranks will solve that, but I believe that lower ranked officers are more likely to work harder (as all staff officers should) and, in an effort to impress their commanders (and his subordinate commanders, too), work smarter, too, which will alleviate many of the problems that are the result of useless HQ “busy work.”

[…]

Less money spent on useless, over-ranked staff officers in redundant HQs would mean that equipment and support personnel could be found for the Army Reserve. Minister Harjit Sajjan knows the problem … all he needs to do is to push General Jon Vance in the right (unpopular but right) direction. They are both new enough on the job and each brings to it well known sense of “operational” soldiering that they could make unpopular decisions, give unpopular orders and shake up the comfortable, somnolent, entrenched uniformed bureaucracy, especially in the Canadian Army, and, thereby, reinvigorate the Canadian Army Reserve, using the Auditor General’s damning report as a catalyst for change.

January 21, 2016

Roles for Canada’s armed forces

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Ted Campbell outlines the most likely tasks and approximate organization of the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless of the political or ideological stripe of the government of the day:

Thus far, in two posts: Establishing Some Baselines and Defence of Canada I have developed four “baseline” roles or tasks for the Canadian Department of National Defence:

  • To maintain active military forces to share in the continental defence of the North American homelands, of the maritime approaches to them and of the airspace over both.
  • To maintain a global, blue water fleet, supported by air forces, that is able to, simultaneously, maintain a constant Canadian presence in at least two different theatres.
  • To maintain trained, disciplined military units that can, on very short notice, give effective “aid to the civil power” here in Canada.
  • To maintain combat naval, land and air forces and a full range of strategic and tactical support services, able to conduct low to mid intensity operations anywhere in Canada on short notice.

Those tasks, both explicitly and implicitly, call for:

  • A surveillance and warning system ~ which, I think, to be really useful must cover all of the Canadian landmass, the maritimes approaches to it and the airspace over both and, probably, needs to have terrestrial, underwater, airborne (aircraft mounted) and space based (satellite) sensors.
  • A command and control communications (C³) system to interconnect all those sensors and the various command agencies ~ Canadian, US and combined.
  • A full fledged Navy able to operate in 9and under) coastal waters and anywhere in the world.
  • A full fledged Air Force able to conduct air and joint operations in Canada and to conduct joint naval-air operations anywhere in the world.
  • An Army for domestic, territorial defence of Canada.
  • The full fledged Navy and Air Force and limited Army also, in their turn, call for medical, logistical, administrative and financial support systems: hospitals, supply depots and warehouses, and people working away in offices, far away from the action, keeping services flowing to the people who need them.

What about forces for the next Afghanistan or UN peacekeeping mission or Korea or, heaven forbid, another world war?

That would be an Expeditionary Force.

Read the whole thing.

December 27, 2015

The refit and modernization program for the RCN’s Halifax class frigates

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Chronicle Herald, Andrea Gunn reports on the Royal Canadian Navy’s refit program for the twelve ships in the HMCS Halifax class, being done in Victoria and Halifax:

A $4.3-billion, decade-long life extension and modernization of Canada’s Halifax-class frigates has now been completed on more than half the fleet.

Work started in 2010 on the mid-life refit and modernization process, which has been concluded on HMCS Halifax, Fredericton, Montreal and Charlottetown at the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard, and on HMCS Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver at Seaspan in Victoria.

The other five vessels, HMCS St. John’s, Ottawa, Ville de Quebec and Toronto, have all entered refit and are at various stages of completion and testing. All major work for the program, which is on schedule and on budget, is set to be finished by 2019.

The project’s aim is to extend the lifespan of the fleet to sustain Canada’s naval operations during the design and construction phase of the new fleet of Canadian surface combatants, set to be delivered by 2033. The Halifax-class frigates have been in operation since 1992, and planning and preparation for the modernization project began in 2002.

Royal Canadian Navy Commodore Craig Baines, commander of the Atlantic fleet, recently returned from two months of major multinational exercises that utilized three of the modernized vessels. HMCS Halifax, Montreal and Winnipeg participated in Joint Warrior, and Winnipeg and Halifax participated in Trident Juncture, the largest NATO military exercise since the Cold War.

“From where we were previously to where we are now, it’s like you have a brand new ship,” Baines told The Chronicle Herald.

The modernized vessels are equipped with a new radar suite and have had major upgrades to the communications and warfare systems. But it’s the $2-billion upgrade to the fleet’s combat management systems — a completely redesigned command and control centre with plenty of new features — that is largely responsible for that new ship feel.

Click image to see full-sized. H/T to @RUSI_NS for the link.

Click image to see full-sized. H/T to @RUSI_NS for the link.

November 4, 2015

Sometimes the US Navy isn’t subtle

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

At the RCN News site, a recent press release from the US Navy expresses just a bit more than most civilian readers will get:

U.S. and Canadian naval units began a Task Group Exercise (TGEX) off the coast of Southern California, Oct. 20.
Participating units from the Royal Canadian Navy include Canadian Fleet Pacific, Halifax-class frigates HMCS Calgary (FFH 335) and HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), and Victoria-class ASW target HMCS Chicoutimi (SSK 879).

Emphasis mine.

August 5, 2015

The state of the Royal Canadian Navy

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

It’s worse than you might think:

HMCS Athabaskan

HMCS Athabaskan

Maclean's maritime chartThis October, NATO is launching Trident Juncture, its largest and most ambitious military exercise in a decade. The massive land, sea and air exercise will be held in the Mediterranean and will include 36,000 troops from 30 nations. Its goal will be to help the fictitious country of Sorotan, “a non-NATO member torn by internal strife and facing an armed threat from an opportunistic neighbour.” Not surprisingly, this is widely seen as an explicit response to Moscow’s increasingly belligerent pressure on the alliances’ eastern borders. The Canadian government, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, had planned to send its flagship destroyer, HMCS Athabaskan, as “a strong signal to the Russians,” whose ships and aircraft have also been bumping up against Canada’s territorial claims in the Arctic.

But, last week, it was reported by the Ottawa Citizen that the 43-year-old Athabaskan was no longer seaworthy and is being sent back to Halifax for extensive repairs. Athabaskan is a fitting symbol of the overall state of the Navy: Its engines require an overhaul, the hull is cracked, the decks need replacing, and the weapon systems are questionable. Even Rear Admiral John Newton, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, describes his flagship as worn and tired.

In February, during a storm off the East Coast, Athabaskan was damaged and a number of engines failed. After that, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) decided it was no longer capable of weathering the heavy seas of the North Atlantic, so it was sent south for calmer seas. Nonetheless, its engines broke down in Florida, then again in placid Caribbean waters.

“It was garbage. Everything was always breaking,” says Jason Brown, who served as an electrician and technician on Athabaskan for seven years, ending in 2010. “We did 150 to 300 corrective maintenances a month.” Although Brown praises the ship’s crew, he often spent 20-hour days trying to fix equipment. “The two main engines didn’t like to play nice together. It was 4½ years before that issue got fixed.”

[…]

Compared to its allies, the Canadian Navy is now only one-third the size it should be, given our GDP, and can only play smaller and smaller roles. Stanley Weeks of the U.S. Naval War College, a former U.S. admiral who follows NATO closely, is dismayed at the decline of the RCN. “[Canadian politicians] need more seriousness. Canada is an inherently maritime nation, dependent on overseas markets, especially in Asia Pacific, and, therefore, it has to be a contributing stakeholder, militarily and diplomatically.” He believes American military leaders in the Pentagon have not yet grasped the serious implications of losing the Canadian destroyers. Regardless, “Canadians should worry more about this than Washington.”

April 23, 2015

HMCS Iroquois to pay off on May 1st

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

The Royal Canadian Navy is shrinking again:

Maritime Forces Atlantic is encouraging all serving and retired members who have sailed aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Iroquois to RSVP to the paying off ceremony on May 1st in Halifax, Maritime Forces Atlantic states in a news release.

More from the Maritime Forces Atlantic news release.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships are a unique workplace in the Canadian Armed Forces. Crew members develop a connection to their ship as it can become their home for weeks and months at a time. HMCS Iroquois’ achievements over more than four decades symbolise the excellent workmanship and special comradery of her crews and is why we honour the Ship, her crew, and HMCS Iroquois’ valued service to Canadians.

HMCS Iroquois (DDG 280) at Port of Hamburg, near Övelgönne (via Wikipedia)

HMCS Iroquois (DDG 280) at Port of Hamburg, near Övelgönne (via Wikipedia)

April 8, 2015

The sinking of HMCS Annapolis

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

HMCS Annapolis Sink Day April 4th 2015 from Geoff Grognet on Vimeo.

Sinking of HMCS Annapolis as an artificial reef. HMCS Annapolis is being sunk in Halkett Bay on Gambier Island by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia. It will serve as a recreational dive site, and provide a habitat for fish and other marine life.

April 1, 2015

The RCN’s Victoria class submarines

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

Damian Brooks linked to this article in The Walrus, calling it “Easily the best piece on Canadian submarines I’ve ever seen in the mainstream press.”

The threat of fire is ever-present on warships, which is why fire training is conducted every day a Canadian vessel is in port and at least once a week when it’s at sea. But the fire on Chicoutimi, which already had experienced a four-year delay in getting out of port, could hardly have come at a worse time for Canada’s “silent service.” It fuelled a controversy that had begun in 1998 with the purchase of the ship and three other mothballed Upholder-class submarines from the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. From the start, critics questioned the deal, which was supposed to cost $800 million for the subs and the conversion work required to bring them up to the Royal Canadian Navy’s requirements. (Few put it as succinctly as Mike Hancock, the British MP who asked, “Why were the Canadians daft enough to buy them?”) The fire simply added to what Paul Mitchell, a professor of defence studies at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, calls an already “well-established narrative of waste and dysfunction.”

[…]

In 1943, thousands of Canadians bought a book, co-authored by humorist and early supporter of the RCN Stephen Leacock, that gave a reasonably clear account of the U-boat attacks on the St. Lawrence in 1942, which claimed twenty-one ships and 249 lives, including 136 aboard the ferry SS Caribou. Ultimately, Canada emerged from the war with the world’s fourth-largest navy, most of which was quickly scrapped, or “paid off.” In the late 1940s, the threat posed to transatlantic shipping by Soviet submarines led the navy to purchase the aircraft carrier HMS Magnificent, which was replaced in 1957 by HMCS Bonaventure. When the Trudeau government decided to decommission the carrier — Misadventure, as some wags had dubbed it — commentators intelligently discussed the anti-submarine capabilities of the ships that would replace it.

What passes for naval debate today is, by contrast, too often uninformed and sloppy. The Halifax Chronicle Herald reported in September 2011 that Chicoutimi was being “cannibalized” for parts for HMCS Victoria (not acknowledging that this practice, known as a transfer request, is standard RCN operating procedure). And most articles about the submarine program are riddled with errors and boilerplate references to the 2004 fire. Compare that to a 1969 fire, which killed nine men aboard the destroyer HMCS Kootenay and quickly vanished from a more sea-conscious news.

For much of the late twentieth century, Canada’s three British-built, diesel-electric Oberon-class submarines served an important role as “clockwork mice” — targets for anti-submarine training exercises by Canadian and other Allied navies. After being equipped with passive sonar and Mark 48 torpedoes in the mid-1980s, these “O-boats” became true weapons platforms capable of performing their NATO missions in the Canadian Atlantic Submarine area. (Not until 2009 did the public learn of the “surreal moment” in late November 1986 during which Lieutenant-Commander Larry Hickey worked out the coordinates that, had he detected an offensive move, would have guided a torpedo from HMCS Onondaga into the hull of a nearby Soviet submarine — and possibly precipitated World War III.)

[…]

Last October, at the Naval Association of Canada conference in Ottawa, speaker after speaker lamented the public’s ignorance of these topics and, in many cases, its outright hostility toward submarines. Frigates, with their flared bows and graceful lines, intercept pirates in the Arabian Sea and hurry supplies to disaster areas after earthquakes and tsunamis. They sail to Toronto for the Canadian National Exhibition and make for good photo ops while passing under Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge. Part of the image problem, one speaker wryly noted, is that “you can’t host a decent cocktail party on the deck of a submarine.” Nor can the Victoria-class subs assert Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic in the muscular terms employed by Stephen Harper in his 2007 “Use It or Lose It” speech.

The submarine’s most important characteristic is its stealth. Far from being appreciated as a strategic asset, however, stealth jars with the public’s notion of a peaceable kingdom. Former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy went so far as to declare the ships “un-Canadian,” echoing British admiral Sir Arthur Wilson’s 1901 comment that they are “underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English.” According to Commander Michael Craven, gathering intelligence, joining with coalition partners to close off choke points, enabling “covert delivery and recovery of Special Operations Forces,” and performing a constabulary role against illegal fisheries and drug smugglers is exactly consistent with what Axworthy called “soft power.” That is, global influence exerted via “ideas, values, persuasion, skill and technique” and other forms of “non-intrusive intervention.”

December 29, 2014

HMCS Annapolis to be sunk as artificial reef on the west coast

Filed under: Environment, Military, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:58

HMCS Annapolis at Pearl Harbour in 1995 (via Wikipedia)

HMCS Annapolis at Pearl Harbour in 1995 (via Wikipedia)

After a protracted legal battle, the hull of HMCS Annapolis will finally be sunk as an artificial reef in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, in Howe Sound. Jennifer Thuncher reports for the Squamish Chief:

In her prime, the 1960s-era HMCS Annapolis warship sailed the open seas off the eastern and western Canadian coasts for the Royal Canadian Navy.

During the late 1980s, the helicopter-carrying destroyer was the first Canadian navy ship fitted with a towed array sonar system. She was decommissioned in 1996.

Come January, after years of anticipation, a court case and plenty of controversy, the Annapolis will be sunk in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, in Howe Sound, to serve her afterlife as an artificial reef.

“The good news is… all the permits are now in place, Environment Canada has done its final inspection… and they passed the inspection,” said Richard Wall of the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, which bought the Annapolis from the federal government in 2008.

Wall said Fisheries and Oceans Canada “is happy because we are creating habitat, not destroying habitat.”

The original plan had called for the Annapolis to be sunk in 2009.

One of the main hold-ups has been getting the ship cleaned up enough to be sunk.

The federal government “has very stringent disposal at sea regulations which we have been following, and Environment Canada would not allow us to sink until they were satisfied, which is one of the reasons the big delays happen,” Wall said.

The crash of commodity prices around the time the Annapolis project started also contributed to the long delay in preparing the ship for sinking.

HMCS Annapolis disposal 1 HMCS Annapolis disposal 2

November 9, 2014

A Canadian Mistral (or two)? Not likely say the experts

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:07

Remember those palmy days of summer, when the French helicopter carrier Mistral visited Canadian waters for a joint exercise with the Canadian Army? I half-joking referred to it as Canada “kicking the tires” … but the idea hasn’t gone away completely. In the Ottawa Citizen, David Pugliese reported earlier last week that the International Business Times had run an article about it.

Halifax, Nova Scotia. FS Mistral (L-9013) is an amphibious assault ship, and lead ship of her class. She was commissioned in 2006. She features a landing craft dock, and helicopter facilities. Photo: Halifax Shipping News

Halifax, Nova Scotia. FS Mistral (L-9013) is an amphibious assault ship, and lead ship of her class. She was commissioned in 2006. She features a landing craft dock, and helicopter facilities. Photo: Halifax Shipping News

The deal is worth $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion (different figures are out there) to the French. The Russians are interested in three of the ships. The French haven’t proceeded yet with the sale to Russia because of the situation in Ukraine.

But how probable is it that Canada would buy the Mistral-class ships?

Earlier this year, the Royal Canadian Navy was looking at buying surplus U.S. Navy supply ships. But that is not going to happen, RCN commander Vice Admiral Mark Norman told Defence Watch. What is being examined is the purchase of a commercial oiler (maybe).

The RCN is in dire need of an oiler/supply ship……not, at this point, an amphibious assault ship. So if there is an extra billion dollars or more around, the focus might be on acquiring an oiler/supply fleet to replace the decommissioned AORs.

Mistral-class ships are capable of carrying 16 helicopters, landing barges, up to 70 vehicles and 450 soldiers. They also come equipped with a hospital.

Canadian shipyards could also be expected to oppose such a purchase. There would be little for them (except maybe in-service support) in such an acquisition and they could argue that such a purchase would undermine the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

In September, I called the idea of Canada buying the Mistrals as the maritime equivalent of “pie in the sky”, despite a passionate article in the US Naval Institute News pushing the idea. They even showed what a Canadian Mistral would look like:

Mistral-class ship, ‘Sevastopol’ configured as a NATO/Canadian Navy ship. CASR Image

Mistral-class ship, Sevastopol configured as a NATO/Canadian Navy ship. CASR Image

So, on the surface, the idea isn’t likely to go anywhere for practical and economic reasons. But, a couple of days later Pugliese posted another article on the Mistral debate, responding to criticism from University of Ottawa professor Roland Paris:

If the Paris had actually read the articles in question he would have found out that the stories arose not from Hugh Segal’s comments from May but from the fact that the delegation led this week by French President François Hollande to Canada contained a significant contingent of the country’s defence industry representatives, including those from Mistral shipbuilder DCNS. That group included the firm’s diplomatic adviser.

In addition, sources have told Defence Watch that the delegation did indeed try to interest Canada in Mistral-class ships, as well as the FREMM class frigates.

Will they succeed with Mistral? Like I have mentioned a number of times at Defence Watch, including in the posting cited by Paris, the answer is likely no.

[…]

France, over the last two years, has embarked on a significant push into Canada to promote its defence products, particularly in the naval arena. With $35 billion on the table for shipbuilding who can blame them?

There was a specific reason a Mistral-class warship sailed across the Atlantic this summer to take Canadian soldiers on board for amphibious exercises. And it wasn’t about any close relationship between the French and Canadian militaries, although that might have played a minor role.

No, the French are interested in selling. They want to sell Canada warships, warship designs, and naval equipment like that on board the Mistral-class and the FREMM frigates. That is the reason the FREMM ship Aquitaine also visited Canada.

Personally, I’d love to see the RCN acquire a pair of Mistral-class ships, but they would not come cheap, they wouldn’t create a lot of jobs in Nova Scotia, Quebec, or British Columbia (and therefore wouldn’t be useful for gathering votes from those provinces), and they’d require the government to fully equip them … helicopters are extra. And we all know how the Canadian government can’t manage to say the word “helicopter” without wasting millions of dollars, never mind actually buying any.

October 11, 2014

Display of naval flags on Her Majesty’s Canadian ships

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:40

From the Royal Canadian Navy’s website:

RCN flag positions

Canadian Naval Ensign
The Naval Ensign is flown at the masthead while at sea, or at the stern when alongside, moored or at anchor.

Canadian Naval Jack
The Naval Jack is flown at the bow when alongside, moored or at anchor.

Commissioning Pennant
Flown from the masthead, the Commissioning Pennant is hoisted on the day a warship is commissioned and is displaced only by the personal flag of the Sovereign or senior officer when embarked.

September 23, 2014

HMCS Bonaventure (CVL 22) – Majestic Class Aircraft Carrier

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:00

Published on 14 Apr 2013

HMCS Bonaventure (CVL 22) was a Majestic class aircraft carrier. She served in the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Forces Maritime Command from 1957 to 1970 and was the third and the last aircraft carrier to serve Canada. The ship was laid down for the British Royal Navy as HMS Powerful in November 1943. At the end of World War II, work on the ship was suspended in 1946. At the time of purchase, it was decided to incorporate new aircraft carrier technologies into the design. Bonaventure never saw action during her career having only peripheral, non-combat roles. However, she was involved in major NATO fleet-at-sea patrol during the Cuban Missile Crisis. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMCS_Bonaventure (CVL_22)

September 22, 2014

A Canadian Mistral? What’s the maritime equivalent of “pie in the sky”?

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 17:30

A few months back, the French amphibious assault ship Mistral took part in joint exercises with Canadian troops from the Royal 22e Régiment (the “Van Doos”). I wondered at the time if it might be an opportunity for the RCN to “kick the tires” of the Mistral with an eye to eventually adding that to their theoretical shopping list (if they ever manage to get anything built this decade). At USNI News an opinion piece by Jim Dorschner looks at the benefits to NATO if the RCN leased one of the Mistrals being built for Russia while NATO itself took on the other one:

The September decision by France to withhold delivery of two Mistral-class Landing Platforms Helicopter (LPH) building for Russia is an opportunity for NATO, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and for the French shipbuilding industry and economy. France should not suffer economically for taking a stand against Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. Rather, NATO, France and Canada can benefit if a little mutually beneficial creativity is applied.

While France desperately wants to complete the two amphibious warships — and get paid for them — NATO and Canada need the capabilities these ships can provide.

For Canada, an LPH would help buttress logistic support for the upcoming Canadian Joint Support Ship (JSS). The replacement to Canada’s fleet oilers originally required a level of expeditionary capabilities which were ultimately not included in the final ship design.

Furthermore, while one of the Russian Mistrals is already undertaking sea trials and the second is scheduled for completion in 2016, the first of three new Queenston-class JSS for the RCN will not even begin building in Vancouver until 2017 or 2018 at best, with delivery by 2019 or 2020.

It was just announced that one of the two the current support ships HMCS Protecteur and the three Tribal-class destroyers HMCS Algonquin, HMCS Athabaskan, and HMCS Iroquois will be withdrawn from service immediately, and the Queenston-class are not going to be built any sooner.

Mistral-class ship, ‘Sevastopol’ configured as a NATO/Canadian Navy ship. CASR Image

Mistral-class ship, Sevastopol configured as a NATO/Canadian Navy ship. CASR Image

A RCN Mistral could operate the full range Canadian helicopters, including CH-148 Cyclones and CH-147F Chinooks. Ideally, Canada should obtain 6-8 additional Cyclones configured for the Commando Helicopter role as part of a financial settlement with Sikorsky over the Maritime Helicopter Program (MHP). Commando Cyclones would be optimized for Special Operations, tactical assault, medical evacuation and utility missions, with troop seats in place of maritime sensors, though retaining the CH-148’s FLIR system.

The make-up of a Tailored Air Group (TAG) for the RCN LPH would depend on the mission. A mix of Commando Cyclones, Griffons and Chinooks for amphibious, SOF, Arctic support and humanitarian operations. Cyclones for maritime security and ASW task forces. Exchange aircrew from the US Marine Corps, the Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force and the Royal Danish and Norwegian Air Forces should be embedded within the Cyclone squadron forming the core of the TAG. This is critical for building expertise and interoperability among Arctic and NATO partners. By way of building a more direct partnership, Resolute could regularly embark RDAF EH-101 Merlin tactical helicopters and MH-60S Seahawk maritime helicopters.

Not least of the challenges facing the RCN would be manning. Fortunately, Mistral was designed from the beginning to operate with a small crew – just 20 officers, 80 petty officers and 60 sailors.

The foremost challenge for Canada may be convincing the government and the public that obtaining a Mistral LPH for the RCN is sensible and affordable, despite being outside the NSPS construct. Given the challenges now emerging for NATO member states and for Canada itself, the answer is surely a resounding ‘Yes’.

Given the current government’s allergy to spending actual money on military priorities (as opposed to nice-but-cheap uniform changes for photo ops), this grand notion is probably dead in the water with no hopes of success … but it’d be a nice boost for the RCN, and nearly as useful for the Canadian Army and RCAF. But it wouldn’t win key voting blocks in Halifax or Vancouver.

July 13, 2014

HMCS Regina at sea

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:49

In Maclean’s, Nick Taylor-Vaisey has a video and photos from HMCS Regina‘s most recent tour of duty.

Peter Bregg boarded HMCS Regina on a fateful day for the ship’s crew. Bregg, a former Maclean’s chief photographer who spent 18 days observing Canadian anti-smuggling operations in the Indian Ocean, arrived in Dar es Salaam on April 21. He left the steamy Tanzanian port city the same day Leading Seaman Brandon South, a sonar operator, died in a nearby hospital, while off-duty, of causes not yet released to the public.

The next day, Daniel Charlebois, the ship’s commanding officer, informed the crew. Morale plummeted, says Bregg. “It was really depressing,” he recalls. “I stayed out of their way and put my camera away.” During a memorial service two days later, Bregg was in a Navy helicopter that paid tribute to the late seaman with a flypast. He called the sombre service “almost like a burial at sea.”

South’s death was a rare dark moment aboard Regina, says Bregg, where the 265 sailors normally kept “extremely high” spirits as they went about their business: maintenance, target practice, personal training, and the self-explanatory “Sundae Sundays.” When necessary, they transition easily between the formal chain of command and lighter moments at sea. While sailors chow down on ice cream or unload the ship, rank dissolves.

May 4, 2014

The Battle of the Atlantic

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

On the first Sunday in May every year, we remember the Battle of the Atlantic, one of the major contributions to allied victory in World War 2, and the Canadian part in that multi-year battle:

The Battle of the Atlantic campaign was fought at sea from 1939 to 1945 with the strategic outcome being sea-control of the North Atlantic Ocean. It was the longest, largest, and arguably the most complex campaign of the Second World War. Over the course of 2,075 days, Allied naval and air forces fought more than 100 convoy battles and perhaps 1,000 single ship actions against the submarines and warships of the German and Italian navies. Enemy vessels targeted mainly the convoys of merchant ships transporting material and troops vital to safeguarding the freedom of the peoples of North America and Europe.

On any given day, up to 125 merchant vessels were sailing in convoy across the North Atlantic. It was during these treacherous, stormy crossings that Canada’s navy matured and won the mantle of a professional service. Our navy escorted more than 25,000 merchant vessels across the Atlantic. These ships carried some 182,000,000 tonnes of cargo to Europe — the equivalent of eleven lines of freight cars, each stretching from Vancouver to Halifax. Without these supplies, the war effort would have collapsed.

Thousands of Canadian men and women – members of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Merchant Navy (MN) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), mostly volunteers from small town Canada – had to face situations so perilous they are difficult for us to imagine. As Canadians, we should be proud of their courage.

Although largely unprepared for war in 1939, Canada’s navy grew at an unparalleled rate eventually providing 47 percent of all convoy escorts. Rear Admiral Leonard Murray, who as Commander-in-Chief Northwest Atlantic from March 1943, would become the only Canadian to hold an Allied theatre command during the war and direct the convoy battles out of his headquarters in Halifax.

During the Second World War the RCN grew from 13 vessels to a strength of nearly 100,000 uniformed men and women and nearly 400 vessels, the fourth largest navy in the world. It had suffered 2,210 fatalities, including six women, and had lost 33 vessels. It had destroyed or shared in the destruction of 33 U-Boats and 42 enemy surface craft. In partnership with Canada’s maritime air forces and merchant navy, it had played a pivotal and successful role in the contest for seaward supremacy.

Merchant ships of Convoy HX188 en route to Britain. Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-115006

Merchant ships of Convoy HX188 en route to Britain.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-115006

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