Saturday, 10 November 2018
Friday, 14 September 2018
It can be argued that, as a “junior partner” since World War 2, Canada has followed the British and American lead in security and defence, subordinating its national interest to the goals of our allies and alliances.
There are good reasons for Canada to have followed this approach in the past. Following the lead of our allies appears to improve Canada’s standing in the world, especially amongst peer allied nations, and allows Canada to exercise some leadership in international affairs. This increased leadership role allows Canada to further its interests through diplomacy. These policies also make it possible for the Government of Canada to highlight perceived successes abroad so as to increase popular support for its foreign policy and raise awareness of the role of the Armed Forces in maintaining security.
However this is not the only policy option available. As a sovereign power Canada can set its own strategic priorities. Moreover, by continuing the historical pattern of letting alliance leaders determine its’ strategy, the case can be made that Canada is abdicating its responsibility to protect its own national interests.
The Canadian Armed Forces spend time and resources estimating the capabilities and kinds of forces they may confront in the future. The need to assess the probable opposition is driven by the requirement to determine what resources will be necessary to meet those threats. The time has come to start making the same estimations about the capabilities and intentions of those allies who, at least in the past, we have expected to be fighting alongside. These assessments should be driven by the same need to determine the resources necessary to meet the goals of the Government of Canada.
We are approaching the point at which it becomes necessary to take a more active role in safeguarding our own security interests. As quoted in MacLean’s Magazine while discussing his book “America: The Farewell Tour” author Chris Hedges is quoted as saying: “America is an empire. So we’re much more fragile than nation-states, non-imperial countries. You see that throughout history: the ancient Greeks invading Sicily, and their entire fleet sunk, thousands of soldiers killed and their empire becoming unsustainable; or in 1956 when Britain tries to invade Egypt after the nationalization of the Suez Canal, retreats in humiliation and thereby triggers a financial crisis and the end of the pound sterling as a reserve currency, marking the death of the British Empire, which had been on a slow descent since the end of World War One. The dollar as the world’s current reserve currency is running on fumes. The moment that’s over, American financial supremacy is instantly finished. It will be very similar to the aftermath of the Suez disaster—something like that is always characteristic of late empire. And the fragility of an empire means that when collapse comes it’s almost instantaneous. You look back at the rapid final fall of the old Soviet Union. A failing empire is like a house of cards that just comes down—it’s not a slow descent. We know from history what happens. It’s not a mystery.”
This is not just speculation. The U.K.’s Global Strategic Trends describes a 2045 People’s Republic of China (PRC) with an economy more than double that of the United States ($62.9 trillion versus $30.7 trillion) and noting that even today, the PRC military may already be “close to matching that of the U.S., perhaps exceeding it in some areas.” Studies show that the trajectory of PRC growth means that it poses a far greater economic challenge to the United States than did Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, or Nazi Germany.
There is a growing understanding that the ability of the United States to afford the kind of resources it spent over the Cold War years on furnishing defense for its allies will inevitably become more challenging over the balance of the twenty-first century. From 1940 to 2017, U.S. government debt averaged 61.70 percent of GDP. For 2017, that debt ratio soared to 105 percent of GDP, a level not seen since 1946. The United States today has accumulated more government debt than any other country in the world and is approaching the point at which it can no longer afford to finance its allies’ post WWII traditions of not taking on more responsibility for their own defense.
Even absent the collapse of the American ‘empire’ the time of lone American superpower status is passing. Relative U.S. economic and technological decline may translate into significant strategic and military challenges more rapidly than many expect, leaving allies like Canada with the requirement to modify their foreign and defence policies.
Such a reappraisal is not just a prescription for increased defence expenditure. A brave new world in which Canada takes a greater responsibility for its own security may well result in a decision that commitments should be more in line with capabilities.
In the past Canadian Forces have taken part in operations that were only vaguely related to Canadian interests, not committing to those kinds of operations in the future would free up resources to take part in more nationally-relevant operations. Maintenance and readiness have both suffered from over-stretch. Reducing the number of extraneous deployments would decrease costs and increase readiness.
More care in selecting operations, based on realistic commitments and driven by changing geopolitical realities, would let Canada set its own priorities and allow the Armed Forces and our allies to plan based on actual capabilities.
Canadians like to see themselves as citizens of middle power that ‘punches above its weight’. It is not true. There are 195 assorted nations in the world. In terms of economy Canada has roughly the tenth largest in the world. In terms of defence spending in dollar terms Canada is the fourteenth largest spender in the world. Even in population Canada is bigger than 157 of those 195 countries.
Canada is not a small country; we are not even a middle power. Canada is a large country that actually punches well below its weight. The time is rapidly approaching when we will no longer have the luxury of pretending otherwise.
America: The Farewell Tour
Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2045
Andrew Krepinevich, Preserving the Balance: A U.S. Eurasia Defense Strategy, https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/preserving-the-balance-a-u.s.-eurasia-defense-strategy/publication
Reality Check: NATO's Defense Budget Woes Won't Disappear
Economy of Canada
List of countries by military expenditures
Countries in the world by population (2018)
Monday, 20 August 2018
After years of considering a manned airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (MAISR) platform to support Special Operations Forces, the Department of National Defence has announced that it intends to procure 3 Beechcraft King Air 350ER aircraft and associated mission systems including in-service support.
Canada intends to purchase the aircraft and associated mission systems through the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales program. This process was launched in April 2018, and is expected to take up to 12 months to complete, from the initial request to the acceptance of an agreement with the U.S. government. According to spokespersons for the Department of National Defence they do not have a timeframe for aircraft delivery or their entry into service.
The procurement is expected to include advanced, military-grade ISR mission equipment. Government spokespersons are quoted as saying “Aircraft such as these will help enhance the ability of our Special Operations Forces to improve their understanding of the operational environment, the aircraft will be configured with military grade advanced sensors and secure communications equipment. MAISR will have the capacity to be deployed on short notice and will provide the Canadian Armed Force with better situational awareness on the ground and thus positively affect the ability of CAF leaders to make decisions leading to mission success.”
It’s expected that the MAISR capability provided by these aircraft will economically complement services provided by the CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, as well as its future replacement, the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA), and remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), if and when they are acquired.
RCAF Shape doctrine states that armed ISR platforms provide advantage and flexibility noting that “A platform that is both capable of collecting information and acting upon it blurs the lines between intelligence collection (Sense) and operations (Shape), emphasizing the flexibility, versatility, and responsiveness of aerospace power”
RCAF Sense doctrine states, “Surveillance and reconnaissance activities are normally conducted by units that have significant self-protection or stand-off capabilities. They are often assigned to support other combat tasks by providing combat information”
The acquisition of the new MAISR platforms gives the Air Force the opportunity to consider the advantages of providing a precision-strike capability to these manned, long-range/high-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. By leveraging this new technology for targeting and adding weapons systems the RCAF has the opportunity to build upon its existing strike capability.
The use of Precision Guided Munitions in conventional, asymmetric and hybrid warfare has seen a significant rise since Operation DESERT STORM in 1991. It is expected that PGM use will continue to rise in the coming years, with the focus on air strikes as the primary delivery method. Currently RCAF strike capability is resident only within the CF188 Hornet fleet.
When furnished with a PGM strike capability these King Air 350E platforms would be capable of employing kinetic effects across a greater spectrum of missions. If suitably equipped then, as well as providing support to SOF in the form of aerial fire support and armed overwatch, they could also support counter-land missions such as air interdiction, aerial fire support, CAS, tactical security and direction and control of artillery fire.
The lessons learned in Afghanistan, those of a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign with a permissive air environment where air power was able to be concentrated and operate at will without a credible threat from opposition forces, may no longer be applicable. To avoid the hazard of “re-fighting the last war,” any future capability should be useful in a near-peer, hostile-force engagement. Therefore it is essential that, as well as the ability to conduct kinetic strikes, enhanced countermeasures are included that will make it possible for these platforms were to be employed as part of a package in a non-permissive environment that includes hostile air forces or area defence systems like radar-guided surface-to-air missiles.
In this regard a quote from BGen Michel Lalumiere, director general of Air Force Development, saying “We will be in contested areas with this aircraft and sometimes adversaries have a vote, this aircraft needs to bring, definitely, a set of capabilities to be able to operate in those types of environments.” is of particular interest. It should also be noted that preparation for a near-peer engagement insures that COIN, asymmetric and hybrid warfare conflict capabilities are still available.
While few of the many King Air surveillance variants now flying are known to be armed, with the acceptation of some maritime patrol variants, it is not impossible to do so. Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Limited for one has designed and developed a modification to the King Air 350 for the provision of hard points capable of supporting gravity dropped unpowered weapons and rail launched powered weapons. The King Air hard points are also designed to carry external loads that can enhance the role capability of the platform, extend that capability or change the capability into a new role and are suitable for use with different payloads, including targeting pods, countermeasures and sensors. This includes providing offensive and defensive capabilities to the aircraft.
As Major D.G. Jamond, CD, MDS has argued in the Canadian Air Force Journal“The future operating environment will continue to be dynamic, and the RCAF should be prepared to provide additional kinetic and non-kinetic effects to supported commanders in upcoming campaigns.”
If we are to establish this new capability in the near future, it should be in numbers great enough that the RCAF can bring depth to kinetic options for future operations, be they against a near-peer adversary or in a hybrid context. To do this will necessitate more than the current three aircraft envisioned. To bring the required depth it is essential that a squadron, i.e. ten to fifteen platforms, be acquired. This would allow land force commanders at the brigade level to work with these aircraft as well as providing greatly enhanced resources at the national command level.
Establishing a strike capability within the King Air MAISR fleet will require significant efforts to overcome the barriers to implementation which include personnel, funding and, most importantly, the development of political will. However, establishing this capability in the near future will bring benefits both military and financial that should not be underestimated.
ISR ASSETS FOR CANADA
Procurement of new Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability
King Air 350ER identified as solution for Special Forces ISR
CANADIAN FORCES AEROSPACE SHAPE DOCTRINE
Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine: Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
KING AIR WEAPONISING MODIFICATIONS
OVERVIEW OF PRECISION STRIKE CAPABILITY FOR CP140 and CC130J BY MAJOR D. G. JAMONT, CD, MDS
Saturday, 28 July 2018
Former president Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski defined geopolitics as “a combination of geographic and political factors emphasizing the impact of geography on politics”, the word strategic, he believes, refers to “the comprehensive and planned application of measures to achieve a central goal or to vital assets of military significance” and therefore ‘Geostrategy’, he has written, “merges strategic consideration with geopolitical ones”. In other words, Geostrategy is the geographic direction of a state’s foreign policy.
Sir Halford John Mackinder was an early pioneer of geostrategic thought who proposed the Heartland Theory, also known as the ‘pivot of history’, in 1904. Mackinder believed that whoever could control the ‘world island’, which was comprised of the interlinked continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, would control the world.
Mackinder summarised his theory as: "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world." Mackinder’s objective in publishing his theories was to warn Britain that its traditional reliance on sea power would become a weakness as improved land transport opened up the Heartland for both industrialization and invasion.
At that time, however, based on Britain’s commanding position offshore of Europe, the western edge of the world island, and her ability to apply pressure at all other points including the Pacific theatre using Sea Power, plus the relative lack of infrastructure and industry in the ‘Heartland’, Mackinder’s theory appeared to explain the pre-eminence of British power and her position as the world’s leading super power.
After the Second World War this position was inherited by the United States. With its pivotal influence over Europe, through financial and military institutions, along with its decisive power projection capabilities in the western Pacific it now controlled the “World Island” and that control brought dominance.
Those conditions are subject to change. Although the United States is still the world’s major power its power is in relative decline. The very success American policies of free trade, stable markets, and (comparatively) liberal institutions have increased the world’s gross domestic product at a rate greater than that of the U.S. average. In other words, the U.S. is not necessarily getting poorer so much as the rest of the world is getting richer. The U.S. no longer commands a dominant part of the world’s economy.
China is one of the countries that have benefited the most from this world economic growth. With greater national wealth has come greater ambition. This ambition can be see most clearly in the gigantic infrastructure program known as the Belt and Road Initiative. This plan seeks to develop and construct a vast network of railroads, pipelines and shipping lanes between China and 65 other countries in Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The result, it is believed, will mean enhanced trade routes and investment links between China and participating nations.
From a geostrategic view it also means that China could dominate Mackinder’s ‘World Island’ and, at least in theory, the whole world. These trends are not a secret. The rise of China and their attempts to expand sovereignty and control over parts of the Pacific Ocean that they consider to be contiguous are well known. Perhaps less well known are American responses to them.
Even though the U.S. dominated media obsessed about Barak Obama’s African heritage he was in fact a person of the Pacific. Born in Hawaii, having spent some of his youth in Indonesia and with a mother whose academic focus was in Asia, Obama was far more in tune with Asia and the Pacific then the Atlanticists who traditionally dominate Washington discourse. Obama tried to contain China, and reinforce U.S. dominance, through a combination of a shift in security and defense policy, the “pivot to Asia”, and trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Obama made little secret of the fact that these maneuvers were designed to “allow America — and not countries like China — to write the rules of the road in the 21st century.” He was prepared to accept the consequences of market arrangements like the T-PP on U.S. industry and domestic policies in return for the ability to “write the rules”. Many were not. The rise of nationalist voices, like that of Donald Trump, in opposition to these policies was in some ways entirely predictable.
It is difficult to judge whether the ‘policies’ of the Trump administration have hastened an inevitable decline in U.S. power or simply reflect it. What seems likely is that with the abandoning of the T-PP, to be replace by the Chinese dominated trade agreements and the Belt and Road Initiative, in concert with what appears to be a loosening of ties with Europe, positioned as it is on the western edge of Mackinder’s “World Island”, there is little to stop the relative decline of the United States and the possible ascendency of China as the world’s greatest power.
Needless to say, this outcome is not inevitable. Edward N. Luttwak, for one, believes that any attempt by China to strengthen its position in relation to its neighbours, especially if accompanied by belligerence, will bring about reciprocal actions by those neighbours, in the form of trade and security arrangements, designed to contain China’s ambitions. However even Luttwak concedes that there is a possibility of less restrained conflict saying; “Because nuclear weapons cannot reliably inhibit any and all armed conflict between nuclear-armed powers, incidents could take place and they could escalate into localized combat, military strength retains its importance between nuclear powers.”
What does this mean for Canada? Even if one does not commit fully to the Geostrategic ‘inevitabilities’ of Mackinder it seems obvious that a conflict between China and the U.S. is going to be conditioned by the size and nature of the Pacific Ocean and American power projection experience. It will resemble the traditional struggle between a land power and a thalassocracy, i.e. a state which is primarily a maritime power. In other words conflict, whether cold or hot, will involve naval power.
Canada’s response to a belligerent or aggressive China in an environment which includes a relatively weaker U.S. must be multi-faceted. It means spending more money for and putting more emphasis on foreign affairs, particularly in areas that strengthen multi-lateral institutions and support democratic values, especially in the Pacific arena. Future ‘coalitions of the willing’ with which Canada becomes involved will be more effective if they consist mainly of countries who espouse values that Canadians can identify with.
It will also mean getting serious about prioritizing defence spending. No matter what illusory percentage of the GDP is picked to represent a defence budget choices about how that money will be spent will have to be made. Canada may have to put a greater percentage of that budget into areas which support naval warfare. Other conflict domains; air, land, space and cyber, will have to consider how their resources can best support maritime operations and fund capabilities accordingly.
Geostrategic trends move slowly, until they don’t. The same can not be said of naval procurement programs. Equipment choices made now will reverberate for decades, into a world we can only dimly observe. Even if we start immediately, re-aligning the Royal Canadian Navy for the future is a process that will take time, if we have it.