Wednesday, 18 April 2018


 On March 19th of this year the Government of Canada announced that as “a part of Canada’s return to peace operations” they had committed to deploy an Aviation Task Force to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for a period of 12 months. The Aviation Task Force is to include Chinook helicopters to provide “urgently needed transport and logistics capacity for the MINUSMA mission”, as well as Griffon helicopters to provide armed escort and protection. The Task Force is also to be accompanied by a number of Canadian Armed Forces personnel for support.

The government’s decision to undertake this mission is widely seen to be a function of both domestic and international politics. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had stated in 2016 that Canada would contribute up to 600 troops to UN peacekeeping operations.  After a review of the commitment in November of 2017 the government backed away from that pledge.

According to Adam Chapnick, a professor of defence at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), “the government is developing domestically a narrative of [a big] posture of international support, and taking a step towards building this ‘Canada is back’ narrative.”

The commitment of military force to Mali is also seen as part of the government’s campaign to get a seat on the UN Security Council. When Trudeau pulled Canada out of its pledge to assist in Mali it was reported that some allies warned that our bid for that position could suffer.

The government may feel that a commitment of troops and equipment to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) supports it politically, but the questions remain. Will this commitment help Mali and how much danger are our troops in? What is the goal, besides supporting the Liberal government, and do we really know what we are getting into?

Writing for Foreign Policy Robert Malley has summarised the situation in Mali, he wrote that “Mali’s 2012 crisis, which saw the Malian army routed from the country’s north, a coup that overthrew the government, and jihadis holding northern towns for almost a year — illustrates how quickly things can unravel. Since then, implementation of a peace deal that aimed to end that crisis has stalled, while instability has spread from the north to Mali’s central region as well as parts of neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Dynamics in each place are local, but governments’ lack of authority and their inability to stem — and, at times, their frequent contribution to — violence is a common theme. Weapons that flooded the region as Libya collapsed after Muammar al-Qaddafi’s overthrow have made local quarrels deadlier. The instability has opened a rich vein for jihadis, who piggyback on intercommunal conflict or use Islam to frame struggles against traditional authorities.

As the situation has degenerated, the regional and international response has focused excessively on military solutions. Europeans in particular view the region as a threat to their own safety and a source of migration and terrorism. In late 2017, a new French-backed force known as the G5 Sahel — comprising troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania — prepared to deploy into a field already crowded by France’s own counterterrorism operations, U.S. Special Forces, and U.N. peacekeepers. While military action must play a part in reducing jihadis’ influence, the G5 force raises more questions than it answers. It lacks a clear definition of the enemy, instead envisaging operations against an array of jihadis, traffickers, and other criminals. Disrupting smuggling in regions where that business represents the backbone of local economies could alienate communities. Regional leaders also appear likely to misuse military aid to shore up their own power”.

On March 19th of this year Conservative defence critic James Bezan was quoted as saying "Mali is a war zone. This is a combat mission and there is no peace to keep."  While some experts have managed to convince themselves that this is a low risk engagement, for example Jocelyn Coulon, an expert on peacekeeping at the University of Montreal who previously advised then-foreign affairs minister Stephane Dion, dismissed such a description."Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are war zones. In Mali, there is no bombing and killing every day. Perhaps, two attacks in Bamako in the past few years,"

On the other hand UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's most recent report on Mali, published at the end of December, reported  that “the deteriorating security situation is exacerbating an already tense political environment and continues to claim the lives of civilians, Malian uniformed personnel and (UN) peacekeepers."

In point of fact Mali has the sad distinction of being the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world; 162 blue helmets have been killed in the country since 2013, 99 of them through what the UN calls "malicious acts."
Writing in “The Future of War, a History” Laurence Freedman pointed out that: “The category of Civil wars has never been clear-cut because internal conflict often prompts external intervention-by like-minded militants supporting a religious or ideological cause, neighbours with local security interests, and major powers acting out of humanitarian or security concerns. At times external forces have sought to hold the ring or monitor a fragile ceasefire in the guise of a peacekeeping force. Sometimes there was no peace to keep, and external intervention effectively took sides, either by preventing on side from winning by unacceptable means-starving or massacring civilians, for instance, or ensuring that the most ideologically sympathetic party came out on top…”
 “What might have started with enemies being rolled over by the sheer weight of firepower and sophisticated equipment turned into long, complex and messy campaigns. Their troops entered into a world of shadowy militias, with accomplished bomb-makers, angry mobs, cynical warlords, and energised youngsters brandishing their AK-47’s. “

Given this background it is difficult to know what, aside from scoring points in both the domestic and on the international scenes, the government hopes to accomplish. The nature of peacekeeping has changed over the past couple of decades, to the point where the term is rarely used and has been replaced with the more accurate "peace support operations."

In point of fact, alongside the UN ‘peacekeeping’ mission, France is leading a counter-insurgency mission in Mali and the surrounding area with 4,000 or 5,000 French personnel searching, tracking, and destroying insurgent groups. Canada will be sending two Chinook transport helicopters and four smaller Griffons to act as armed escorts for the larger aircraft, which will be based at the UN's base in Gao where Germany and the Dutch have previously operated. As well as the UN mission they will be supporting the allied counterterror effort.

There is no reason to believe that these efforts will have any effect. Writing in “Discussing the Continuities of War and the Future of Warfare” H.R. McMaster points out that the conviction that “future conflict will be fundamentally different from all historical experience” is a fallacy that seems impossible to eradicate.  Such beliefs, he believed, fail to recognise the “uncertainty of war, the trajectory of which is constantly altered by varied interactions with determined and elusive enemies.”

 In other words, large numbers of smart, aggressive, trained, motivated and armed people will be doing their best to thwart any goals, including domestic political ones, the government may have. They will also be doing their best to kill as many Canadians as they can.

It would appear that just as Canada is becoming involved in Mali the goal posts, such as they are, are being move. It is reported that Canada’s decision to send military helicopters to Mali has coincided with a major UN review of the peacekeeping mission there to determine whether it is on the right track or needs to change to better support peace and stability in the country. It is expected to address such fundamental questions as why the mission exists, whether troops are operating in the right areas and, ultimately, whether it is set up to help bring peace and stability to Mali. Unfortunately it does not appear that the Canadian government has asked, let alone answered, any of these questions.

While some of the governments goals are clear what is not clear is what Mali can expect from Canada’s involvement in their country. It seems unlikely that their wishes in the matter have played much part in the decision to deploy Canadian Forces to that region. What is also not clear is what the consequences will be for Mali, and for Canada, if this African adventure should end in tragedy.

Canada Announces Second Peacekeeping Smart Pledge - Will send Aviation Task Force to UN Mission in Mali

Trudeau pushing ‘Canada is back’ narrative with Mali UN peacekeeping mission: experts

Canada will not send peacekeepers to Mali in near future: officials

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2018

Tories Dishing 'A Lot of Baloney' On Canada's Peacekeeping Mission To Mali

THE FUTURE OF WAR, A History, by Lawrence Freedman

US Special Forces shifting approach on extremism

Discussing the Continuities of War and the Future of Warfare: The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum - H.R. McMaster

 Canadian commitment to Mali coincides with review of UN mission

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


The National Shipbuilding Strategy is a long-term project to renew Canada's federal fleet of combat vessels. Currently there are three confirmed bidders. With apologies to Doug Allen’s superlative blog it seems like time to start an occasional series of “Best Frigate For Canada”.

 In October 2016 it was reported that twelve bidders had been asked to submit their designs by 27 April 2017.  At that time it was announced that only designs from ships already in service or mature existing designs would be part of the process.

Since then there have been numerous delays. In February 2017 a third of the entrants requested more time to compile their bids. Bids were to be submitted by 22 June with a winner expected to be declared in fall 2017. Further delay in the bidding process arose due to the Government of Canada's demand that any intellectual property associated with the vessel be transferred upon purchase.

Currently there are three confirmed bidders, one rejected bid and two withdrawn bids. The confirmed bids include the BAE Systems Type 26 frigate, even though it had not yet been built.

Confirmed contenders:
Alion-JJMA – De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate
BAE Systems – Type 26 frigate
Navantia – F-105 frigate
Rejected bids:
Naval Group/Fincantieri – FREMM-ER multipurpose frigate
Withdrawn bids:
Odense Maritime Technology – Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate
ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada – Baden-Württemberg-class frigate

A joint bid by Fincantieri and Naval Group (formerly DCNS) for their FREMM multipurpose frigate was offered informally on 6 November, directly to the National Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, which he did not accept. In the end Fincantieri and Naval Group withdrew from the formal process by not making a bid by the 30 November 2017 deadline.

In theory that company's fixed price offer of $30.9 billion had the potential to save the Canadian government up to $32 billion over other bids if it had been selected. The unsolicited bid was rejected because it came outside of the official bidding process. However, on 8 December 2017, Naval Group/Fincantieri announced they would continue to submit and support their unsolicited bid, with letters of project endorsement and promised long term support from French Defense Minister Florence Parly and Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti. Naval Group and Fincantieri said they could provide the vessels to the Canadian government for $30.9 billion and begin construction at Irving as early as 2019.

The FREMM proposal was dismissed in a programme update released by PSPC on 5 December. PSPC said all bids for the CSC were expected to fall within established bid and evaluation process guidelines, and suggested the FREMM bid did not meet those guidelines. No explanation was added to explain why the BAE Systems Type 26 frigate, even though it is not a “mature existing design in service”, was able to meet those guidelines.

It is difficult to evaluate the three official contenders given the wide range of potential equipment it is possible to fit on any of these platforms.  With that caveat in mind the notional specifications for the frigates currently vying for the contract are shown in the table below.  Some clarification is added on the subject of ships propulsion and in future posts I will try to do the same for other issues such as sensors and combat management systems. No doubt the disqualification of the FREMM design may call for a little comment as well.

De Zeven Provinciën
Type 26 frigate
Navantia – F-105
6,050 tonnes
6,000 tonnes
5,800-6,391 tonnes
144.24 m
(473.2 ft)
149.9 m 
(492 ft)
146.7 m 
(481 ft.)
18.8 m (61.7 ft)
20.8 m (68 ft)
18.6 m (61 ft.)
5.18 m (17.0 ft)
4.75 m (15.6 ft.)
30 knots
(56 km/h; 
35 mph)
26 knots +
(48 km/h; 
30 mph +)
28.5 knots
(52.8 km/h; 
32.8 mph)
4,000 nmi (7,400 km) at 18 knots
7,000 nautical miles
4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 18 knots
Propulsion *
2 × Rolls Royce Spey SM 1C gas turbines,
2 ×  diesel engines,
1 x Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine
4 x  diesel generators
2 × General Electric LM2500 gas turbines
2 × diesel engine
Active Phased Array Radar & Passive Electronically Scanned Array Radar,
active and passive sonar
Type 997 Artisan 3D radar, towed array sonar, active and passive sonar
AN/SPY-1D 3-D multifunction radar,
active and passive sonar
1 × 5-inch gun
1 × CIWS
40-cell Mk.41 vertical
8 × Harpoon anti-ship missiles
2 × 324 mm twin Torpedo launchers
1 ×  5-inch  gun
2 × CIWS
2 × 30 mm guns
VLS canisters for a total of 48 Anti-air missiles
1 x 24 cell Mk 41 VLS
1 × 5-inch gun
1 × CIWS
1 × 48 cell Mk 41 VLS
8 × Harpoon anti-ship missile
4 × 324 mm Torpedo launchers
1 × NH-90 helicopter
2 x Wildcat or
1 x Merlin class helicopter
1 × Seahawk class helicopter
232 (30 officers)
118 (capacity for 208)
Note: Flexible mission bay
250 (48 officers)

CODOG: Combined Diesel or Gas
CODAG: Combined Diesel and Gas
CODLAG: Combined Diesel Electric and Gas

Gas = Excellent acceleration, compact
Diesel = Efficient for cruise (medium-high RPMs), simple intake/exhaust requirements
Electric = Silent, efficient at low RPMs
IEP = More damage resistant & more design freedom (can locate diesel/gas generators anywhere)

These days diesel-electric is almost mandatory for ASW combatants and OPVs. Moreover gas is required for ASW (for sprints).

In addition, don't forget the "Or" propulsion variants - COGOG, CODOG, CODLOG. They may appear less flexible and less capital-efficient, but those disadvantages are often more than offset by the less complex reduction gear. Reduction gear is often a weakness of "And" propulsion arrangements.

Combined diesel or gas (CODOG) is a type of propulsion system for ships that need a maximum speed that is considerably faster than their cruise speed, particularly warships like modern frigates or corvettes.

For every propeller shaft there is one diesel engine for cruising speed and one geared gas turbine for high speed dashes. Both are connected to the shaft with clutches, only one system is driving the ship in contrast to CODAG-systems, which can use the combined power output of both. The advantage of CODOG is a simpler gearing compared to CODAG but it needs either more powerful or additional gas turbines to achieve the same maximum power output. The disadvantage of CODOG is that the fuel consumption at high speed is poor compared to CODAG.

National Shipbuilding Strategy


Update on the Canadian Surface Combatant Request for Proposals

Thursday, 1 March 2018


Writing in his authoritative study “Cruisers of World War Two: an international encyclopedia” author Michael J Whitley points out that “The cruiser can be considered as the logical successor to the frigate of the age of sail. Both warships had similar tasks, i.e. to act as the eyes of the fleet and to patrol the ocean sea lanes to protect mercantile trade.”

He goes on to observe that “By the end of WWII the cruiser’s scout role had been assumed by radar and air power, leaving trade protection task as arguably its main role.”

The modern frigate is the descendant of the WWII frigate which was essentially an anti-submarine vessel; it filled a role as an intermediate, and economical, platform between the corvette and the destroyer. Since that time it has grown, both in size and abilities, from its original role to one which more closely meets Whitley’s definition of a cruiser.

The government of Canada has determined that the Royal Canadian Navy needs up to fifteen of these cruiser equivalents.  It is not clear how this number of ships was arrived at or what kind of navy the government envisions it will need in the future.

The size of the RCN has been in a constant state of change since its founding in 1910. Conceived as a method of managing domestic and imperial politics as they related to the Royal Navy it languished, even during WWI, until the Second World War. By the end of that conflict it had transformed itself into the fourth or fifth largest Navy in the world.

This state could not of course be maintained, but in 1960, on its fiftieth anniversary, the RCN had a fleet consisting  of some 50 warships made up of  a carrier, 14 St. Laurent–class destroyer-escorts, 23 converted wartime destroyers and frigates as well as 10 minesweepers crewed by a total of  21,500 sailors.

By 1985,  in the seventy-fifth year of its existence, Maritime Command maintained a force of 4 Iroquois class destroyers, 6 St. Laurent class helicopter carrying destroyer-escorts, 11 other St. Laurent class frigates, 3 support ships and 3 submarines,

In 2010, the Navy’s centennial year, the fleet consisted of 3 Iroquois class air defence / anti-submarine destroyers, 12 Halifax class multi-purpose frigates, 4 Victoria class submarines, 12 Kingston class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels and 2 Protecteur class Replenishment Vessels

Currently the Navy operates twelve frigates, four patrol submarines, twelve coastal-defence vessels and eight unarmed patrol/training vessels crewed by approximately  9,000 regular sailors and 5,000 reservists. There is also a civilian  freighter, modified to act as a resupply vessel, leased for seven years that is shortly to join the fleet.

Naval forces can be ranked on a nine-point scale called the Todd/Lindberg classification system. For example, at Rank 1 is the United States Navy which is capable of “global-reach power projection”. 

In its planning document Leadmark: The Navy’s Strategy for 2020” the Navy makes it plain that it wishes to maintain itself at Rank 3, described as “navies that may not possess the full range of capabilities, but have a credible capacity in certain of them, and consistently demonstrate a determination to exercise them at some distance from home waters.”

In fact, without the ability to provide command and control, previously supplied by the Iroquois class air defence/anti-submarine destroyers, and resupply, previously supplied by the Protecteur class Replenishment Vessels, the RCN no longer meets this description. It is no longer a blue-water navy; it is now a Rank 5-Regional offshore coastal defence force, capable of “Coastal defence within and slightly beyond the EEZ”

According to the government the National Shipbuilding Strategy is a long-term project to renew Canada's federal fleet of combat and non-combat vessels.

Shipbuilding projects to equip the Royal Canadian Navy currently consist of a plan to construct 5 to 6 Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels, whose role is to conduct armed sea-borne surveillance in Canada's waters, including in the Arctic, with the first currently slated to be delivered in 2018.

 There is also a plan to build 15 Canadian Surface Combatants, which are designed to replace the Navy's Iroquois-class destroyers and Halifax-class frigates, with the build contract to be awarded in the “early 2020s”.

The only other program of record is one listed under “Non-Combat Vessels” for 2 Joint Support Ships, with an option for 1 more; the first of which the government still pretends to believe will be delivered in 2021.

Given that these are the only naval building programs currently underway and given the nature and timescales of Canadian procurement programs it is possible to accurately forecast the size and type of navy Canada will have in 2035, the one hundred and twenty-fifth  anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy.

It will be a navy made up of approximately 15 destroyer/frigates, 5 to 6 large, lightly armed, cold weather capable patrol vessels, and 2 joint support vessels.

It is not clear how the current government and the Department of National Defence envision this force being used.

The Canadian Navy’s future roles will be dictated largely by the nature of the assets it possesses. It seems unlikely that the world of the immediate future will be much kinder or gentler. What does seem likely is that that navies will be still be needed to protect and monitor our coasts as well as to travel across the world’s oceans ameliorating conditions of hardship and maintaining the peace. It seems less likely that Canada’s navy will be of much use in these missions.

Royal Canadian Navy

Canada's Navy: A Wings Magazine Commemorative Issue. Pp 52

Current Canadian Ship Listing 2009

Royal Canadian Navy

Blue-water navy

“Leadmark: The Navy’s Strategy for 2020,”

National Shipbuilding Strategy

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


On Feb. 27 of this year federal finance Minister Bill Morneau will introduce the federal government’s latest budget. The previous budget, presented on March 22, 2017, projected total revenue of $304.7 billion and expenditures of $330.2 billion, leaving a deficit of $28.5 billion.

The release will no doubt be accompanied by extensive analysis.  Much of this scrutiny will try to examine the political consequences of the spending the minister outlines in his most recent budget. There are however a number of ways in which documents like this can be evaluated.

Revealed Preference Theory, pioneered by American economist Paul Samuelson, is a method of analyzing choices made by individuals and groups. It is a technique commonly used when comparing the influence of policies on consumer behavior.

Revealed preference theory makes the assumption that the preferences of consumers can be revealed by their purchasing habits.

Previous theories of consumer demand were based on concepts which assumed consumers would make consumption decisions to maximize their utility. This seems self-evident but it became apparent that not only could utility not always be measured accurately but that consumer decisions could not always be reconciled with stated intentions.

In other words, people may say one thing but in some cases their real preferences are better shown by their actions. Preferences revealed by this theory can sometimes show more accurately how consumers measure utility.  In other words, we can determine more accurately what people really value.

One of the stated goals of a modern government is to provide security, in all its many forms. To do this they must acquire and manage the resources they deem necessary to create and maintain security. In other words, governments could be described as consumers of security.

It follows then that analyzing the choices, the purchasing habits if you will, made by the government should reveal their actual preferences as opposed to their stated priorities and help us to determine the values of that organization.

According to the Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada government spending in  Fiscal Year 2016–2017 broke down as follows:

Major transfers to persons in millions                                   
  Elderly benefits                              $48,162        
  Employment Insurance                  $20,711       
  Children’s benefits                         $22,065       
             Total                                    $90,938           
Major transfers to other levels of government                                 
  Support for health
  and other social programs                 $49,405        
  Fiscal arrangements                          $17,145     
  Gas Tax Fund                                     $2,102
           Total                                         $68,652    

Direct program expenses                                    
  Other transfer payments                           $41,580                                               
  Consolidated Crown corporations              $8,436           
  National Defence                                     $25,576
   All other departments and agencies         $51,974                       
   Total other expenses                                 $85,986            
          Total                                                 $127,566          
Total program expenses                           $287,156       
Public debt charges                                    $24,109
Total expenses                                          $311,265          

Based on these figures it can be inferred that the Government of Canada believes that, regardless of rhetoric to the contrary, the national defence of Canada ranks at about 8 percent on their list of priorities.  It will be interesting to see if the new budget reveals any greater interest in this most basic of societal functions by the government or people of this country.

Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada

Wednesday, 31 January 2018


Quoted at War on the Rocks Senator John McCain has written a paper entitled “WHAT AMERICA DESERVES FROM THE NATIONAL DEFENSE STRATEGY”. In it he argues that the US must adjust to a new era of great power competition. He contends that costly and persistent counter-terrorism operations have placed enormous burdens on their military establishment. He believes that, particularly in relation to Russia and China, America’s military advantage has eroded. He reports that David Ochmanek of the RAND Corporation, testifying last year to the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that “U.S. forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight.”

Senator McCain’s response to these evolving circumstances is to point out that the US cannot simply “buy its way out” of the current predicament. Instead he suggests that the civilian and military leadership in the United States has a duty to prioritize and make difficult choices about the threats they face and the missions they assign to the military. “America” the Senator points out “no longer enjoys the wide margins of power it once had over its competitors and adversaries. The United States cannot do everything it wants everywhere. It must choose. It must prioritize.”

In other words, the United States of America must now confront some of the same limitations that other countries, such as Canada, have always faced.

For the United States, Senator McCain’s prescription is to prioritize the great power competition. He believes that his country finds itself in a period of competition with near peer powers with an increased possibility of war between major powers. He suggests that failure to deter and prepare adequately for such a war would have dire consequences for the United States, their allies, and the current global order.

At the same time the Senator writes that “In the foreseeable future, the U.S. military will remain engaged in a long-term effort to counter the terrorist threat across much of the Middle East, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. While America’s defense strategy and force development should prioritize great power competition and make informed decisions for managing risk in our other missions, it is clear the U.S. military also needs to be sized and shaped to address other ongoing regional threats and contingencies.”

He suggests that “A strategy focused on force development for great power competition would need to address priority mission sets, including offensive strike, defensive fires, sea control, air superiority, space, electronic warfare, cyber operations, and logistics in a contested environment. These are all areas in which Russia and China have made significant strides in the quantity and quality of their weapons” should be balanced with “a more sustainable approach to counter-terrorism and other military missions in largely permissive environments will require the rapid development and fielding of systems that our warfighters do not presently possess.” The Senator makes the point that continuing to use aircraft such as F-18s, F-22s, and F-35s to prosecute low-end counter-terrorism missions can only be described as overkill and that it consumes the readiness of these platforms.

The senator’s concerns can be illustrated by reports that the U.S. Airforce is using F-22 stealth fighters to bomb drug labs in Afghanistan.  Using a valuable yet finite resource such as the ‘useful life’ available in the airframes of the limited number of F-22’s to accomplish a mundane mission, in the most expensive way conceivable, is not a viable strategy for any power, no matter how great.  

If the United States of America is indeed confronting the same limitations that other countries, such as Canada, have always faced then some of Senator McCain’s recommendations must also apply to our country. Canada will have to make the difficult choices that prioritizing the threats and the missions we assign our military requires.

For Canada a strategy focused on force development for great power competition would need to address priority mission sets. In other words, what should be the core missions of the Canadian Armed Forces? 

The governments most recent policy statement on defence is, like most of its predecessors, replete with laundry lists of things that would be nice to do and short on specifics.  Perhaps the closest it comes is the following statement.

Canada’s defence policy presents a new strategic vision for defence: Strong, Secure, Engaged. This is a vision in which Canada is:

• Strong at home, its sovereignty well-defended by a Canadian Armed Forces also ready to assist in times of natural disaster, other emergencies, and search and rescue;
• Secure in North America, active in a renewed defence partnership in NORAD and with the United States;
• Engaged in the world, with the Canadian Armed Forces doing its part in Canada’s contributions to a more stable, peaceful world, including through peace support operations and peacekeeping.

At best these platitudes give us some rough guidelines on what Canada’s priorities are. They would be defence of the homeland, defence of North America in partnership with the United States and contributing to alliances and organizations in ways which promote Canadian security.

If these are indeed the ‘core missions’ of the Canadian Armed Forces they should drive spending priorities and procurement decisions. Specifically these priorities should drive the Future Fighter Capability Project.

As stated, the objective of this project is to provide a capability for the Canadian Armed Forces to conduct control of Canadian Airspace and contribute to Alliance/Coalition operations. The government requires that the systems acquired have the capability for precision Air-to-Air, Air-to-Ground and Air-to-Surface capabilities, as well as non-traditional Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in defence of Canada, North America and expeditionary operations.

These multi-purpose capabilities are at odds with the goal of prioritizing responses to our most important threats. The aerial defence of Canada, North America and our overseas allies can be accomplished by aircraft and systems that give precedence to the Air-to-Air role. Control of Canadian Airspace does not require an Air-to-Ground or Surface capability. In a high threat environment it seems likely that the best support we can give to expeditionary operations is a robust air defence of our deployed forces or allies.

There is a place for Air-to-Ground, Air-to-Surface capabilities and non-traditional Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities when Canada encounters “ongoing regional threats and contingencies”, but it is not necessary or practical to provide these resources by using advanced, and expensive, jet fighters.

Canadian Defence Matters has long argued that a high-low mix of aircraft, and other systems, is most appropriate for Canada’s defence needs.  If we were to make our acquisition decisions based on military priorities in a world of finite resources then it would appear that the best fighter for Canada would be one which gave precedence in its design to the air defence mission.

If that aircraft were to be complemented with a lower cost aircraft for those missions deemed less essential then a future Canadian Air Force should consist of aircraft with characteristics similar to those of the Eurofighter Typhoon partnered with a smaller number of aircraft whose capabilities more closely matched those of the Textron Aviation Scorpion.

It has been said that ‘Strategy without money is not strategy’. While this is true it is also true that money spent without strategy is not strategy either. Contrary to popular opinion it is not the duty of the government to purchase the best equipment available for the Department of National Defence. It is in fact their responsibility to obtain the right capability for our armed forces.


The US Just Flew a Stealth Fighter to Bomb Drug Labs in Afghanistan

Strong, Secure, Engaged

Future Fighter Capability Project - Suppliers List Invitation

Eurofighter Typhoon | The world's most advanced combat aircraft

Scorpion - Textron Aviation