Friday, 20 September 2013


Canadian Defence Matters has commented in the past on the Close Combat Vehicle program. The conclusion was that the program was badly flawed and that the vehicles failed to demonstrate a strategic rational.

Stuck in a Rut, Harper Government Overrides Canadian Army Insists on Buying Outdated Equipment” is the latest report by the Rideau Institute tag team of Michael Byers and Stewart Webb. In this case it is a report on the CCV project.

It will come as no surprise to readers of either Canadian Defence Matters or any of Byers and Webbs' previous efforts to learn that they are opposed to the purchase. It would be fair to say that they have never met an Armed Forces procurement proposal they did like or a defence reduction they didn’t support.

A more interesting, and measured report can be found from James Hasik. He has written” we should recall how the genesis of the requirement for that CCV flowed from the mixed performance of the LAV in Afghanistan. While the LAV III truly served as the Army’s workhorse throughout the war, its shortcomings became apparent as early as the late summer of 2006, during the epic Second Battle of Panjwai’i (Operation MEDUSA). Second Panjwai’i was very first large-scale land battle fought under the aegis of the NATO alliance, and the largest battle the Canadian Army had fought since the Korean War. Though the battle ultimately proved a lopsided victory over the Taliban, the advance of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry repeatedly bogged down in the corn fields, irrigation ditches, and marijuana groves of the district outside Kandahar. The Royal Canadian Engineers were frequently called upon to tear holes in the obstacles with both regular and makeshift armored bulldozers, but even so, the infantry’s wheeled fighting vehicle inevitably suffered problems in that very challenging terrain.

That December, fifteen Leopard 1 tanks of Lord Strathcona’s Horse arrived in Kandahar so that the infantry would have the benefit of all-terrain firepower. But in Afghanistan as everywhere, firepower was not protection per se, so the LAVs and the troops mounted in them continued to suffer through Canada’s final withdrawal from the battle. The CCV requirement thus called for heavier armor. But if the Army was to continue to deploy its tanks for effect, it would need something with better cross-country speed than the LAV III offered, as the infantry were needed to keep up in support of the tanks as well. Appropriately, the requirement was also written with off-road mobility in mind. And as protection tends to restrict mobility, the CCV would need to be much larger and heavier than those serving Light Armored Vehicles, to carry both the heavier armor and the larger engine required. It is unsurprising, then, that the weight of all the candidate CCVs is approximately twice that of the LAVs.”

All this is tactics. It does demonstrate, however, that the armed forces are not seeking CCV’s because of some outmoded desire to replay the cold war but rather as a response to real world events. The need for CCVs is generated as much by the desire for mobility, at no cost in protection, as it is by the need to support tanks. This point is in direct contradiction to Byers and Webb’s statement that.” The decision to procure CCVs for Canada today is directly linked to the flawed decision, taken in 2006, to retain and grow Canada’s fleet of Leopard tanks”

Byers and Webb conclusion, not surprisingly, is that,” For some, the Harper government’s recent cutbacks on defence spending have raised the spectre of another “decade of darkness” with regard to military procurement.146 But it is not as if the government has stopped spending on military equipment. The problem, instead, is that it is spending the money unwisely, on equipment including Close Combat Vehicles which are designed to accompany troops into the symmetrical wars of the last century. The impact of this mistaken approach is compounded when the billions of dollars being spent on outmoded and therefore not particularly useful equipment result in deep cutbacks to training for today’s complex counterinsurgency (COIN) missions. If the Canadian Army is to remain available for deployment, and if our soldiers are to be effective and safe, training must bean ongoing priority.
And so we conclude:
• The CCV is based on outdated Cold War tank doctrine.
• The CCV would duplicate a capability Canada already possesses as a result of the recent LAV III upgrades.
• The Canadian Army does not want this $2 billion procurement.
• The Harper government should not proceed with the CCV procurement.”

Canadian Defence Matters has commented in the past on the lack of Strategic thought guiding military purchases. Sun Tzu is quoted as saying in his seminal work The Art of War that “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Considering the difference between strategy and tactics can be instructive. For example, historically a strategic imperative for Canada has always been to keep the Americans happy with the security of their northern border.

In some eras this has meant reducing military expenditures,(“all the Brits are gone now, nothing to worry about here”) and in others it has meant increasing them (no need to send U.S. troops to help protect us from the German/Russian/Al-Qaeda hordes, we’ve got it covered”). In this case increasing or decreasing military spending is tactics; the strategic end remains the same.

Unlike some elements of our Defence establishment, Byers, Webb, the Rideau Institute, the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives and all their various avatars are firm believers in the art of strategy. The strategic goal in this case is the reduction of the Canadian Armed Forces to the status of a constabulary force through gradual disarmament. The tactics used are to oppose any procurement which might increase Defence capabilities and to suggest that purchasing less expensive, and less capable, systems will be just as effective. An important component of these tactics is to never discuss the over riding strategic rational which drives their conclusions.

Fortunately for those looking for real insight into the need, or otherwise, for a close combat vehicle James Hasik notes that earlier this summer his team received funding to study the historical and economic basis for a Canadian CCV. Later this fall, they plan to publish a final report, “Canada’s Close Combat Vehicle: Evaluating the Need in Light of Campaign Experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq”. At that time we can all look forward to a more balance assessment.


Stuck in a Rut, Harper Government Overrides Canadian Army Insists on Buying Outdated Equipment

Why the Close Combat Vehicle is not the right place to cut the Canadian military budget.