Tuesday, 21 May 2019


 Public reaction to the Government's response to Lockheed-Martin’s complaints about the process being used to find a new fighter has been swift.  Although the government was forced to acknowledgement of the validity of those complaints it did little to assuage the irritation voiced by some.

 Much of the reaction has revolved around the assumption that the maker of the F-35 is trying to enhance the chances of their aircraft being chosen as Canada’s new fighter by unfair means. In fact Lockheed-Martin’s complaint and the ensuing changes made by the government mainly serve to illustrate the complete bankruptcy of the entire procurement process.

 The selection process for the “Future fighter capability project” was supposed to be based on a three category scoring system. The first, and in theory most important, is technical capabilities. The second category is cost and the third is creating and sustaining a highly skilled work force within our own borders, a goal enshrined in Canada’s industrial trade benefits (ITB) policy, which requires a winning bid to guarantee it will make investments in Canada equal to the value of the contract. Each bid is scored by these three categories, weighed 60-20-20, respectively.

Like many others, Elinor Sloan has pointed out that the Joint Strike Fighter program, which Canada has spent millions to join, does not fit neatly into the ITB policy.

 As Richard Shimooka outlined in a 2016 paper “Canada joined the JSF Program System Development and Demonstration phase in 2001 with agreement from the Chr├ętien government, primarily to secure work for Canadian industry and gain access to advancing technologies. In December 2006, the Conservative government signed the PSFD MOU to extend and expand its participation in the JSF Program. Later, in 2009, the government decided that, given the vast benefit advantage in what the JSF partnership offered compared to what the ITB requirement would entail, an exception from the guaranteed offset regime was appropriate. This was affirmed by several legal opinions and analyses undertaken within the Department of National Defence (DND), Public Works and Government Services Canada, and Industry Canada”

The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have been forced to point out that Canada’s ITB terms are inconsistent with – and indeed prohibited by – the memorandum of understanding Canada signed in 2006, which says partners cannot impose industrial compensation measures. It is not clear if the current government was ever aware of this fundamental incompatibility with their procurement program.

A ‘solution, which allows for a more flexible approach in determining the value of the benefits bidders offer to Canadian defence firms,  has been reached that allows the memorandum to be obeyed, but since Canada will still give higher grades to bids that follow its ITB policy, questions remain as to whether the playing field has really been levelled.

While bidders like Boeing’s Super Hornet, the Eurofighter  Typhoon and Saab’s Gripen can still guarantee that they will re-invest back into Canada if their jet wins the competition and get all 20 points, those bidders that can’t make such a commitment, that is Lockheed Martins’ F-35, will be asked to establish “industrial targets” and lay out a plan for achieving those targets and sign a non-binding agreement promising to make all efforts to achieve them.

The government position is that they will study those plans and assign points based on risk.

This immediately raised an issue with other competitors wondering why the F-35 should get points if the company can’t guarantee re-investment back into Canada. There are also concerns about how the government will decide how risky plans to achieve “industrial targets” actually are, with at least one industry source saying that question is entirely subjective.

Most of these new headlines and much of the governments rule changes have been triggered by a report, aptly named The Catastrophe, by Richard Shimooka. Written for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute it outlines the long sad story that is Canada’s Future fighter capability project.

In that report Shimooka makes the all-important point that reciprocal investments, such as Canada’s industrial trade benefits (ITB) policy have long been seen as an inefficient method for delivering economic benefits. In fact several countries, including Australia, have moved away from them to more flexible cooperation approaches. In reality offset agreements are referred to in most studies as “traditional and inefficient”. The decision to avoid such agreements in relation to F-35 production was one of the fundamental choices made early in the program in an attempt to keep the price of the fighter as low as possible for all participants.

 At this point it should be noted that Canada has done very well financially from the current F-35 agreement. Having spent a little over $500 million to remain part of the F-35 program Canadian companies have so far won more than $1.3 billion in contracts related to the F-35, according to the government. At one time it was estimated that businesses in this country could land as much as $9.9 billion in contracts to construct and sustain parts for the Lockheed Martin-built stealth fighter.

The government likes to talk about the number of “good middle class jobs” there policies will create but in fact defense spending is the most expensive way to create jobs.

 What the government does not like to talk about is how money that could be better spent to create jobs, infrastructure and social capital is being wasted in by paying too much for bloated defence procurement programs that actually create very few jobs in relation to the amounts being spent.

 What nobody, including the media who cover these stories and the opposition parties who are supposed to hold the government to account, want to consider is the idea that defence spending should be used for defence, not as a glorified public works program.  Until and unless the concept of value for money in defence spending is defined by the amount of military benefit derived from that spending then all of Canada’s defence procurement programs, not just those spent on new fighters, will continue to be accurately described as a “catastrophe”.

After U.S. complaint, Canada to soften rules for jet competition to allow Lockheed Martin bid: source


Future fighter capability project

The U.S. needs to be a key part of Canada’s next-gen jet procurement process

THE FOURTH DIMENSION: The F-35 Program, Defence Procurement, and the Conservative
Government, 2006-2015, Richard Shimooka

Controversial F-35 purchase could bank Canadian businesses $9.9B

Canada changing rules of competition for $19B fighter jet fleet to allow consideration of F-35: sources

The Catastrophe: Assessing the Damage from Canada’s Fighter Replacement Fiasco
Richard Shimooka

Defence Industrial Policy Approaches and Instruments

Defense Spending Is the Most Expensive Way to Create Jobs

Monday, 25 March 2019


Found among the silver debris of another sterling purchase. Forgotten and discarded treasures, battered rings, souvenir spoons, broken chains, single earrings and a dull grey cross.  That one stands out a little; it’s about an inch and a half wide and tall with the royal cipher of George VI in the center, on the back the number “K.66542” and a name “Pte T.C. Craig”.

What is it worth? Value and price, as we so often have to explain to customers, are two entirely different things. It’s easy enough to calculate the price of the silver. The spot price for an ounce of pure silver is about $20.50 in Canadian dollars. Of course sterling is only 92.5% pure so that makes sterling silver worth about $19.05 per ounce and this cross weighs 14.93 grams giving it a silver value of $9.11. But what is it worth?

The Memorial Cross (more often referred to as the Silver Cross) was instituted on December 1, 1919. It is granted by Her Majesty’s Canadian Government as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice in respect of military personnel who lay down their lives for their country and is engraved with the name and service number of the individual commemorated. During the Second World War the crosses were sent automatically to mothers and wives of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty.

K.66542, as it turns out, is one of a block of numbers allocated to the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's), a distinguished infantry regiment bearing 42 battle honours, some close to a century old, and with its regimental headquarters still at the historic Bay Street Armoury in Victoria.

With the name and service number and regiment it isn’t hard to find his name at Veterans Affairs in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Private Thomas Charles Craig, the son of Sam D. and Grace Craig, the husband of Violet Craig, he came from Victoria, British Columbia and he died on November 26, 1944. He is buried at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands. If one cares to look, his name is inscribed on page 282 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance. One can even find a picture of his grave.

A little amateur research soon finds an obituary for Violet Craig, published by the Times Colonist, who died on June 17, of 2007 and which notes that she was "predeceased by her first husband, Thomas Craig in 1944, serving overseas". There is probably more to this story but the amateur researcher begins to run out of resources at this point. Nothing is discovered about of “Sam D. and Grace Craig”. It would appear that such searches have been monetized. Even government web sites lead to commercial genealogy sites advertising “First Month Free!” It’s hard to know what this information is worth, but it would appear that a price has been determined.

One resource that is available is the book “Ready for the Fray” by R.H. Roy; it’s a history of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) from 1920 to 1955. A surprisingly enjoyable book it has a wealth of information on how a reserve regiment survived during the period between the world wars.  The latter part of the book covers the regiment’s active service in WWII. It is on page 355, in the chapter covering the fighting from the Leopold Canal through to the Scheldt, that you find;

One such patrol – a fighting patrol led by Lieut. M. C. MacKenzie from “C” Company – ran into the sort of trouble that can happen all too easily at the front. Lieut. MacKenzie took his 15-man patrol out into no-man’s-land in the hope of ambushing the enemy. No Germans fell into their trap, so before first light the patrol started to return. While doing so it ran into a stronger German patrol and a battle ensued. The Canadian Scottish patrol split up as it retired from the enemy force. Six of the men found their way back to “C” Company’s lines. The others crept cautiously back alongside a low ridge. By this time they were lost and moving only by instinct toward their own front. Unknowingly they crossed to the front of the Regina Rifles’ positions and walked through a protective minefield. A burst of fire from a Reginas’ Bren gun was the first warning they had of their location. This machine gun fire killed Lieut. MacKenzie, L/Cpl. B. Mawer and fatally wounded Cpl. T. C. Craig.  Pte. J. Nimcan recognized the sound of the Canadian weapon, shouted to the Reginas and rushed to their lines to let them know it was a friendly patrol.

There is little more to be discovered about this medal, or its namesake, at least by this investigator. The only other thing learned in passing is that there is an active market for objects such as these. A Canadian Memorial Cross can sell for as much as $200.00 on eBay. The market place it would seem has set a price for these bits of silver. Still, I am not sure if this constitutes its real worth. This Memorial Cross will go to the Canadian Scottish regimental museum where perhaps a different standard of value will be applied.

Monday, 11 March 2019


Following a debilitating fire on HMCS Protecteur and because her sister ship, HMCS Preserver, was deemed unfit to sail due to advanced corrosion, the Royal Canadian Navy had been operating without supply ships, or AOR’s as underway replenishment ships are known, since 2014.

Built in the late 1960s these ships were the support backbone of the RCN, so their loss significantly impacted the navy’s ability to deploy abroad. Since then, Canada has relied on Chile to support the Navy on the West Coast for 40 days in 2015, and Spain to support the Navy on the East Coast for 40 days in 2016. Of course these vessels are really only available in peace time.

In a November 2014 internal document the Navy outlined the requirements of an interim supply ship noting that the Joint Support Ship being built at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver “remains a critical component for achieving success in both international and domestic” Canadian military missions.

That Joint Support Ship was supposed to be delivered by Seaspan in 2017 but that  schedule slipped and the latest delivery date for the first of two ships is now 2022-2023 .

Recognizing Canada’s AOR deficit Federal Fleet Services Inc. (a sister company to Davie Shipbuilding) submitted an unsolicited bid to the Canadian Government proposing an interim AOR solution dubbed Project Resolve. On 30 November 2015, the Government of Canada announced the signing of a contract with Federal Fleet Services to develop the interim AOR capability. The contract entailed the conversion of a commercial container ship (MV Asterix) into an AOR, the provision of the ship’s crew, its overall operational management, and all maintenance. The initial Provision of Services Agreement (PSA) outlines a lease to Canada, which means a fixed, transparent cost to the Canadian taxpayer. The PSA is for five years, with options to extend that period for another five years and also an option for Canada to purchase the vessel.

The ship was delivered on time and on budget to the RCN in late 2017, and was formally accepted by the RCN on 6 March 2018 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, following an intensive period of at-sea trials and testing. It is the first new supply ship for Canada in almost 50 years.

With a Deadweight tonnage of 23,792 DWT (DWT is the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers, and crew) and a length of 182.5 metres long Asterix features include four STREAM-type RAS masts. Each of these stations is able to deliver fuel oil, aviation fuel (JP5), and water. This means Asterix is able to refuel two ships at a time (one on each side of the ship), and can also do dual-point RAS forward and aft on the same side to provide liquids and solids simultaneously, the latter via heavy jackstay. Asterix is also designed to carry two Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclones and has 2 hangars capable of holding Chinook size helicopters.

The ship was designed to carry 15,500 cubic metres of F76 (Marine Diesel); 1,500 cubic metres of F44 (Aviation Fuel - also known as JP5); and 600 cubic metres of fresh water. Asterix also has the capacity to carry sea containers in two separate locations at the forward part of the ship. One location has the capacity to carry 20 standard-size sea containers of general cargo (which can also be refrigerated), many of which can be accessed from below decks. The second location can accommodate 18 sea containers of hazardous goods, including ammunition. These areas are protected from the elements, and are serviced by cargo elevators.
Elsewhere on the ship’s Tween deck are spaces where equipment and vehicles can be carried via Lift-on/lift-off (LoLo). Such vehicles can include LAVs, trucks, jeeps and other light vehicles. To facilitate this, Asterix is fitted with two large cranes, each of which can lift up to 30 tonnes.

Federal Fleet Services Inc. and Davie Shipbuilding have offered to build a second supply ship at a reduced price. Asterix was built on time and on budget in a deal worth $659 million, a second ship was priced, at the time, at $500 million in order to entice the government to go ahead with such a purchase.

On Dec. 12 the government was asked in the House of Commons why it was not moving ahead with acquiring a second ship, to be called Obelix. At that time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quoted as saying “The armed forces did an assessment,” Trudeau said. “They don’t need the Obelix.”

Asked about the assessment, the Royal Canadian Navy referenced a November 2014 internal document which outlined the requirements of a interim supply ship. The document was produced before a deal was reached on Asterix. The navy’s statement noted that the Joint Support Ship being built at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver “remains a critical component for achieving success in both international and domestic” Canadian military missions.

In fact statements from the Navy make it clear that two support ships are being procured and that two ships are number considered necessary to “renew the capabilities of the two current Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment Ships that are approaching the end of their service lives and need to be replaced

Those joint supply ships were supposed to be delivered by Seaspan in 2017. That schedule slipped and the 2019 and 2020 delivery dates were proposed. The latest delivery date for the first of two ships is now 2022-2023 but with the caveat attached “with risk”,  which means, government officials have confirmed, that they could fall further behind schedule, government officials confirmed to Postmedia.

It clear to any observer that the Royal Canadian Navy needs at least two supply vessels. Without a second supply ship in the interim, the Navy will only be able to sustain operations offshore on one coast for a matter of days. With two supply ship, it can sustain operations for months.

In fact it could be argued that in the long-term Navy needs four supply ships, two on each coast. Four vessels would allow the Navy to have one vessel on high readiness on each coast, while one was undergoing maintenance or on foreign deployments, another could be standing by or on operations on both coasts.

What is not clear is why the government failed to procure another Asterix class vessel. Those reasons would appear to have as much to do with politics as they do with a broken procurement system.

It has been pointed out that the proper name for the ship is  MV Asterix.  NRU Asterix is the land-based unit (Naval Replenishment-At-Sea Unit) that generates the detachment of naval personnel who man selected equipment onboard, alongside the ship's civil crew.

Quebec's Davie offers second supply ship at reduced cost to entice Liberal government to buy

Joint Support Ship Design Decision

Friday, 22 February 2019


Lockheed Martin announced in mid-February 2019 that it had offered to sell India a new fighter the company calls the "F-21."

In fact, the ‘F-21’ is an F-16 that Lockheed has upgraded with new cockpit displays, conformal fuel tanks, a larger airframe spine that can accommodate additional electronics, fittings for towed radar decoys, a new infrared sensor and a refueling probe that's compatible with India's Russian-made aerial tankers.

The current version of the F-16, officially called the F-16 Block 70, is a modern fighter jet. The original F-16, introduced in the 1970s, was a nimble, eight-ton fighter with unsophisticated radar and short-range weapons. The Block 70, however, weighs 10 tons, boasts advanced avionics, the APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar, above-wing fuel tanks for increased range, and an automatic ground collision avoidance system. The Block 70 also has a structural service life of 12,000 hours, compared to just 8,000 hours for earlier versions of the    F-16.

 The ‘F-21’ has added capabilities. It is reported that Lockheed's promotional video displays the fighter with a noteworthy ten missiles—eight medium range, radar-guided AMRAAM type missiles plus two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles. The F-21 can be seen carrying a Sniper electro-optical targeting pod, also produced by Lockheed Martin. The Sniper pod provides HD forward-looking infrared (also known as thermal imaging), a dual mode laser, video data link, and digital data recorder. The F-21 also features an aerial refueling probe for refueling using the drogue system currently in use in Canada and features a huge flat panel cockpit display.

It should be noted that India doesn't just want a new fighter. It wants to produce the new fighter locally, which would be a substantial boost to the country’s defense industrial base. Lockheed Martin has offered start up an F-21 factory in India.

The addition of the ‘F-21’ to Lockheed Martins’ stable of fighter offerings comes as something of a surprise.  Where once the company was ‘all in’ on its F-35 it would appear that they have decided that they need to broaden their product range. This may be, in part, because of the recent success of rival Boeing in securing defence contracts.  While Lockheed Martin was concentrating on the F-35, sure that its ubiquity would insure that it scooped all defence dollars, Boeing was winning competitions for aerial tankers, jet trainers, drones for the Navy and helicopters for the Army. From twin Air Force One aircraft to Super Hornets and even new F-15’s, Boeing bagged a significant number of contracts. In the month of September alone, Boeing was awarded more than 20 contracts with a cumulative value of $13.7 billion.

 The lack of an alternative to the F-35 has become a problem for Lockheed Martin. The perceived acquisition costs, not to mention cost per hour of flight, of the F-35 have become a real issue for some prospective customers. Add to this national security concerns about just who should have access to F-35 technology which is amplified in some quarters by the possibility of simultaneous possession of Russian 400 series anti-aircraft missiles, which India operates, further limits the numbers of likely consumers.

 The introduction of the ‘F-21’ as an alternative would avoid many of these problems while at the same time wringing yet more profit out of what was a dwindling F-16 production line.  Some might even argue that this aircraft could compete with the Swedish Gripen in terms of cost effectiveness but with lower risk.
While Lockheed Martin has retreated from its claim that purchase of the ‘F-21’ would ease transition to F-35 ownership it is still true that an ‘F-21’ variant could be designed with maximum commonalty with the more expensive stealth machine.
 What significance does this have for Canada?

At one time Canadian Defence Matters advocated a mixed buy of fighters to meet our requirements. 60 to 65 Super-Hornets for domestic use backed up by 20 to 24 F-35’s to form an ‘expeditionary squadron’ seemed a cost effective mix. This option appeared to disappear when Boeing brought its self-destructive suit against Bombardier over the C series jetliner.

The introduction of the ‘F-21’ provides a new opportunity to implement a variation of this mixed aircraft strategy with the added benefit, if Lockheed Martin promises are to be believed, of more options for a greater degree of manufacture in Canada. 

A mixed fleet of complementary F-21’s and F-35’s from the same manufacturer would bring a level of commonality which might help to allay the fears some have of maintaining two fighter types. It is also possible that this situation could be handled with the same equanimity with which the RCAF maintains multiple types of helicopters or transport aircraft.

 The two versus one engine debate might be resolved by statistics showing that the F-16 actually has a lower loss rate then the F-18. It can only be hoped that any other objections to this option would be informed by the how much money would be saved over the service life of the aircraft in comparison with almost any other viable choice.

Canada does not need a fleet of the highest tech, most expensive, most desirable fighters. It needs efficient combat aircraft which can be procured at reasonable cost in reasonable numbers. The F-21 could well be part of a mix which achieved those goals.

F-21 For India, From India

Why There's a “New” American Fighter Called the F-21

Sunday, 16 December 2018


Canadian Defence Matters has argued in the past that a suitable number of firearms should be purchased as an “interim” measure to deal with a newly discovered capability gap. (One no doubt caused by a previous Conservative government’s mismanagement of the Small Arms Modernization Project).

 It would appear that this is what is to happen. It has been reported that an Army Interim Pistol (AIP) project which is expected to sustain Army capability for up to 10 years, until the GSP project can plug the entire capability gap resulting from the Brownings’ withdrawal has been initiated. 

With an approved budget of just under $5 million, taxes included, the AIP project is for the purchase of 4,738 weapons, including 508 for depot retention, all deemed “critical to meet the operational capability requirement of Regular Force units.” But if support for the Reserves, which is one of the stated goals of Canada’s defence plan “Strong Secure Engaged”, is included then this would boost the overall buy to 7,627 once 2,580 are added for the Reserves and 309 for depot inventory. This number would represent about half of the pistols currently allocated to the entire CAF. 

It is also reported, although no mention of the Army Interim Pistol project can be found on any government website, that it will take two years to complete this purchase. It should also be noted that if the CAF were to purchase 7,627 firearms from a budget of just $5 million then the average cost for each weapon would be about $655.00. This seems unlikely.

Perhaps what is necessary if an interim-interim pistol project?  Rather than take two years to purchase an indeterminate number of weapons why not take the five million dollars in hand and use it immediately to purchase 5,000 Sig Sauer P320’s (the civilian version of the U.S. Army’s standard sidearm) at commercial rates.
These weapons could be used as ‘gap fillers’ until the Army Interim Project can find a weapon to be used until the Small Arms Modernization Project can meet its 2035 deadline.

Of course time it is vital that a competition for all aspects of the Small Arms Modernization project should be held, later in the government’s mandate of course. Therefore, to re-enforce the interim nature of these interim weapons, they should be designated as a Provisional Interim Substitute Transitional Ordnance-Limited Service or “P.I.S.T.O.L.S.” in all future discussions.


ARCHIVED - Small Arms Modernization

Gun shy: A protracted procurement to replace the general service pistol
Dec 4, 2018 | Equiment, News, Procurement

Strong, secure, engaged : Canada's defence policy.


Sunday, 2 December 2018


It has recently been announced that, at least provisionally, the Type 26 frigate from BAE Systems has been chosen as the winner of a competition to provide a design for Canada’s next generation of warships. In keeping with the finest traditions of Canadian procurement programs this announcement was followed shortly afterward by a court order to postpone the award of the $60B contract because the warship design selected may not meet the stated requirements.

  The Department of Defence (DND) and the government had originally decided that budget constraints necessitated the selection of a "Military Off-The-Shelf" (MOTS) product to limit the risk of escalating costs and delays. In such a competition, a government chooses amongst existing designs. This strategy suggested that a fixed-price contract for an adaptable MOTS product would be pursued.

As James Hasik has pointed out the Type 26 frigate from BAE Systems is not a MOTS product. No Type 26s are yet in service anywhere, so the risks and costs that typically attend the selection of an unproven and untested ship should have been considered as critical determinants in the competitive process.

At this point it would appear that those doing the selection have undermined the integrity of the process by choosing a design which will inescapably multiply the risk, cost and delays to the largest defence procurement in Canada's history.

Warships are expensive investments in national security. Today, a multi-purpose frigate can cost more than $2 billion; a price that most navies find puts constraints on the number of warships which can be procured. This is particularly true of the Royal Canadian Navy which is restricted by government edict to ships built in Canadian ship yards at what are, in international terms, uncompetitive rates.

It has become obvious that Canada will never have the navy which our military professionals believe we need as long as Canadians continue to elect governments which will not budget the amounts necessary to achieve the goals of either self-sufficiency or national security. This is particularly true of governments who prise political expediency over fiscal responsibility.

Given that our navy must be built within the narrow budget allocated for maritime defence the question becomes not “can we build the navy we need” but rather, “what is the best navy we can get for the money available”? This means looking at the mix of ships that budget and personal and politics allow for and deciding which will come closest to achieving the goal of having sufficient naval forces.

Currently the government plans to build 15 surface combatants designed to be capable of meeting multiple threats in both open oceans and complex coastal environments, ensure that Canada continues to monitor and defend its waters and contribute significantly to international naval operations. It has been stated that these ships are to replace the Royal Canadian Navy's Iroquois-class destroyers and Halifax-class frigates. No coherent rational has ever been given to explain how the number of frigates deemed necessary was arrived at. The suspicion is that it is simply the largest number the Navy thought they could get.

The RCN needs more than surface ships however. In order to meet Canada’s defensive needs, the RCN must have an effective submarine capacity. Canadian submarine interests can be divided into three categories: the defence of Canada and North America; supporting Canadian expeditionary deployments; and supporting Canada’s interest in global maritime stability. In the final analysis without submarines Canada cannot have the vital maritime situational awareness as to who is operating in our waters.

According to a 2017 Senate Report “Submarines are likely to remain the dominant naval platform for the foreseeable future, and hence are an essential component of a balanced combat effective navy.” According to that same report “An enhanced submarine capability is vital for the Royal Canadian Navy. The current fleet of four Victoria-class submarines is inadequate to provide an effective presence in three oceans and a much larger fleet is required. Since about one-quarter of any submarine fleet is often in a scheduled refit or maintenance period, only three out of four vessels are operational. This modest capability is divided between two coasts. Moreover, the Victoria-class submarines do not possess an under-ice capability making them an ineffective instrument in Canada’s Arctic. A modern submarine fleet will allow Canada to defend its own coasts, sea lanes, ports and harbours from sea mines and under water threats, while simultaneously contributing to NORAD and NATO operations in a high readiness state.”

Undeterred by these facts it is reported that the government has rejected a Commons defence committee recommendation that the Victoria-class subs be replaced with new submarines capable of under-ice capabilities. They are quoted as saying that: “The government has also committed to modernizing the four Victoria-class submarines to include weapons and sensor upgrades that will enhance the ability of the submarines to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and deliver necessary improvements of platform and combat systems to extend operational capability to the mid-2030’s”.

Writing in the Canadian Naval Review Michael Byers has noted that “Instead of hiding behind another round of refits, the government should face up to the fact that Canada’s submarine capability is running out of time. As Chief of Maritime Staff Paul Maddison told the Senate National Security and Defence Committee in 2012“I would envision initiating a next-generation submarine discussion within the next three or four years to ensure there is no gap in submarine capability, which is what we faced in the 1990s.” In other words, a decision is urgently needed.”

The enforced halt to the Canadian Surface Combatant program may give us a last chance to reconsider the mix of ships appropriate to Canada’s needs and budget. In the same article Byers points out that the cost of a modern submarine is approximately one quarter that of the kinds of frigates Canada is procuring. This would suggest that by cutting just one or two surface ships from our current program of record would give Canada a force of up to 8 modern submarines along with more than a dozen multi-purpose surface warships. Such a force would appear to be at least as useful as, and much more militarily effective than, the force we are currently on track to acquire.  

Unfortunately submarines are not built in Canada. Nor, after watching Australia’s example, is it likely that we should wish to do so. It would of course be perfectly possible to purchase submarines from Western allies and ensure that servicing and maintenance could be done in Canada by Canadian based companies.

The reason that this is unfortunate is because it has become obvious that the government regards military procurement programs as job creation programs. As long as the government and the public are content with this state of affairs than there is little hope that a rational and balanced naval fleet can be achieved.

If national security and military efficiency were ever found to be of use in determining military budgets then maintaining an increased submarine fleet, even if at the expense of the surface fleet, would become a valid option.  

Lockheed Martin selected as preferred designer for Canada's next generation of warships

Feds ordered to postpone award of $60B contract because warship may not meet requirements such as speed

Commentary:  Getting It Right For The RCN And Canadian Taxpayer - By James Hasik

Shipbuilding projects to equip the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard


Canadian Forces says submarines can operate until mid-2020s - but still no details on how fleet will be upgraded

Canada’s Submarines are Sunk Costs
Michael Byers

$100 billion babies: Defence reveals true cost of new submarines for taxpayers

Babcock receives extension to Victoria In-Service Support Contract

Saturday, 10 November 2018



Once again as Remembrance Day, November 11, approaches we see the phenomenon of ‘poppy creep’. This is the growing trend of all the good and great to wear a poppy as early and as ostentatiously as possible. Before even the last trick-or-treater has disappeared, the talking heads of media and politics will have donned their yearly poppy regalia.

It has become something of a race in our culture to see who can show the greatest respect by being among the first to be adorned with the red flower. One hopes that it is not just because we all find it much easier to make the annual token show of respect then to actually think about or, even more unlikely, do anything for the military veterans of Canada’s wars.

Poppies themselves have symbolized death in war since at least the Napoleonic wars, but it was John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” that helped to popularize that meaning of that flower internationally.

The field poppy itself is an annual plant which flowers each year between about May and August. Its seeds are disseminated on the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time.

The spring of 1915 was the first time that warm weather had begun to warm up the countryside after the cold winter at war in 1914-1915. In the region around Ypres in Belgian Flanders the months of April and May 1915 were unusually warm.

The once-rich soil in the fields along the Western Front had become infused with lime from the enormous artillery bombardments, leaving it barren where nothing would grow.Except for the poppies.

This is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. Once the ground was disturbed by the fighting, the poppy seeds lying in the ground began to germinate and grow.

The bright red flowers, as delicate as they are, grew by the millions, thriving amid the destruction and often overgrew on the mass graves of soldiers.

In April of 2015, Guelph, Ontario’s John McCrae — a doctor and professor of medicine at McGill University who quickly enlisted with outbreak of war — had spent 17 gruelling days caring for the wounded and performing surgery on Canadian and Allied troops at the Second Battle of Ypres in western Belgium.

Exhausted and distraught by the loss of a close friend, seeing the sea of red poppies that had sprung up in the disturbed ground of the burials around the artillery position he was in, he jotted down a poem on a scrap of paper.

The familiar lines of McCrae’s poem have become some of the most famous words written in relation to the First World War.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

While that poem has become famous his was not the only attempt to use poetry to find reason in the madness of war.

British poet, Isaac Rosenberg wrote the poem called “Break of Day in the Trenches” that implicitly contrasts the appearance of the poppy with its black center and floppy burst of red leaves to a gunshot wound frozen in time.

The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver—what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe—
Just a little white with the dust.

The dark but realistic view of war embodied by that poem and that poppy behind the writer’s ear is, by the grace of God, not familiar to most of us who stuff  a few dollars into the tray at Tim Hortons and wear our plastic flowers to show our membership in the community of those who “care”.

So when you see a poppy on November 11th remember that it isn’t about the person wearing it or about you, it is about death and dying and a horror that you are spared from because of the men and women who stood on guard for thee.

School children in Canada are reminded every year of John McCrae's poem " In Flanders Fields" and the poppies that are worn for remembrance day. The poppies, and to a lesser extent the poem, are common on November the 11th all over the Commonwealth.

Those symbols and even the date, are not as commonly commemorated in the United States. This is unlikely because the wearing of the poppy and it's connection to "In Flanders Fields" are an American invention. 

The idea for the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy was conceived by Moina Michael in November of 1918 while she was working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries headquarters. While reading a magazine she came across a page that carried a vivid colour illustration for the poem "We Shall Not Sleep" (as the poem was miss-titled in the United States)

The lush illustration in the Ladies Home Journal, an advertisement for the surgical supply company Bauer and Black, featured a Philip Lyford painting of American doughboys rising to heaven. It was, by current standards, overly sentimental. Ms. Michael's reaction to it was also more in keeping with the attitudes of that time then with our own. She made a personal pledge to ‘keep the faith’ and vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance and as an emblem for “keeping the faith with all who died.”

After the war was over, Michael returned to the University of Georgia and taught a class of disabled servicemen. Realizing the need to provide financial and occupational support for these servicemen, she pursued the idea of selling silk poppies as a means of raising funds to assist disabled veterans. In 1921, her efforts resulted in the poppy being adopted as a symbol of remembrance for war veterans by the American Legion Auxillery, and by Earl Haig's British Legion Appeal Fund later that year.

Moina Michael's response to " In Flanders Fields" is in stark contrast to the ideals which inform our own, more enlightened, age. It is widely understood now that the correct attitude to the current generation of  veterans is to wear a poppy for a week or so around the beginning of November and take a minute or two of silence on the eleventh. 

This is the most that can, or should, be expected of the general public. The government is in charge of caring for veterans, although to be fair it is not considered to be a particularly important issue during elections. As long as the whole subject is kept out of mind for the rest of the year, the government is seen to be doing it's duty and as for the rest of us, we wear a poppy in November.

Not content with "keeping faith" Moina Michaels was moved to write a poem in response to Capt. McCrae's ode. 

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

 November 11 is the date we traditionally remember our veterans. The Red Poppies that are so commonly worn have come to mean less about the war that spawned them, or the wars that followed, or the political leanings of those who wear them, but rather they have become a show of respect for veterans.

 The truth is that things don’t change much for soldiers or veterans, including the way we think about them, or don’t think about them at all, when it isn’t November 11th.

 Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, born September 8, 1886 died September 1, 1967 was one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry described the horrors of the trenches, and attacked the patriotic pretensions of those he held responsible for the war.

Suicide In The Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

When we take a little time to remember the men and women of our Armed Forces on November 11th, we should spend some of that time remembering that, for some, the battles go on long after the war has ended


 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae, MD (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918)

McCrae served in the artillery during the Second Boer War. When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of World War ICanada, as a Dominion within the British Empire, was at war as well. McCrae was appointed as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery and was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. McCrae's friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle.

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was an officer in the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. On the morning of Sunday 2nd May Lieutenant Helmer left his dugout and was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8 inch German shell. What body parts could be found were later gathered into sandbags and laid in an army blanket for burial that evening.

Lieutenant Helmer was buried on the 2nd May. In the absence of the chaplain, Major John McCrae conducted a simple service at the graveside, reciting from memory some passages from the Church of England's 'Order of Burial of the Dead'. A wooden cross marked the burial place.

 Lieutenant Colonel Morrison who served in the same unit later wrote about the small burial ground where Alexis Helmer was originally buried. As he described it: “A couple of hundred yards away, there was the headquarters of an infantry regiment and on numerous occasions during the sixteen day battle, we saw how they crept out to bury their dead during lulls in the fighting. So the rows of crosses increased day after day, until in no time at all it had become quite a sizeable cemetery. Just as John described it, it was not uncommon early in the morning to hear the larks singing in the brief silences between the bursts of the shells and the returning salvos of our own nearby guns.”

The day after the funeral for Lt. Helmer Major McCrae was seen writing the poem while sitting on the rear step of an ambulance the next day while looking at Helmer's grave and the vivid red poppies that were springing up in the burial ground. Some say that McCrae was so upset after Helmer's burial that he wrote the poem in twenty minutes in an attempt to compose himself.

John McCrae suffered from severe asthma all his life, In January, 1918, while commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital(McGill) at Boulogne, McCrae contracted pneumonia. He died six days later. His flag-draped coffin was borne on a gun carriage and the mourners – who included Sir Arthur Currie and many of McCrae's friends and staff – were preceded by McCrae's charger, "Bonfire", with McCrae's boots reversed in the stirrups.

Every generation has had their own interpretation of the last verse of the poem. Are we fighting for Peace, or just to defeat the Hun? Who is the foe? What do we owe the fallen?  Do we keep faith by simply asking the questions, or is more required of us?

Every generation has to find their own answers, on this Remembrance day we think about those who decided that the answers included making the ultimate sacrifice

November 11 is the date we traditionally remember our veterans. The Red Poppies so commonly worn have come to mean less about the war that spawned them, or the wars that followed or the political leanings of those who wear them but rather they are a show of respect for veterans. When we take a little time to remember the men and women of our Armed Forces, we can spend some of that time remembering how we think about them when it isn’t November 11th.

The poem “Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling was first printed in the Scots Observer in the first half of 1890, and later published in “Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses” in 1892.  While Kipling remains controversial in some circles for his defence of the British Empire much of his work is still surprisingly relevant.  With its language only a little updated his poem “Tommy” could easily apply to Canadian soldiers today.


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
    But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
    The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
    O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

It is important to remember that things don’t change much for soldiers or veterans, including the way we think about them, or don’t think about them at all, when it isn’t November 11th.