Updated 6th May, 2016
Tora Bora, 2002: USAR Chinook CH47D and 3 Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry
Photo Source: Defence Industry Daily July 1st 2014
OUR NEW GOVERNMENT’S DOWNPAYMENT AS A SIGNATORY TO THE U.N. ARMS TREATY WAS PLAYED OUT RECENTLY IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS INVOLVING CANADA’S ATTEMPT TO DISTANCE ITSELF FROM ARMS USE and TRADING THEM WITH SAUDI ARABIA.
MEANWHILE SUPPORT TO OUR ALLIES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST ISIL WAS BEING RE-CONSTITUTED AND ADEQUATE SUPPORT FOR OUR TROOPS ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ WAS BEING QUESTIONED – CHALLENGED BY THE OPPOSITION.
The training and mentoring role was introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after ending the Afghanistan-Canadian combat operations in 2011. At the NATO SUMMIT the Prime Minister made that pledge to retain troops to train and mentor the Afghanistan National Army.
GIVEN WHAT SEEMS TO BE ADVERTISED AS A “NEW” TRAINING AND MENTORING ROLE FOR OUR TROOPS IN IRAQ and ELSEWHERE AROUND SYRIA, THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THERE ARE BATTLE AND COMBAT ENGAGEMENTS AGAINST ISIL IN SITU.
A question in the House of Commons about troop support and protection for them dredged up some OLD POLITICAL CHESTNUT about cancelled EH101 helicopters, jungle green combat gear in the desert and ILTIS jeeps aside, had put our troops, ill-equipped perhaps, in harms way during the Afghanistan-AL Qaeda engagement in 2001.
At the heart of the question, it seemed, was the contract left by the former Government for an Integrated Soldier System Project-based on lessons learned in Afghanistan among other encounters. The issue was whether or not the Government planned to or had in fact deferred or cancelled that contract – subordinating troop support to 2016 budgetary measures or a perceived “NEW PEACEKEEPING ROLE” for our troops.
In that context, it was not unreasonable therefore for the conservative member of parliament, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, representing many servicemen, servicewomen, and their families, to challenge the Ministry of Defense on whether or not the Integrated Soldier System Project (ISSP) was being delayed or deferred for 2016 BUDGET REASONS, given these role re-brandings and tactical considerations.
Instead the government through the Parliamentary Secretary – given the Minister of Defence was not in the House – retorted selectively that it was the 1990s era Conservatives that had sold the Boeing Chinook CH47s heavy lift aircraft thus putting our troops at risk in Afghanistan – a diversion from a very serious question by a government claiming to be more open and transparent that the previous governing Conservatives.
This sort of political chit chat or disdain is wearing very thin. The ASPERSION missed the essential topic – SUPPORT FOR OUR TROOPS and THEIR REQUIREMENTS and NEEDS. Likely there wasn’t a politician who could accurately define either.
Equally so, such aspersions catering to PEACE and BAN the ARMS TRADE ACTIVISTS and seats on the Security Council stoke a level of support among the electorate and those who may have very different, often jingoistic agendas as their point of reference, without having to mine for actual facts or sacrifices involved, cabinet and executive decisions aside.
The EH101 was cancelled by Prime Minister Chretien in 1993 and he served until December 2003.
The war in Afghanistan started October 7th 2001 after the September 11th attack. The United States invaded Afghanistan and was supported initially by close ALLIES. They were later joined by NATO beginning in 2003.
Canada’s role began when Joint Task Force 2 was secretly deployed in October 2001. The first contingents of regular troops arrived in Afghanistan in January through February 2002 on the Liberal Government’s watch.
Canada took on a larger role in 2006 under Prime Minister Paul Martin who served from December 2003 until February 2006. The larger role of Canadian TROOPS happened when they were deployed to Kandahar Province. 2,500 TROOPS were deployed and 1,200 were in the COMBAT BATTLE GROUP.
Five years after the Liberal Government lost the general election in 2006, Canadian Troops ended their combat role in 2011 under the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper. At the 2012 NATO Summit Prime Minister Harper announced that CANADIAN FORCES would remain to provide TRAINING and MENTORING help to the Government and the Afghan National Army.
As for the matter of TROOP and equipment SUPPORT, the facts are that eight Chinook helicopters CH 47Cs were bought by the Liberal Government in 1974 and remained in use until 1991. The model CH 47C saw wide operational use in a combat assault support role in Vietnam.
This TYPE was unable to receive Federal Aviation Authority Certification to engage in civil activities, a dual use requirement in Canada at the time. The remaining seven were sold by the Conservative Government to the Royal Netherlands Air Force who upgraded them to CH47 D standard.
The Conservative Government had previously placed a $4.4 billion order in 1987 to replace the Sikorsky Sea Kings. The Liberal Government cancelled that contract immediately after their election in 1993, on an “election promise.”
The Liberal Government, in fact, took a very different approach to the perception of helicopter use. In short, the PEACE-NON COMBAT connotations are very obviously philosophical and political; the dumbing-down of MILITARY ROLES and SUPPORT CAPABILITY in that regard was very evident.
They purchased 100 Griffin UTILITY helicopters in 1995, developed by Bell Textron out of MIRABEL QUEBEC in a United States-Canada development and production arrangement – two years after cancelling the EH101 production contract.
These aircraft have been used in Canada for Operation Saguenay, a POLICING action, in 1996 and Operation Assistance in the 1997 Red River FLOOD RELIEF effort. They were used extensively in the Great Ice Storm of 1998 and in 2002 for the 28th G8 conference in Canada.
From the time of the Griffins’ purchase, defence analysts have been critical of the aircraft pointing to its procurement as politically motivated and that the aircraft couldn’t adequately fill any of its intended roles.
The GRIFFIN was actually purchased to replace helicopters carrying out military observation and army tactical roles. The purchase was also rationalized for the roles of existing helicopters as a base rescue as well as Chinook CH 147 lift capability.
In short, according to many critics and pilots, to my knowledge, the Griffin equipped in ambulance format on the international stage had been termed a civilian-designed helicopter with a coat of green paint. It is believed by some that 20 are now parked.
Separately, Bell Helicopter currently plans to lay off employees at its plant in Mirabel, Que. This action is part of a global downsizing that will see the loss of 1,100 jobs. Bell Helicopter recently won a $156-million contract to build helicopters for the Canadian Coast Guard on top of a $172-million Coast Guard order placed in 2014 – all placed by the Conservative Government (CBC News/Business April 28th 2015)
All this to say, on the business end of troop support the GRIFFIN was ruled out of the Afghanistan mission in 2008 by General Rick Hillier then Chief of Defense Staff because the aircraft was underpowered. Martin Shadwick, a defense analyst and professor, in 2009 at York University corroborated.
Even the Ch47 Chinook was not capable of operating in the hot and/or high-altitude environment of Southern Afghanistan. My personal experience was similar in the RAF Belvedere heavy lift aircraft in the jungles of Malaysia and 1960s Borneo. The point is defense preparedness is very serious business.
The fact of the matter is the Conservative Government took action and purchased 6 updated Chinook 47Ds from the UNITED STATES in 2008 for $252 million for the Canadian Forces in AFGANISTAN to carry out heavy lift and other appropriate combat roles. One was lost and the remaining five aircraft were returned in 2011 after their mission was completed.
The bottom line is our troops were not in a state of readiness when the Liberal Government engaged our troops alongside our coalition allies in the fight against Al Qaeda in AFGANISTAN, late 2001. That task fell to the Conservatives and they closed the mission, ending our troop’s combat role in 2011.
The reality on the ground was that Canadian troops had taken on a larger ROLE in 2006 after the they were re-deployed to Kandahar Province. There were 2,500 Canadian Forces (CF) personnel in Afghanistan and 1,200 comprised the combat battle group.
The 2006 renewal and re-equipment effort undertaken by the former Conservatives Government resulted in the acquisition of specific equipment (main battle tanks, artillery, unmanned air vehicles, and other systems) to support the mission in Afghanistan.
Four C17 Globemaster military transport aircraft were delivered between 2007 and 2008 and a fifth and final one was delivered in 2015. The aircraft carries out strategic airlift missions, transports troops, cargo, and military equipment. In a tactical manner, the role of airlift-medivac and airdrop duties among others is among its capabilities. NATO heavy airlift wing also uses these aircraft.
Arguably, the Current Liberal Government inherited a much better prepared and equipped military than they left the new Conservative Government in 2001.
In the light of evident Liberal or Progressive ideology and its history of equipment deferrals, substitutions and cancellations; the current rebranding of missions and procurements is currently juxtaposed with a $3.7 billion deferral in defense expenditures in Budget 2016.
A further significance is the fact that the Conservative Government balanced the budget and left a surplus. By comparison, the new Liberal Government has committed $30 billion of budgetary deficits and the deferral of defence spending concurrently.
A Citizen article revealed that some funding for Cyclone Maritime Helicopters, as well as the (ISSP) Integrated Soldier Systems Project was being delayed BECAUSE OF THE BUDGET. (Ottawa Citizen April 26th 2016-by David Pugliese – Area Tory MP misfires again with “Gaffes in attack on Liberal’s defence spending.”)
It is worth mentioning that the ISSP was designed to support and protect our troops in areas of ACTIVE COMBAT, whether in a “TRAINING” ROLE or NOT, presumably. it is worth noting that the former Conservative Defense Minister, Jason Kenney announced the awarding of the contract for the Integrated Soldier Systems Project on July 27, 2015.
In that context, the Government’s distraction was disingenuous by cross-firing and redirecting aspersions that the former Conservatives had failed our troops by selling off Chinook Helicopters prior to the war in Afghanistan.
What had sailed over everyone’s head in the exchange, it seemed, was the fact the (ISSP) will acquire and support over 4,000 wearable communications suits that will protect our soldiers from chemical and radiological weaponry. The suits will be complete with battlefield accessories and support equipment.
Given that our TROOPS are currently and significantly engaged in IRAQ alongside our allies and with the Peshmerga, the marked difference is that the new Liberal Government withdrew CF 18 support from the Allied effort in the fight against ISIL.
Changing the ROLES in name from COMBAT to PEACEKEEPING has little significance when it comes to defense preparedness. It would not be unreasonable to say that the (ISSP) project is under review. To be fair the Department of Defense is in the midst of a DEFENCE POLICY REVIEW.
To be equally fair the Conservative Government completed a CANADA FIRST DEFENCE STRATEGY to modernize the Armed Forces in 2013/4. It put forward clear roles and missions for them and outlined the balance necessary between support to our allies, countering international security challenges and maintaining military capabilities described as PERSONNEL, EQUIPMENT, READINESS, and INFRASTRUCTURE.
Others perhaps see political momentum picking up in the BATTLE FOR BUCKS under a New Liberal Government from those advocating the MONITORING or ABOLITION of the ARMS TRADE ALTOGETHER BECAUSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. Of course, as a political CHECK and BALANCE others perhaps seek empowerment to influence and control conflict on MORAL GROUNDS
While the present Government does not currently foresee future combat engagements according to the Prime Minister, it could be argued that his Liberal predecessors could not have foreseen that a total of 159 Canadian Forces personnel would have been killed in the Afghanistan war since 2002.
Kevin Murray is a Veteran of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, a Former member of the Royal Canadian Military Institute and Editor of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. He is the Canadian Liaison Officer for the R.A.F. Seletar Veteran’s Association in Canada and a Member of the National Malaysia-Borneo Veterans Association in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Update: Ottawa Sun Comment – 2nd May 2016 – We’re glad they’re laughing…for now. It is good that the U.S. President Barack Obama can enjoy a laugh at Prime minister Trudeau’s expense. [….] Obama only last week called for NATO ALLIES to spend more on International Security. NATO MEMBERS-that’s us-are supposed to spend 2% of GDP on Defence. But we don’t […..] When taken against the backdrop of Trudeau’s decision to end our bombing mission against ISIS, it contributes to an IMAGE of CANADA as lagging in the war against TERRORISM. [….] Trudeau will need to be willing to make hard decisions. We hope he can.
Canada’s army reserve lacking soldiers, equipment, training, audit finds– Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press Posted: May 03, 2016.
The Auditor General’s Report mentioned in the House of Commons today states that the Army made a special effort to equip the reserves but even then the audit report found SUPPORT wanting. The report went a step further, showing as many as 1,704 part-time soldiers are actually full-time duty and are financed out of the reserve budget.
Canada’s auditor general says only a fraction of Canada’s reserve troops are properly trained, equipped and fit for international operations and domestic emergencies. [….] National Defence in its response, in the House of Commons agreed with the criticism, and the Minister mentioned his personal familiarity-experience with the training program. He said the department is working on the equipment issue.
In response to a question from the NDP in the House of Commons Defence Minister Harjit Saijan also said ‘they’ the liberals have already started “INVESTING” in the reserves. He also said he recognizes recruiting and retention as long-standing problems, and that the Department is looking at ways to make TRAINING more engaging, according to the article.
Also reported, Lt General Marquis Haines, Commander of the Army, said; they’re putting in place measures to ensure that RESERVISTS are more PREPARED to DEPLOY both at HOME AND ABROAD. “Any gaps in training will be assessed and resolved before deployment and the completion of army reserve training objectives will be confirmed annually,” the General said in a statement.
Michael Den Tandt, Abandoning those who save our skins–Ottawa Citizen, National Post NP4, May 6th 2016 brings the astonishing and horrifying reality of Fort McMurray in flames and the role our military carries out to support a palpable, unified sense of purpose to responsible and measured response to the tragedy.
“When rivers overflow, their banks or wildfires rage, Canadians can depend on the Men and Women of our Armed Forces to STEP UP.”
“What a pity this devotion runs just ONE WAY. […] But come the 2016 Budget $3.7 billion of planned equipment spending was promptly deferred. […] And this is the question as we cheer the People in Uniform who are prepared again, to risk life and limb in OUR SERVICE- Are they always to be last in line, their needs always at the bottom of the list-unless Wildfires are literally at the door?”