News Highlights – 4 Apr 11

  • Libya Ops – The Canadian pilots steered their CF-18 Hornet fighter-bombers over the Libyan target with every intention of destroying it with their 225-kilogram smart bombs. But they saw something they didn’t like and hesitated:  Mission aborted. “We passed,” said the pilots’ commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Sylvain Ménard – call sign “Gogo” – referring to a mission flown shortly after the CF-18s from Bagotville, Que., arrived in Sicily on March. 19. “The target we were investigating was really close to some buildings. We didn’t know if they were military or civilian, so we did not drop on the target.” ….”
  • A bit of a reminder re:  the seriousness of war, from “George Jonas’ 10 commandments of war.” “…. 1.  Don’t go to war for any purpose but the defence of your country’s vital interests, and only if they cannot be secured any other way …. 8.  If hostilities become unavoidable, please let your soldiers fight ….”
  • Unfinished plates of lamb and rice are still being cleared away as the governor of Panjwaii, Haji Fazluddin Agha, receives a post-lunch briefing on security threats in his district.  An official with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security stands on the shura room’s ornate red carpet to deliver his report, telling Agha his agency has identified a pair of insurgents who have been appointed to the new Taliban shadow government in Panjwaii.  The official says evidence was recently discovered proving both men are responsible for killing Canadian troops and laying “thousands” of roadside bombs. It also seems both men had been previously captured by coalition forces and then released, though the reasons for this are unclear. Agha takes in the information and a discussion ensues among the dozen or so Canadian and Afghan military commanders in the room. The idea is raised of re-arresting the men or killing them. But a consensus ultimately forms around another course of action, which is verbalized by Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St-Louis, the commander of the Canadian battle group.  Instead of taking punitive measures, give the insurgents a chance to change their ways, St-Louis says.  “I think the district governor has a great opportunity to convince some of the fighters to live in peace, and maybe these two can be the start,” he tells Agha. “If these two individuals came here with their village elders, admitted to some of the choices they’ve made and vowed a future of peace, I think you could have the start of something very positive.” ….”
  • The Conservative government quietly went to Federal Court last week hoping to impose limits on what a military watchdog can say in its final report into torture allegations involving Afghan prisoners.  The Military Police Complaints Commission is currently reviewing evidence and writing its report after hearings into allegations that army cops turned a blind eye to suspected abuse in Afghan jails …. The Harper government …. (has) challenged the definition of what military cops could have known.  Justice Department lawyers also accused the commission of stepping “out of its narrow jurisdiction” and investigating Ottawa’s policy of handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities — something it was strictly forbidden from doing.  The government wants to exclude the testimony of diplomats and civilians who did not work for the Defence Department. Its lawyers also want any documents belonging to those officials, including reports that warned of torture or documented the abuse, excluded from the commissions findings ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)The (U.S.) Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress March 17 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Canada of 36 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology (AT) Torpedo Conversion Kits and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $125 million. The Government of Canada has requested the sale of 36 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology (AT) Torpedo Conversion Kits, containers, spare and repair parts, weapon system support & integration, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical support These kits will upgrade their existing MK-48 torpedoes from Mod 4 to Mod 7 ….” (PDF)
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2) “…. The Department of National Defence intends to award a contract …. Aircraft Accident Investigator training …. to Cranfield University. The contract will be for the provision of a six-week Aircraft Accident Investigator course for one participant in 2011. The contract will also include one option period, for the provision of a six-week Aircraft Accident Investigator course for up to three participants in 2012, to be exercised at the discretion of the Crown. The contract, including the option period, has a total all-inclusive estimated value of £50,000 (~$77,700 Cdn) ….” More on where the training is expected to be conducted here.
  • Hope the air conditioning’s working. The nearly 500 Canadians currently in the Ivory Coast should stay indoors to keep away from the political violence engulfing the West African nation following a disputed election, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The statement followed a week of heightened fighting between supporters of president-elect Alassane Ouattara and those of Laurent Gbagbo — who has refused to step down since last November’s election — that’s brought the conflict’s death toll to at least 1,300, according to the Red Cross ….” More on what’s going on there here (from Canada’s Foreign Affairs department),  here (Google News) and here (EMM NewsBrief).
  • Oopsie…. “A military base commander who served with the UN has lost a bid to return to head CFB Borden after being stripped of his power for inappropriate behaviour. Capt. John Frederick Schmidt was removed from the top position in July 2008 following an incident in which he was drinking alcohol and inappropriately touched two junior female officers, according to court documents. Schmidt, a 30-year veteran, went to a federal court, seeking a review of his removal due to “procedural unfairness.” He wanted the decision set aside and for a new probe to be launched. Judge Robert Barnes recently tossed out the request, ruling that Schmidt admitted the incident to his commanding officer and did not answer questions about it when interviewed at another time ….” Full text of Federal Court of Canada decision here. News Highlights – 18 Mar 11

  • No-Fly Zone Libya (1) – The U.N. Security Council straps on a pair. “The Security Council (has) effectively authorized the use of force in Libya to protect civilians from attack …. ” Here’s a link to the official resolution (PDF).
  • No-Fly Zone Libya (2) – More on Canada’s F-18’s headed into the fight, from unnamed sources. “A source told the Ottawa Citizen Thursday night that six CF-18s originally tasked for a NATO patrol off Iceland have now been ordered to take part in the Libyan mission ….” (Postmedia News) More, from unnamed sources: “Canada is poised to send in fighter jets to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, defence sources told The Canadian Press.  Six CF-18 fighter-bombers are being readied at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville, Que. and are expected to deploy overseas once the Harper government gives the official green light ….” (Canadian Press)  Yet more from unnamed sources“The six CF-18 fighter jets Canada is sending to help enforce the new United Nations no-fly zone over Libya could leave as early as Friday to join an assembling international force, and will be based out of Southern Europe, possibly Italy. Ottawa will also send between 120 and 200 military personnel to support the planes …..” One more version from unnamed sources: “Canada is expected to announce that it will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce the UN’s just-approved no-fly zone over Libya, CBC News has learned. The jets would take at least 24 hours to arrive at their destination, which has yet to be determined, but defence sources told CBC that Malta and Italy were possibilities. Between 100 and 200 support personnel would be involved, the sources said, adding the announcement was imminent ….” (  Here’s some background information on the CF-188 Hornet, and on 425 Squadron based in Bagotville.
  • No-Fly Zone Libya (3) – Q & A on what one wire service says it could look like.
  • No-Fly Zone Libya (4) – How quickly?  Could be pretty damned quick. Even if Libya HAS closed its airspace.
  • Advice to Libyan insurgents, from Canada’s man at the US Army/USMC Counterinsurgency Center: “….  You have lost round one. Disperse and hide your weapons and ammo- you will need them in the future.  Get organized – figure out who’s in charge and who has the plan.  Get some external support – a lot of countries have a beef with Kadhafi. Exploit that.  Get some training- learn to move, shoot and communicate.  Get disciplined – we all want to be Che but you need some Sgt Rocks too. Dig in.  Come back to fight another day, but this time try the indirect approach – the guerrilla approach.  Don’t go conventional until you are ready – insurgencies lose because they move too fast.  Read your Mao and Michael Collins – learn the lessons from someone else’s past ….”
  • Canada’s Defence Minister on Afghanistan (1) – I’m back!
  • Canada’s Defence Minister on Afghanistan (2) – A few more details about Canada’s “Kabul-centred” mission later this year. “In addition to lessons on marksmanship and bomb detection, Canadian soldiers will be teaching Afghan forces to read, write and practice medicine when the country’s new training mission begins later this year.  Exactly when and where that instruction will occur remains undecided, but Defence Minister Peter MacKay promised quick answers during a visit to Kandahar Airfield on Thursday.  The airbase was the final stop on a four-day Afghanistan tour for the minister and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, during which they scouted places where the troop trainers could be stationed.  “The determination has yet to be made as to the exact numbers and configuration and location but I’ll tell you I’m able to go back now with a much more informed view and make a recommendation to the cabinet and the prime minister for a final decision,” MacKay said.  “There is some urgency. We clearly recognize that the sooner we can get on with having trainers in place, the more this will increase our ability to give the Afghans capacity.” ….” More from the Canadian Press here.
  • In a surprisingly glowing assessment of the district where Canadian troops are concentrated, the new governor of Panjwaii, in southern Afghanistan, has declared the area “100-per-cent secure” from insurgents. “We have peace and stability in Panjwaii,” Haji Fazluddin Agha said Tuesday, referring to the region southwest of Kandahar City. “I can say Panjwaii is now 100-per-cent secure. We have government presence and influence all over the district, we can travel anywhere in the district, people are supporting us and we have created a level of good understanding with Canadian Forces.” ….”
  • QMI reporter learns about “no fraternization” rule (even within married couples) in Afghanistan.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – The Defence Department has joined the Harper government in questioning the credibility of the parliamentary budget officer’s report on the costs of stealth jet fighter program.  A top military official said Thursday the cost of buying 65 high-tech fighters would be about $15 billion over 20 years, including maintenance costs.  That differs from the recent report of PBO Kevin Page that pegged the entire cost to taxpayers at $22.6 billion over 20 years.  Page has been a thorn in the side of the Conservative government. His fighter jet assessment was criticized by Laurie Hawn, the junior defence minister, who called it speculative and illogical.  Dan Ross, a Defence Department assistant deputy, said Thursday the military has requested a meeting with Page’s office to discuss his figures.  Ross told a briefing at Defence Department headquarters in Ottawa that the PBO made a “mathematical error” in calculating the unit cost of the planes, and that its maintenance numbers were off too. His briefing was augmented by an array of slides, and documentation that was distributed to journalists ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – You want the our cost figures?  Here you go, then. The federal government has finally made public a detailed cost estimate for its controversial F-35 fighter jet purchase in the wake of a committee hearing examining whether the Conservatives may be in contempt of Parliament for failing to disclose the material. The document dump follows a similar one a day earlier in which the government tabled a cost breakdown for its package of anti-crime bills. Some 55 F-35-related documents were apparently tabled before the Parliamentary Procedure and House Affairs Committee Thursday, however, those inside the committee room were not immediately aware of it. Shortly after, Dan Ross, the defence department’s assistant deputy minister of materiel, met with reporters to explain the cost breakdown, its methodology and to offer a few more details about why government figures differ from those released last week by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page ….”
  • London, Ontario is getting “…. a new facility to house the Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) and 2 Area Support Group Signal Squadron Detachment London (2 ASG Sig Sqn Det). This facility at Area Support Unit (ASU) London will address the current lack of infrastructure needed to house the two units …. This project, valued at approximately $1.3 million, includes the construction of a new 871 m2 facility that will address current accessibility issues and be more conducive to providing the services required for ill or injured Canadian Forces personnel. The project also entails the demolition of the facility that currently houses 2 ASG Sig Sqn Det London ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  “Spaceborne Ocean Intelligence Network (SOIN) Operations and Research” (via
  • Ooopsie (1) – Military police are investigating a Canadian Forces reservist from Winnipeg who is alleged to have been planning to attend a white-pride demonstration this weekend in Calgary. Capt. Karina Holder says the military can take action even if the reservist doesn’t actually attend the event, providing investigators find evidence. “Having that attitude alone is completely incompatible with the military culture,” Holder said Thursday from Ottawa. “It runs contrary to effective military service. You have to have that basic respect for your fellow human beings, otherwise you cannot function in this organization.” She said they received a complaint from a member of the public but can’t confirm that it was that complaint which prompted the investigation ….”
  • Oopsie (2) – Someone Postmedia News thinks is quoted denying the claim. “A Winnipeg teenage military reservist under investigation by the Canadian Forces says allegations of racist activity levied against him aren’t true.  The 17-year-old also said while he’d considered attending the white pride march in Calgary Saturday to watch — not participate — he cancelled the plans weeks ago.  The teenager says while he is proud of his German-Ukrainian heritage, he does not believe in white supremacy.  “I do not believe the white race is the master race. I do not believe any races are inferior. I don’t want any harm to happen to anyone,” he said.  The teenager said he upholds all military values. “I don’t care if you’re homosexual, Asian, Muslim — we’re all there for the same reason, and that’s the defence of Canada.” …. The teenager said he’s since taken down postings on his Facebook page, including quotes from Hitler and Mussolini.  He said he put them up because he sees them as “powerful,” in the sense of being willing to stand up and fight for beliefs.  “I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” he said. “Just because an evil person did and said many evil things, does not mean everything he said was wrong.”  He said he’d previously posted on a white supremacist forum, but doesn’t belong to any such groups and has since “matured” in his beliefs ….”
  • Northwestern Ontario Canadian Rangers help train southern Ontario Reservists on how to fight in the winter in northeastern Ontario “Sixteen Canadian Rangers from Constance Lake were an important part of a major military exercise to improve the ability of southern soldiers to operate in the North in the winter.  The Rangers taught a range of winter survival skills to 115 soldiers from 32 Canadian Brigade Group, including members of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters. That group is part of the Canadian Forces Arctic Response Company Group, which is charged with responding to emergencies in the North.  “They’ve taught everything from ice water rescue right down to ice fishing, food preparation, fire starting, improvised shelter building, snaring, and helping the soldiers stay out overnight in shelters the soldiers put together themselves,” said Master Warrant Officer Robert Patterson, Canadian Ranger sergeant major with 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.  Rangers also accompanied the soldiers when they went into the bush in two groups for the tactical phase of the week-long exercise. “They went out to ensure the movement of the soldiers was safe,” Master Warrant Officer Patterson said. “They’ve done a fantastic job. This is the first time the Constance Lake patrol has ever hosted an exercise of this magnitiude and they’ve done an outstanding job under the leadership of their patrol leader, Sgt. Albert Sutherland ….” More from the local paper here. News Highlights – 23 Jan 11

  • A new governor for Panjwai“A Canadian-patrolled part of Kandahar has a new political leader. The provincial government has named Haji Fazluddin Agha the new governor of Panjwaii district. Agha replaces the illiterate and mercurial Haji Baran. Rumours have swirled for weeks that Baran’s ouster was imminent. The new governor will work with officials from Canada and other NATO countries to secure the often troublesome district ….”
  • A bit of what some Canada Border Service Agency folks went through in Afghanistan.
  • Shaw Media + ABC = TV show about combat hospital in Afghanistan“Canadian broadcaster Shaw Media on Thursday said it will co-produce the homegrown medical procedural Combat Hospital with ABC. Confirmation of the American deal for the Canadian-U.K. drama means production on the now untitled series from Sienna Films, Artists Studios and Lookout Point can go ahead. There’s no word on casting. Shaw Media is set to announce Monday a veteran director attached to the Canadian medical drama. Shaw Media’s cable drama channel Showcase will air the 13-part series about a military medical facility in Afghanistan where doctors and nurses treat coalition troops and Afghan civilians next summer ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged across Kandahar.
  • Canada’s reportedly hunting for spare parts to keep the Snowbirds flying for another 9 years or so“The Defence Department is on the hunt to find parts for the military’s aging Snowbirds acrobatic aircraft as it tries to keep the fleet operating until 2020. The planes have been in the Canadian Forces inventory since 1963 and have been used by the Snowbirds team since 1970. But a number of systems on the aircraft are obsolete and will have to be fixed in the next few years, according to the department. In addition, Public Works recently issued a request for a number of parts, with responses expected back by Tuesday. The aircraft, known as CT114 Tutors, were to have reached the end of their estimated life expectancy last year but that was extended by the Defence Department to 2020. Defence Department spokeswoman Natalie Cruickshank noted in an email that the Snowbird fleet remains airworthy and sustainable. “Overall, DND is effectively managing the aircraft, its operation and ensuring a strong support network is in place for a healthy fleet until it is retired from service,” she added. She noted that a recent study identified two systems as requiring updates in the future …”
  • One of the military’s flying schools is cranking up its output a bit“3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (CFFTS) at Southport is expected to step up its training this year by up to 30 per cent to meet a shortage by the Canadian Forces.  “We are actually expecting our production to increase,  in terms of the number of pilots we train … particularly the ones that graduate as fully qualified pilots, both on the multi- engine and on the rotary- wing side ,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Kamphuis, commandant of  CFFTS. “It’s going to a busier year, even (more) than last year which was an increase from the year before.”  The flight school will be graduating an additional 10 multi-engine pilots and five or six rotary wing pilots in each course, which equals an increase of 30 per cent on the multi-engine side and 10 per cent on the rotary wing side.  “The air force right now as an institution is short of pilots,” said Kamphuis. “The long-term way to fill that shortage is to train more. We are part of the solution to get the air force back up to full strength where it needs to  be,  given all the operations the air force is doing both in Canada and internationally.”  Also, for the first time this year, flight students will be arriving from Saudi Arabia , starting in September.  About 20 students will be trained a year ….”
  • F-35 Tug of War Update: “Canada wants to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets. The government says the purchase price is $9 billion, including some spare parts and weapons but not including a long-term maintenance contract.  Today, Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center For Defense Information in Washington, D.C., releases written testimony he was asked to give to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence. Wheeler says he tries to answer three questions in his testimony:
    1. What will Canada’s F-35As cost?
    2. What will Canada obtain for that expense?
    3. Is there a good reason to wait?
    The short answers to those three questions: 1. Unable to know. 2. Unable to know 3. Yes ….”
  • Too many strings attached to Canadian military contracts?  Good question. “A number of folks in industry have voiced concern about what they believe is a large number of mandatory requirements for Canadian Forces equipment procurement projects. For instance, the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) program has 600 mandatory requirements. A company must meet all of these requirements if they want to win the competition to supply the vehicles to the Canadian Forces. “Everyone is going to have trouble meeting all 600,” one industry official told Defence Watch. “DND talks about wanting an ‘off-the-shelf’ vehicle but when you have that many mandatories that isn’t off-the-shelf.” His view is that the customer (DND) should outline what they want a piece of kit to do and then let industry reach those performance parameters, instead of outlining requirements to such a specific nature ….”