What’s Canada Buying? November 17, 2014




MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Nov 11

  • MCPL Byron Greff, 3PPCLI, R.I.P.  He’s home – more here.  Photos of his ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Facebook here (thanks to Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen of the USAF Info-machine).
  • Afghanistan (1)  Meanwhile, the CF Info-machine shares a backgrounder on part of the training mission“The Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) is the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) flagship training institution. Located on the eastern outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital city, the KMTC can house and train up to 12,000 trainees at a time. Over 60,000 soldiers graduate from courses at the KMTC annually. Two hundred and thirty-five Canadian Forces advisors serve at the KMTC as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Thirty-five members have been with the KMTC since mid-June and the remaining 200 recently arrived in October ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Canadian ingenuity as we continue to pack up in Kandahar.  “The Armour Removal Platoon of the Mission Closure Unit is responsible for removing the armour added to the combat vehicles used by Canadian troops in Kandahar Province and packing it for shipment back to Canada. The process of dismounting the armour from the vehicles is difficult, labour-intensive and inherently dangerous. Because safety had to be our highest priority, it was difficult to achieve any speed on the production line. That was the case until Private Bryan Capiak and Corporal Bradley Van Olm developed a new way to take the heaviest pieces of armour — the four Z bars — off the Light Armoured Vehicle Mk III (LAV III) ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Well done“On October 20th, 2011, Canada’s Acting Head of Mission Philip MacKinnon and Detective Ken Brander, a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), donated 11 Kobo e-readers to a group of female students of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Each e-reader comes with 50 classic books pre-loaded, which will greatly increase the number of books available at the SOLA library and allow young Afghan students to perfect their reading skills. The funds to purchase the e-readers were raised by Detective Brander’s EPS colleagues including a group of dedicated resource officers, local business, friends, and family, on behalf of Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alberta ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  The Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary does not appeal to all students. But some are more interested in war studies than peace studies. For them, the interest and focus they bring to class ensures an enormously fulfilling experience, particularly for us who teach them. Ryan Flavelle is one such student. Like several others, he is also a member of the military. Unlike his colleagues, he has written a riveting book. It deals with his service in the southern Panjwaii district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Flavelle’s motives for writing The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan were both universal and personal. Like every historian from Thucydides to the present, he wanted to ensure the memory of the immediacy of his experiences would not be lost in oblivion. But the personal side of his story is far more compelling ….”
  • Libya  NATO flies its last air mission.  “…. a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO’s history has come to an end. Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  LOADS o’ questions on the F-35 (transcripts from Hansard here, here, here and here) during Question Period in the House of Commons so far this week.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Military planners are concerned the Harper government is buying too few F-35 fighters with almost no room for any loss of the stealth jets throughout their projected lifetimes, according to internal Defence Department briefings. “Canada is the only country that did not account (for) attrition aircraft” in its proposal, said an undated capability-and-sustainment briefing given to senior officers late last year ….” No indication of The Canadian Press sharing the briefing notes in question.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Postmedia News Columnist“…. Harper has often shown an ability to execute tactical retreats with lightning speed, if he feels he’s lost the high ground. Look for that to happen with the F-35, sooner rather than later, as the economic gloom deepens south of the border.”
  • Big Honkin’ Ships  Duelling academics“…. Marc Milner, naval history professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the vessels will let the navy cruise the Canada’s Arctic waters later in the fall and earlier in the spring, though winter access will still be the domain of the Coast Guard. The ships also give the navy full year-round access to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He said that, while the new Arctic patrol vessels fit into the Harper government’s Canada First Defence Policy, which is looking to expand the reach and scope of the country’s military, the ships are not designed for serious combat. “Nobody anticipates getting into a real big dustup in the Arctic,” Milner said. “More effort will be put into their sensor suite and communications equipment than in their weapons.” The Arctic vessels will fulfil a constabulary rather than a combat role, Milner said. The icebreakers will let the navy patrol emerging shipping routes in the melting Arctic ice. The Russian route through the Arctic, from Europe to China, is “pretty much commercialized,” he said, with several ships having passed through this summer escorted by Russian icebreakers. “There’s good reason for us to be up there with a little more presence than we have at the moment,” Milner said. Paul Mitchell, a naval historian with the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said the Arctic ships will likely have little more than an anti-aircraft Bofors gun on their bows. “Despite the growing interests in the Arctic, the area is well handled by diplomatic efforts,” Mitchell said ….”
  • Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino set to say something in Richmond, B.C. today.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Event recorders for armoured vehicles in Afghanistan, loads o’ flashlights and rain jackets for sailors.
  • A new silver coin will commemorate Canada’s Highway of Heroes, as a tribute to the country’s war dead and the people who line the route to honour them. The Royal Canadian Mint says $20 from the sale of each coin will be shared between the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial and the Military Families Fund. The silver coin, which has a face value of $10, will retail for $69.95 and only 25,000 will be produced ….”  More from the Royal Canadian Mint here and here.
  • New Library of Parliament paper:  “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the Mental Health of Military Personnel and Veterans”
  • Remember the chap threatening a hunger strike over how he’s been treated by Veterans Affairs CanadaHere’s what the Minister is saying about the issue in Question Period“When our brave soldiers are deployed to theatres of operation, such as Rwanda or Bosnia, they may suffer serious injuries. That is why we are implementing specific and effective programs and services that are based on the most recent scientific data. When we implemented improvements to the new veterans charter, it was specifically to help veterans who had the most serious injuries or illnesses. As soon as I was made aware of this situation, I asked the officials in my department to take the necessary measures.”
  • Whazzup with Khadr Boy’s return?  The Conservatives are continuing to play coy over whether or not they’ll allow convicted war criminal Omar Khadr return to Canada. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday he will decide in good time if and when Toronto-born Khadr can return home to finish his sentence for murdering a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan. “I put the safety of Canadians first,” he said. “A decision will be made on this file, as on all applications, in due course.” The Conservatives were in the firing line from opposition parties, who accuse the Tories of trying to back out of a commitment they made with the U.S. government a year ago to allow Khadr to return to Canada after serving a year of his eight year sentence. “This fellow was arrested when he was 14-years-old and held since then and ought to have the benefit of Canadian laws,” said NDP justice critic Jack Harris ….”  More from Question Period on Khadr here, from QMI/Sun Media here and from Agence France-Presse here.
  • Canadians should “absolutely” be concerned about a call for young Somalis in Canada to kill non-Muslims made by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews warned Monday. Toews was responding to Al Shabaab, which released a recording on the weekend from a suicide bomber calling for a jihad in Canada and other countries. “If there are individuals with information that can assist us detecting any terrorist threat we would ask them to provide us with that information,” Toews said, adding that the Somali community works with Ottawa on security matters. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the RCMP, the Communications Security Establishment and the Privy Council Office – the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office – are Canada’s terrorist watchdogs. “We are aware of, and take very seriously, the threat posed by Al-Shabaab,” said CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti ….”

How One Reporter Makes the Others Look Bad

First, the good news.

A reporter based in Kabul reached out to some military bloggers, some with first-hand experience in Afghanistan, bounce a thesis about for comment:

“non-US coalition partners (Canada included) are taking casualities because they simply are not driving vehicles that are effective against the IED”

Several people, myself included, shared information, much of it detailed, all in context, saying it’s not quite as simple as the thesis makes it look.

Now, for the bad news.

After thanking all for their input, here’s what he wrote:

Canadian reporter Michelle Lang spent her last moments in a Canadian Light Armored Vehicle rolling down a muddy path in Kandahar province on the day before New Year’s Eve.

The improvised explosive device that killed Lang and four Canadian soldiers flipped the 23-ton LAV upside down, according to the Canwest News Service, Lang’s employer. The Canadian LAV-III and LAV-25 closely resemble the American Stryker, an armored vehicle that U.S. soldiers have nicknamed the “Kevlar coffin.”

In Iraq and now in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has battled to keep pace as insurgents have devised IEDs that are big or sophisticated enough to cripple or destroy even the biggest American armored vehicles, the 33-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle.

The MRAP, however, is still far superior to less heavily armored vehicles such as the Stryker and the Canadian LAVs. No MRAP has ever lost its entire crew to an IED, and if Lang and the soldiers who died with her had been in one, it’s less likely that the bomb would have killed them all….

My colleagues, who were also consulted, were underwhelmed like I was:

“There are none so blind as those who will not see” (Mark Damian, The Torch) <my mistake – sorry Damian)

“Trial and Error” (Brian, Canada-Afghanistan blog)

Some on Milnet.ca were even MORE underwhelmed.

My only additional comments are on this part:

…. No MRAP has ever lost its entire crew to an IED, and if Lang and the soldiers who died with her had been in one, it’s less likely that the bomb would have killed them all….

1)  I re-emphasize the fact, as others smarter than I have mentioned, the bit in blue is NOT TRUE.

2)  I wonder how comforting the bit in red is for the families of those killed in the incident in question?

I realize most reporters are trying far harder than this to get the best information and the best story out, but like cops, teachers, soldiers and other professionals, the group is often judged by the worst possible example.

Update (1): Small Dead Animals joins the parade of the underwhelmed.

Canadian Military Research Just Out

I wanted to share some new papers released by Defence Research and Development Canada with you.  While interesting, you have to wade through the scientific-ese a bit.

1)  Plain English Summary for “Counter-IED Initiative PPE Horizon 0 – Phase 1 Protection versus Performance:  Preliminary Tradeoff Analysis:  Behavioural Task Analysis” (159 pg. PDF):

Research shows folks in tanks, other armoured vehicles and trucks need to be able to move from the waist up to do their jobs, so we’ll have to consider that when designing body armour and other personal protection against IEDs. Still, there were some worries about protecting the troops’ sides, necks, throats and pelvises.

Abstract for same:

DRDC Valcartier has taken the lead on a Counter-IED (C-IED) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Horizon 0, which is a sub-project of a larger C-IED Technical Demonstration Project (TDP). DRDC Toronto is the providing Human Factors expertise to support this project. In order to develop PPE recommendations to overcome any change or increase in vulnerability a comprehensive understanding of physiological, biomechanical, task performance and operational impact of increasing coverage and/or level of protection of soldiers needs to be obtained. The objective of this study was to develop a number of operational scenarios that encompassed the majority of tasks performed by mounted crewmen. These scenarios were then used to conduct a behavioral task analysis (BTA) of vehicle crews with emphasis given to reach and viewing activities, physical motions and crew station operations, vehicle and equipment compatibility, and access/egress in normal and emergency situations. The operational scenarios were developed from a focus group held at CFB Edmonton from 1 – 2 February 2007. The four operational scenarios that were developed at the focus group were a quick reaction force in a close country, a broken down vehicle within a city, an engage targets scenario, and a vehicle-borne IED scenario. These scenarios were then used to lead the BTA that was conducted from 19 – 21 March 2007. A total of 28 soldiers participated in the BTA covering 8 vehicles (G-Wagon, MLVW, HLVW, TLAV, Bison, Leopard C2 Tank, Coyote, and the LAV III). Once the BTA was concluded each participant completed a questionnaire evaluating their current in-service personal protective equipment.  The BTA found that in most vehicle crew positions a full range of motion from the waist up is required, a critical design criteria for any additional PPE developed for vehicle crews. In general, existing PPE was acceptable but concerns were raised about the level of coverage on the sides, neck, throat and pelvis. There were also concerns about the in-service shoulder cap.

2)   Plain English Summary for “A State-of-the-art Review of Enhanced Personal Protection Equipment Options,” (93 pg. PDF), which appears to be a bit of a follow-up to (1):

After checking out what’s out there in body armour (both military and commercial rigs) and other protective gear (sports and industrial included), here’s some combinations of add-ons (7 pg. PDF) we should explore further to see if they can protect while letting the soldier get on with his or her job.

Abstract for same:

The purpose of this study was to conduct a state-of-the-art review of commercial and military off-the-shelf (COTS/MOTS) options for enhancing protection of the soldier’s torso, neck, nape and extremities, including any design options from industrial and sports applications. This review was then used to recommend which add-on torso and extremity components should be modeled in Digital Biomechanics software. Finally, detailed requirements for the commencement of a future biomechanical modeling analysis were provided.

3)  Plain English Summary for “A review on pharmacokinetic modeling and the effects of environmental stressors on pharmacokinetics for operational medicine” (127 pg PDF):

What’s the scientific literature say about how stress, fatigue, confusion and other things a soldier goes through in battle affects how the body responds to drugs and medicine?  There’s still gaps in the research, so we’re going to figure out a model to predict how drugs work in the body while it’s under military-linked physical and psychological stress.

Abstract from same:

In this report, we conducted a comprehensive literature review on the effects of a range of physiological and psychological stressors on drug absorption, distribution and elimination (pharmacokinetics), and current pharmacokinetic models (including computerized modeling tools and algorithms) used to predict pharmacokinetic changes. Although sophisticated computerized mathematical models have been widely used to quantitatively describe the pharmacokinetics of drugs in the human body, limited experimental data for both descriptive and predictive purposes were available. The effects of isolated physical activities on pharmacokinetics have been documented. However, some inconsistencies need to be addressed, such as the intensity and duration of each physical activity, and timing of drug administration. Other physiologicalstressors, such as temperature, hypoxic, hyperbaric and hyperoxic conditions have been studied to a lesser extent. There are only a few reports describing the psychological effects on drug pharmacokinetics. After carefully reviewing the literature, our goal is to develop a physiologically-based pharmacokinetic model to predict the absorption, distribution and elimination of drugs employed under various military physiological and psychological stressors.