Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Blanchette News Highlights – 26 May 11

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  • Libya Mission (1):  Canadian fighter jets have dropped 240 bombs over Libya in 324 flights, the military says. The figure was released in a defence department briefing one week after air force officials said such information might compromise the safety of Canadian pilots and the success of the mission to support rebels who are trying to topple Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi. But as doubts grow about the political and military purpose of the mission, the Canadian Forces is still refusing to say where Canadian bombs have been dropped, whether they’ve successfully struck their targets and how much the whole endeavour has cost taxpayers so far ….”  More from the Canadian Press here and here.
  • Libya Mission (2):  “…. A spokesman for the Libyan rebels said he wanted to see Canada supply more fighter jets to the mission and more support to the rebels fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. “It’s the people trying to protect themselves against an army and it’s not equal at all. If NATO suspends its mission, there will be a slaughter,” said Sufyan Maghur, who is the liaison between the rebels and the Canadian government. The Canadian Libya Council, organized in response to the conflict, said it believes an increase in NATO strikes is necessary to avoid a prolonged conflict ….”
  • Libya Mission (3):  A Canadian frigate stopped and boarded a ship off the coast of Libya, but then let the vessel go despite the fact it was ferrying a large amount of arms and explosives to the rebel movement fighting Moammar Gaddafi’s regime. The revelation, stemming from a video posted on NATO’s website on May 24, has some experts fearing Canada and the military alliance are picking and choosing how they apply the UN-mandated arms embargo—and effectively allowing the ongoing Libyan civil war to continue. The video, which was also posted on YouTube follows the men and women of the HMCS Charlottetown in early April as they stop a tugboat in international waters near the Libyan port of Misrata. The Charlottetown has been patrolling in the Mediterranean since April and is Canada’s major contribution to enforcing the UN arms embargo. In the video, the Charlottetown’s captain, Craig Skjerpen, says he has received information that the ship—flying the flag of the Libyan rebels and appearing in the video jam-packed with people—is carrying weapons. The Canadians subsequently send a boarding team that uncovers what the video’s narrator describes as “lots of weapons and munitions on board,” including “small ammunition to 105mm Howitzer rounds and lots of explosives.” However, when the Canadians relay the findings up the chain of command to NATO headquarters, they are ordered to let the tugboat go without confiscating the arms. When asked to explain why NATO chose not to enforce the resolution in this instance, a NATO official who asked not to be named said “obviously it’s a fairly fine line.” NATO says it does not consider internal movements between Libyan cities to be a breach of the arms embargo at sea, especially between Misratah and Benghazi, two rebel-controlled cities that the alliance says has fairly frequent maritime traffic now ….”
  • Libya Mission (4):  Two Canadian soldiers in Italy were under medical observation Wednesday after they walked away from a car crash that killed an Italian fighter pilot. The Department of National Defence said the two Canadians were unharmed in the accident. The accident happened a little after 9 p.m. Tuesday about 100 metres outside the entrance to the Trapani-Birgi airbase where Canada’s air force for the Libyan mission is stationed, the department said. Local Trapani newspaper Telesud reported Wednesday that the two Canadian women were in a car that collided with a Ducati motorcycle. Telesud reported that 33-year-old Francesco Rinciari, a sergeant in the Italian air force, was killed in the accident. On Wednesday, Canadian Forces spokesman Brig-Gen. Richard Blanchette expressed his condolences to Rinciari’s family ….”  Note to Postmedia editors:  Telesud 3 is a local TV station, not a newspaper (check the video of the story here about 9:15 into the newscast).  Also, although I stand to be corrected, Italian media aren’t saying the man killed was a pilot, they’re saying he was a senior NCO (who don’t tend to fly planes).  More in the Italian media here, here, here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan:  After nearly a decade of “tremendously successful work” in Afghanistan, the general commanding Canada’s elite, secret special forces says they are to end combat operations here at the same moment as the country’s regular combat forces. “The Taliban cannot operate with impunity anywhere in Kandahar largely because of all the SOF (special operations force) community, because it is an alliance, but certainly because CANSOF was focused on it,” Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of the country’s clandestine military community, said in a rare interview. After the Taliban lost badly on the battlefield to mostly Canadian troops in 2006 and early 2007, the insurgents “essentially changed their tactics from holding ground and trying to be the shadow government in a large part of the province and directly challenging the authorities with formed units” to using “intimidation tactics,” Thompson said. “They started to go after the Afghan leadership and upped the ante with IEDs and suicide bombings and became much more asymmetrical. “That’s when their leadership became the more critical component and that’s when SOF began to play its role.” ….”
  • Robert Giruourd, 1960-2006, Michelle Mendes, 1978-2009, R.I.P.:  Planting trees to remember the fallen.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  More attacks claimed in Kandahar, Zabul.
  • Flooding/Quebec:  Defence Minister Peter MacKay toured the flood-ravaged Richelieu Valley south of Montreal on Wednesday, but his appearance did little to tamp down a controversy over the military not taking a role in the eventual flood cleanup. While hundreds of Canadian troops have been in the area for weeks sandbagging and helping out locals, the Quebec provincial government has requested that the troops stick around to help with the aftermath, too. The request comes as both the provincial and federal governments deal with anger and resentment over the way the flooding of 3,000 local homes has been handled by authorities in both Quebec City and Ottawa ….”  More from here, and the Canadian Press here.  The CF’s Fact Sheet on the flood assistance work in Quebec, OP Lotus, is here.
  • Canada’s defence minister says information about the delivery of the country’s new maritime helicopters will be released at a news conference Thursday. Peter MacKay made the comments Tuesday night in New Glasgow, where he and Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of the defence staff, met with a group of cadets and reservists from MacKay’s Central Nova riding. The helicopters, the CH-148 Cyclone, are being produced by Sikorsky and are to replace the aging fleet of Sea Kings. MacKay admitted the helicopter program has faced a number of challenges. “There’s a long and, dare I say it, tortured history when it comes to the maritime helicopter program,” he said, calling it “one of the worst examples of a military procurement that went badly.” ….”  Last week’s announcement that “we finally have one (but not for using on ops just yet) here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  As Mark Collins asks, who do you believe?
  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, and CAE today announced that the companies have signed an exclusive teaming agreement to offer the Predator® B UAS to meet Canada’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance needs …. Under the program presently referred to as the JUSTAS program, the Canadian Government will establish a requirement to field and support interoperable, network-enabled UASs to provide ISTAR and all-weather precision-strike capabilities in support of its operations worldwide. GA-ASI and CAE will jointly compete for this program, with GA-ASI serving as the prime contractor supporting a U.S. Foreign Military Sale procurement. The teaming arrangement between GA-ASI and CAE is designed to offer the best combination of experience and proven capability to meet program and Canadian-specific requirements while reducing technical, cost, and schedule risks ….”  A bit more on this here.
Advertisements News Highlights – 19 May 11

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  • New Federal Cabinet (1a):  Former OPP boss Julian Fantino has been named Associate Minister of National Defence (and he’s already told reporters he’s NOT the “junior defence minister”).
  • New Federal Cabinet (1b):  Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he will remain responsible for Canada’s military procurement, despite the creation of a new associate minister’s position. MacKay said the government will also be moving “full speed ahead” with its planned purchase of F-35 fighter aircraft. Speaking to reporters after being returned as Canada’s defence minister, MacKay said Julian Fantino, the former police chief turned associate minister of defence, will focus on procurement. However, MacKay made it clear he will still get the last word. “We’ll be working very closely together,” MacKay explained. “He’ll be reporting up through me on these procurement files and Julian has tremendous experience within a chain of command, as you know, having worked in law enforcement and he has been associated with the military in many ways throughout his career.” ….”
  • New Federal Cabinet (2):  Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet overhaul reveals he intends to “move and move quickly” with steep public service cuts and plans to extend his notorious personal control over government affairs into a surprising arena—the oversight of national security and intelligence gathering by a range of military and civilian agencies and departments ….”  More on that here, and from Mark Collins here.
  • Libya Mission (1):  Dollar figures for the war in Libya will be made public soon, a Canadian Forces general said Wednesday, but the final cost may not be known for months to come. One military expert says Canadian spending could easily amount to millions of dollars per day. “I’d be surprised if it was anything less than $100 million (per month),” said retired Col. Michel Drapeau. “It needs to be asked: What are we getting for all that? It’s not an omnipotent pool of resources. Someone’s got to pay for that.” Canada currently has 11 planes, one frigate and approximately 560 military personnel deployed for the Libyan mission, which began at the end of March. Since that time, CF-18 fighter jets have conducted some 300 bombing missions to take out targets that NATO says have helped forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi attack civilians ….”
  • Libya Mission (2a):  The Canadian government has ordered 1,300 replacement laser-guided bombs to use in its NATO mission in Libya, defense officials in Ottawa said. Since the United Nations authorized NATO to impose a no-fly zone to curb Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s military from harming civilians at the end of March, Canadian CF-18 fighter jets have flown about 300 sorties, dropping so-called smart bombs on artillery positions, the Ottawa Citizen reported. While the defense department wouldn’t disclose how many bombs have been used in Libya or the order for new bombs, it’s known they are 500-pound Paveway GBU-12 bombs. Various defense groups say each of the bombs cost about $100,000, the report said ….”
  • Libya Mission (2b):  “The Canadian military is refusing to say how many bombs its fighter pilots have dropped on Libyan targets. The Canadian Forces lead spokesman Wednesday told reporters the information was protected because of operational security concerns. Brig.-Gen. Richard Blanchette says disclosing the number of bombs dropped might be useful to Libyan intelligence agents, though he couldn’t really say why. “How could they use it?” Blanchette asked. “It’s not necessarily clear right off the bat. But, it could be used in a way that would be going against the effort that we’re having in the theatre of operation.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (3):  A more detailed account of the HMCS Charlottetown shooting back.
  • Afghanistan:  The REST of the Chinook crash story.  “Canadian and U.S. forces safely recovered a downed Canadian Forces CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, May 17. Utilizing a trio CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, with assistance from 2nd Marine Logistics Group’s helicopter support team, the Canadian and American team was able to transport the damaged aircraft back to its home at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Taliban denies (one more time) talks going on with U.S., and claims responsibility for loads o’ attacks across Zabul.
  • Changes coming to CFB Gagetown.  “Later this summer, Col. Michael Pearson will hand control of Canadian Forces Base Gagetown over to Col. Paul Rutherford. The changeover will mark the conclusion of two busy years at one of the army’s most used facilities. The last 24 months saw scores of extra soldiers flood through the main gates to receive various kinds of training in support of this country’s mission in Afghanistan. While the base is expected to remain active over the coming months, it will be a busy of a different kind. With Canada’s military effort in the central Asian country changing its focus from fighting Taliban to training Afghan soldiers, activity at CFB Gagetown will also go through an adjustment. More attention will now be placed on recruiting and soldier qualifications ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War: U.S. reassessing numbers, timeline. “Officials at the Joint Strike Fighter Joint Program Office are preparing to present a series of briefings to the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) led by Ashton Carter in the coming weeks. The outcome and decisions made by Carter, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, will establish the new procurement baseline for the $380 billion, single-engine, stealthy fighter program. Carter’s issuance of a memorandum following the DAB meeting next week will trigger a series of activities crucial to moving the multinational program forward, Vice Adm. David Venlet, program executive officer for JSF, tells Aviation Week. The DAB will be asked to approve a new path for development, or Milestone B in Pentagon parlance. The development phase had previously been approved for the F-35 but was revoked last year when the program declared a massive breach of its original cost estimate. Though already in production – the Pentagon is under contract for four low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) lots – the reissuing of the development plan is crucial to continuing the program ….”
  • US authorities are conducting an international hunt for potential Al-Qaeda operatives named in files recovered at Osama bin Laden’s compound, a US television network reported. Officials are trying to determine if the names are real or aliases, and whether bin Laden’s plots have moved from planning to implementation stages, ABC News reported, citing anonymous government sources. US officials have contacted Britain and Canada for help identifying operatives named in bin Laden’s computer files and handwritten journal, the network reported ….”
  • Canada reportedly to start sharing radar information of planes leaving Canadian airspace.  “The U.S. and Canada are expected to begin coordinating the use of radar to detect low-flying aircraft by November, a top U.S. customs official said Tuesday. Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said 22 military radar facilities operated by Canada will be combined with the radar the U.S. military and the Federal Aviation Administration use to track low-flying aircraft crossing the border illegally.  “We have a longstanding relationship,” Bersin said at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing chaired by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. He noted that the U.S. and Canada have jointly operated the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for decades. The Canadian information on low-flying aircraft will be received by Customs and Border Protection facility in Riverside, Calif. that monitors unauthorized aircraft crossing both the northern and southern borders ….”  More on that here and here.
  • Pull your toes in the boat, Victoria. For the past couple of weeks local waters have been infested with U.S. Navy attack dolphins. OK, they’re not actually attack dolphins since, as the navy points out on its website, they play only defensive roles. But they are part of a straight-out-of-Hollywood unit of dolphins and sea lions that have been taught to find mines, recover high-tech gizmos, guard against terrorist frogmen and perform a variety of other Jack Bauer jobs. No, I’m not making this up. nd yes, they were deployed off Victoria before being loaded on a big grey U.S. military transport plane Monday and sent winging away, presumably to San Diego, where the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program is based. No one advertised the dolphins’ presence here, but they made enough of a splash (as it were) that their visit was difficult to conceal. The U.S. Navy acknowledged Tuesday that the animals took part in the just-completed Operation Trident Fury (Exercise Facebook page), a joint U.S.-Canadian training exercise held off Victoria and Esquimalt harbours and up the coast ….” News Highlights – 14 Apr 11

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  • Libya Ops – Canada has boosted the number of personnel involved in the NATO-led mission in Libya by nearly 200, the military said Wednesday. There are now 570 Canadian army and navy personnel taking part in international efforts to crack down on Libyan despot Moammar Gaddafi. That’s compared to the 380 personnel originally posted when Canada joined the mission in March. Brig.-Gen Richard Blanchette made the comments during a media briefing on the mission. He also said Canadian CF-18 fighter jets had been on 14 flights since last week, targeting a number of ammunitions depots and military bunkers in Libya ….” More in the CF Backgrounder on the operation here.
  • Is Canada’s Navy considering centralizing its HQ in Halifax? Not according to British Columbia’s Premier. More here.
  • Hesco barriers to the rescue against flooding in Manitoba. “A new technology is being used for the first time in Manitoba’s flood fight. Crews put up a Hesco Bastion along River Road in the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, just north of Winnipeg, on Wednesday. The one-metre-square wire cages can be unfolded and quickly filled with dirt or mud. They can also be linked for a long row that can be set up far quicker than it takes to sling sandbags. The dike along River Road, more than 300 metres long, will provide protection to several homes and can be built in a day ….”
  • Lt. Vanessa Harmon wraps a scarf around her head and atop her tan battle fatigues when attending shura meetings with Afghan elders and government officials, but not because she is required to. “It makes things easier,” is the Canadian officer’s brief explanation. Head scarves have recently become a controversial subject in the U.S. military, after a request last month by Central Command that its female soldiers in Afghanistan wear hijabs, or head coverings, in order to encourage better relations with the local population by demonstrating cultural sensitivity. Many critics in the U.S. have interpreted the CENTCOM request as being tantamount to an order. Such encouragement would appear to contradict the spirit of a law passed by Congress in 2002 banning the wearing of Muslim head garb by U.S. soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia. There is no such expectation in the Canadian military, according to Brig.- Gen. Dean Milner, who commands Task Force Kandahar. “We haven’t changed our standards. Our women are soldiers,” Milner said. The few Canadian female soldiers who wear head coverings in Afghanistan have been allowed to do so, but as a matter of choice, not because of an order or a request ….”
  • Election 2011 – It’s amazing that we’re fighting two wars during an election campaign and nobody is talking about them as issues. People might just be tired of Afghanistan. Our troops have been fighting for nine years. We’re stepping back, sort of, this year. Still, it’s not clear how many Canadians will stay in the conflict, or whether anything lasting has been accomplished. Those should be campaign issues. Libya is brand new. Canada signed on to a military mission there March 19, just before the election campaign started. That should be a big decision. As citizens, we bear responsibility for government actions. And going to war should bring the greatest responsibility ….”
  • Former CF Ombudsman goes political. “The first commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan says the country’s current democratic system is not working and needs an overhaul of the kind now taking place in the Arab world. Retired colonel Pat Stogran is urging young Canadians to get involved in the political process and engineer change from the ground up. “Canadians are sick of our democracy,” said Stogran, who launched a strident campaign protesting government treatment of former soldiers after his contract as veterans ombudsman wasn’t renewed. “Canadians call for change at every one of the elections. Yet Canadians keep doing the same old thing. “They keep voting for one side or the other, knowing full well that after all the promises are made and the votes are cast, whoever gets in there is going to get into crisis management and go from one flavour to the next to stay in power.” Stogran said the country needs parties with long-term vision, “grassroots movements like we saw in Cairo and Tunisia and Libya.” He has signed on with the fledgling Progressive Canadian party as an adviser on veterans affairs ….”