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The money spigot opens for mainland Europe’s next-gen fighter

By: Sebastian Sprenger   4 hours ago
 
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The full-scale model of the French-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System is presented during the Paris Air Show on June 17, 2019. (Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

 

COLOGNE, Germany — German lawmakers approved funding for the French-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System last month, paving the way for a decades-long race to build a futuristic aerial weapon system that could transform the European defense industry landscape.

Program nations have always considered Germany’s parliamentary approval a potential bottleneck, so the Bundestag’s Budget and Defence committees’ blessing was something of a final hurdle to kick the research program into high gear.

Berlin will spend upward of $4 billion on the trinational phases 1B and 2, which include design and some initial work toward a flyable aircraft prototype. Given the assumption that France and Spain would contribute similar amounts to FCAS, an eye-popping $12 billion or more is slated to go toward the development stage, set to begin after 2027.

German lawmakers made note of the political pressure they felt to let the program advance, effectively signing off on an investment that is still awaiting the results of a key scoping study, not to mention a shovel-ready industry contract.

 

In particular, leaders in Berlin and Paris consider FCAS something of an uber-program for Europe that could breathe life into the continent’s defense ambitions — or altogether topple them.

The main industry players are Dassault Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines for France; Airbus Defence and Space as well as MTU Aero Engines for Germany; and Indra Sistemas and Airbus’ Spanish subsidiary for Spain.

While the program is meant to equally represent all three nations, there are some formal arrangements in place that afford greater prominence to France. For example, the contracting authority resides with the French military procurement agency DGA. And within the management structure, French officials will fill the jobs of program director, technical director and operations lead, with Germany and Spain naming deputies.

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Work on the future weapon is split into seven “pillars,” as program officials have come to call the division of labor. Each pillar has one lead company and two supporting companies, ensuring all countries are represented at all levels, though to varying degrees.

Work on the program’s central aircraft — the most prized element — is led by Dassault, with Germany’s and Spain’s Airbus operations as support.

 

The lead on engine development falls to a German-French consortium of Safran and MTU, with Spain’s ITP Aero as the main subcontractor. The area of unmanned components, which includes drones and manned-unmanned teaming concepts, is led by Airbus Defence and Space and is supported by France’s MBDA and the Spanish SATNUS industry alliance.

Germany’s lead company also is in charge of the “simulation environment” work package, but the “simulation environment” pillar is equally shared among the three national primes.

Spain’s Airbus subsidiary will spearhead sensor development, with France’s Thales and a German industry consortium of Hensoldt, Diehl Defence, EST, and Rohde & Schwarz in a subcontractor role. Spain, by way of Airbus, also has the lead on the seventh pillar, which is about advanced stealth technologies.

There is also a new deliverable called “Item 0” on the books, German officials wrote to lawmakers last month when they made the case for the program to proceed. Equally shared among the three national primes, the goal is to consolidate study results thus far into a preliminary design for the Next Generation Weapon System — roughly all FCAS elements devoted to combat — and keep tabs on the interplay between the various program pillars.

Given the complicated national and industrial interests at stake, the program promises a turbulent ride in the years ahead. The intellectual property regime alone is all but certain to keep an army of lawyers on their toes for the foreseeable future.

 

“It’s a really, really complex system; it’s not just an aircraft,” said Jean-Pierre Maulny, deputy director of the Paris-based French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs. As the program progresses, he said, the work has the potential to advance the kind of European arms industry consolidation that officials on the continent have been talking about for years.

Meanwhile, the negotiations so far have shown that “the companies want to protect their interests, which is normal,” Maulny said.

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NAVY KICKS OFF PUSH TO REPLACE CANADA'S SUBMARINE FLEET

 

  • Calgary Herald
  • 15 Jul 2021
  • LEE BERTHIAUME

img?regionKey=X%2fPQI9yskfPqfg%2f%2fLk30Eg%3d%3dMCPL BLAKE RODGERS / FORMATION IMAGING SERVICES HALIFAX / NOVA SCOTIA The navy continues to argue that submarines are critical for defending Canada, particularly as this country's Arctic waters become more accessible.

The Royal Canadian Navy is launching its long-anticipated push to replace Canada's beleaguered submarine fleet, setting the stage for what will almost certainly be an extremely controversial debate around the need for such vessels.

Defence officials revealed to The Canadian Press this month that a dedicated team is being created to start figuring out what Canada needs in new submarines as the sunset on the military's existing fleet draws steadily closer.

The move responds to a growing sense of urgency within defence and industry circles about the need to start work on such a project given the age of Canada's existing submarines and the amount of time needed to design and build such vessels.

“The CAF is establishing a Canadian patrol submarine project to inform timely governmental decision-making about a potential replacement class of submarines, and avoid any gap in submarine capability,” navy spokesman Lt.-cmdr. Jordan Holder said.

“In order to enable timely decision-making at some future point regarding a replacement class of submarines and the avoidance of a gap in submarine capability, the CAF required a replacement project to be initiated this year.”

Yet the decision to move ahead also kick-starts what is expected to be a tough conversation for the navy around the need for new submarines given the high cost of building and operating such vessels, and the many problems that have afflicted its current fleet.

Questions about the costs and benefits of submarines have circulated since Canada bought four secondhand vessels from Britain in 1998. The government at that time argued it was getting a bargain by paying only $750 million for the four Victoria-class vessels.

Yet the vessels have since spent more time in dock for maintenance than at sea, with Ottawa sinking billions of dollars into the fleet over the past 20-plus years to address a series of problems and incidents including fires and faulty welding.

The most recent incident saw HMCS Corner Brook suffer what may have been permanent damage last year after an errant test damaged its main ballast tank. Corner Brook previously ran aground in 2011, while a fire broke out on board in 2019.

The Defence Department has also pegged the cost of maintaining and operating the Victoria-class submarines at around $300 million a year.

A new fleet of submarines may address many of those problems, but Australia's recent experience suggests building a new fleet won't be smooth sailing — or cheap.

The Australian government, which has been working for more than a decade to buy 12 French-designed submarines, revealed last year that the diesel-electric vessels will cost more than $6 billion each.

The new cost was nearly double Canberra's original estimate, and more than the $60 billion Canada plans to pay for a whole new fleet of 15 state-of-the-art frigates to replace its fleet of Halifax-class warships over the next two decades.

Australian officials are now struggling with what to do with the project in the face of public and expert criticism.

The Liberal government's defence policy committed in 2017 to extending the lives of Canada's four Victoria-class submarines, with sources pegging the cost at more than $2 billion to keep them operating until the mid-2030s.

Yet the defence policy did not set any money aside for replacements.

The navy continues to argue that submarines are critical for defending Canada, particularly as rivals such as Russia and China become more aggressive and this country's Arctic waters become more accessible due to climate change.

“Canada's submarine force provides a key strategic asset with formidable surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities, as well as the ability to control or deny access to a substantial ocean or littoral area,” Holder said.

“Submarines are a key element of a balanced fleet that enables the Royal Canadian Navy to project power responsively and effectively far from Canada's shores, with the inherent flexibility and staying power required to succeed across a broad mission set.”

Holder was nonetheless quick to add that the decision to start work on a possible replacement “does not commit the government to any specific course of action, but instead preserves the time to make an informed decision when required.”

Defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says there is a strong argument to be made on the need for Canada to have submarines given Russia and China have both ramped up their respective underwater capabilities in recent years.

But he suggests there is nervousness in the navy as new subs will cost a great deal at a time when the government will be looking to set aside billions to upgrade North America's defensive network and other procurement projects are running over budget.

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FIX CHOPPER ISSUE NOW: EXPERTS.

 

  • Calgary Herald
  • 28 Jul 2021
  • MICHAEL TUTTON
img?regionKey=ljBP4fqnwMy3kvui0tGDcQ%3d%3dANDREW VAUGHAN/ THE CANADIAN PRESS Military reviews found the autopilot took control of a CH-148 Cyclone in April 2020, plunging it into the sea.

HALIFAX • The software issue identified as a cause of last year's naval helicopter crash off Greece that killed six Canadian crew members needs to be fixed without delay, say experts on the interplay between automation and humans in aircraft.

Two internal reviews by the Canadian Forces found the autopilot took control of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, plunging it into the Ionian Sea as the pilot was turning to return to HMCS Fredericton on April 29, 2020.

Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, Sub-lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, Capt. Kevin Hagen, Capt. Brenden Macdonald, Capt. Maxime Miron-morin and Sub-lt. Matthew Pyke died in the crash.

Mary (Missy) Cummings, an engineer and former U.S. navy pilot, reviewed the Flight Safety Investigation Report, the second of two reports by the military, after its release June 28. Cummings, director of the humans and autonomy lab at Duke University, called the pilot's inability to regain control from automated software “a very serious problem.”

“This needs to be addressed forthwith. It should be fixed, bottom line. Who bears the costs, that's up to the lawyers to decide,” she said in a recent video interview from Durham, N.C.

She said the automation on the aircraft is flawed.

“There is known confusion for pilots, and instead of addressing this problem head on, people are trying to make excuses for either how the system is or was designed,” she said. “It's very likely that another fatality is going to happen if they don't address this problem.”

According to the two reports' findings, the autopilot was left on as the pilot executed a sharp turn, and as a result the software built up commands, preventing the pilot from resuming manual control at the end of his turn. The first military report — the Board of Inquiry report — referred to this accumulation of calculations from the automated software as “attitude command bias.”

The Board of Inquiry report said these commands in the software “can accumulate to such a degree that it severely diminishes, or even exceeds,” the pilot's ability to control the aircraft.

“It wasn't a hotdog manoeuvre,” said Cummings, a former director of the U.S. navy's advanced autonomous rotorcraft program. “So something was wrong with the software code base, and if it were me, and I was in the Canadian military, I would stop everyone from using autopilot until I got this problem fixed.”

Greg Jamieson, a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Toronto who studies human-automation interactions, said the software issue “is a present safety issue that the Defence Department needs to immediately address with Sikorsky.”

“Of course, you don't tell someone to change code and put it in helicopters next week. Yes, it takes time ... but that process must be started immediately,” he said in a recent interview, adding he hesitates to advocate suspending use of the autopilot until the fix is completed.

The military responds that the aircraft manufacturer, Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, and the Royal Canadian Air Force have done a thorough exploration of the ways similar problems might emerge and have concluded the aircraft is safe.

In an emailed statement sent July 16, Defence Department spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said that as a result of a detailed assessment, the aircraft is being modified to make pilots more aware of when they're using autopilot and to provide more warning signals for the crew.

As for a fix to the software issue, Lamirande wrote that the military is working with Sikorsky to “determine the exact parameters of how to implement this modification.”

“The Cyclone is a complex system, and we need to make sure that, by introducing this change, we are not causing adverse or unintended issues to other parts of the system,” she said. She called the change “a very high priority modification for the fleet” that will be completed as soon as possible.

She added that in the meantime, the Royal Canadian Air Force has trained the aircrews to ensure they are aware of the scenario that led to the crash and understand how to avoid it or recover from it.

“We also made some changes to the aircraft documentation, and it now provides clearer warnings, restrictions, and limitations for the aircrew,” she wrote.

However, Cummings said she remains concerned, in part because the military failed to catch the problem in certification processes. She said the situation that led the Cyclone to crash was foreseeable.

“We know that pilots tend to override automated controls with them left on,” she said. “There's a whole series of accidents in the 1990s that we teach where humans will intervene when the automation is engaged, not realizing that this is the case.”

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. . . called the pilot's inability to regain control from automated software “a very serious problem.”

Ya think?

I understand that military readiness is a priority somewhere equal to human life, but if this were a civilian airliner wouldn't it be grounded until it was demonstrably fixed?

There may be "wheels-within-wheels" in the decision-making process but this seems outright reckless.

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House panel demands another investigation into F-35 pilot breathing system problems

By: Valerie Insinna   36 minutes ago
 
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An F-35A Lightning II pilot prepares for a flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on July 30, 2020. (Airman 1st Class Heather Leveille/(U.S. Air Force)

 

WASHINGTON — A subpanel of the House Armed Services Committee wants the Pentagon to take a second look at the F-35 jet’s pilot breathing systems, which may be contributing to physiological episodes where pilots reported oxygen deprivation.

Last week, the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee released its portion of the fiscal 2022 defense policy bill, which contained a provision requiring the Defense Department to investigate and implement corrective actions for the F-35′s pilot breathing system.

Although the FY21 version of the National Defense Authorization Act required the Pentagon to assess the root causes of physiological episodes occurring inside the Lockheed Martin-made aircraft, a report by NASA published in November 2020 has raised further concerns that the F-35′s breathing systems may not meet pilot needs, said a congressional aide who spoke with reporters July 28.

“They had some pretty concerning findings,” the aide said.

The NASA study — which used interviews with pilots and data from two F-35s during ground tests —found the Joint Strike Fighter does not continually supply the amount of oxygen needed by pilots, forcing operators to change their breathing rates to compensate.

 

“Pilots who have suffered [physiological episodes] in the F-35 … fault the breathing system for acute and chronic health conditions that have caused impairment for days, weeks, months, or longer,” the study stated.

By mandating a more comprehensive evaluation, the committee hopes to quickly correct technical problems before the services are locked into conducting expensive retrofits for a huge portion of their fighter inventory.

“Unfortunately it’s taken Congress to get the department to look at those issues and take action,” the aide said.

“We want to make sure that instead of the pilot having to adapt to the jet, the jet needs to make sure that it complies with the military specifications required for pilot breathing systems,” the aide added. “The pilot shouldn’t have to think about breathing in the airplane. It should just come naturally so that they can focus on the tactical employment.”

F-35 physiological episodes first came to the forefront in 2017, when the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, grounded its F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing aircraft for several weeks. At the time, multiple pilots reported experiencing the symptoms of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.

 

After studying the issue, the F-35 Joint Program Office announced that it would make software changes to the onboard oxygen-generation system, which is produced by Honeywell. JPO officials believed that by amending the amount of oxygen delivered to pilots at altitude, it could lower the number of physiological episodes experienced by pilots.

More than 40 physiological episodes have been reported by F-35 pilots, the committee aide said.

Air Force Magazine reported that 27 of those incidents have occurred in U.S. Air Force F-35As, including one F-35A crash in May 2020 where the “work of breathing” may have adversely impacted the pilot’s cognitive functions, according to the accident investigation.

The number of physiological events in the F-35A has trickled downward since FY17, when there was a spike of nine incidents, according to Air Force Magazine. The Air Force logged four episodes in FY18, three in FY19 and five in FY20.

It’s unclear whether the subcommittee’s mandate for further study into F-35 physiological incidents will ultimately make it into the final version of the NDAA.

 

HASC is set to mark up its proposed legislation on Sept. 1. Once approved by the full committee, HASC members and their counterparts in the Senate will begin work on a compromise version of the bill.

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Britain offers Canadian military help to defend the Arctic

Murray Brewster  7 hrs ago

Britain is signalling its interest in working with the Canadian military in the Arctic by offering to take part in cold-weather exercises and bring in some of its more advanced capabilities — such as nuclear-powered submarines — to help with surveillance and defence in the Far North.

In a recent exclusive interview with CBC News, the United Kingdom's top military commander said his country is "keen to cooperate" and learn more about how to survive and fight in a cold, remote setting.

Gen. Sir Nick Carter said Britain would also like to "cooperate in terms of helping Canada do what Canada needs to do as an Arctic country."

The offer was quietly floated months ago in government circles. Experts say, however, that successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to allow anyone — even close allies — to become too deeply embedded in the region. 

Much of that reluctance has to do with contested claims to Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic. Concern over Canada's exclusion from the recent security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia may lend fresh urgency to the U.K.'s proposal, however.

CBC's interview with Gen. Carter was conducted before the AUKUS pact was announced.

As members of NATO, both Britain and Canada have taken part in winter warfare exercises in Norway. Gen. Carter said he believes that cooperation could be expanded to the benefit of both countries. The British Army has for many years conducted armoured and combined warfare training at Suffield, Alta.

Keeping a closer eye on the Arctic

The Arctic is becoming more of a focus for NATO and Canada's closest allies. The potential threat posed by the reactivation of Russia's northern Cold War-era bases, as well as the interest of possible adversaries such as China, figured promptly in speeches and panel discussions at the recent NATO leaders summit last June.

Canada's former Conservative government placed a premium on increasing Canada's military presence in the Far North; it built a naval refuelling station and set in motion the construction of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, which are just being delivered.

Those measures offer Canada's military limited capabilities, however. Underwater and satellite surveillance of the region is still in the planning and early implementation phases.

Carter said the U.K. has capabilities that could help keep closer tabs on the Arctic's rapidly melting seas and inlets, but it would be up to the Canadian government to decide.

"We would absolutely defer to Canada's expertise in this," Carter told CBC News.

"I think we have military capabilities, certainly in the maritime domain and in terms of our science that would be useful to Canada and I think operating alongside Canada in that regard is going to be clearly good for both countries."

Going nuclear

What Britain has — and Canada lacks — is a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, which can operate under ice for extended periods of time.

When Canada bought its current diesel-electric submarines from Britain in the late 1990s it embarked on a project to retrofit them with fuel cells that would have delivered better, longer under-ice performance. The plan fell through and was quietly shelved.

In the late 1980s, the Conservative government of former prime minister Brian Mulroney proposed buying 12 nuclear-powered submarines with the goal of using them for Arctic defence. The end of the Cold War and subsequent defence cuts caused the plan to be shelved.

The University of Calgary's Rob Huebert, one of the country's leading experts on Arctic defence, said that after a hiatus of almost a dozen years, the British rejoined the biennial American high Arctic military exercise in 2018 with their nuclear-powered submarines.

Back in March, the Russians deployed three ultra-quiet nuclear subs to simultaneously punch through the Arctic ice in the same location — a demonstration that set the defence community buzzing.

"We do not have the capability of engaging Russian submarines or Chinese submarines, if and when that ever becomes a reality," said Huebert, speaking about the Canadian navy's Arctic inventory. "That's the No. 1 capability that the British bring to the Arctic."

CBC News asked Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's office to comment on the notion of closer cooperation with the British in Canada's Far North. The query went unanswered.

Huebert said successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to let the allies become more deeply involved in the region, beyond the Operation Nanook exercise held each summer.

"We're fearful any type of involvement with NATO would undermine our sovereignty," said Huebert, noting that both the United States and Britain do not recognize Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage.

Canada needs to show the flag: defence expert

The British offer of cooperation and assistance is a wake-up call for the Liberal government on several different fronts, said Dave Perry, a vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

It is, he said, a reminder that Canada needs to be more present in the region.

"There have been [Canadian] commitments to increase the situational awareness there, but that has a long way to go and the thing for Canadians to remember is that it is our actual territory and our backyard," he said. 

"I think it is great to work with other people, but we should be doing what we can to make sure we have a home field advantage."

With Australia planning to acquire nuclear submarines — which conceivably could operate in the Arctic as well — Perry was asked if Canada will have to rely more on its allies to monitor and defend its territory.

"I think the AUKUS deal is an indicator that there are some countries with whom we have been intimately familiar and intimately allied with. Some of our best friends on the planet are firming even tighter, smaller clubs," he said.

"The United States under successive administrations is being far less benign about allies that they look at as pulling — or not pulling — their weight ... The United States is looking for people who will pull their weight."

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National Post

Matt Gurney: Canada's aging fighter jets will keep on aging because Trudeau has no incentive to replace them

Matt Gurney  21 hrs ago
 
 
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My colleague David Pugliese reported in the Ottawa Citizen this week that the seemingly never-ending effort to replace our fighter jet fleet has run into yet another delay, marking just the latest low point in our appalling efforts to procure military equipment, of which much is needed. The government was supposed to have selected finalists among the would-be providers of our next generation jet this month, with the selection of a final winner scheduled for early next year. The government no longer says it is committed to that timeline. It’s hard to imagine that that means anything else than yet more delays, which is typical of a pattern of deliveries not matching announcements — flashy press releases have promised more Rangers with modern weapons, reconnaissance drones, Arctic patrol ships for the Navy, and eventually, new fighter planes to replace the aging CF-18s. It’s a long-running problem.

 

How long running, you might ask? Well, long running enough that in the paragraph above, everything from “flashy“ to “aging CF-18s” was plucked verbatim out of a column from 2009, written by yours truly in this very same newspaper.

As is the way of things, those aging jets have kept right on aging. There has been some progress. During these last 12 years, we were able to get new bolt action rifles for the Rangers, and one of the Arctic patrol ships is now in service. That concludes the good news.

The only thing that has really changed during that time is that now we have Liberals in power instead of Conservatives, and our elderly CF-18s are even more elderly. If anything, the geopolitical situation around the world has only gotten worse as our jets have gotten older. Canada now routinely sends jets to Europe to assist eastern European NATO allies patrol their skies. A Canadian warship recently joined other allied vessels in a show of strength near Taiwan, which is in Beijing’s crosshairs. Our alliance with the United States, long our guarantor of protection from external threat, has been through incredible strains these last few years. We simply cannot take for granted that they would defend us in a way that generations of Canadian policymakers had comfortably, if perhaps wrongly, assumed.

This may be an impossible problem to solve, but it’s an easy one to diagnose: both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have publicly recognized the necessity of replacing the CF-18s; both of them have privately clearly paled at the tens of billions of dollars it will cost to do so. This has been an urgent priority for 20 years. There is simply no incentive for someone to step up, take the reins and fix this problem. And there’s always something more politically sexy to spend the money on.

So our pilots take off every day in planes that are at risk of honest-to-God metal fatigue failure if they have to fly too fast or turn sharply. Flying fast and turning sharply, as the reader may know, is the sort of thing that fighter jets could conceivably need to do in the middle of, you know, a mission or something.

Today it’s the jets, tomorrow it will be something else. Maybe we will try and fail again to replace our 9mm pistols, which were built when Hitler’s panzers roamed France. Maybe our plan to replace our navy surface warships will run into some other program-threatening delay or budget overrun. And God help us all, but we’re gonna need to get going on a submarine replacement sooner rather than later, and if we do an exceptionally good job at it, perhaps my great grandchildren will one day be writing columns in the Planetary Post noting the ongoing delays in delivery.

Conservatives will blame Trudeau for the latest CF-18 delay, and fairly so. He is the guy in the big chair. He’s the boss. We’ve had a few elections of late and Trudeau‘s party keeps winning them. There’s nothing wrong with saying the buck stops with him, because, frankly, it does. Liberals, of course, for their part will note that the Conservatives also dropped the ball on this file and left Trudeau, way back in 2015, not only with a few dozen ancient fighter jets but also a navy that had rusted out. Those Liberals, right as they are, will shift uncomfortably in their seats when it’s pointed out that they’ve been in office for six years since, and as noted above, not much has gotten better.

And it won’t. It just won’t. This is not a political problem. It’s easy to blame Liberals, or Conservatives, or politicians generally, but at this point that is a cop out. This one’s on us. This is a Canadian problem. We are bad at this because we do not value it. If we valued it, the government would at least attempt to meet the demand for better. Canadian government competency is something no one has ever gone bust betting against, but we aren’t even trying. The man who was until very recently the minister of national defence couldn’t even seem to get on top of the military’s HR problems, amid the unfolding backdrop of the sexual misconduct omnishambles at the top of the Forces’ command structure. But sure, this government will get right on replacing many tens of billions of dollars of equipment.

Anyway, what more can be said? Let’s check back in another 12 years. Perhaps by then we’ll be flying new jets. But then again, maybe not.

National Post

Twitter.com/MattGurney

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British Army says training base near Medicine Hat will remain open, despite UK reports

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By Eloise Therien  Global News
Posted November 24, 2021 11:51 am

British soldiers in the Prairie Storm Training Program at causing quite the explosion at the Canadian Forces Base in Suffield. Demi Knight / Global News that military operations at British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), which have been in place since 1972, will remain operational.

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Reports from British media on Tuesday said the longstanding training base would be moving its operations to the Middle East.

“We are not closing British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS),” a spokesperson with the ministry of defence told Global News. “Canada is one of the UK’s closest allies and continues to be a vital training base for the British Army.”

Click to play video: 'British troops take part in live-fire at Alberta military base'1:51British troops take part in live-fire at Alberta military base

British troops take part in live-fire at Alberta military base – May 17, 2018

While confirming operations would continue in Alberta, the ministry of defence said the British Army is restructuring “to be lighter, more agile and more lethal to meet the threats of the future,” which would include rebalancing of vehicle fleets to deal with threats and focus on Europe’s armoured forces.

To remain in line with defence priorities, the ministry said armoured training may be flexed to locations such as Oman.

It will work with the federal government and Canadian Armed Forces in reviewing base activities at BATUS.

With a training area of 2,700 square kilometres, BATUS has more than 1,000 vehicles, 400 permanent staff and 1,000 temporary staff.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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Being a proud graduate of Medicine Hat High School, (by the skin of my teeth mind you), I am really pleased to see that. :) You never forget your home town regardless of how long ago it was.

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As Russia masses its troops, Canadian soldiers in Eastern Europe keep watch

Battle group in Latvia is Canada's largest overseas military presence

 
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Chris Brown · CBC News · Posted: Nov 30, 2021 11:31 AM ET | Last Updated: 21 minutes ago
 
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Canadian soldiers are seen recently at Camp Ādaži, near Riga, Latvia, as part of NATO military drills. Most of the soldiers are members of the Royal 22nd Regiment based at Valcartier, Que. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

From an elevated bunker overlooking a mock-battlefield, Canadian Lt.-Col. John Benson has an excellent view of the NATO armoured vehicles spinning their machine gun turrets and manoeuvring through the mud and snow.

He likes what he sees.

 

"We have absolutely no doubt that we are able to accomplish the tasks that are given to us," Benson told CBC News during an exercise dubbed "Winter Shield" at Camp Ādaži, about an hour outside the Latvian capital, Riga.

Benson is the battle group commander in charge of the 500 Canadians stationed here, Canada's largest overseas military presence.

The base, which hosts soldiers from 13 NATO countries, is roughly 300 kilometres from the border with Russia and is considered a key part of the alliance's Eastern Europe defence.

 
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Lieut.-Col. John Benson is the commander of the Canadian battle group near Riga. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

The Canadians stationed here are monitoring the build-up of as many as 100,000 combat-ready Russian troops to the south, facing Ukraine. Belarus, which shares a border with Latvia, has also just started new military exercises along the frontier with Ukraine.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and other NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Riga this week to discuss how to respond to the Russian build-up and any potential attack.

Both Stoltenberg and Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly were at the base Monday in advance of the NATO meetings.

If Russia makes a military move against Ukraine, "there will be consequences and there will be costs," Stoltenberg told CBC News, emphasizing that "Ukraine is a close NATO partner."   

WATCH | Canada, NATO pledge support for Ukraine:

 
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Canada, NATO pledge support for Ukraine amid Russia tensions

14 hours ago
1:58
NATO leaders meeting to discuss the escalating tensions at the Russia-Ukraine border have pledged support for Ukraine if there’s an attack, but wouldn’t promise military aid. 1:58

The crucial distinction is that Ukraine is not a NATO "member," and while its defence is seen as key to European security, the alliance is under no legal obligation to respond to a Russian attack.

This has created a bit of a guessing game among many, including Canadian soldiers here, about precisely what consequences Russia would face if hostilities broke out, and what role NATO troops in the region might be called upon to play.

No wish 'for anything to spark off'

Russian troops took over and illegally annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Shortly afterwards, Russia began providing support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine, helping fuel a conflict that has lasted seven years and claimed more than 13,000 lives.

This past spring, Russian forces staged another troop mobilization, but backed off after President Vladimir Putin secured a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. But U.S. officials have warned Russia's build-up in recent weeks appears more organized and combat-ready.

Canadian soldiers in Latvia told CBC News they are following developments closely and wondering how events could affect their deployment. 

"Among the ranks, we do shoot the breeze a bit in the shacks and talk about possibilities," said Lieut. Alexander Boom, a transport officer with the Canadian battle group. "But it wouldn't be a decision that comes down to us."

Boom also emphasized, "we would never, ever wish for anything to spark off."

 
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Latvian armoured vehicles take cover as part of Winter Shield. The soldiers in yellow vests are acting as observers. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Maj. Jocelyn Roy, a mechanized Infantry company commander, said whatever happens, he's confident Canada's military could do whatever is asked of it.

"We do follow [the politics]," he said. "But at my level, at the company level, I focus on my job, which is making sure my company is always ready to fight and ready to operate with our partner nations." 

"We monitor the situation at all times," Benson said. "We currently have not had to change our situation, our alert state. But again, the best deterrence is always demonstrating our interoperability and demonstrating constantly that we can go out and train."

'We're a strong ally'

Canada's other major European military presence is farther south, in Ukraine, as part of a 200-member Operation Unifier.

 
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A soldier holds a Canadian flag at a welcoming ceremony for dignitaries at the Canadian base in Latvia on Monday. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Stationed near Lviv, in western Ukraine, more than 1,000 kilometres from the ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Donbas, the Canadian mission has helped train more than 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers over the last seven years.

Since the recent Russian build-up, Great Britain has indicated it may beef up its troop presence in Eastern Europe, and the U.S. has indicated more military aid for Ukraine is also under consideration.

 
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media in front of a Canadian LAV-6 armoured vehicle. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Foreign Minister Joly touted the Latvian exercises as "a success," but refused to speculate about an increase in Canada's presence in Ukraine.

"We've always been there to support Ukrainians," said Joly. "We're a strong ally and that's why we're monitoring the situation very closely." 

 
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Foreign Minister Melanie Joly meets Canadian soldiers at the NATO base. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused NATO on Tuesday of building up its military infrastructure in Ukraine, and said Russia is concerned about "military drills" near its borders.

It's not clear if he meant the Canadian-led exercise in Latvia, but the Canadian commander, John Benson, suggested Canada's posture remains strictly defensive.

"The enhanced forward presence in Latvia has been here for almost five years now. It's a consistent, stable contribution. There's been no significant changes to what we do here in Latvia."

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U.S. presses Canada to make good on promised 200-soldier peacekeeping force

Canada's total contribution to the UN sinks to historic low

Lee Berthiaume · The Canadian Press · Posted: Nov 29, 2021 4:31 PM ET | Last Updated: November 29
 
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A Canada flag patch and UN patch are seen on a Canadian Forces member departing for a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali from Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Trenton, Ontario in July, 2018. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
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The United States is pressing Canada to commit medical units and drones to United Nations' missions at a peacekeeping summit in South Korea next week, and to come up with the 200-strong force first promised four years ago.

The request came in a letter to Global Affairs Canada from the U.S. on the eve of the high-level meeting in Seoul, where U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is expected to press allies to renew their commitment to peacekeeping. 

 

That includes Canada. The Liberal government has been criticized for failing to match past promises and rhetoric supporting the UN with commitment and action. 

The Nov. 8 diplomatic note starts by thanking Canada for providing troops and police officers to peacekeeping missions, including its recent deployment to Mali. It praises Canada for increasing the number of women deployed on UN missions. It also makes it clear that Washington expects Canada to do more. 

"We request that Canada commits to providing medical units and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to UN peacekeeping missions," said the letter obtained by The Canadian Press. 

"Additionally, we are aware that Canada committed to providing a quick reaction force to UN peacekeeping at the Vancouver ministerial. We urge Canada to fulfil this promise."

Canada hosted a high-profile peacekeeping summit — similar to next week's meeting in Seoul — in Vancouver in November 2017. There, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the 200-soldier force along with military helicopters and transport aircraft. 

That followed two years of lofty promises from the Trudeau Liberals that Canada would return to peacekeeping in a big way, after years of declining involvement under previous governments.

Fulfilling a promise

The helicopters eventually were deployed to Mali for a year and the transport planes fly occasional support missions out of Uganda.  But the quick reaction force has yet to materialize. 

Meanwhile, Canada's total contribution to the UN has sunk to historic lows. 

Canada had 57 soldiers and police officers on peacekeeping missions at the end of September, according to the UN. While that was up from the record low of 34 in August 2020, it was still less than half the number deployed when the Liberals took power in 2015.

Officials for Defence Minister Anita Anand — who is expected to represent Canada at the Seoul summit — and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly did not respond to requests for comment. 

But the Liberal government has indicated that it has given itself until November 2022 — five years from the Vancouver summit — to fulfil all three promises: helicopters, transport aircraft and the quick-reaction force. 

Troops needed: UN

Global Affairs Canada earlier this month acknowledged the importance of UN peacekeeping missions.

"Since this pledge was made, global dynamics as well as UN needs have continued to change and evolve," the department said in a media statement.

"Opportunities for a Canadian contribution of a quick-reaction force have yet to be determined." 

Observers have wondered aloud why it's taking Canada so long to come up with the force, or even register it in the UN's database of peacekeeping pledges — normally the next step countries take after making a commitment. 

The UN has listed quick-reaction forces as one of several "critical" requirements for peacekeeping missions around the world, saying they're needed to protect civilians and facilitate aid delivery. 

Such units have been deployed in recent years to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, where they have clashed with different armed groups as the UN has sought to provide security and stability. 

In a regular report on its peacekeeping needs, the United Nations said in September that while it needs eight quick-reaction forces, only three had been pledged and registered in its database.

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France signs $18B weapons deal with UAE

By Barbara Surk, AP and Jon Gambrell, AP
 Dec 3, 02:49 PM
 

3LJHQ5LCGFAZPKVYTPAPKUAUUY.jpg The UAE is buying 80 upgraded Rafale fighters in a deal the French Armed Forces Ministry said is worth €16 billion. (Nicolas Tucat/AFP via Getty Images)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — France announced multibillion-euro deals Friday to sell fighter planes and combat helicopters to the United Arab Emirates, aiming to boost military cooperation with its top ally in the Persian Gulf amid their shared concerns about Iran.

The UAE is buying 80 upgraded Rafale fighters in a deal the French Armed Forces Ministry said is worth €16 billion (U.S. $18 billion) and represents the largest-ever French weapons contract for export. It also announced a deal with the UAE to sell 12 Airbus-built combat helicopters.

 

They offer a shot in the arm for France’s defense industry after the collapse of a $66 billion contract for Australia to buy 12 French submarines that ultimately went to the U.S. But the deals faced criticism by human rights groups concerned about the track record of the Gulf country and its allies in the region.

The UAE contracts were signed as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country on the first stop of a two-day visit to the Persian Gulf. France and Gulf countries have long been concerned by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and influence across the region, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

France has particularly deep ties to the UAE, a federation of seven sheikdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. France has a naval base there and French military aircraft and personnel also are stationed in a major facility outside the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.

 

The French Armed Forces Ministry, in its statement announcing the helicopter deal, said the two countries share the objective of using “similar defense equipment” so they can work more closely together and “promote operational cooperation between our two armed forces.”

Emirati officials confirmed the contracts. Manufacturer Dassault Aviation said the UAE is buying the upgraded F4 version of its multirole Rafale combat aircraft. That will make the Emirates Air Force the first Rafale F4 user outside of France, it said.

Dassault Aviation boss Eric Trappier called the sale “a French success story” and “excellent news for France and for its aeronautical industry.”

The purchase marks a sizable step up for the UAE’s military capabilities in the oil- and gas-rich region. Charles Forrester, a senior analyst at Janes, said the fighter “will significantly upgrade UAE’s airpower capabilities in terms of strike, air-to-air warfare, and reconnaissance.

 
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New in 2022: Final testing for Corps’ new King Stallion helicopter

 Jan 3, 06:36 PM
 
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3RMYWZJICBHV7JLRTUGJ7Q24UU.jpg A CH-53K King Stallion lifts a joint light tactical vehicle during a demonstration Jan. 18. (Navy)

This coming year will see the final scheduled testing for the vastly improved workhorse helicopter the Marines are relying on to move heavy equipment from ship to shore.

The Corps plans to field the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter, an advanced version of the existing CH-53E, in 2023. To do that it has got to work through some technical kinks in 2022.

 

In 2021 the King Stallion not only saw tests and evaluations in the desert and over the ocean but also was called upon to recover a downed Navy helicopter in the California mountains that other aviation crews couldn’t recover.

marine Corps CH-53K King Stallion’s technical problems have been solved, maker saysThe CH-53K is scheduled to join Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One on Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, by the end of October.

In September 2021 Marines used two King Stallions to recover a Navy MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter in the White Mountains. It was the first official fleet mission for the new helicopter, in the midst of its tests and evaluations.

The Naval Safety Center contacted the Marines at the time with a request for assistance, said Lt. Col. Luke Frank, CH-53K detachment officer.

 

The Knighthawk crew had made a hard landing in July at about 12,000 feet in a rugged area of the mountain range while searching for a lost hiker. The four-person crew were rescued the following day and reported no injuries.

National Guard and Navy and Marine Corps fleet squadrons had been called on but couldn’t conduct the extraction.

That’s partly due to the load. The new CH-53K can carry a 12-ton load, more than three times the capability of the current CH-53E.

The Knighthawk fell short of that by a few pounds, weighing in about 7.5 tons.

 

In another test in November 2021, the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron used the King Stallion to haul a 12-ton light armored vehicle from ship to shore over the Atlantic Ocean, traversing more than 220 nautical miles round trip.

A 2020 and follow-on 2021 report from the Department of Defense Test and Evaluation office noted that the King Stallion was limited to 70 seconds in brownout conditions after testers noted engine performance degradation and highlight problems that could arise with more than 21 minutes of total “brownout” exposure.

King Stallion manufacturer Sikorsky announced that it was aware of the brownout problem and other technical issues at that time and had resolved the majority of items identified by the DOTE report.

This is an excerpt from “19 Things Marines Need To Know For 2022,” in the January print edition of Marine Corps Times.

About Todd South
 
If you want to know more about this chopper.  Microsoft Word - Section Dividers.doc (osd.mil)
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There is $$$$ in being arms dealers.....

Israel inks $3 3billion deal for KC-46 tankers, CH-53 helos

 Jan 4, 09:40 PM
 

LJ5TBY2KLFGARF6O6IB54GA32E.jpg An artist rendering shows a CH-53K helicopter for the Israeli Air Force. (Courtesy of Sikorsky)

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Defense Ministry has agreed to purchase two Boeing KC-46A tankers and 12 Lockheed Martin CH-53K helicopters in a long-expected deal.

“These procurement agreements are significant milestones in the [Israel Defense Forces’] buildup processes. We continue to strengthen our capabilities and to change and adapt our Air Force to face future challenges both near and far,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said when then Dec. 30 agreement was signed.

 

The KC-46 deal is worth about $1.1 billion, and the helicopter deal is worth another $2 billion. The agreement includes an option for six more helicopters, the ministry said, adding that the first will arrive by 2026. It’s unclear when the KC-46s will arrive, and the ministry did not provide a timeline.

Israel has been working on a KC-46 deal for years and has sought to acquire new helicopters. The helicopter deal was cleared by the U.S. State Department in July 2021.

Both aircraft are needed to replace Israel’s aging fleet. The country has undergone had several elections since 2018, and the lack of a stable government postponed some procurement efforts until early last year.

 

In February 2021, Israel agreed to a procurement program for two KC-46As with the signing of a letter of offer and acceptance. At the time, Israel said it would buy more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and heavy-lift helicopters to replace its CH-53 Yasur helicopters. The procurement programs were conducted in coordination with the U.S. military channels, using the Foreign Military Financing program, the ministry said at the time.

“We will continue to work to complete the agreements that will enable the IDF to fulfill its purpose and to move forward with the missions facing us in the various arenas, near and far, at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace,” Gantz had said in February.

Since that announcement nearly a year ago, reports indicated Israel sought to speed up delivery of the tankers, with the slow pace of the deal a topic of concern in Jerusalem.

Israel says the latest aircraft procurements are part of a larger program “undertaken by the Ministry of Defense together with the IDF over the last year and a half, with the aim of strengthening the IDF’s capabilities, force buildup and preparedness to face existing and future threats.” This will include more F-35s as well as the refueling aircraft, the helicopters and munitions.

 

Israel has also said it wants more air defense systems and “new marine and land platforms as well as cyber systems.” Some of these would be locally procured.

Israel has a multilayered air defense system consisting of Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow, programs supported by the U.S. and involving close cooperation with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Israel is also outfitting its new Sa’ar 6 corvettes and working on a future armored fighting vehicle.

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Here we go again, .......

Coast Guard retiring key ocean science vessel, replacement delayed yet again

 
image.png.0575fe642f16bfff59c61f28dc1f1cb1.png

OTTAWA — The federal government says it is being forced to retire one of the country's most important science vessels, even as work on its replacement has hit yet another snag.

The Canadian Coast Guard announced this afternoon that age has finally caught up to the 59-year-old CCGS Hudson, and the science vessel is being decommissioned.

The difficult decision came after one of the ship's motors broke last November and officials determined it was too expensive to both repair it and upgrade other outdated parts of the vessel to meet new regulations.

The coast guard will now be without a dedicated ocean research vessel for years as the government says the Hudson's replacement has experienced yet another delay and won't arrive until at least 2025.

The government originally planned to receive the Hudson's replacement from Vancouver's Seaspan Shipyards, which is building the ship, in 2017, but had most recently been targeting delivery in 2024.

Aside from many delays, the shipbuilding project has also seen numerous cost overruns, with the original $108-billion budget now nearing $1 billion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

And now why?

Quote

TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2021

Hudson replacement balloons

 

 Latest reports indicate that the cost of the CCGS Hudson replacement has ballooned from the original estimate of $85 million to $765 million. Something has to be frightfully wrong if either or both of those numbers are correct.

IMG_2112%2BHudson.jpg
CCGS Hudson presently out of service - again - for more refit work - is cocooned at the Bedford Institute.

The Hudson, commissioned in 1964 has been the subject of much refit activity in recently while the Department of Fisheries & Oceans and the Coast Guard try to eke more years out of it.  After the latest  refit it was estimated that its life had only been extended to 2024. However construction of its replacement has not even been started yet. 

The Coast Guard recently announced the award of a $453.8 mn contract to  Seaspan to "transition from the design phase to full construction". Construction is start in spring 2021 for delivery in 2024. Pardon my pessimism, but I suspect the 2024 date is very optimistic. It represents an expenditure of more than $20mn a month for three years - I say impossible.

Long delays in getting the replacement started (by building CCGS Capt. Jacques Cartier and CCGS John Cabot as learner ships)  should have begin to pay off by now in lowering costs.

As  I see it there are several issues.

1. Poor estimating. Whoever came up with that original number either knew not how to estimate for government shipbuilding or intentionally low balled the number, not taking into account factors 2 and 3 below. Also, inflation is not impossible to estimate, but it is rarely figured in costs, since it can double the figure in five to ten years. Giving an estimate in current dollars is folly, knowing it will take at least ten years to design and build a ship.

2. Poor project definition. The history of recent Canadian shipbuilding is that custom designed ships tend to become "all things to all people". There seems to be no discipline to distinguish between "wish lists" and "need lists". Even off the shelf designs must go through an inflated "Canadianization" process, some of which is completely bogus.

3. Immature shipbuilding industry. The bill has now come due for the decades of neglect by governments and their refusal to support a national shipbuilding industry. The industry has now been restarted, almost from from scratch, and investment is required in all aspects from plant to people. That investment cannot be spread over decades, but must be made up front before ships are built.

 Under current policy the industry has little if any incentive to be economical on major contracts, since there is no competition either with Canadian rivals or others. Overseers lack experience in managing major contracts of these types, and so will not be able to control costs.

If all this sounds familiar, it will become even more so as the estimates start coming in for the RCN frigates and supply ships. Those numbers will make the Hudson costs look like a dingy on a yacht.

In fact I believe the current National Shipbuilding strategy is in want of a serious review. Most military shipbuilding around the world is in a mess (see the US, Great Britain and Australia as examples). even commercial shipbuilding for government clients (see the Societe des TraversIers du Quebec) has had its issues with costs and or quality. So I don't see  a magic solution, but much tighter control is needed and perhaps some lowered expectations.

 

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Ottawa’s talks with Quebec shipyard to build much-needed icebreakers shrouded in fog

 
By The Canadian Press
Fri., Jan. 21, 2022timer1 min. read
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
 

OTTAWA - Questions are swirling over yet another delay in Ottawa’s nearly $100-billion plan to rebuild the fleets of Canada’s navy and coast guard, only this time the delay isn’t due to the stalled construction of a ship.

The federal government announced in December 2019 that Quebec shipyard Chantier Davie was the only company to qualify for a piece of that work.

That announcement kicked off negotiations toward an agreement that would see Davie responsible for building the coast guard’s next icebreaker fleet over the next 20 years.

 

But more than two years later, those talks remain shrouded in fog, which has raised concerns about what will happen to those much-needed icebreakers.

While both sides say discussions are proceeding, the last official update from the government was in July when it said it expected a deal by the end of the year.

Some experts worry the failure to reach an agreement is indicative of a fissure between the two sides and will further delay replacing the coast guard’s icebreakers, most of which were due to retire years ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

 
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12h ago

 

Navy's US$13B carrier sows doubt that it can defend itself

Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News

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NEWPORT NEWS, VA - APRIL

NEWPORT NEWS, VA - APRIL , Photographer: U.S. Navy/Getty Images North America

The combat system for the Navy’s newest and costliest warship, the US$13 billion Gerald R. Ford, “has yet to demonstrate that it can effectively” defend the aircraft carrier from anti-ship missiles and other threats, according to a new assessment by the Pentagon’s testing office.

Mixed performance by missile interceptors, radar and data dissemination systems on a testing vessel limited the ability to destroy replicas of incoming weapons even though sensor systems “satisfactorily detected, tracked and engaged the targets,” according to the report obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its release. 

The carrier built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. is still dogged as well by the “poor or unknown reliability” of its aircraft launch and recovery systems, according to the five-page report. And recent shock tests to assess the vulnerability of key systems “identified several design shortfalls not previously discovered,” the testing office said. It said “the Navy has already identified several survivability” opportunities to improve the four-carrier class of ships “against underwater threat engagements.”

The persistent shortcomings undercut the Navy’s hope to showcase the Ford as the first in a new class of nuclear-powered carriers that can project U.S. power globally and are more combat-capable, reliable and affordable to operate then the Nimitz class it’s replacing. The latest assessment raises new questions for Pentagon officials and lawmakers about how fully the Navy will demonstrate improvements before the Ford is deployed in mid-September on its first patrol with aircraft and escort vessels. 

The report, which contains unclassified and “controlled unclassified” information and has been circulated to the Navy, found that “only a limited assessment” of the combat system’s effectiveness is possible at this point. It said Nickolas Guertin, the new head of the testing office, plans to send Congress an interim report on the Ford’s self-defense capabilities by Sept. 30. 

The Naval Sea Systems Command said in a statement that it “welcomed the opportunity to review and provide comment on” the assessment draft. “Overall,” it said, recent post-delivery testing of the Ford “indicate the risk of system reliability impacting mission accomplishment is decreasing.”
 

CHINESE CHALLENGE

Answering concerns about the Ford’s defense system -- with its dual-band radar, data fusion and other advanced capabilities -- takes on added urgency as China increases its inventory of patrol boats, frigates, cruisers and conventional submarines with advanced anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Navy’s three tests so far of the Ford’s self-defense system on board a specialized vessel designed to evaluate performance were “not adequate to assess the combat system’s capability against supersonic antiship cruise missiles and subsonic maneuvering missiles, and there were no future test events planned against threats that could provide additional data,” according to the testing office.

The vessel’s Gatling gun-like system “experienced numerous reliability failures that in several cases prevented the system from executing its mission,” the test office said.

After a series of additional evaluations and exercises with the Ford’s air wing, the plan is for the carrier to “to visit multiple theaters of operation with multiple allies” by the end of summer, Rear Admiral James Downey, the Navy’s program executive officer for aircraft carriers, told reporters Friday. 

He said the Navy is confident in the vessel’s combat systems. “She’s been engaged against her required threats and we’ve done those tests at sea, they’ve been evaluated and she’s achieved her certification in the combat systems area,” Downey said.
 

LINGERING QUESTIONS

The testing office said the Ford is unlikely to achieve its goal for the number of sorties it can launch over a 24-hour period, saying it’s “based on unrealistic assumptions.” 

It also said that during 8,157 takeoffs and recoveries through last year, the carrier’s new electromagnetic catapult system made by General Atomics demonstrated a reliability of 272 launches “between operational mission failure,” or “well below” its required 4,166. Similarly, its system to snag landing aircraft  demonstrated a 41-landing reliability rate “well below the requirement of 16,500,” the testing office said. 

The Naval Sea Systems Command said that during the Ford’s recent at-sea phase, the carrier “completed all required testing, accomplished work ahead of plan, improved system reliability for new technologies and served as an East Coast platform for conducting pilot carrier qualifications for over 400 newly qualified and re-qualifying pilots.”

More than 8,100 launch and landing operations “highlighted the Ford’s increasing capability and provide growing confidence that a fully trained Ford crew and embarked air wing will achieve the required sorties generation rate,” the command said.

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