The Ruxted Group commends the government for appearing to have a plan for the Canadian Forces. This is a positive step, notwithstanding the government's failure, after a year in office, to make such a plan public.
The announcement that the final piece of the transport and rescue aircraft puzzle is now in place is good news.
As a reminder, the plan is, now:
1. Search and Rescue –
• CH149 Cormorant is in service, albeit undergoing typical service entry problems, and
• C27J Spartan aircraft appears to have been selected for procurement to replace the ancient Hercules and Buffalo fleets – timely procurement of a new FWSAR aircraft will free up Hercules to rejoin the tactical transport fleet;
2. Tactical Transport -
• C130J Hercules aircraft have been selected to modernize the medium lift fleet, and
• CH47 Chinook Helicopters have been selected to revive the heavy lift helicopter capability; and
3. Strategic Transport -
• The C17 Globemaster has been selected to, finally, give Canada a strategic airlift capability.
Ruxted also notes that the solution to the aging Sea King replacement is in hand with the procurement of the CH148 Cyclone. Also, the eventual replacement for the CF18 Hornet is being planned with the decision to continue with the next phase of the multinational F35 Joint Strike Fighter programme. Other vital pieces of the whole Air Force puzzle still need to be put in place, including new maritime patrol aircraft; and surveillance, warning and control systems - possibly some mix of terrestrial, airborne and space based systems. Ruxted trusts these are being considered even though it is concerned that time may be running out for the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol fleet.
So, BZ! to this government and its recent predecessors for making these important decisions. For the first time in the living memory of most Canadians, Canada will not have superior men and women flying in sub-standard aircraft.
Ruxted sees somewhat less progress on the Army and Navy files.
The Navy’s destroyer and frigate fleets are, respectively, approaching end of useful service life or mid-life refit stages. The Tribal Class destroyers were laid down in the late ‘60s and refitted and modernized (the TRUMP programme) in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The three which remain in service as command and control, air defence and general purpose patrol ships need, urgently, either another DELEX (Destroyer Life Extension) or, preferably, replacement.
The Halifax class frigates, laid down in the ‘80s, are at the stage where, in Ruxted’s opinion, a mid life refit programme is urgently needed.
The ‘new’ submarines will fill a valuable training niches but Canada needs a larger fleet of operational, air independent propulsion system, boats to secure our sovereignty over the waters we claim as our own.
The Kingston class vessels are doing good service but Canada needs a better mix of:
• Fast coastal patrol/interdiction vessels;
• Mine countermeasures vessels; and
• Training vessels.
Of course an ocean going navy urgently needs new support ships to replace the two aging Protecteur class AORs.
In addition, the CDS’s BHS (Big Honkin’ Ship) project needs to be activated in order to give Canada a real, heavy and durable, strategic lift capability, allowing it to project power on a global basis in an active, rather than reactive manner.
This brings us to the Army.
The Army is trying, as Ruxted sees it, to simultaneously transform and regenerate itself. This is essentially an exercise in better managing the existing personnel, hardware and organizations in order, according to the Army itself to: "build sustainable combat forces by bringing in new capabilities, updating some legacy capabilities and using others 'as is,' while merging them all as a 'system of systems' to give a value greater than the sum of the individual parts."
Ruxted believes the government needs to push the Army harder and further.
First: the Government of Canada, not just DND, needs to state its world view and its strategy for protecting and promoting Canada’s vital interests in the world.
Ruxted contends such a strategy will require, inter alia, a balanced, combat capable and ready Army expeditionary force which can promote and protect Canada’s vital interests and demonstrate Canadians’ commitment to playing a lead role and living up to our proclaimed "Responsibility to Protect" in the world.
Second: the Government of Canada needs to direct the Army to transform itself into a service which can, on short notice and on a global basis, conduct combat operations on an established ‘scale’ of size and intensity.
Third: the Government of Canada needs to provide the Army with more people and money to allow them to implement such a plan in a sensible time frame.
The Ruxted Group challenges Prime Minister Harper, his ministers and officials, and the opposition parties to resolve to give Canada a New Year’s gift – a new defence policy and plan which will satisfy Canadians’ desires to play an independent leading role in the world. If our government is, finally, going to embrace the popular "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine, the lead Department must be given the proper tools, in a timely manner.
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