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December 20, 2019 | Local, Other Defence

Canadian Forces had valuable ‘insights’ in Afghanistan, defence minister says following damning U.S. report

By Charlie Pinkerton.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canadian Forces deployed to Afghanistan contributed useful insights to American forces, whose past military operations in the country have drawn new scrutiny following The Washington Post's publication of the so-called Afghanistan Papers.

The documents obtained and published by the Post are the product of hundreds of interviews carried out by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR was mandated to complete a series of reports exploring the effectiveness of its nearly two-decade, close to trillion-dollar mission that it began as a retaliation against al-Qaeda for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The documents fought for in court by the Post include notes, transcripts and audio recordings that the subjects had been promised would not be made public by the government. They provide a thorough look at the frustrations and concerns of top U.S. brass and a lack of understanding of the conflict by the American military and its government.

One of the revelations of the Afghanistan Papers is the that as the conflict continued, top American military officials considered it an unwinnable conflict.

Sajjan completed three Afghanistan tours, where he worked in intelligence before working directly with top American troops as an adviser.

In giving his take on how the Canadian perspective compared to that of the Americans during the mission, Sajjan said the Canadian Armed Forces had a better understanding of the realities of the conflict than its closest allies.

READ MORE: A year-end Q&A with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

“I would say the insights the Canadians provided were actually very useful. That's one point that I'm trying to get across here, and I appreciate the Americans coming out and talking about this now,” Sajjan said. “Canadians were providing a very good perspective, very early on, to have a much more, I would say, accurate account of what is happening,”

One passage the Post highlighted from the thousands of pages of documents to underscore the discontent with the conflict by U.S. officials was an interview with Douglas Lute, a former top army general who became an adviser on the Afghan war in the White House.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn't know what we were doing,” Lute said. “What are we trying to do here? We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

Sajjan said good decisions were made only with an “accurate” and “good understanding” of the Afghanistan conflict.

From 2001 to 2014, 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan. There were 158 Canadian soldiers killed. On top of its military effort, Canada has provided more than $3 billion in international assistance to Afghanistan since 2001.

In talking about Canada's operations in Afghanistan, Sajjan also defended well-known Canadian-led aspects of the mission, such as the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT, but known colloquially as omelette) and its stabilization-focused whole-of-government approach to the conflict.

“What I'm trying to say here is that the work that Canada did there was highly valued and I appreciate other allies coming out with different perspectives,” Sajjan said.

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  • Incoming AIAC chair discusses aerospace vision

    December 5, 2019 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Incoming AIAC chair discusses aerospace vision

    by Chris Thatcher As Members of Parliament return to the House of Commons this week, aerospace eyes will be on the cabinet ministers and MPs most likely to support a new vision for the industry. With the return of Marc Garneau to Transport Canada, Navdeep Bains to Innovation, Science and Industry, Harjit Sajjan to National Defence and Mary Ng to Small Business and Export Promotion, and the introduction of Anita Anand to Public Services and Procurement and Carla Qualtrough to Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the government's front benches include ministers well acquainted with key issues that need to be addressed if Canada is to retain its position as a leading global aerospace nation. Last fall, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) asked Jean Charest, a former premier of Quebec and deputy prime minister of Canada, to lead a cross-country discussion on the sector's future and a possible course forward. His ensuing report, “Vision 2025,” delivered at the Paris Air Show in June, offered recommendations centred on six core themes: expanding the skilled workforce; growing small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); promoting innovation; investing in Transport Canada's aircraft certification and regulation capacity; sustaining Canadian leadership in space; and better leveraging defence procurement to drive industry growth. The recommendations were drawn from five months of meetings with industry executives, provincial premiers and their economic development ministers, federal ministers, opposition parties, academia and the general public. “Our goal was to re-start the discussion between the industry and its partners in government, education, research and the business community,” Patrick Mann, president of Patlon Aircraft & Industries and the former chair of AIAC, reminded the sector during the recent Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa. “It has been a truly pan-Canadian event that has reached all through the industry . . . [and] into every level of government.” If Charest's report provides a guide for how to address some of the challenges generated by a multitude of countries and technology companies now seeking to gain a larger footprint in aerospace, the task of implementing it rests in part with Keith Donaldson. Donaldson assumed the chair of AIAC during the summit and acknowledged the report will drive much of the association's activities over the next 12 months. “I'm all in on Vision 2025,” he told Skies. “This is the time to re-engage as an industry, to recognize that [aerospace] is a jewel we have in Canada. It's R-and-D intensive, it's pan-Canadian, it has the highest input for STEM (science, technology, math and engineering)-type jobs, men and women – let's grow this. We need the support and partnership of the federal government. That is how we combat [other entrants].” A chartered accountant by training who previously worked with KPMG, Donaldson is vice-president of APEX Industries, a machining, components, subassembly and structures manufacturer in Moncton, N.B. Over his 15 years with the company, he served as president of the New Brunswick Aerospace and Defense Association and co-founded the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association. He's also been a fixture on AIAC's technical committees, from audit and finance, to small business, defence procurement and supply chain access. That experience could be crucial, as much of the heavy lifting to make the report's recommendations reality will come from the technical committees. Under Mann's leadership, AIAC spent part of the past year restructuring the committees to align with the direction of Vision 2025. “We spent a lot of time . . . making sure their mandates were going to match the recommendations,” said Donaldson. “We wanted to make sure the chairs were well aligned. [They] are some of the heavy hitters in the industry, from Bombardier, UTC, Cascade, Collins Aerospace . . . [They have] industry interest, company interest and personal interest for the success of these recommendations.” Winning the skills battle Because of ministerial familiarity with the report's recommendations, AIAC will be hoping it can move quickly to implement some of them. The appointment of Qualtrough, who has spoken at previous AIAC conferences, to a portfolio that will focus on the sector's top priority of skills development is seen as “an early win,” Donaldson noted. “When AIAC did the industry engagement, it was very evident that to maintain and grow, we have to win the skills battle,” he said. “A lot of the other recommendations are going to move forward, but we have to solve the skills one. Failure is not an option here.” Other sectors are going to be competing for the same STEM talent, but the Vision 2025 blueprint might give aerospace a leg up with government, he suggested. That means offering ideas not only to retain and retrain the current workforce where necessary, but also to recruit and support more women in the sector, attract First Nations, and collaborate with immigration initiatives. “It is not going to be a one size fits all. We are going to have to work on each one of those areas,” said Donaldson. For APEX, a medium-sized business of about 250 people, 70 of whom work specifically in aerospace, finding and retaining talent is the issue that keeps most senior managers awake at night, he added. The association will also be looking for quick progress on some of the recommendations aimed at strengthening the capacity of Transport Canada. “They are already a world class organization. We are not starting from zero on that one,” noted Donaldson. However, much of the early effort will go to growing SMEs, which account for over 95 per cent of the aerospace sector. It's terrain Donaldson knows well and believes can be improved through initiatives to build on government programs that are already in place. “We are going to be taking what's already working and say, we want to expand some of these programs. That is going to give us some early wins,” he said. One possible tool could be the expansion of Quebec's MACH program, which has provided mentorship from OEMs and Tier 1s to SMEs to help improve business processes and make the transition to digital systems. “From an SME perspective, that program is one of the ways to go because it involves a larger company, the SME, the province, and support nationally,” observed Donaldson. Support and mentoring from larger businesses for digitization and best cyber practices are a critical need for smaller companies, he added, noting that many capture “thousands of pieces of data every day” and don't make as much use of the information as they should. “The new protocol for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification in the U.S. is going to be applied to every single company in aerospace and defence, no matter where you are,” he said. “[These are areas] where a MACH-type program could hugely benefit SMEs across the country.” He cautioned, though, that while the emphasis must be on growing SMEs, those small companies often rely on strong OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and Tier 1 suppliers for their export opportunities. In APEX's case, that's about 50 per cent of the business. “We need to keep the OEMs and large Tier 1s healthy in Canada,” he said. “The MACH [programs] of the world are only going to work well if Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier, Bell, IMP, Magellan, if they grow and invest in Canada. That goes back to a part of the overall Vision 2025.” During separate addresses to the aerospace summit, both Donaldson and Mann appealed to fellow executives to get involved in the process. Committees are the “place where our company can impact and shape the issues that are important to our business,” observed Mann. “There is a lot to making Vision 2025 a reality . . . and we need everyone's help to do that, to make sure aerospace is a key part of our new government's new strategy.” AIAC will continue to lobby the federal and provincial governments on the Vision 2025 recommendations, especially the 48 MPs whose ridings including substantial aerospace activity, and will serve as secretariat to a newly re-created all-party aerospace caucus in Ottawa. Speed is of the essence said Donaldson, noting the pace with which other jurisdictions are growing their aerospace capabilities. “We do not have the luxury [of time],” he said. “It's not like we have Vision 2025 and then there's a whole other plan. Vision 2025 is going to drive the industry. Period.”

  • Cutting-edge radar system for new frigates never used on warships, must be adapted

    December 2, 2020 | Local, Naval

    Cutting-edge radar system for new frigates never used on warships, must be adapted

    New radar system can also be upgraded to work with ballistic missile defence CBC News · Posted: Dec 01, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: December 1 The Canadian navy's new frigates will get a cutting-edge radar system that has never before been installed on a warship — a recent decision that quietly ended a heated debate within the $60 billion warship program. The Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY-7 radar will be installed on the new warships despite a furious back-room lobbying campaign by elements in the defence industry to convince DND to take a pass on the new system. It was a critical decision — one on which the federal government has been silent, apart from a few scattered social media posts, despite repeatedly promising to be more open and transparent about the multi-billion-dollar decisions it makes on shipbuilding. The choice of a radar system for the frigates has important implications for the military, as well as for the taxpayers who will foot the bill for Ottawa's $60 billion plan to build 15 new surface combat ships for the navy. The BMD option It also has significant political ramifications because Lockheed Martin's AN/SPY-7 radar is easy to upgrade to a ballistic missile defence system — a defence program successive Canadian governments have resisted joining. The contract to install the radar system on the new frigates was awarded in September by the warship's prime contractor, Irving Shipbuilding Inc., and acknowledged publicly by Lockheed Martin Canada earlier this month. Japan purchased a land-based version of the radar to serve as an early warning system for North Korean ballistic missile launches. That plan was rolled back earlier this year in response to fears that the missile batteries — located near the radar installations — would pose a hazard to densely-populated surrounding areas. At the moment, Canada and Spain are the only two countries planning to put the SPY-7 on their warships, although Japan has now also signalled it might equip some of its new warships with the technology. For more than three decades, Canadian governments of both political stripes have turned down U.S. overtures to join its ballistic missile defence (BMD) network. The issue became a diplomatic lightning rod the last time it was discussed over 15 years ago. The new frigates, including their radar systems, are being designed with BMD in mind in case a future government decides to get Canada involved. The potential for a new political brawl over BMD worries leading defence expert Dave Perry less than the technical and budget issues related to the federal government's choice of radar system. New system unproven, says expert In a statement, the Department of National Defence insisted that the cost of adapting the radar to the Canadian frigate design "will be covered as part of the ($140 million) long-lead contract" signed with Irving Shipbuilding in early 2019, after Lockheed Martin was selected to design the new ships. There is another concern, though. The fact that the AN/SPY-7 "has not been marinized and deployed on a ship at sea is significant," said Perry, a defence procurement expert and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. "It means on the spectrum of developmental production, it is far closer to the purely developmental end of the spectrum than something that is deployed and has been proven on a couple of different navies around the world," he said. Lockheed Martin officials dispute that assessment, saying all of the components have been used on warships in one way or another, including the cabinets used to house the electronics. "The SPY-7 radar is not in development. It was designed for use as a maritime radar and is based on mature technology that has been thoroughly tested and is being adapted and scaled for a variety of customers in both land-based and at-sea applications," said Gary Fudge, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems. The company officials concede it will take design work to integrate the system into the new Canadian frigates, but insist that would be true of any other new radar system. There are still risks, Perry said. Canada's struggles with new technology "Canada has a lot of problems bringing development technology into service," he said, pointing to auditor general reports on the procurement fiasco involving the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter and the 16-year quest to replace the air force's fixed-wing search plane. "Part of the problem is making sure you understand what it is you actually are buying," Perry added. "So if you are structuring a process to buy something off-the-shelf, you can buy something off-the-shelf. But we generally don't do that." DND said the AN/SPY-7 was pitched as part of Lockheed Martin's bid to design and manage the frigate program, and the navy needs the most up-to-date technology in warships that will be in service for decades. The system represents the "latest generation radar, with capability that surpasses other units fielded today," said DND spokesperson Jessica Lamirande in a media statement. Canada's new frigates could take part in ballistic missile defence — if Ottawa says yes Industry briefing questions Ottawa's choice of guns, defence systems for new frigates PBO pushes up cost estimate for Canada's frigate build by $8 billion DND was targeted by a furious behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign aimed at getting it to drop Lockheed Martin's radar system. An unsolicited defence industry slide deck presentation — obtained and published last year by CBC News — made the rounds within the government and landed on the desks of senior officials and military commanders. It described the AN/SPY-7 as "unproven technology" that will be "costly to support." Lockheed Martin officials pushed back against that assertion recently, saying that the new system will be easier to maintain, relies on existing components and — importantly — doesn't have to be switched off for maintenance work. Lockheed Martin officials were less clear on whether the overall system has yet to be fully certified for use on warships at sea. "SPY-7 technology has been declared Technical Readiness Level 7 by the U.S. government, meaning it has been tested in an operationally relevant environment," said Fudge. "SPY-7 for CSC takes advantage of investments across multiple shore and sea based programs as well as internal funding for its development and testing. Canada has agreed to pay for the CSC-specific requirements and integration of SPY-7 into the CSC platform, which is required for any radar selected."

  • ANALYSIS | Ukraine is looking for more than bland security 'assurances' in talks with Canada, expert says | CBC News

    January 21, 2024 | Local, Aerospace

    ANALYSIS | Ukraine is looking for more than bland security 'assurances' in talks with Canada, expert says | CBC News

    Canada gave Kyiv a draft of its proposed security assurances plan for Ukraine this past week — a major event in Ukrainian news media circles that passed without comment in Ottawa.

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