Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence
Issue 13 - Evidence - Meeting of March 25, 2013
OTTAWA, Monday, March 25, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day
at 4 p.m. to examine and report on Canada's national security and defence
policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities; and for the consideration
of a draft budget to study the state of operational readiness of Canadian Forces
bases and their importance to the defence of Canada and Canadian interests and,
more specifically, the capacity of their infrastructure, personnel and
Senator Pamela Wallin (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Standing Senate
Committee on National Security and Defence for Monday, March 25. We have two
different vantage points on the state of the Canadian Armed Forces today. We
begin with Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin.
Transformation is really under way in the Canadian Armed Forces, in general,
and it is part of a process of finding savings and efficiencies and a better way
of doing business, and it is all part of how the military prepares to deal with
the future. We have heard about these issues from the Chief of the Defence
Staff, General Lawson, who was with us last week, and from the commanders of the
Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the new Canadian Joint Operations
Today we are pleased to have before the committee the Commander of the Royal
Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant- General Yvan Blondin. General Blondin has been a
fighter pilot, a fighter squadron commander and a wing commander serving in
Canada and Europe. He also served on the Canadian staff at NORAD HQ in Colorado
Springs. He was Director of Staff at NATO's International Security Assistance
Force in Kabul, Afghanistan. More recently, in Winnipeg, he wore two hats as
Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division and also Commander of the Canadian NORAD
Region. He was Deputy Commander of the RCAF before assuming command last
Welcome. We very pleased to have you here today. I understand you have some
Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air
Force, National Defence: Thank you for the introduction. Madam Chair and
committee members, thank you sincerely for the opportunity to address the
important matter of air force readiness. Over the recent years, the operational
tempo of the Royal Canadian Air Force operations has been unparalleled.
We deployed to Libya, to Jamaica and, most recently to Mali. We provided an
airborne surveillance and interception capacity to meet Iceland's peacetime
preparedness needs as part of a NATO mandate. We are returning there next month
to carry out this mission again.
We operated in Afghanistan, and we are still moving personnel and equipment
between theatre and Canada.
At home, we assisted during natural disasters and supported security at the
Olympics and the G8 and G20 summits. Last year our search and rescue crews were
tasked more than 1,000 times to assist Canadians in danger. We continue to carry
out our NORAD mission, protecting North America and its maritime approaches; and
we guard Canadian sovereignty.
Those are only the most visible of the activities we carry out on a daily
During this time, the RCAF also underwent a significant modernization. We
developed new capabilities and accepted new or modernized aircraft fleets, and
we are preparing to accept more new fleets in the near and long terms.
Madam Chair, we all know the world is not getting any safer.
But during times of crisis, Canadians and their allies know that the Royal
Canadian Air Force can be counted on to provide rapid, effective support.
We have been tremendously successful, and I have an extremely high standard
My number one policy is to build on our successes, to ensure our continued
readiness to take on whatever the government asks of us at any time and to set
the conditions for continued operational excellence.
However, while we face an uncertain global security environment, our
military, like the militaries of many of our allies, is dealing with fiscal
realities. The RCAF must do its part to help balance the books as we adjust our
activities and budgets to a post-Afghanistan context.
I am committed, therefore, to ensuring our continued operational excellence
while making diligent and responsible use of taxpayers' money. Let me be clear,
however. I will do this while protecting our force generation and operational
readiness, as well as the knowledge and capabilities we have acquired over the
past years. In this way, we will ensure long-term success.
There are a number of specific actions we are taking to achieve this balance.
First, I am reviewing how we deliver on our mandate to seek areas where we can
adjust our spending. Looking at the longer term, I intend to put greater
emphasis on the use of simulation and synthetic environments, and to capitalize
Canadian industry is a world leader in developing simulation technology. I
plan to take advantage of this.
We will review our training needs and determine where and how we can increase
our use of simulation. A more robust use of simulation can actually help us
train more effectively, as it allows us to control the training environment and
create scenarios that would simply be too dangerous to practise in real life.
Training in virtual environments will also realize operational savings in
fuel expenditures and maintenance. It will reduce the wear and tear on our
fleets, thereby extending their lives, and it will reduce our overall carbon
Capitalizing on innovation is about more than just embracing new
technologies. We must also create a work environment that fosters new ideas and
concepts. We will leverage our members' experience and brain power, and give
them the support they need to develop smart, creative solutions that will make
the RCAF more efficient and effective.
In addition to ensuring operational excellence, one of my top priorities is
supporting our proud, dedicated and professional airmen and airwomen. They are
the reason for our success.
We will ensure that our financial adjustments do not affect their care. We
will focus on supporting our people and their families in ways that range from
improved career paths to improved access to child care. This is good for our
members and their families, and it is good for the RCAF. It makes economic sense
to retain people rather than hire new ones. When people leave the air force, it
takes years of training and tremendous amounts of money to replace them.
Ensuring they and their families have our full support and the best care
possible is both a leadership and an economic imperative.
In conclusion, Madam Chair, we will maintain our capabilities and readiness
while continuing to build an air force that is both fiscally responsible and
prepared to protect Canadians for decades to come.
I look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you for your opening comments.
One thing we are looking at here at the committee is lessons learned from
Afghanistan and the state of readiness in general. If you had to choose one — I
do not know if it is hard — but where are the direct benefits of the operational
tempo you talk about in Afghanistan, Haiti, Libya, Mali and the domestic
operations? Is it on the recruiting side, the state of readiness or morale? What
is the most important thing that has come out of that?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: It is all three; recruitment, morale and the
operational tempo are certainly up. Before getting into Afghanistan and having
all the other operations added to them, we went from a position of being
concerned that we were getting into what we called at the time a "pipeliner''
air force; we were replacing a bunch of people retiring due to demographics with
a bunch of kids being recruited, and we had to go heavy into recruitment. We
were concerned about this. We were making plans for five to ten years and
saying, "We need to slow down and be more careful, because we will have younger,
less-experienced people with us.''
Actually, with the operational tempo and being thrown into all those
operations, I ended up after five years with one of the most competent,
professional, young air forces in the world. I have a combat-ready, young force
that I did not dream about.
The Chair: That is great. Thank you for that context.
Senator Dallaire: General, first, I think that the RCAF in Afghanistan
pulled off an extraordinary operational coup in the face of the enemy by
introducing a whole new fleet — the Chinook fleet — while in theatre and doing
so in a very rapid time, with great effectiveness. I gather that your colleagues
in other forces were watching that, and I, from my background, can only
congratulate you for being able to pull that off and being effective in
supporting the ground troops. Well done for that.
I have in two questions in this round, which we are allowed. The first
question surrounds the Chinook. It is interesting that you have them all sitting
in Petawawa and not half there and half in Edmonton, which might have been more
responsive because it is a national asset and not just an army one. Regardless,
in operational theatres, the Griffons were at best able to provide some
protection to the Chinooks.
Is there in your capital program and future planning any idea of bringing
online an attack helicopter to be able to provide protection to the Chinooks?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Thank you for that comment. You are absolutely
right; the guys did a fabulous job taking delivery of six very old Chinooks and
making them into a great operational capability for three years.
As for your question about the Griffon, the Griffon is more of a utility
helicopter. It was a bit limited in Afghanistan when we considered using the
Griffon to escort the Chinooks. We went through rounds of taking equipment that
we did not need in Afghanistan off of the airplane to make it as light as
possible so that we could put some guns in and really use it as an escort
helicopter. We are pleased with the result. Even in probably the most
challenging environment that you can find on the planet for helicopters in terms
of altitude and temperature, we did fairly well with the Griffon. This gives us
a measure of comfort that, building on this, we are bringing back out of
Afghanistan. If we went there with an attack aviation fleet of only utility
helicopters, we are coming out of there with a utility plus escort role that has
done some great work. We have put some good guns on the helicopter, and that is
giving us confidence, until around 2025, in that helicopter. It is giving us the
utility plus escort role to go with the 15 Chinooks we will be receiving. We are
working on adding some modernized equipment to go inside the Griffon. It is
mostly for avionics and communication purposes, and we have identified a
requirement for a follow-on helicopter after the Griffon, but that is post 2025.
Senator Dallaire: In any event, there was a lot of discussion about
the speed of the Griffons in terms of following the Chinooks and not putting the
Chinooks at risk. But apart from that, it was satisfactory.
My second question is about the air force's methodology in taking the lessons
learned on the ground and how they are integrated into the teaching, the
doctrine and, ultimately, the redeployment.
Do you have a structure similar to the army's, and even the navy's, through
which you can react to experiences on the ground and modify your operational
data and tactics?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: To an extent, the Royal Canadian Air Force has
copied what the army had done in terms of lessons learned.
We have used what the army and the air force have developed over the years
with our flight security system, which is a system that gathers information from
the ground and which can synthesize information from our incidents and
activities and move it upwards.
The system we have put in place is a kind of hybrid of the two. We use our
air force Air Warfare Centre in Trenton. We have developed a system where they
gather all the information that comes in each day from the units, both overseas
and at home, and draw lessons from it. Then they send those lessons upwards so
that the chain of command is able to follow and gather useful information at the
right level. There is some information I never see because it is synthesized at
operational level and stays at that level. But the information that needs to be
filtered and sent to my level is certainly sent. We put it in place in
Afghanistan and it is a very good system.
Senator Dallaire: Is that quick enough? Does it meet the needs
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: It is a lot better than we had before.
Senator Lang: I would like once again to congratulate the women and
men of the Royal Canadian Air Force that you represent for your contribution, as
Senator Dallaire said, in Afghanistan, and, of course, in Libya and now in Mali.
We are very proud of the work you do. When we have hearings such as this, it
gives Canadians a good perspective of what your job is and what your
I would like to refer to your comments. You stated, "Capitalizing on
innovation is about more than just embracing new technologies. We must also
create a work environment that fosters new ideas and concepts.''
I want to inquire about the utilization of drones by the air force. My
understanding is that there have been discussions about the air force acquiring
drones. Perhaps you could update us on exactly where the air force is in respect
to that and how it would relate to search and rescue and surveillance in the
High Arctic and perhaps also along our borders.
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: We certainly went a long way with using drones when
we were in Afghanistan, introducing them, starting to use them and seeing the
incredible amount of information and use you can get out of drones. This being
said, the drones have a specialized task and effect, and we have a program
within the air force, post-Afghanistan, to try to acquire a fleet of drones. It
is called JUSTAS. It is actually an option analysis. We are trying to look at
what is available out there as well as trying to define exactly what would be
required for the future. For drones, we are looking at the requirement to work
from home to be able to do maritime patrol, to do a bit of what the Auroras are
doing and be able to patrol the coast. Our area of responsibility goes at least
1,000 miles out to sea for maritime patrol and for search and rescue. As well,
we need it in the Arctic. I need to use the drones. They have got the range and
endurance to be able to go on long patrols and be our eyes in the sky in the
Arctic. It is a Canadian requirement. That is, first and foremost, why we want
to get some drones.
Tied to this, I would like to have a fleet of drones that will permit me to
do the deployed operations as well. When we talk about deployed operations, they
are not necessarily wartime operations. Deployed operations are things like
Haiti. I could have used some drones when we were working in Haiti to give us a
picture of what roads were open and what was happening there.
I would like to have a drone that can carry some equipment, whether it is
weapons or other equipment, to be able, when it is patrolling the Arctic, to
carry a search and rescue package that I can drop any time I want or need to. A
drone that is flexible, that can do many missions, whether they go from doing
simple patrols to receiving information, passing information, dropping kits or
being deployed when we do operations such as Haiti, or that, when we go to
Afghanistan, allows me carry some weapons on it is the kind of drone that we are
looking for. We are trying to develop the options right now.
Senator Lang: That is very interesting. I would like to turn to
another area, and this of course, once again, applies to the North. It is the
question of weather and communications. That is, obviously, very important to
those who live there, as well as to yourself with respect to your
responsibilities. I understand that a lot of work has been done on the Polar
Communication and Weather satellite system and that perhaps the air force is
involved in the prospect of a satellite being put up in the North. Could you
update us on that, as well, with respect to where it is at?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: The air force is only one of the potential users of
that system. Certainly, we have identified the need. If I am going to be flying
in the Arctic, I need to be able to communicate. It is not just radio. I need to
be able to pass on pictures. If I see some video, I need to pass it, in real
time, back home, so, certainly, the satellite communication is a link that is
identified as a Royal Canadian Air Force requirement for our operations in the
North. Where do they stand now in the project? I do not follow this, so I do not
have the details of where exactly they are. I just pass on the requirement, but
I do not work the acquisition part.
Senator Lang: Can I just follow that up? Has the air force made the
commitment to play a part and contribute to that satellite, on an ongoing basis,
if they proceed with it?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Absolutely. We will be using it.
Senator Day: Good afternoon, General. Thank you for coming to our
meeting today. I am going to start with a question about NATO. I would like to
know why we decided not to continue with the AWACS program. Was it for financial
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: We have been discussing our commitment to the AWACS
system probably for a number of years now. For several years, the air force has
supplied about 200 people who worked with NATO on the AWACS team and we had
about 100 people working with the Americans and NORAD on AWACS.
We have always considered our relationship with NATO and NORAD as something
to be reviewed for a number of years. Do we want to invest so many people for
what we get out of it? Would we be better off operating in one place, with
NORAD, and reducing the NATO level a little? At a time when we are developing
new capabilities, such as drones, or Chinooks, or capabilities that I did not
have beforehand, do I increase the size of my air force or do I move resources
from one place to another? This has always been discussed as a potential place
When we began to develop the HES Program with NATO, which was about getting
drones for NATO in Italy, the discussion was easy. We told ourselves that we
were going to reduce our involvement in AWACS and move a hundred or so people to
AGS. At the time, this was because we felt that we putting in a little more than
we were getting out.
During the operations in Afghanistan and Libya, we found all kinds of
restrictions that come with a NATO involvement, whether it is with AWACS or with
the NATO drones. Using AWACS in Afghanistan took a year of discussions with
various countries because they were all flying with the aircraft. If one country
does not want to take part in the NATO operation, it is a problem.
When enough countries take part and agree to use the asset, there is the
discussion as to where the aircraft's operational base will be. Then several
countries turn down an AWACS aircraft because there are personnel from certain
countries that are not necessarily acceptable.
That causes a lot of complications and means that it is not as useful as we
would like. When we saw the same thing was going to happen with the drones, we
preferred to study the development of our own drone program, which would be much
more under our control and which would provide much more support for our own
operations, the operations of which Canada is a part.
Senator Day: Thank you; that was very helpful. Are you satisfied that
our Armed Forces, at this stage and not in the future as drones are more
developed, will have the same level of information that you need in order to
conduct exercises as we had when we were partners in the AWACS program?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: I am satisfied that we will probably have more
because we kind of pulled out of the AWACS program but have slightly increased
the number of people we have on the American AWACS program. By being part of the
bilateral program between the U.S. and Canada, we have access to much more
information that there is available for the NATO countries over the AWACS
program. Therefore I am not at all concerned about this, and I am satisfied that
I am getting the right experience I need, through the American NORAD exchange
that we have with the AWACS program, so it is working well.
Senator Day: I am glad to hear that.
My second area of questioning is in relation to simulators, and you referred
to that here. You admit that in being fiscally prudent will result in fewer
flying hours for our pilots, but then you go on to talk about simulators. Can
you, for the record again, let us know what the flying hour requirement is in
order to stay current as a pilot on a particular aircraft and how much that is
being reduced percentage-wise or hour-wise? With respect to simulators, are we
at the stage where simulators have gone beyond just simulating an individual or
a team crew flying an aircraft to a number of aircraft participating in an
exercise together? Are we into that stage in simulation?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: We certainly are. I am a big proponent of increasing
our use of simulation. I have flown F-18s for 25 years, and when I started
flying F-18s we were doing 5 per cent to 10 per cent simulation compared to the
total number of hours we would be flying, and the training was done in flight.
In order to train air combat or intercept, I needed other airplanes to use as
targets. Sometimes many other airplanes are needed to simulate combat
conditions. It was the way to do the business because you could not
realistically simulate all this. However, today, with the simulation advances, I
am expecting, especially with the new generation of fighters and the new
generation of simulation that goes with them, that I will be able to do better
training in the simulator, although there are some things I am not going to be
able to simulate.
For example, with the F-35 and where we need to go with the next generation
of airplanes — and I am not saying we need to go with the F-35 — where everybody
is going, the technology is about sensing. The airplanes are not necessarily
going faster, they are not necessarily more manoeuvrable than generations
before, but the sensing capability of those airplanes is what makes them the
These airplanes can sense everything that around them; they can synthesize
the information and make it so easy for a pilot to understand the environment.
However, in order to practise this, because that airplane is about sensing, I
need to be able to sense something when I train, whether it is other airplanes
or radars on the ground or missiles being shot at me; I need to be able to see
this when I train.
When you are flying north of Bagotville in an F-18 at night, there is not
much to sense out there; there is nothing, and Cold Lake is the same thing. If I
want to be flying and seeing a bunch of radars and airplanes, the simulator will
be the place to give me all this and simulate this environment and give me a
realistic environment. As well, because I am using a bunch of sensors of the
latest technology, a lot of those systems I will not want to turn on when I am
flying because I do not want to advertise my signal so that satellites can pick
up and be able to know exactly what capabilities I have. The only place where I
am going to be able to do it safely is in a simulator.
With the next generation of fighters, we are looking at 50 per cent of my
training being done in a simulator from day to day. I will get better training
through that simulation. We are looking at simulators that are networked
together so I can fly fighters out of Bagotville that can meet another group of
airplanes coming out of Cold Lake. We will be receiving fuel from a tanker in
Trenton in flight and doing a combat mission. Everyone is doing this through
simulation. It is there. It is just a matter of putting it in place.
Senator Day: Can you give us a sense of the reduction in the number of
actual flying hours that are being substituted by simulation?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Right now I am flying 16,000 F-18 hours. I am
planning to reduce not by 50 per cent but to reduce this to between 10,000 and
12,000 hours of actual flying and add in 10,000 to 12,000 hours of simulation.
There will be more training total, but 50 per cent flying and 50 per cent
simulation. Of course you cannot just reduce the flying hours because when it is
time to go to war you need the hours to fly. It is actually a concept of reduce
while you are in garrison, with the concept of hours on demand. I have the
maintenance capability to produce 16,000 hours, but I will fly only 10,000 hours
unless I go on operation, and then I use the hours.
Senator Mitchell: General, I am very impressed that you highlighted
one of the advantages of simulation, and you did highlight a number, but one is
that you will reduce your carbon footprint. I am very concerned about climate
change and I say good for you.
I am interested in the F-35s, or whatever it is that replaces them. Can you
give us some idea of how you will keep the F-18s in the air until you get them?
What is your input into this new process of acquisition of the new jets?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: I am very comfortable in flying the F-18 until 2025.
When we did our studies about 10 years back on the expected life of the F-18, we
came up with 2020. That is the official date that we have used for the last 10
years. It was based on the way we were flying the airplane, pushed into the
When I came to Ottawa last year, I asked to review this. I had fighter
experience, and I knew that we had changed the way we had done flying over the
last 10 years. The first 20 years of flying, we used to do a lot of low-level
flying. You will remember that. That is the way we used the F-18, flying low.
With the advance of systems, we progressed into an air force that was flying at
a high level and not going into low level anymore but using precision-guided
munitions. As soon as you start going high level, you reduce the fatigue on your
airplane and you increase its life, except we never computed that. In the last
several years we started to look at this, and I feel comfortable that we can do
The guys are starting to work on the details. As part of the work of the
secretariat, they are trying to put some fidelity into this and to come up with
a new date and some ways of flying between to 2020 and 2030, what will be
required. The airplane can fly easily until the mid-2020s, but there are some
systems that we may need to modernize, depending on how far we go into the
Senator Mitchell: Last fall the committee visited Comox and had a
remarkable experience with the search and rescue crew up there. It was very
One of the issues that arose was the possibility of replacing the Buffalo. In
one text a remarkable person said, "Can you just do everything you can to get a
ramp off the back so we do not have to jump out the side of the plane with
whatever replacement you get?'' If he is listening, I did it.
Can you give us some ideas of where that replacement process is, if it is
pending, if it is necessary? What are your thoughts on a ramp out the back?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: The ramp is a requirement that has been identified.
We need an airplane with a ramp in the back. That was a discussion point a
couple of years back with Bombardier, trying to discuss the requirement for the
ramp or not. We have confirmed the requirement. I need a ramp in the back.
We have the fixed wing search and rescue airplane program going on. It has
taken longer than we would have wanted. It is into the definition phase right
now. We expect to go into requests for proposals in 2014, sometime next year.
Right now we are still discussing with the industry exactly how we will word
and build the program for the proposals.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you very much.
The Chair: To follow up on that, what is your sense of what the issue
is in terms of the slow, late, delayed delivery of so many of these pieces of
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: A few years back we probably went a bit too far in
identifying a requirement that was so precise that it was felt not enough
companies could compete for this aircraft. We went through a third-party review
of how we could do this differently. Actually, it was based on stop giving all
the details but give more options to the industry to come up with different
solutions. This is what we did, but that took time to review the safety
requirements and build it in a way that more companies could use their
imagination and novel ideas to propose how we do search and rescue.
With this new program, we have been discussing with the industry and we are
still trying to refine it so that companies can compete. Instead of saying we
need so many airplanes and this is what the airplanes need to do, we need to say
in general what we need to be able to do. That is, you tell us how many
airplanes, whether it is one or two fleets of aircraft; whether they can be
based on the existing bases we have now or are you proposing to create some new
bases to do this; and, while you are doing this, figure out how much it will
cost because we need to compute all this. As soon as you open the door to
different solutions, of course it will be more difficult to compare. If one
company arrives with one fleet and this is what I will be doing, but a different
company arrives with a proposal that it will be two fleets but I will base them
differently and will need to build some hangars, what cost do you put on that?
Is it the cost of the new places that you will open? What about the savings in
the place that you will not be operating in? We need to define how we will be
comparing all of this. That makes it a bit more difficult and longer in terms of
Senator Campbell: Thank you, general. It was interesting listening to
you. I must tell you that, like many of us, we were happy to hear Royal Canadian
Air Force back as an entity. My father served overseas in 26 missions with
Bomber Command, and I know that wherever he is — he has passed on — he was
celebrating it. I would like to say in heaven, but he is a Campbell so one is
never sure where you will end up.
One question that I have — and every once in a while, it seems to come out in
the media — is regarding the defence of the North. The question that seems to
percolate up to the surface is whether you need two engines on a jet or whether
one is sufficient. I am sure that one would always like to have two so you have
a backup, but that is not always possible. Could you comment on that?
Senator Lang: I think you want two.
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Some people want to do this and get back to when we
selected the F-18. Reference was made that we selected it because it had two
engines, which is not right. When we selected and compared the F-16 and F-18 the
overriding factor for selecting the F-18 was because it could do an
air-to-ground mission as well as an air-to-air mission, while the F-16 could
only do an air-to-air mission and was not geared yet to be able to do the
air-to-ground missions. The fact that it had a second engine was nice to have.
A fighter is a compromise. If I could have the ideal fighter it would
actually have four engines. It would be big enough to carry all the fuel I need
to go to Europe and back. It would be small enough so that no one else could see
it. It could carry all the bombs I need for a mission, but then it would be so
small that I could manoeuvre it if I were being attacked.
There are all kinds of requirements in a fighter. It is not necessarily one
factor but a combination of many factors. When you talk about comparing it, you
need to compare everything and the effect of all of it on what you want to do.
For me, one engine or two engines — I am very comfortable with one engine. If
I can have a second engine as well, that is nice to have. However, if to do this
I need to have a bigger airplane and now it is easier to see and I can be shot
at earlier because someone else can see me earlier, then I am not sure I want to
go for size because my safety needs to be in play. It is a compromise between
all of this.
When you look at the F-18, the Super Hornet and the F-35, one has two
engines; the other has one engine. For me, that would not be a factor in my
decision. It would not make a difference to me. The engines are so advanced
compared to the way we did business 50 years ago that I would be very
comfortable with one engine. I am much more interested in what kind of equipment
I will have and how it will be protecting itself.
Senator Campbell: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Second round now.
Senator Dallaire: I would like to move to strategic lift, please. The
American C-5As ended up being a real problem because they were so overused and
became such a significant asset that everyone wanted it and could not get access
The C-17s are being used fairly extensively. What is your assessment of the
level of use of the C-17s versus their anticipated mid-life or whatever? You
also have your Airbuses that are coming close, I expect, to end life or
something of that nature. Are you seeing that fleet also being used to the
extent where you will have to replace it soon or have to rent out?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: The C-17 is just getting to the point where we are
using the maximum amount of yearly hours that we anticipated using. Up until
last year it was still building a number of crews and being able to ramp up to
its maximum capacity. We are not in a problem of overusing. I am in a situation
where I just reached the optimum capacity of the airplane.
I am still using about 300 hours of training, but I would like to be able to
move this into simulation and turn those 300 hours into employment hours, but I
am not getting into the excess capacity. We are very careful in limiting what we
are using in the CF.
We are looking at about 2025 as the time when we need to make a decision on
the Airbus; that is, whether we need to invest money to modernize it and extend
its life the way we do with many fleets, or whether we go for something
different. It is tied to which fighter we get, air-to-air refueling, and this is
what we will need to adjust or figure out what is the best way ahead.
The Airbus has another 10 or 12 years of use, and it is steady. We have a
yearly flying rate that we use that the Commander of Joint Operations uses and
it is working well. There is an allocated yearly flying rate for the two fleets
that they use out of Ottawa, and if they need more usually they supplement with
Senator Dallaire: When it comes to quality of life — and you mentioned
it in your presentation — and the scale of attrition in your flight crews and
technical staff, there have been times when that has been at a critical level,
with people leaving because they simply had no life left and so on. I do not
know how many F-18 pilots I have seen flying Challengers, and I do not see the
satisfaction in that except the answer I always get is "quality of life.''
What is your status in relation to sustaining and retaining flight crews and
technical staff, who are certainly in demand out there?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Compared to years before where we had a problem, I
do not have a problem with retention. You give my pilots and my technicians
operations and new equipment and they just love it. They want to stay. They have
all gone through all kinds of operations, and they see the need still being
there and they are staying.
I am probably lower than the CF average of attrition, which is good for me
because I am not getting my production yet at the point where I would like to
have it. Actually, for the last three years, we have been counting on people who
have left for us to go work for Air Canada and other companies who are coming
back to us. Close to 7 per cent or 8 per cent of my actual recruitment is coming
from pilots who are coming back and saying, "Well, it is not that green out
Senator Lang: Could you perhaps update us with respect to the
helicopter procurement itself in relation to the helicopters with General
Dynamics? Where are we? Is it a case of ensuring that these particular machines
do what they are supposed to do? If they get to that point, are we committed to
proceed with the purchases?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: I believe you are talking about the American
helicopter program, the Cyclone. Of course I cannot comment too much on the
contract and discussions. PWGSC takes care of that; I am not involved. They are
involved with ADM(Mat) in assessing what the company is giving. I am not part of
What I have seen is a helicopter that is doing a good job as a helicopter
flying. There are two parts to that: There is the helicopter itself and then
there is the back end that is supposed to be doing the job and software and
computers to do the mission of anti-submarine warfare, et cetera.
I do not know where they are. I know they are working on trying to deliver on
this with General Dynamics, but I am not sure where they are. I only know that
they are late and it is not there yet.
Senator Lang: I want to move into another area in search and rescue.
Perhaps you would update us regarding the fundamentals of the search and rescue
program and how we do it. I do know that in other countries in some cases they
have privatized at least a part of their search and rescue responsibilities. Has
any serious consideration been given from our point of view to going in that
direction so that we can meet the responsibilities you have?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: That is a great question and a great discussion that
we keep having. I had a discussion with some of my colleagues in NATO about
search and rescue. Some of them are using some civilian assets. That is a bit
different from the concept we have in Canada. If you take a European country,
they kind of mix the traditional search and rescue as opposed to what the RCAF
does, which is air search and rescue. We look for airplanes that have crashed or
ships in distress, while ground search and rescue for someone who is lost or
someone who is in a snowstorm is not part of RCAF's responsibilities. That is a
In European countries the search and rescue tends to be more on the ground
search and rescue and taking care of their people inside a much smaller country,
a much smaller coastline and not necessarily the tremendous empty distances that
we need to cover in Canada. The Canadian requirement is actually to fly over the
second largest country in the world, a country that is bigger than the whole
European continent. When you look at where we need to patrol, the requirement is
different. It is about flying and about having the assets to be able to do the
searches and then to be able to rescue in an austere environment.
We have always managed to do it with military people. If we wanted to do it
with private companies, it would cost a lot more because it is much different
from the requirements that other countries have. I do not pay overtime. I send
my guys when they need to go.
There are costs that are saved by using the military. I do not pay risk
premium. I evaluate risk and, as long as I will not kill my guys, we will try to
rescue people. If you use a private company you need to value the risk and how
much you are willing to pay.
There have been discussions before; there are still discussions happening. I
would suggest that the privatization is probably more useful when we talk about
ground search and rescue and when you talk about what the provinces are doing,
more than what the RCAF is doing with air search and rescue and sea search and
Senator Mitchell: General, can you give us an idea of what percentage
of your pilots are women, what percentage of your force is women and whether you
have a special focus of any kind on trying to increase those percentages and
move women up the ranks?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: I do not have any numbers with me; I can get them
for you. I would say that the air force probably has the highest ratio of women
in the Canadian Armed Forces. We are probably close to 25 per cent of women
operating all this.
On the air crew side, I am probably close to about 10 per cent of my air crew
flying being women, and they are doing an outstanding job.
Senator Mitchell: Back on the Cyclone issue, we were in Shearwater in
September and, again, we were being told that there were at least two and maybe
four Cyclones right there. We could touch them and look at them and maybe we
even climbed on them, but you could not drive them.
We were being told then that it is pending — it is any day now that we will
take possession of these things — but now we are seven or eight months later and
nothing is happening. At what point do you start to get concerned with ADM(Mat)?
When will this get done?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: We have four helicopters in Shearwater. I am being
told it is still a matter of days or weeks until we will be able to use them for
training. I am confident that this is coming.
I am not necessarily concerned about this. Every time I get through a program
or a fleet, there are always some delays. No matter what fleet you will be
talking about, the fleet that does not have a delay is an exception. I am hoping
the Chinook will be that exception, coming this summer, but you never know.
What it means for me is that I always need to be prepared because there will
always be delays. It is not like I am planning to park the Sea King in July and
I have a problem. I am comfortable flying the Sea King for the next five years.
I did review this periodically, but right now, I can fly it for five years, and
that gives me a measure of comfort. It gives some flexibility to ADM(Mat), PWGSC
or the government to look at how we deal with the MHP issue and whether that is
okay or not.
For my end of it, I do not get involved in the negotiations, but I need to
protect the readiness and capability. As it will be delayed, I am assuming and
assuring that there is something to do the job. I am comfortable doing the job
for the next five years.
Senator Mitchell: Will it come with simulators for training?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: The MHP?
Senator Mitchell: The Cyclone.
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: The Cyclone, yes. It is coming with great
simulation. The estimate I have with simulation with that fleet, if I can get
that fleet flying, is that I will be able to do 50 per cent of my training in
simulations. The qualifications and training to land on the deck of a ship will
be done mostly in simulation.
The Chair: When you say you are comfortable for the next five years,
does that mean access to a reduced number?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: It means that I can maintain the present capability
and number of helicopters that I have to do detachments on the ships. I can
maintain that now, but there will be increased costs and I will do more
maintenance. It is getting more and more difficult, but I still feel I have the
capability to maintain the same readiness and capability I have now.
The Chair: That was part of the issue that was repeatedly expressed,
that there are no parts available. They are kind of making them in the basement,
as it were.
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: From my end, the estimate I have is that I can fly
The Chair: Okay. Is there more on this topic?
Senator Lang: I want to follow up on the Sea Kings. Perhaps you could
clarify something for us. If the procurement goes ahead in respect to the
Cyclones, my understanding is that there is a real demand for the Sea Kings —
that there are companies out there that are prepared to purchase them and
continue to run them; is that correct?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: I would not know. I have no idea. Nobody approaches
me asking me to sell the Sea Kings. That would be PWGSC.
The Chair: I think one of those distinctions we keep making in these
discussions is that you put forward your requirements and your wish list, but
you are not involved in the actual negotiations of the purchase.
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Yes.
Senator Day: I would like you to speculate a bit for us regarding your
comment about improved career paths for Armed Forces personnel from the point of
view of the announcement following the soldiers coming back from Afghanistan.
There is a change in policy with respect to full-time reservists. We understand
from an infantry point of view that full-time reservists may not be needed.
However, they are definitely needed from an air force technician point of view.
From our experience in visiting various bases, most recently Comox and
Greenwood, we saw several full-time reservists working in important places in
maintenance with respect to aircraft.
Are you contemplating some kind of new, improved career path that would allow
some of these full-timers maybe to become regular force again but not be
required to be moving around the way it normally has been the case in the past?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: In my experience in the Canadian Armed Forces, in
the 30 years I have been going from squadron to office, I have never had enough
people to do the job; there has never been enough money to do the job. It has
always been a challenge, and that has not changed. We are asking a lot of our
people, and whatever number of people they have, they could use more.
When they have access to full-time reservists, it is not about reservists or
full-time, it is just one more body I can use. If we are going to Afghanistan
and we have an operational tempo that has increased, it is normal to use more
reservists. I had to deploy people and I have to use reservists to cover behind.
Certainly, the commanding officers and the people you have visited have
appreciated having those because they came to depend on those people coming in,
whether they were reservists or not.
We do this and we increase the number of people because we are in a high
operational tempo, but this is what a reserve is supposed to be; when I need a
reserve, I call on it. When I do not need it, I need to push it back and get
back to a normal state where I am operating with the resources that I am
supposed to be operating with.
This is where we are. The operational tempo has been reduced. For everyone
that has full-time reservists, they do not want to get rid of them because they
could use them. However, I need to get this back to a level that makes sense for
me. For now, I cannot ask the next time I will be in the operational tempo to be
able to have additional resources if I cannot get away from them when the need
is no longer there.
Senator Day: Therefore you are not contemplating any change in the
basic career path. That was the comment you made, and I was giving you an
opportunity to talk about some of the things that you might be doing in the
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Not when you are considering the reservists. When we
talk about the different career paths and being able to use people better, I am
referring more to the full-time guys that I have.
We have a very specialized way of doing business in the air force. I have
some pilots, engineers and logisticians. Logisticians do not command the air
force; pilots command the air force. The engineers usually do not have the same
openings for career later on because, again, AERE or engineers do not command
the air force.
As much as operational experience is required to command, I would like to be
able to open up the walls that we have created. I have some outstanding people
that would be labelled with an engineer label or an accountant label. As soon as
you use someone in operations and give them experience in operations, you end up
with terrific leaders.
I would like to have a career path not necessarily closed in around the
definition of an occupation but more around the requirement for the job and the
expertise and experience you can get as you go through your career. If you have
a very smart engineer who starts doing operations and gets some experience, why
not use them? Why could he not become a leader of the air force the way pilots
Senator Day: Chief of the Air Force?
The Chair: Lt.-Gen. Blondin, we are out of time, but I will ask for a
brief comment about smart defence, since it is something that has been discussed
here. As General Lawson was discussing last week, it is difficult for Canada
because the only country to whom we are geographically linked is the United
States in that sense.
Is there opportunity for smart defence in air force operations?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: What is the definition of "smart defence''?
The Chair: I guess we would say shared tasks where we would divvy up
the responsibilities. That is what we do with NORAD and other things, but do you
see any new opportunities there?
Lt.-Gen. Blondin: Again, it is something that is being discussed. The
Europeans are really looking at getting away from a single capability, so
someone could concentrate and be an expert in one, and we combine them. However,
Afghanistan is a good example of what happens when it is time to go into
operation. Even if we called it NATO, there were only a few countries that went
there to do an operation. You either have the stuff you need for the operation
or you do not. If the operation has been built without Chinook capability
because when I go to war someone else will provide it for me, it will be a
problem if we get to Afghanistan and it is not there.
It is always how to balance your needs when you live within alliances. Canada
has done a good job because we have spent the last 50 years working within
alliances. We have tried stuff, getting rid of Chinooks, and now we are in a
position where we know what Canada needs. Now we have to determine if that would
be good enough for us to go on operations in the future.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your comments. You have been very
direct and frank with us today, and we appreciate that.
Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force —
no longer that new, you have been there since the fall — I want to thank you as
well as an honorary colonel in the air force. We are very proud to see the level
and quality of leadership that is emerging in the Canadian Armed Forces. Thank
you very much for being here.
Honourable senators, we have invited our next guest to tell us a little about
bit the annual northern and Arctic exercise referred to as Operation NANOOK. You
see mention of it on your television screens over the summer period and it is
always fascinating. Major-General Richard Foster has a larger responsibility as
Deputy Commander, now continental, within the new Canadian Joint Operations
For those who are wondering, we used to have two systems, one that looked
after the home events and one that looked after the away events. That has now
been combined and General Foster has moved from Canada Command into this new
Trained as a mechanical engineer, General Foster became a pilot and then a
pilot instructor before flying with three CF-18 squadrons over 17 years at Cold
Lake, Bagotville and also part of NATO's operation allied force in Kosovo.
General Foster was wing commander of 15 Wing at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home of
the Canadian Forces flying training school and, of course, the Snowbirds. His
staff tours include Directorate of the Air Requirements in Ottawa, Special
Assistant to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and at 1 Canadian Air Division
in Winnipeg as Deputy Commander Force Generation.
General Foster was appointed Chief of Staff, Canada Command in 2011 and then
became Deputy Commander in 2012 when Canadian Joint Operations Command, as I
said, was stood up absorbing Canada Command. He was promoted to Commander
Welcome and thank you for being here. I gather you have some opening remarks?
Major-General Richard D. Foster, Deputy Commander (Continental), Canadian
Joint Operations Command, National Defence: Madam Chair, the Canadian Armed
Forces are ready to do in the North what we do in the rest of Canada, that is,
to respond, in a supporting role, to a wide variety of scenarios, ranging from
natural disasters to illegal activities.
We need to be able to respond quickly and effectively when called upon to
assist, because, when it is beyond the capacities of our partners to respond,
the Canadian Armed Forces' unique capabilities can make all the difference.
The challenges in our North are complex, and the Canadian Armed Forces are
working successfully and in an integrated fashion as part of a
whole-of-government process to address them, but I want to stress that the
Canadian Armed Forces are not the lead.
In the North, as anywhere else in the country, we work in a supporting role
with our whole-of-government partners to assist when required in addressing
threats and hazards under the pillars of safety and security.
Naturally, all of this collaboration among and between different
stakeholders, whether with government departments both federal and territorial
or with northern communities, needs to be practiced and tested regularly in
order to remain effective, in order to properly serve Northerners as well as to
protect and promote Canadian sovereignty.
That is why the Canadian Armed Forces conduct a series of yearly northern
exercises, of which Operation NANOOK is the centerpiece.
We have conducted Operation NANOOK every summer since 2007. Each year, in
support of the government's northern strategy, Operation NANOOK provides a
visible Canadian Armed Forces presence in the Arctic and demonstrates Canada's
ability to respond to emergencies in the region. It is an excellent way to
improve the Canadian Armed Forces' capabilities in the North; to enhance
interdepartmental coordination with our partners in the region, be it the Coast
Guard, Environment Canada, Public Safety or the RCMP; and to improve
interoperability and understanding with our international allies and partners in
the Arctic, such as the United States and Denmark.
More than 1,200 men and women in uniform took part in Op NANOOK 12 last
August. It involved all three elements of the Canadian Armed Forces — army, navy
and air force — as well as the Canadian Rangers, and it marked the largest
participation of Canadian Armed Forces personnel in the operation's history.
Last year's operation was conducted in two distinct locations — in the
Western Arctic in and around Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories; and
in the Eastern Arctic in the Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay and its littoral area,
including Churchill, Manitoba.
Throughout Operation NANOOK, we conducted continuous engagement with local
government and civil society; and by doing so, we improved our relationships
with communities in the North and increased the cultural awareness of our
sailors, soldiers and air personnel.
The Canadian Armed Forces are doing preparatory work for this year's
iteration of Operation NANOOK. This year's operation will again exercise the
Canadian Armed Force's ability to work with whole-of-government partners on a
disaster relief operation and expand Arctic sovereignty patrols. As we devise
the final scenario for Operation NANOOK, one thing is clear: We will continue to
feature significant whole-of-government involvement, continue to invite other
government departments to meaningfully influence exercise scenarios with a view
to building our collective capacity to address northern issues in a synchronized
manner and continue to take our cue from northerners, on whose unique knowledge
and expertise we inherently rely.
Madam Chair, for decades now, the Canadian Armed Forces have developed
knowledge, partnerships and capabilities in the north.
This makes us especially suited to support the government's priorities in the
north and bring valuable contributions to our Arctic security.
The success of the Canadian Armed Forces in conducting large-scale joint
operations in the north such as Operation Nanook 2012 is a testament to their
training, professionalism and capacity to perform in one of the most isolated
regions of the world.
I am pleased to answer your questions at this time.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We will begin our questioning and get
into, I hope, some more detail on what you are planning for next summer.
Senator Dallaire: General, I am looking at the capabilities that are
resident in the North versus the capabilities that are brought in for periods of
time to be exercised and those experiences then being brought back down south. I
am wondering if there is in National Defence, DND, a document that has made the
trade-off of keeping more capability in the North, as in the 1987 white paper
where they were planning to put a base at Arctic Bay with permanent army, navy
and air forces. You have the F-18 advanced airfields and so on.
Do you have such a document that talks about the trade-off between keeping a
certain level of capability up there above what is there now with Northern
Command and the training and moving of forces from south to north?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you for the question. It is an interesting one
you pose. We want to be able to continue to operate effectively in the North,
and we want to be able to project effectively within about 24 hours.
We have been up in the North, as you are well aware, for many years, and we
already have much infrastructure in place, whether with NORAD through our FOLs
or even just operating with our Ranger communities that are spread throughout
the entire North. We are currently looking at the best way to continue to
operate in the North to leverage those existing capabilities and to ensure that
we do exactly as you suggest, maximize our ability to move up there rapidly
while minimizing the cost in terms of conducting operations or exercises.
For example, we have worked on identifying fuel caches so that if our
aircraft are flying up there, they can access them. Another is a scenario
wherein we have equipment that is pre-positioned so that we can get to it
relatively quickly if we have to deal with a major disaster that occurs in the
North. Those are two examples of how we are trying to leverage logistic
capability in the North.
Senator Dallaire: General, because it is so significant in the Canada
First Defence Strategy document, could the committee perhaps receive a
non-classified — we are not allowed classified material; I do not know how we
will do oversight — but could you provide a non-classified estimate that may
have been done in looking at the projection of capabilities in the North and
what would meet the requirement and the trade-off with moving stuff from the
south to north, if that exists?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: We would be happy to provide you with what we have.
Senator Dallaire: Let me pose to you the Attawapiskat scenario, where
an isolated area or a group of people, small village or something, falls under
significant hard times and requires emergency capability. The idea was floated
around that with the infrastructure in such rough shape up there, particularly
in the Aboriginal communities, there was an idea of establishing a mix of
Aboriginal and southern personnel, be they Rangers and forces, into a more
permanent Canadian northern corps of engineers, like the Americans have, which
would continuously be working in the North, in Arctic engineering and so on, and
be continuously upgrading, working, maintaining and being available for these
crises, having that sort of capability available in the North. Has anything been
looked at in regards to the hard infrastructure needs of the general population
up there and whether we could be more responsive and gain more experience with
being engaged in that?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: With operations in the North, our job is to support
other government departments in providing safety and security for Canadians who
are living there. Because we have the capacity to do so logistically more than
other government departments now, we are looking, as I said before, at our
ability to operate effectively and quickly by determining in which locations we
should pre-position material and logistic equipment in order to get to places
like Attawapiskat rapidly.
We have not sat down and looked at each individual community to decide what
their requirements are, and I do not think that is necessarily a Canadian Forces
requirement to do so. We are working with other government departments to look
at how we might leverage each other's capabilities and partner with them. A good
example is in Resolute Bay with the Polar Continental Shelf Program, where we
have partnered with NRCan in using their facility to develop the Arctic Training
Centre. There are perhaps opportunities down the road, if we were approached by
other departments responsible for communities in the North, where we might be
able to help them as we develop our infrastructure to support our needs at the
Senator Lang: In your opening comments you referred to Operation
NANOOK. I believe the chair referred to it as well. I would like to hear what
your program is for this coming year. Have you finalized it? If so, what is
planned for the coming summer months?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Actually, Op NANOOK 13 is turning out to be an
exciting event for us. I think it is the first time we have had complete, total
buy-in by the municipal and provincial governments in the Yukon. In fact, I was
talking to the Premier of Yukon and the Mayor of Whitehorse, and they were
ecstatic we were going to come up there and help them figure out how they would
best evacuate their city if they were ever threatened by a forest fire. That
shows you how we are operating with the other government departments and with
the provinces in determining what their concerns are in terms of safety and
We thought in the Yukon originally that the program would be based on an
earthquake scenario because there is a fault line up through Dawson. They came
back and said, "No, we are actually concerned about the forest around Whitehorse
and a similar incident that happened in the Great Slave Lake area, where I do
not think we would be able to evacuate our people quickly enough.'' We set up
this particular Op NANOOK to do just that. The RCMP and the community will be
the lead. We will rapidly deploy a force up to provide security and to assist
that community to evacuate in a timely manner in the event of a forest fire.
They also want to look at the protocols they have with Alaska to see if they
can learn lessons in dealing between a province and a state in terms of their
proximity. We would also look at working with our U.S. allies, perhaps Joint
Task Force Alaska, in terms of determining with a tabletop exercise how we might
work together in that kind of scenario.
The other aspect of Op NANOOK 13 is that we are looking at Arctic sovereignty
patrols in Resolute Bay, again working with Environment Canada, using a law
enforcement scenario where we would provide assistance due to a poaching
scenario. We would provide a patrol that would go out, where our officers would
be delegated as peace officers in support of the RCMP in that regard.
Those are two very exciting scenarios that demonstrate our interoperability
with other government departments and our ability to provide support to other
Senator Lang: That is very good news for Yukon, specifically the city
of Whitehorse, because there is a real threat there with respect to the
possibility of a forest fire getting out of control. Where we are situated and
how the winds blow can have a devastating result for the community, and
surrounding communities for that matter. We look forward to being involved in
that in the summer.
Moving to another area, please update the committee on the following:
Significant commitments have been made to the North on facilities and capital
assets across the North. Could you update us on the Canadian Forces Arctic
Training Centre? Also, how are things proceeding in the area of Nanisivik and
any other area, and what is happening with regard to the DEW Line?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: I am not responsible for all of those projects, but
I can give you some specifics on the Arctic Training Centre. As I said before,
it is a great partnership between us and NRCan, leveraging their Polar
Continental Shelf Program. By this summer, we will have a facility for about 140
personnel. The air force, the army and the navy will send their personnel up
there to get trained on how to survive in the North and how to conduct
themselves in the North.
This will come to fruition this summer and it will be managed by the army. Of
course, Joint Task Force (North), which works for the Joint Operations Command,
will provide the support to ensure that the way in which we work with the
provinces is appropriate.
Nanisivik is ongoing. I am looking forward to seeing that come to fruition,
because our ships operating in the North do need access to POL, or fuel, as it
is a long way to go. In terms of a specific timeline, the RCN would be better
able to answer that.
Senator Day: I think I understand some of the points that are being
made by Senator Lang's questions. In the past there has been activity outside of
Operation NANOOK. That is one big operation, but many other activities go on
throughout the year. You are indicating that that continues, I believe. One of
those is the winter survival activity that the air force used to conduct in the
North. Is that kind of activity continuing outside of this big operation that we
have been talking about?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you for the question. First, Op NANOOK is only
one activity that we conduct in the North. This February I had the opportunity
to deploy to Moosonee in northern Ontario. Joint Task Force (Central) deployed
about 1,200 troops there and they simulated an air disaster. The relationship
they built with the community and the lessons they learned with the Rangers were
About a week later I had the opportunity to go to Schefferville, Quebec. The
engineers built a runway on the lake. It was amazing to see them building a
large hockey rink in the middle of a lake and then to see a C-130 land on it.
They had about 54 to 57 inches.
At the same time, General Richard Giguère took the liberty of inviting all
the Rangers from the northern part of Quebec to come together at Schefferville
at the same time during this northern exercise and share experiences. It is
amazing what you learn from these individuals in terms of their ability to
provide services for forces when operating in the North and what they can teach
us about survival skills.
I always worried that when our forces went up North they might not be getting
good food. Then I met the sergeant from the Rangers who was cooking them caribou
and providing them with a great quantity of Arctic char and other fish, and then
I did not feel so sorry for them anymore.
To answer your question, there are two other major exercises, NUNAKPUT and
NUNALIVUT, ongoing in the North on a yearly basis. NUNAKPUT is a sovereignty
exercise carried out in the High Arctic, normally in the April time frame. This
will be done this year in Resolute Bay. Last year it was done on the
northeastern shoals of the Arctic Archipelago. NUNALIVUT is a sovereignty
exercise along the Mackenzie River delta.
There is quite a lot of activity ongoing in the North. In addition to looking
at how we conduct operations in the North and where to best put our logistical
supplies in order to accomplish that, we are going to start to better
synchronize exercises conducted across the North to leverage both our ability to
put logistical supplies up there to be able to conduct operations in the North
in the future and, at the same time, to maximize our efforts with our exercises.
Senator Day: When you say "sovereignty in the North,'' I think of
someone going out in a kayak and putting a flag on Hans Island to keep the
Greenlanders away, or someone in a submarine dropping a flag on the ocean floor
at the North Pole. Those are not the kinds of sovereignty activities that we are
talking about, but they have received much attention in the newspapers.
My second area of questioning is in relation to the number of other
government departments that are involved in these exercises. There are 1,200
Armed Forces personnel, and you say that you are not the lead. There must be a
tremendous number of non-uniform personnel who are government employees as well
as the local communities. We know that this is very costly. Many of these are
natural disaster relief types of exercises as opposed to illegal activities or
an invasion coming through the North, that kind of typical military situation.
Given that the majority are natural disaster relief exercises, is not
possible to use simulation? Previously you mentioned tabletop exercises. Can you
not do that rather than going out there, or is that going on as well and we just
have not talked about it?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: First, I think we owe it to Canadians to be able to
go into the North rapidly. I know that we have all travelled in the North and
know that it remains harsh and difficult to travel in. The logistical challenge
and the training that is required are formidable.
When we go up on Op NANOOK, at least when I have been there in August, it has
been beautiful weather. Unfortunately, we all know that when we will be asked to
go up and help because of a major disaster it is likely that the weather will be
non-cooperative, that it will be very cold and very dark.
We can do some tabletop exercises, as we do. However, it is imperative to
actually go up there and do the exercises for real. We call them exercises, and
there is an exercise part, but it is part of the whole operation and logistical
mounting required to get everything up there, to ensure the safety of the people
while they are up there and to provide for them while up there. It is almost an
operation with an exercise or several exercises going on underneath at the same
Senator Demers: Thank you for your French. It was very good and I
appreciate that very much, sir.
General, I have a question for you. How would a reduction in defence spending
affect the future of Operation NANOOK, particularly from the Canadian Armed
Maj.-Gen. Foster: First, I am very focused on our capacity to operate
in the North. When we are working to prepare the exercises, I concentrate
specifically on the operational objectives I would like to attain at the end of
the exercises. Once I have defined them, I consider how I am going to use all
personnel to achieve them. I then look at the plans in the light of the
available budget, of course. Clearly, there are always compromises, but, at the
end of the day, I am always able to make sure that we are attaining the
established objectives needed to guarantee that we are able to operate in the
Senator Demers: Thank you very much, general.
Senator Mitchell: General, with respect to the Rangers, can you
comment on the following? Currently they are Class A reservists. They do not get
benefits, and so on. Is there any advantage to their having some sort of full
employment capacity or designation? Would that enhance the kind of activity that
would give us greater presence in the North? One thought, for example, would be
perhaps that they could be utilized for Coast Guard boarding and that kind of
thing. Have you given any thought to a greater presence in those respects?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you for that question. I think it was a year
and a half ago I flew down to the Northwest Passage in a Twin Otter. I think I
landed on Pond Inlet. Then I got on the Canadian North Dash 8 and did the island
hop on the way down to Iqaluit and ended up in Clyde River. I had a flat tire
and waited, I think 12 hours, for the replacement airplane to bring in the
replacement tire. I was stuck in the airport pretty well. Other airplanes were
coming in and cycling through. When each airplane landed, a whole bunch of the
community would come out to meet the airplane and see families getting on the
airplane and welcome people getting off the airplane. This must have gone on
about four or five times. Each time that a new group of people came into the
airport, one or two would come up and introduce themselves as Rangers. They
would go, "How are you?'' I would go, "Fine,'' and we would have a little chat.
I think I met pretty well all the Rangers in Clyde River that day.
That evening, we ended up diverting out of Iqaluit and I spent the night at
the airport in Kuujjuaq. The airport was closed and the airport authority came
out and opened the facility up for us and let us in. He then proceeded to invite
all the ladies and all the kids to his house to spend the night. I do not know
about you, but I do not know how many people would actually come and introduce
themselves to me at the Toronto Pearson airport if I were in uniform. I do not
know how many airport authorities would invite all the families over to their
house to spend the night. I think it is important to say that because the
northern culture is different. The Rangers that operate up there do so because
they are passionate about helping and serving Canadians. They do it for free
Regarding changing the paradigm, I am not sure that is necessarily required.
They do it because they want to and because they have great service for us and
we use that relationship to our advantage. I think it is a good one.
To look at them for other services, I have not looked at that. I am not
certain. These are community people. We use them extensively. They will be the
first people we go to anywhere in the North if there is a disaster operation to
make that link up and to help us integrate to enable us to do our job that much
Senator Day: For clarification, the preamble to Senator Mitchell's
question suggested that there are no benefits to Class A reservists. However, I
thought that your Class A reservists do qualify for pensions and certain
benefits now. Am I wrong on that?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Class A reservists?
Senator Day: Yes, the part-time reservists.
Maj.-Gen. Foster: I can get the full information for you later.
Senator Day: Could you let us know? They do qualify for a pension plan
for their time served, I believe. Maybe you could let us know.
The Chair: Medical as well, right?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Senator, I do not want to give you false
information. I do know there is a difference between our Class B reservists, who
can get full entitlement after a certain number of years, but how that compares
to our Class A reservists — they may be able to but I do not want to give you
The Chair: That is great if you could check into that.
Senator Day: If you could, that would be appreciated. If you could
then tie in the regular Class A reservists, the part- timers that we are
familiar with and those in the North that we have been talking about, are they
treated as Class A reservists or do they have a special program?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: I can give you that information.
Senator Campbell: Welcome, general. With the continuing increase in
the resource sector in the North and the opening up of the Northwest Passage,
for whatever reason, there appear to be more and more possibilities for
disasters of all types.
Is there any consideration for the RCAF to keep a Chinook or a Hercules up
there — Yellowknife is probably the most central — to be used for search and
rescue and for covering off the Rangers, who will probably be the first on the
scene of any type of disaster? Has any consideration been given to that? What is
your sense of the necessity for that?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you for that question. I recently looked at
some figures, and I think in the last 10 years the number of maritime vessels
that typically operate in the North has about doubled from about 55 to probably
just over 100. Some of those are adventurers; some of them are getting very
adventurous. I think last year there were four jet skiers that tried to go
through the Northwest Passage.
I do agree with you that there will be an increase in the requirement to
provide search and rescue services, but we are not seeing a significant
increase, as 55 to 100 is still manageable. When you are talking about the
adventures on the ground, it tends to be about the same number, to the point
where it is about less than 1 per cent of any search and rescue activity
annually that is required in the North.
I think you are right. We do leverage our Rangers again. A lot of them are
mayors or are in a prominent position within their village, so they are the
first people that sometimes get the call that there is a missing person within
their community. From a provincial relationship — and it is a provincial
responsibility for ground search and rescue — that relationship, again, lends
itself in that we encourage our Rangers, if they are involved and they want to
go out and go on a search, to do that.
Senator Campbell: Thank you.
The Chair: I would like to follow up on a couple of questions. We saw
the Special Forces participate in the exercise last summer. I know you cannot
comment a lot on what it is that they do, but is that relationship and allowing
that to come forward a product of the closeness with which they all worked in
missions like Afghanistan? Is this a new development?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: You are right. Last year was probably the first time
we significantly used our Special Forces in a domestic security scenario. We
need to be clear on that. That was in support of a direct vessel of interest
that was coming from offshore of Canada, and then again with other government
departments using intelligence services and everything, we had been following
that. That was the exercise development to the point where we felt that we
needed to intervene. The RCMP that was leading at that time would have made that
request to us.
Would that happen in real life? Possibly. It was probably a good thing to
exercise, and I think it was a good demonstration of ensuring that if some
scenario like that were to occur, we had the right command and control in place
and that we are able to operate effectively with other government departments to
understand the law enforcement roles and responsibilities we would need to work
The Chair: In terms of using that expertise?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Yes.
The Chair: My other question is a much broader one and it deals with
having recently had the opportunity to fly to Alert, our northerly most post. It
is hard for people to imagine, unless you have been there, the vastness of this
space. We all talk passionately about the need for sovereignty and to assert and
maintain our sovereignty, but it is hard to imagine how we can do that with
limited equipment in such a vast and amazing space.
How do you feel about that issue? Are we able to do it, or do we need the
drone and satellite capability? Are you confident about where we are now? What
are your views on that?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you, senator, for that question. Sovereignty
to me is more than just defending the nation. It is about economic prosperity,
it is about our presence in the North, it is about good governance and it is
Enforcement is one aspect of that. Our ability to operate with other
government departments and enable them to operate up in the North in some of
these exercises helps to promote our sovereignty. I do agree we need to leverage
space capabilities. We are seeing that with RADARSAT and hopefully with the RCM
project that will come along eventually, where we will be able to monitor all of
the Northwest Passage in a more efficient manner and queue some of our other
assets, when required, to go up and take a closer look.
Yes, I think we need to leverage some of those capabilities in the future for
surveillance. I also think that sovereignty is more than the defence aspect of
it. It is about presence and the government being visible in the North.
The Chair: Thank you for that.
Senator Dallaire: Budgets and so on will have impacts on the
capabilities that the forces will be able to sustain into the future, and
trade-offs are being made. We visited Valcartier, where units have been training
in jungle operations and mountain operations. You even have people training and
deploying in amphibious operations.
Is Arctic training and indoctrination seen as a specialty or as a fundamental
capability of a Nordic or northern army or military — all forces — as we are? As
such, is getting that emphasis and resource base as a fundamental capability of
our northern forces versus being a specialty that you try to meet with some of
the members annually?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you, senator. I think it will be an inherent
capability that we are trying to redevelop. I am sure you are very familiar with
operations in the North. We would like our soldiers to be able to go up there on
a moment's notice any time during the year, in harsh winter conditions or in
summer conditions, to be able to provide assistance in a security and safety
environment. I think that is where the focus needs to be. We need to deliver on
the core capabilities that would enable them to do that.
Senator Dallaire: We deploy in Afghanistan. I think Kitchener deployed
to the Sudan to try to save Khartoum and took three months to acclimatize his
troops. We do similar scenarios. The Arctic requires periods of acclimatization,
and long enough that they cannot eat their chocolate bars anymore and have to
survive with what is going on there.
With the militia units that have been identified, are you deliberately
creating a capability in the forces of this constant level of operational
readiness to be able to deploy? If not, why not make the Rangers even more
effective and give them more capability and opportunity? Everything they are
doing is in line with their cultural references, their background, and we will
be helping them and their youth to be gainfully employed.
Maj.-Gen. Foster: Thank you, senator. You are raising some great
points. I think we are doing all of those. I think that we are leveraging and
encouraging our Rangers. We have increased the numbers to 5,000. We are
employing them more. We are using them more to provide training to our IRUs, our
immediate reaction units, and to our Arctic Response Company Groups. On every
occasion that I have been or seen in the North, we leverage that capacity.
It is pretty well a mandate for all of the joint task forces to provide some
kind of domestic training exercise scenario every year. We can gain some
cost-effectiveness by doing it in the lower part of the North, if you will, like
in Moosonee or in Schefferville, but there is still the requirement because it
is quite different to go up North. Then, on a rotational basis, we will be
looking at which units go up to the North. I would expect that in the coming
years pretty well every IRU and JTF will have some exercise that will keep their
core capacity to be able to operate up in the North at the appropriate level.
Senator Dallaire: May I add to that? It would be most useful for us to
get a feel — again, an unclassified document — of exactly what the assessment
has been to establish the operational readiness of troops from the South to be
able to function and survive in the North. For example, the Finns needed 60 per
cent of their time to survive and beat the Russians, who needed 90 per cent of
their time to survive and had very little time to fight. The survival dimension
is overriding in your operational capability.
Can you give us a feel for how the forces will be able to build an inherent
northern capability that is constantly there and not punctual by the odd unit
going and the odd exercise? If there is an ensemble to that, that would be
Maj.-Gen. Foster: I would like to clarify that when the northern
chiefs of defence met last April, I never thought I would be standing on the
ramp on the base in Goose Bay talking to a four-star Russian general, but there
I was. When you look at those eight Arctic nations that sat around the table and
talked, they all agreed that there was no military threat to the North.
From my perspective in operating up in the North, we are focused on ensuring
that we can arrive at a community or wherever we need to in terms of providing
disaster response and being able to survive, which is quite different than
operating in a combat-type scenario.
I do think that we have set out the training requirements that would enable
our forces to be able to carry that out, but I can provide you with the
documentation about that.
The Chair: Thank you for that. One final quick point is that one of
the things we are looking at in the discussion about transformation is the
stand-up of CJOC. You were Deputy Commander of Canada Command and now you are
deputy at CJOC. Is it working? Is the home game getting enough attention?
Maj.-Gen. Foster: That is a great question, and the answer is a
resounding yes. When I was at the division in Winnipeg it was amazing to see the
CEFCOM-Canada COM relationship where CEFCOM would be coming to the air force and
asking for assets to go overseas either to Haiti or Afghanistan. Canada Command
would be coming to ask for air force assets to go up North to help with some
community. The reality is that one colonel in Trenton owns all those airplanes
that he wants access to. By going to CJOC, now we have combined that and have
one joint forces air component commander who responds to both the expeditionary
and the domestic mission and we maximize the resources.
We are not necessarily limiting ourselves to today I am only working on
domestic things. Whatever I need to work on for the team to get the most
priority done, we will get it done. It is a lot more effective.
The Chair: Thank you for that. This seems to be a consistent message
we are hearing regardless of where people enter this discussion.
Thank you so much for being here today. We have waited for this for a long
time. We appreciate it, Major-General Richard D. Foster, whose responsibility is
deputy commander within the new Canadian Joint Operations Command.
We will continue with the business of our meeting. We do have to pass one
Tonight we are going to appear before committee, so this budget has been
distributed. This is for a special study on Canadian Forces bases. We had our
mandate approved, I think, last week. Senator Dallaire did that. Does anyone
have any questions about this budget and what we are attempting to do?
Otherwise, we will ask for a motion to approve it.
Senator Manning: I so move.
Senator Campbell: Second.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We consider it adopted. Our meeting is
now adjourned. Back to work over on the Hill.
(The committee adjourned.)