Tag Archives: Canada

Members’ Roundup: August 2016

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to the August 2016 members’ roundup. Throughout the month of August, CIMSEC members examined several international maritime security issues, including an increasingly contentious undersea environment in the Asia-Pacific, monitoring and enforcing laws relating to maritime crime, the importance of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to the future mine countermeasure capability of the U.S. Navy, the upgrades being made to the Philippine Coast Guard with the assistance from Japan, and finally, Vietnam’s decision to deploy mobile rocket launchers to islands in the South China Sea.

Lauren Dickey, John Schaus, and Andrew Metrick, at War on The Rocks, provide an overview of submarine forces and dynamics shaping undersea competition in the Asia-Pacific. Although Russia’s undersea capabilities in the Atlantic have historically been the primary challenge to U.S. technological primacy in the subsurface domain, the authors explain how Chinese, North Korean .and ten other Asian nations are not only increasing their proportion of active submarines in the Pacific, but are also significantly increasing investment in advanced capabilities. According to the authors, the growth of submarine fleets throughout the region combined with technologies that can limit U.S. operational effectiveness in the domain implies that regional states are hedging against a more competitive future security environment.

John Grady, for U.S. Naval Institute News, discusses the importance of awareness in the maritime domain and on land concerning the enforcement of laws pertaining to fisheries, the environment and crime on the oceans and in coastal waters. He references comments on the issue from fellow CIMSEC members Jerry Hendrix, Scott Cheney-Peters, and Claude Berube, who explain that non-governmental organizations, comprehensive security and monitoring networks, and enforcement practices from ports to blue ocean regions is critical for ending illegal fishing and other criminal activities.

Rick Berger and Mackenzie Eaglen, at War on The Rocks, provide analysis on the aircraft carrier shortage in the U.S. Navy and the implications this is having for U.S. presence in certain hot spot regions. The authors argue that politicians are not working creatively enough to get additional carriers into the fleet quickly, which is a vital first step towards addressing the current carrier presence gap. Their analysis focuses on how Congress and Pentagon civilian leadership jointly and cooperatively changed the process with which the Navy tests, procures and fields aircraft carriers, ultimately resulting in the current shortage. The authors recommend that Congress and the Pentagon should allow the Navy to field CVN-78 Ford by 2019, noting that the risk in pushing back full-ship shock trials to a later date does not outweigh the benefit of solving an immediate problem of too few carriers for too many missions.

Steven Wills, for U.S. Naval Institute News, discusses the need for expanded congressional support for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), highlighting the ships potential to become the most advanced platform with an effective and advanced mine warfare capability in the fleet. He explains that the U.S. Navy’s aging Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships are in need of replacement and that the LCS mine warfare mission module represents the most suitable option already within the acquisition system capable of rapidly improving the fleets mine countermeasure capacity. He recommends that Congress support and fund the LCS mine warfare module program as outlined by the Navy in the FY17 budget.

Dave Majumdar, for The National Interest, highlights the U.S. Navy’s decision to prioritize the improvement of its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities, noting the reemergence of Russian undersea capabilities and the continued growth of the Chinese submarine fleet as the principal reasons for doing so. Referencing an interview with U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, he explains that the future fleet’s ASW operations will combine air, sea, and undersea forces, emphasizing the need to ensure that the Navy’s attack submarine (SSN) force remains dominant in the subsurface environment. He also notes that although the Navy currently has about fifty-two attack submarines in its fleet against a requirement for forty-eight boats, the SSN force is set to shrink to forty-one by 2029, implying strategic advantage against adversaries in the North Atlantic and the Pacific is not possible without significant procurement adjustments.

Kyle Mizokami, for Popular Mechanics, reviews the debate centered on the future of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier and the different factors influencing the discussion, including the massive financial investment the U.S. has already put into its next generation of flattops and the increasingly dangerous and real threat anti-access/ area denial strategies will pose to carrier operations in the conflicts of tomorrow. Although U.S. reliance on the aircraft carrier as the country’s primary tool of power projection is a notion that continues to draw contention in security and political circles, he notes that technological advancements in unmanned aerial vehicles, longer-ranged planes, or even altering the size and price tag of the carriers themselves may adapt the platform enough to make them useful for decades to come.

CIMSEC members were active elsewhere during the month of August:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies, international law and defense policy.

Featured image: A Chinese nuclear submarine on the ocean surface (credit: AsiaNews)

Rotary-Wing Aviation in the Royal Canadian Navy

By Matthew Gamble

A key part of any modern navy is its rotary-wing component. The capabilities that helicopters bring to naval operations are essential in the context of modern warfare, and many large navies around the world boast impressive fleets of shipborne rotary-wing aircraft. Smaller navies, however, need to make due with much less, and there is perhaps no better example of a small navy employing its limited rotary-wing assets to the fullest extent as the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

Serving with the RCN for over 50 years, the Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King has been the backbone of the navy’s deck based rotary-wing aviation. Based on the American-designed Sikorsky SH-3, the CH-124 was introduced in 1963 to augment the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) abilities of RCN vessels in response to the growing threat of increasingly capable Soviet nuclear submarines. Since then, the aircraft has proven its versatility by filling capability gaps in the sometimes cash-strapped Royal Canadian Navy by conducting search and rescue operations, disaster relief missions, and even patrols to monitor water pollution. Given the smaller size of Canadian naval vassals, the RCN found the Sea King’s fold-up rotor and tail to be particularly useful as this allowed the aircraft to be carried on the Iroquois-class destroyers and Halifax-class frigates. Likewise, the aircraft’s amphibious hull proved to be popular among its pilots, as it enabled the aircraft to conduct emergency “waterbird landings” if the need arises. Overall the Sea King became a jack-of-all-trades for the RCN, with the aircraft being one of the busiest in the whole of the Canadian Forces.

IS2005-2137a 31 July, 2005 Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf) region Crewmembers from HMCS Winnipeg's helicopter detachment prepare a CH-124 Sea King for flight operations in the Gulf of Oman. The Canadian frigate is part of Operation ALTAIR, Canada's maritime contibution to the U.S.-led coalition campaign against terrorism mission known as Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Photo: Sgt Frank Hudec, Canadian Forces Combat Camera Le 31 juillet 2005 Région Arabo-Persique Des membres de l’équipage du détachement d’hélicoptères du NCSM Winnipeg préparent un hélicoptère dans le but de participer à des opérations aériennes dans le golfe d’Oman. La frégate canadienne participe à l’opération Altair, la contribution maritime du Canada à la campagne dirigée par les É. U., menée par la coalition contre le terrorisme et connue sous le nom d’opération Enduring Freedom. Photo : Sgt Frank Hudec, Caméra de combat des Forces canadiennes. Image size = 9.86" x 5.34" 300 DPI 2960 x 1604 pixels
31 July, 2005 Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf) region Crewmembers from HMCS Winnipeg’s helicopter detachment prepare a CH-124 Sea King for flight operations in the Gulf of Oman. (Photo: Sgt Frank Hudec, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Landing the Sea King on the deck of a small vessel in rough seas, however, still proved to be a significant challenge for the RCN. Nonetheless, an ingenious solution was devised in the early 1960’s by Canadian pilots of Experimental Squadron 10 (VX 10) based in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, with assistance from Fairey Aviation. What they developed was the world’s first Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device (HHRSD), sometimes referred to as “beartrap.” To employ the retrieval device, a probe-tipped cable is lowered from the Sea King to the deck of the vessel upon which the aircraft is attempting to land. The ship’s crew then attaches the probe to a heavier cable and runs the assembly through the HHRSD. The cable is then winched back up and attached to the helicopter. Once secure, the pilot increases power and the cable synchronizes the helicopter’s movements with those of the ship. The pilot gradually decreases power and the frame of the beartrap steadily ‘reels in’ the helicopter until it touches down safely on the deck. In essence, the beartrap has allowed the RCN to conduct flight operations under even the most hostile weather conditions, and Sea Kings gained a respected reputation for continuing to fly during exercises and on joint-operations even when other NATO allies had suspended flight operations. To this day the beartrap stands as a significant Canadian contribution to deck-based rotary-wing operations, and the device was subsequently adopted by various navies around the world.


ASE Systems Off Helo Hauldown Landing of CH-124 Sea King aboard HMCS Charlottetown in July 2012 during OP ARTEMIS in the Gulf of Oman. (Steve Barnes via Youtube)

By 1986, the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) began to seek a replacement for the now aging Sea Kings. Problems with the aircraft’s transmission raised concerns about its safety and continued viability among DND staff in Ottawa. Nevertheless, the aging Sea Kings remained in service and were even pressed into action in the Persian Gulf in 1990. Shortly after this successful deployment, the Canadian Progressive Conservative government led by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney signed a $4.4-billion-dollar contract with European Helicopter to replace the aging Sea Kings with a version of the AgustaWestland AW101 to be designated the CH-149 Cormorant in Canadian service. However, a year later, the newly elected Liberal government led by Jean Chretien cancelled the order and only a few Cormorants were accepted into service. It would be another ten years before the Liberal government would sign a contract procuring a new helicopter for deck-based operations. 

Following a competition to find a suitable replacement for the Sea King held by the DND in 2004, the Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk emerged victorious. Shortly thereafter, the Canadian Government announced plans to acquire 28 new Superhawks under the designation CH-148 Cyclone. The price tag of the deal was a whopping $1.8 billion, a very significant sum for a Canadian defence expenditure. Deliveries were scheduled to start in 2009, but repeated delays due to development problems with the aircraft pushed the initial delivery of six helicopters back to June 2015. These delays caused significant political fallout as a number of government ministers publically criticized the program because of the setbacks. Nevertheless, the Canadian Government announced it was moving forward with the deal. Currently, a total of nine Cyclones have been delivered, finally allowing for the gradual retirement of the long-serving Sea Kings.

Although it lacks the amphibious capability of the Sea King, the Cyclone’s performance characteristics are vastly superior, and the new aircraft will greatly enhance the rotary-wing capabilities of RCN vessels. In addition to the latest avionics, the Cyclone is equipped with Integrated Mission and Sonobuoy Acoustic Processing Systems developed by General Dynamics Canada. Furthermore, the helicopter’s armament consists of two Mark-46 Mod V torpedoes mounted on BRU14 electro-mechanical ejector racks and door-mounted machine guns. The Cyclone’s airframe also incorporates protection from both lightning strikes and high-intensity radio frequency pulses. These characteristics make the CH-148 a very capable machine comparable to other modern deck-based rotorcrafts, such as the Eurocopter Panther and the NHIndustries NH90 NFH.

HS28-2016-0001-011 One of Canada's newly acquired CH-148 Cyclone helicopters practices landing procedures on HMCS Halifax off the coast of Nova Scotia on 27 January 2016. Photo: Ordinary Seaman Raymond Kwan, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax. HS28-2016-0001-011 Le nouvel hŽlicoptre CH-148 Cyclone, acquis rŽcemment par le Canada, pratique des manÏuvres dÕatterrissages sur le Navire canadien de Sa MajestŽ (NCSM) Halifax prs des c™tes de la Nouvelle ƒcosse le 27 janvier 2016. Photo : Matelot de 3e classe Raymond Kwan, Services dÕimagerie de la formation, Halifax.
One of Canada’s newly acquired CH-148 Cyclone helicopters practices landing procedures on HMCS Halifax off the coast of Nova Scotia on 27 January 2016.(Photo: Ordinary Seaman Raymond Kwan, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax)

In the future, rotary-wing aircraft stationed on Canadian vessels will face a variety of challenges. Chief among these is the evolving threat posed by increasingly sophisticated Chinese submarines. Therefore, the ASW capabilities of the Cyclone could ultimately prove indispensable to the RCN in future operations, especially in contested waters or in Canada’s vulnerable Pacific littoral areas. Similarly, as Canada pivots to take a more active role in the Arctic, the Cyclone will play a key role in that theater of operations as a countermeasure to the potential threat posed by surface or undersea incursions. In addition, the RCN is also increasingly called upon to assist in disaster relief operations where reliable helicopters often prove to be highly valuable. The Cyclone will certainly be called upon for search and rescue, as well as tactical transport.

Perhaps the greatest test the new helicopter will face will be to operate effectively in a low budget environment.Nevertheless, the Cyclone’s introduction into service signals a new era of enhanced safety and capabilities for rotary-wing operations in the Royal Canadian Navy, and the new aircraft will undoubtedly form the mainstay of this vital component for many years to come.

Matthew Gamble is an International Relations student at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His interests primarily focus on the foreign policy of Eurasian states, and new developments in warfighting capability.

Members’ Roundup: July 2016 Part Two

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to Part Two of the July 2016 members’ roundup. Throughout the second part of July, CIMSEC members examined several international maritime security issues including joint Russian and Chinese military exercises in the South China Sea, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s procurement options for a new search-and-rescue aircraft, the relationship between free trade and security dynamics in the South China Sea, Russia’s offer to fulfill India’s tender for a multirole nuclear aircraft carrier, and Germany’s evolving military and strategic priorities. Read Part One here.

Kyle Mizokami, for Popular Mechanics, reviews the U.S. Navy’s failed Harpoon anti-ship missile test during a sinking drill at the RIMPAC 2016 multinational naval exercises. During the sinking operation, the littoral combat ship USS Coronado launched a Harpoon 1C missile at the retired frigate USS Crommelin, which was 20 miles away. He explains that that the Navy is investigating why the missile was lost from radar contact and never impacted the target ship. The missile exercise reflects the Navy’s continued testing of various missile systems in an attempt to update and improve the fleets’ surface-to-surface warfare capability. He notes that the Navy will likely adopt the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Norwegian Naval Strike Missile or the Harpoon Block II+ as the next-generation surface-to-surface combat missile for the fleet’s surface ships.

Sam LaGrone, for U.S. Naval Institute News, discusses the upcoming joint Russian and Chinese military exercises set be conducted near the South China Sea in September. Joint Sea 2016 follows last years joint exercise – Joint Sea 2015 II – held off of Russia’s Pacific coast in August, where over 20 ships from the two navies conducted joint training that included anti-submarine warfare, live fire drills, air defense training, and a 400 marine amphibious landing. He adds that in addition to last year’s Pacific drills, joint exercises were also conducted in the Mediterranean Sea, while cooperation in the Black Sea region was also apparent with two Chinese frigates visiting the Russian Novorossiysk naval base stationed near Crimea.

Harry Kazianis, at The National Interest, discusses China’s imminent response to the South China Sea arbitration ruling in relation to the upcoming G-20 Summit Beijing is set to host on September 4-5 in the city of Hangzhou. He suggests that leading up to the summit Beijing will limit contentious actions in the South China Sea as to not risk any drama at the gathering of world leaders or risk positioning themselves where losing face during the summit’s proceedings is a possibility. He adds that China may be timing their next major South China Sea move for the post-summit months when the soon-to-leave Obama administration will be uninterested in jumping into an Asia-Pacific crisis in addition to the U.S. public being preoccupied with developments in the American election cycle. He notes that if China were to declare a South China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or start reclamation work at Scarborough Shoal, the U.S. will be unlikely to have the political unity or willpower to respond effectively to Beijing’s actions.

Paul Pryce, for the NATO Association of Canada, provides an analysis on the three aircraft the Canadian government is considering for procurement as the country’s new Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft – the C295W from Airbus Defence, the C-27J Spartan from Alenia, and the KC-390 from Embraer. The search for a new SAR aircraft to replace the country’s aging CC-115 Buffalo fleet has been ongoing since a Request for Proposal (RFP) was released by Public Services and Procurement Canada in 2002. He explains that each of the aircraft being considered are similar enough in size and design to the CC-115 Buffalo that it would not be difficult for Royal Canadian aircrews to adapt to operating them and that each plane has significantly greater range and payload capacity than the Buffalos. He adds that these capability improvements will be especially beneficial for search-and-rescue operations in the remote northern regions of Canada.

Robert Farley, for The Diplomat, examines India’s pending decision of whether to accept or not to accept Russia’s offer to construct a multirole nuclear aircraft carrier for the country’s Navy. He explains that very few countries have the capacity to build a modern, nuclear aircraft carrier, and that there are few countries willing to export such technology. He also adds that Russia has played a major role in India’s naval aviation program having modernized the INS Vikramaditya, and having supplied the Indian Navy with carrier aircraft. Russian shipbuilders and military planners are likely familiar with Indian Navy carrier needs and specifications. From the opposite perspective, he argues that Russia’s lack of recent nuclear propelled surface vessel construction should deter India from awarding Russia the contract. He adds that if India were to rely on an export option for its next carrier (INS Vishal), it risks losing the shipbuilding expertise and capacity that it has begun to develop with the construction of the carrier INS Vikrant – a capacity that is critical for India’s long-term maritime interests.

Members at CIMSEC were active elsewhere during the second part of July:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies, international law and defense policy.

Featured Image: Chinese and Russian naval vessels participate in the Joint Sea-2014 naval drill outside Shanghai on the East China Sea, May 24, 2014 (Reuters / China Daily) 

The Canadian Armed Forces and the Arctic: Maintaining a Suitable and Sustainable Role

This piece was originally published by the Conference for Defense Associations Institute. It may be read in its original form here.

In this new CDA Institute Analysis, Adam MacDonald looks at the military requirements for Canada in the Arctic, concluding that the capabilities need to be suitable for the security environment and financially sustainable given other defence commitments. The following is an excerpt of the Analysis.

rsz macdonald analysis may 2016coverDue to its increasing accessibility resulting from climate change, the Arctic could become a contested and militarized arena in which states within the region and beyond attempt to secure and gain access to lucrative shipping routes and resources. Such an eventuality poses particular challenges to Canadian sovereignty and security. Stemming from such a characterization, the Harper government had long prioritized the Arctic as a defence issue, raising the spectre that Canadian sovereignty in the North could be irrevocably compromised – we either ‘use it or lose it.’

While silent on which potential adversaries were threatening to usurp Canadian ownership, the Harper government sought to restore a military presence in the Arctic by “placing more boots on the Arctic tundra, more ships in the icy water and a better eye-in-the-sky.” In his 2005 campaign, in particular, Harper promised a litany of Arctic-specific defence projects to rectify the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) dearth of presence and operational experience in the region. The promotion of the ‘sovereignty at risk’ narrative seemed to justify the construction of a robust and permanent military presence in the Arctic. In reality, however, Canada requires a different type of military presence and capability suite than commonly perceived (or advocated).

Canada’s security challenges in the North do not emanate from a military threat but are rather largely constabulary in nature. Defending sovereignty is the perennial duty of the military but in the Arctic there is no credible, state-based threat capable of challenging Canadian ownership of its waters and territories, with a few exceptions which are well managed. Despite its sometimes fiery rhetoric, the former Conservative government’s various Arctic policy documents reflected such an appreciation of the threat environment. With the near absence of state-based threats, military requirement in the Arctic need to be suitable for this particular security environment and sustainable given the operating challenges of the region, as well as other competing military priorities.

At present, the military is focusing their Arctic efforts on increasing domain awareness via surveillance and maintaining a light regional footprint to facilitate Northern operations and, when required, support the deployment of southern based-units which are increasingly training in the North, often in conjunction with other security agencies and regional partners. Deploying large contingents of combat capable forces is ill-advised given the nature of the threat, prohibitively expensive given the harsh operating environment (especially the High Arctic), and potentially compromising other missions and mandates by drawing resources away.

The Arctic Security Environment

With the end of the Cold War, the strategic importance of the Arctic diminished significantly allowing for the construction of regional forums dedicated towards common interests, specifically climate research. Rapidly changing environmental conditions, however, are transforming the Arctic landscape by increasing accessibility to human activity to an unprecedented level. Amongst this uncertainty, issues of ownership and access have fueled the development of a narrative of the Arctic as moving away from a politically stable region to one of high geopolitical importance characterized by growing complexity, competition, and perhaps even rivalry. In such a narrative, the current regional architecture is simply unable to adjust and accommodate the expected scramble for resources and political influence.

Not surprisingly, a popular theme has been the growing ‘militarization’ of the Arctic over the past decade. There is no denying that all Arctic states are augmenting their military capabilities in their northern territories, including the stationing of combat-capable units. As one commentator has remarked, “we may be entering the first stages of an Arctic arms race, in which competition and conflict may overwhelm our desires and rhetoric to have a cooperative régime for the developing circumpolar world.” The augmenting presence, capability development, and employment of military forces in the Arctic is an emerging reality, but their use is, by and large, within recognized national borders and waters.

Moreover, they are largely focused on exercising sovereign control to ensure compliance with state laws, border control, and search and rescue. Retaining combat forces to defend against state-based threats in the Arctic is a marginal requirement at this time. Arctic countries are more concerned about increasing their domain awareness in parts of their jurisdictions characterized by large geographic areas, small and sparse populations, and a lack of infrastructure, surveillance, and response capacities.

The flurry of recent Russian military projects in the Arctic, including icebreaker construction and the re-activation of air and army bases on their northern islands, are in part aimed at establishing unquestioned ownership of the Northern Sea Route, regardless of legal objections by the US that the waters constitute an international strait. This is not to suggest that developing a war-fighting capacity in the Arctic is not an objective of Moscow. However, domestic political calculations and constabulary requirements have heavily shaped the makeup and operational nature of military developments thus far in the region. Some military developments in the Arctic, furthermore, are based on larger, extra-regional factors. Modernization of the Russian Northern Fleet, for instance, is designed to upgrade their nuclear submarine deterrent and for global operations. Similarly, the US ground-based interceptors in Alaska are meant to counter a missile attack from a rogue state, specifically North Korea.

Most commentators are quick to assert that militarization is becoming a dominant force driving regional politics, but are at a loss in not only providing an operational definition (e.g., what does ‘militarization’ mean?) but also in explaining how this process will contribute to the destabilization of the region beyond simplistic narratives (Russia versus NATO; non-Arctic states versus Arctic states). There are no territorial disputes in the Arctic, with the exception of the relatively benign dispute over Hans Island between Canada and Denmark, and there is no evidence to suggest Russia or any other Arctic nation is moving to employ military forces over contested Extended Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) or to gain unobstructed access to polar shipping routes.

Click here to read the rest of the CDA Institute Analysis.

Adam P. MacDonald is an academic based in Halifax, Nova Scotia specializing in geopolitical developments in the Arctic and East Asia. He is a regular contributor to the Canadian Naval Review, East Asia Forum and Frontline Defence.

Featured Image: Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker. Photo: Lucie Lefrancois.