Monday, May 12, 2008
It isn't often we observe politicians use the word strategy correctly and in accurate context, but we admit to being impressed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper today. The Tory's won the election with promises of improving the condition of the military, and it is going to take someone a lot of work (and probably a healthy dose of political bias) to criticize what was outlined today in what is being called the Canada First Defense Strategy. We observe the strategy as described as having a rare combination of relevance to our time and well balanced risk assessment. Most importantly, Canada starts with its most important strength, its people.
The strategy will expand the Forces to 100,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and replace aging equipment with a fleet of new warships, aircraft and armoured vehicles. Troop strength will include 70,000 regular forces, up from 65,000, and reserve numbers of 30,000, up from 24,000...By establishing a predictable funding model for long term investment, the Canadians appear to be aiming straight, rather than high or low, regarding expectations for the force. The priorities as laid out include a focus on the northern border, increasing readiness, and improving the quality of bases.
With the military facing the same problems as some large civilian employers, namely an aging workforce, Harper said the top priority will be to attract new people to the Canadian Forces.
The net effect raises the amount of spending for Canada's defense to 2% of the GDP, a raise of .5%. We observe the adjustments to the force structure appear to be driven by an interesting balance. There is little question the bulk of the strategic defense decisions made are driven from operations in Afghanistan, however we also note that Canada will buy the Joint Strike Fighter, although the quantity has been reduced from 80 to 65.
The lesson from Afghanistan appears to be applied with Canada buying 4 C-17s and 17 C-130Js to enable the strategic airlift forces. Also in the plan is to purchase 16 CH-47 Chinooks, including 6 immediately for operations in Afghanistan. For land forces, rather than buying the Stryker or one of the other new wheeled vehicles, Canada has opted to purchase 100 new Leopard Tanks, which is easily explained due to their successful use in Afghanistan.
For Naval forces we are observing a series of strategic decisions that strike to the balance of requirements from the Northern sea territories to power projection forces. It was announced in April Canada will modernize all 12 Halifax class frigates. We also expect to see contracts soon for maintenance and modernization for the Upholder/Victoria-class submarines, most likely a plan for long term sustainment of those submarines as a north sea defense strategy.
However, Canada faces a clear strategic choice for its naval fleet constitution. Canada has three Iroquois class destroyers in service, all three of which are currently 34 years old. While they have been extensively modernized, and are still in capable condition, they are due for retirement soon. Canada faces a choice, either replace the Iroquois class destroyers with a new air defense destroyer, or build an expeditionary force. Recognizing we have entered an expeditionary maritime era, Canada has wisely chosen to build a new expeditionary force.
There are two aspects to the expeditionary force in Canada's long term plans, the Joint Support Ship (JSS) and an amphibious assault ship. We absolutely love the Joint Support Ship concept, clearly a strategic sea basing ship of which no design exists today. We list the official capabilities required.
Underway Support to Naval Task Groups – Underway support is the term used to describe the transfer of liquids and solids between ships at sea. This underway support also includes the operation of helicopters and a second line maintenance capability for helicopters, as well as a task group medical and dental facility;While the JSS is intended to replace the Protecteur class replenishment ships, it is clearly being designed with more capabilities in mind, reminding us of the capabilities found in other replenishment ships like the Berlin class. Capable of performing the functions of an oil and replenishment ship for naval forces, capable of carrying equipment for a full Army battle group, and capable of supporting a full HQ for ground forces projected ashore, the JSS is intended to be a strategic bridge for supporting command operations for all military services while keeping the footprint at sea.
Sealift – To meet a range of possibilities in an uncertain future security environment, three Joint Support Ships together will be capable of transporting 7,500 lane metres of vehicles and stores. This will provide for the transport of an army battle group. The capability will also include a flexible self load and unload function; and
Afloat Support to Forces Deployed Ashore – This capability will provide a limited joint force headquarters at sea for command and control of forces deployed ashore.
This is a strategic sea basing ship concept. This is an excellent operational requirement worksheet for the JSS (PDF) from last year. The expeditionary vision also includes one amphibious assault ship, with specific design requirements including 777 officers and other ranks, 28,353 square feet vehicle square, 59, 911.48 cubic feet of cargo cube, 4 CH-47 deck landing spots, and 6 LCM 8s as ship to shore connectors. Colonel Gary Harold Rice produced an interesting analysis of the amphibious ship requirements (PDF) for Canada in 2006.
While the Joint Support Ship is limited in its forcible entry options, a design that builds forward deployment of ground forces into the logistics platforms is one we find very interesting. Consider that Canada is currently forward deploying three ships to assume command of TF150 off the Horn of Africa in June. The 3 ship task group, consisting of HMCS Iroquois (DDH 280), HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), and HMCS Protecteur (AOR 509) in the future will obviously look different. If we assume the future force would be two Halifax class frigates and a JSS, the three ship force becomes a 5 helicopter force capable of a number of mission profiles projecting power not only at sea, but with potential for projecting forces to land.
With the equipment of an Army BG onboard a standard 3 ship naval task force, contingency operations for Canada becomes a built in aspect of naval forces deployments in peacetime, and gives Canada a forward deployed, sustained model for Strategic Sea Basing that we believe will be very useful in the expeditionary era of maritime forces.