Air Force outlook

Transcript / Speech / March 22, 2012

A presentation to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries

March 20, 2012

Chers collègues, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to join you once again for the “Air Force Outlook” briefings.

Over the last couple of hours, you’ve heard from several staff members about our programs and projects.

This year, I’m in the cleanup batter’s position, rather being the starting batter – so my goal over the next few minutes is to sum up the Royal Canadian Air Force’s recent accomplishments, our acquisition programs, and some of the strategic factors that will influence Canadian airpower in the future.

I’ll then be pleased to take your questions about anything you’ve heard this morning.

First and foremost, delivering excellence in operations is my top priority.

Over the past 12 months or so, the Royal Canadian Air Force has been tested in its ability to fulfill that goal. I am pleased to report that the men and women of the RCAF passed the test with flying colours.

Operation Mobile tested our readiness and capabilities as never before.

As you know, fewer than 24 hours after the United Nations passed resolution 1973 regarding Libya, our CF-18s were enroute to Italy, and within a few days they were working side by side with our coalition partners.

Polaris air-to-air refuellers and Globemasters loaded with personnel and equipment followed immediately.

During the mission, we also employed Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, Hercules refuellers and transport aircraft – as well as a Sea King helicopter embarked with the Navy’s frigate in the Mediterranean.

Canadian personnel flew on NATO and U.S. AWACS aircraft, providing surveillance over Libya, and supporting command and control over forces deployed to the region.

Of note, our CF-18s used the new Joint Direct Attack Munitions system for the very first time in a combat role in a successful attack on a pro-Gadhafi ammunition storage facility. Until now, our CF-18s have been armed with laser-guided bombs.

Furthermore, our Auroras also achieved an operational “first”, carrying out ground surveillance as well as targeting support.

They provided critical information to coalition forces and clearly demonstrated the exceptional capabilities of the aircraft’s new Overland Equipment Mission Suite.

Overall, the airpower effect delivered by all our aircraft and personnel was simply outstanding.

Our operations in Libya also illustrated clearly that the requirement for precision in combat missions continues to grow. With the right weapons, intelligence and tactics we are seeking to carry out targeting with pinpoint accuracy, engaging threats while avoiding harming civilians or damaging important civilian infrastructure.

And before I leave the topic of Operation Mobile, I must once again applaud the tremendous leadership that Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard provided as commander of the entire NATO mission.

During this same period, our Air Wing in Afghanistan continued to be extremely active.

Our experiences will shape our future capabilities such as the Air Expeditionary Capability located in Bagotville, Quebec, as well as our training processes.

Also during this time we deployed CF-18s to Iceland for a NATO air policing mission and deployed Griffon helicopters and crews to Jamaica to conduct search and rescue training, and support the Jamaican Defence Force during hurricane season.

Closer to home, we responded to threats from Mother Nature. We evacuated residents of several northern communities in Ontario and Saskatchewan that were threatened by forest fires, and we also participated in participated in flood relief and evacuation efforts in the Richelieu Valley, Quebec, and in Manitoba.

At the same time, we continued to deliver on our domestic no-fail task of protecting Canadians from air threats through NORAD.

And we continued to meet our very demanding search and rescue mandate, by responding to maritime and aeronautical incidents throughout our vast nation.

As an agile airpower military institution, the RCAF is always looking to evolve and improve its capabilities based on the lessons we learn from operations.

These include both new lessons and older ones that have been relearned in a modern context. For example…

  • Decision superiority remains a fundamental requirement for successful operations. Being able to gain and maintain the operational initiative is key to achieving operational success.
  • The demand for rapid, intelligence-led data continues to grow. As a result, we will need to provide more ISR data and enhance our analysis capacity
  • The complexity of the modern battle space demands a common operating picture that is network-enabled and fuses intelligence to facilitate decision cycles.
  • This demands the right technology, with the necessary bandwidth access, and ongoing review of our personnel trade streams for contemporary relevance.
  • Clearly there are expanding roles for airpower professionals in the RCAF with skills such as knowledge management, dynamic analysis, network design, cyber defence and network operations planning.
  • We also need to expand the capabilities of our platforms to be multi-purpose, thereby ensuring flexible and agile delivery of airpower and enhancing our readiness capability.
  • Therefore, technologies with attributes such as: roll-on, strap-on and non-invasive will be very attractive to the RCAF.

These are the types of operational lessons that, along with the need to remain technologically competitive, underscore many of our recent airpower force development decisions.

We have always been able to adapt to new technologies, procedures and techniques, largely because of our professional, resilient, dedicated and extremely knowledgeable airmen and airwomen.

There is a tangible mood of excitement among our Air Force personnel as we continue to bring into operation modernized and brand-new fleets that will bring tremendous benefits to the Canadian Forces and to Canadians alike.

For the next few minutes, I’ll touch on the highlights of our current initiatives.

Our Aurora aircraft have proven themselves to be capable of carrying out far more than their original anti-submarine warfare role; they have, in fact, grown into one of our most flexible, multi-function platforms.

To ensure our Auroras continue to grow in their modern multi-mission function, they are undergoing major upgrades to their structure and to their mission computer systems that will increase the fleet’s operational availability into the 2020 timeframe.

We also continue to examine ISR capabilities represented by unmanned aerial vehicles.

We’re analyzing options for project JUSTAS – the Joint Unmanned Aircraft System Surveillance Target Acquisition System – to find a long-term UAS solution that will enhance our ISR capability in support of domestic and deployed operations.

I am hoping that we will obtain preliminary project approval in the near future. And once we obtain government approval, we will be able to develop specific project timelines and milestones – as well specific outcomes of the project such as possible selected platforms and infrastructure requirements.

And to ensure we do not lose the benefit of the significant operational experience we gained while employing the Heron UAV in a combat environment, we will be sending operators to Allied UAV units to maintain their skills and knowledge.

On the search and rescue front, we are continuing to move ahead with replacing our Buffalo aircraft and our legacy Hercules with a new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. I am confident we have worked through some process issues to make things right and to ensure Canadians get the right search and rescue assets for our nation’s needs.

We are looking forward to moving this project forward and we expect to hold another industry day soon to outline the way ahead for this vital procurement.

In the meantime, we are ensuring that fixed wing search and rescue service is maintained without interruption through continuing and intelligent investment in our Hercules and Buffalo fleets.

We have already seen the tactical and strategic advantage that our two newest aircraft – the J-model Hercules and the Globemasters – have brought us.

The Globemaster allows us to respond quickly and effectively to domestic or international crises using our own assets where in the past we had to be content with options based on our available tactical airlift, contracted airlift, or Allied airlift.

It has opened up new doors for us in being able to respond quickly and with operational agility to our security needs as demonstrated by our rapid provision of sustainment support to Operation Mobile.

Our new J-model Hercules is a completely modernized and significantly improved version of the Hercules aircraft. Its exceptional performance has been demonstrated in environments as diverse as Haiti, the High Arctic and Afghanistan.

I am looking forward to receiving the last four of our 17 J-model Hercules in a few months and putting the entire fleet to work.

We continue to work hard with our industry partners to begin the testing and operational evaluation of the Cyclone, a world-class maritime surveillance and control helicopter.

Our basic requirement for the Cyclone has not changed since we took an initial look at our Maritime Helicopter needs in the 1990s.

We need a robust platform that can fly off the back of our frigates and future surface combatants, go the right distance, stay airborne the needed time to do the job, and deal with the nasty weather conditions – and wide variety of operational challenges – that the Navy faces in international and domestic waters.

What has changed dramatically is the sensor technology that goes with these platforms – computing technology has evolved dramatically since the 1990s.

At this point, we have a platform that will have a world-leading degree of technology integration and it will allow us to do our job well for the next several decades.

But, implementation has been a challenge because of the degree of technology integration that needs to occur. We are trying to resolve this as quickly as we can so we can get an operational fleet as soon as possible.

Taking a look at another new rotary wing asset, our 15 new F-model Chinook medium- to heavy-lift helicopters are scheduled to begin arriving at their new home in Petawawa in 2013.

The Chinooks will enhance the level of support we provide to the Canadian Army and increase our capacity to respond to operational imperatives both at home and abroad.

The new aircraft have a full suite of leading edge avionics, sensors and self-defence equipment and will have more than twice the range of older Chinooks.

The Chinook’s domestic roles will include providing logistical or mobility support to the Canadian Forces, other Government departments, law enforcement agencies or other civil authorities.

It will also provide the capability to conduct secondary search and rescue activities, and to respond to humanitarian emergencies such as fires, floods and earthquakes.

Abroad, helicopter forces are vital to supporting military operations, including our support to ground forces that thereby reduces their reliance on roads.

They will be a tremendous asset that will enhance our tactical air mobility – a capability that was demonstrated tremendously with our D models in Afghanistan.

We are working actively to prepare the Royal Canadian Air Force to receive the F-35 Lightning II, which will introduce a new generation of fighters with the latest advances in the areas of sensors, data fusion, and crew survivability.

There are several concept demands, drawn from lessons learned, that underscore our ongoing commitment to the joint strike fighter program.

  • We need a fighter that is able to combine the reach and power to deliver kinetic and non-kinetic effects to the extremes of our sovereign responsibility.
  • It has to be stealthy to increase its chances of success in the ever-increasing threat environment in the air, sea or land environments.
  • It has to facilitate over-the-horizon engagement as threats have an ever-increasing range.
  • It must be a node on the networked system to take advantage of its multi-purpose surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and to facilitate optimized decision cycles.

The F-35 will establish and maintain the RCAF on the leading edge of many new technologies and capabilities and give us the flexibility to face the threats we know and – just as importantly – the threats that have yet to emerge.

As we look to the future, it is clear that Canada has defence challenges that are enduring, regardless of the geo-political environment.

As a result, certain key areas of responsibility will remain unchanged into the future.

  • We will continue to provide persistent air control of Canada’s airspace and approaches.
  • We will ensure our continuing mobility and our ability to independently respond rapidly to domestic and international events.
  • We will continue to be interoperable with our allies.
  • We will continue to be expeditionary at home and abroad.
  • And we will continue to provide one of the best search and rescue capabilities in the world.

Last but not least, a top priority for the RCAF in the post-Afghanistan environment is the Arctic, and I intend our operations there to increase.

In keeping with Government and Defence policy for the North, we will improve our capabilities to exercise sovereignty and ensure security in the North while improving our ability to respond to crises and assist other Government departments in fulfilling their Northern mandates.

These objectives are not new to the Air Force.

This enhanced emphasis simply means that our goal is to be capable of conducting missions in the Arctic that are similar to those we carry out in Canada’s more southerly regions – missions such as :

  • Sovereignty patrols.
  • Fisheries and pollution patrols.
  • Anti-smuggling.
  • Border security.
  • Search and rescue.
  • Pollution detection.
  • Humanitarian assistance, and much more.

Moreover, we intend to create an Air Force culture that routinely considers the impact of Arctic operations in daily and long-term planning activities.

In closing, the RCAF has proven its ability to deliver robust air power.

By embracing operational lessons learned – and through our ongoing modernization – I am confident that we will continue to provide the high degree of excellence that Canadians expect from us as the Royal Canadian Air Force has done for generations.


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