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CF-18 during Op <em>Podium</em>

DND photo (19 Wing Comox Imaging) CX2010-0074-07 by Sergeant Robert Bottrill

Into the 21st Century – An Overview of Canada’s Air Force in 2010

by André Deschamps

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Preparing an ‘Air Force overview’ is more complex now than it was several years ago. I’m happy about that, however, because it reflects the modernization, the recapitalization, and the many operational successes we have experienced in recent years.

The current and future state of the Air Force is based upon several assumptions: that DND’s priorities will remain the same; that regional instability will continue in many areas of the world, and that we will need to ensure our continued agility and interoperability.

To meet our defence priorities and to ensure our ongoing success across the spectrum of transformational developments, my planning priorities continue to focus upon three areas.


The first is success in operations, built upon the foundation of a strong readiness posture. That readiness was certainly put to the test in the first quarter of this year, one of the most operationally intense periods the Air Force has experienced in decades.

We knew activity levels would be high but manageable in early 2010. Then, on 12 January, our operational tempo took a sharp upswing with news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

By the time Operation Hestia – the Canadian Forces contribution to the whole-of-government effort in Haiti – concluded, the Air Force had airlifted nearly 5000 passengers – including repatriating Canadians from the stricken area – logged more than 840 flying hours, moved more than 124,000 kilograms of cargo by helicopter within Haiti, and delivered nearly 2.5 million kilograms of supplies from Canada to Haiti.

We ‘pulled out all the stops’ to upgrade the airfield in the city of Jacmel. We then established an air bridge that moved cargo via CC-177 Globemasters and chartered civilian aircraft from Canada to Kingston, Jamaica, where the loads were transferred to CC-130 Hercules airlifters and flown into Jacmel.  We also provided maritime helicopter support to HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan, search and rescue technicians, firefighters, air traffic controllers, mobile radar operators, and more.

At the same time, preparations for Operation Podium, the Canadian Forces’ support to the RCMP-led 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games’ Integrated Security Unit (ISU), were in their final countdown.

Nearly every wing in Canada contributed to the effort. Eight squadrons supported the Joint Task Force Games’ Air Component Commander, flying CH-146 Griffon, CH-124 Sea King, CP-140 Aurora and CC-138 Twin Otter aircraft in a highly complex airspace.

The operation marked our first deployment of a full and augmented mission support squadron, and the first employment within Canada of a joint, multinational, and interdepartmental air security operations coordination centre.

The Air Component airlifted Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), CF, and security personnel and equipment, provided medical evacuation for RCMP and CF members, and provided air support for RCMP patrols and area surveillance.

As well, Canadian NORAD Region (CANR) provided aerospace warning and control, employing CF-18 Hornets, CH-146 Griffons, CC-130 Hercules and CC-150 Polaris tankers, as well as deployable radar units.

Op <em>Podium</em>

DND photo ET2010-0015-82 by Master Corporal Chris Ward

Security details during Op Podium, Vancouver, 1 February 2010.

During this period, our contribution to the Afghanistan theatre of operations continued unabated. The Air Force continues to have a strong presence in southwest Asia, bringing tremendous benefit to Canadian troops, our allies, and Afghan society.

Our people serving in theatre have acquired a very sharp focus on high-intensity, multifleet operations – and this represents a tremendous benefit beyond our daily accomplishments. This work is challenging and dangerous; Air Force personnel and aircraft are operating in the most complex combat environment, harshest climate, and most unforgiving terrain in recent memory.

In this ‘operational Petri dish,’ the learning curve is tremendously steep, but our people have adapted wonderfully, often learning in days or even hours what might normally take months or years. Our ‘lessons learned’ from Afghanistan are being fed back to our leadership and will guide our doctrine and training for years to come.

At all times, we continue to support other missions and operations at home and abroad: sending Sea King helicopter detachments to help protect shipping from pirates off the coast of Africa, protecting Canadians against the threat of terrorist attack, rescuing Canadians in danger on land and at sea, assisting in drug interdiction, exercising Canadian sovereignty in the North, guarding our airspace, thrilling Canadians with our air demonstration teams, and much, much more.

As I write these words, I am also confident that we are well-prepared to support the G8 and G20 summits taking place in June.

CC-177 <em>Globemaster III</em>

DND photo IS2010-3008-1 by Corporal Shilo Adamson

A Canadian Forces CC-177 Globemaster III rests on the frozen tarmac at Canadian Forces Station Alert during Operation Nunalivut 10.

New Aircraft

My second priority is integration of new fleets.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented reinvestment in and modernization of our aircraft fleets.

Our CC-177 Globemaster III strategic airlifters have been a huge force multiplier since their arrival in 2007-2008. Earlier this year, a Canadian Air Force Globemaster landed at Canadian Forces Station Alert, the most northerly, permanently inhabited location in the world. It was the first time an aircraft of this size had ever landed so far north. Whether transporting troops, equipment, civilians in need, or even other aircraft, the Globemaster has given us unprecedented strategic reach and agility.

Renewing the tactical airlift fleet is a priority of the Government of Canada, as reiterated in the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS). On 4 June, we took delivery of the first of 17 CC-130J Hercules tactical airlifters from Lockheed Martin Corporation – six months ahead of the original schedule. Delivery will be completed in 2012. The new ‘Hercs’ fly faster, higher and farther, and they carry heavier loads while burning less fuel. They can use shorter landing and take-off fields, and their climb time is reduced by up to 50 percent compared to the older models. Not only is the new Hercules a more capable aircraft, it also requires fewer crew members– two pilots and a loadmaster – compared to five crew members on the older models.

Canadian Forces <em>Chinook</em> helicopters

DND photo ISX2010-0022 by Master Corporal Craig Wiggins

Canadian Forces Chinook helicopters fly in formation during Op Moshtarak, 9 February 2010.

In response to the Manley Report, we acquired six CH-147D Chinook medium-to heavy-lift helicopters in 2008 from the United States Army under a foreign military sales agreement with the U.S. government. These aircraft, which are integrated with the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing and supported and protected by CH-146 Griffon tactical helicopters, have shown clear value since their acquisition, transporting Canadian and allied troops (about 2000 per month), and helping protect them from the dangers of ground attack and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). To enhance their protection capabilities, the Griffons were equipped with a new sensor system and a second weapon system – the M134 Gatling gun.

Last August, the government entered into a contract with Boeing Aerospace to acquire 15 CH-147F Chinook helicopters, with the first aircraft scheduled to arrive by 2013. They will be based at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario. The ‘F model’ will support land forces, other government departments, and secondary search and rescue missions, as well as respond to humanitarian crises. I anticipate we will use this new capability on future deployed missions, while domestically, its robust performance and long range make it an ideal aircraft for operations in our nation’s vast and often harsh environment, particularly in the North.

I have made recommendations to the government regarding the ‘D-model’ Chinooks and their future post-Afghanistan, and we are awaiting a decision on this issue.

Although the acquisition project has faced a few challenges, we are looking forward to receiving 28 CH-148 Cyclone ship-borne helicopters from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to replace the venerable CH-124 Sea King. A test version of the helicopter, owned by Sikorsky, began ship helicopter operational limitations (SHOL) trials with HMCS Montreal in February. With its greater offensive reach, enhanced surveillance and detection capabilities, and ability to transport a broad range of cargo quickly and safely, I am confident this acquisition will provide us with an unrivaled helicopter at the forefront of modern technology. We expect the first of these interim new helicopters to begin arriving in late 2010.

I anticipate that by 2013, the Air Force will be in the midst of transitioning to three major new fleets: Chinooks, J-model Hercules, and Cyclones. Each new airframe will represent a fair amount of effort by the personnel who will ensure those transitions are successful, while maintaining our strong focus on other priorities.

Also in response to the Manley Report, we leased the CU-170 Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Vancouver, British Columbia, to replace the CU-161 Sperwer UAV. The Canadian Heron UAV detachment (Task Force Erebus) has done stellar work in Afghanistan, carrying out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. In May, the detachment marked 7000 hours of flight and 515 missions for the commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan and for our Allies.

However, the CU-170 Heron is an interim solution to Canada’s requirements. The Air Force is identifying requirements for a broader and longer-term UAV solution under the Joint UAV Surveillance Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) initiative. JUSTAS will be part of our overall ISR capability, able to operate in various theatres, both domestic and expeditionary. We expect to advance the program to the Government for consideration and preliminary project approval this year.

We are also deeply into planning and preparing for future capabilities announced in the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS).

F-35 <em>Lightning IIs</em>

Lockheed Martin photo courtesy of DND

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs.

On July 16, the Government announced it is acquiring 65 F-35 Lightning II aircraft from Lockheed Martin under the Joint Strike Fighter memorandum of understanding as Canada’s next generation fighter. Analysis of our mandatory requirements made it clear that we needed a 5th generation fighter; the F-35 Lightning II is the only 5th generation fighter available to us that meets all those requirements and represents the best value for Canada. The Joint Strike Fighter program will provide an exceptional capability that will keep Canada at the forefront of fighter operations until 2050 and beyond.

As the battle space of the 21st Century grows in complexity, our fighter pilots need to process ever increasing amounts of information. The sensor and data fusion technology in the F-35 is designed to gather, synthesize and display this information to help pilots understand the tactical situation at a glance, make rapid, complex, tactical decisions, and take decisive action. It is also equipped with stealth technology – which makes it almost invisible to radar, and enhances its survivability.

The F-35 Lightning II will provide us with the greatest probability of mission success and the igreatest probability that our men and women will return safely from their missions. The F-35 wll improve our operability – ensuring we can operate safely and effectively with our allies, through NORAD, NATO, and coalition operations, sharing data in a secure environment.

We expect delivery to begin in 2016; the CF-18 Hornet will remain our front line tactical fighter aircraft until the 2020 time frame. To ensure their continued effectiveness and interoperability with our allies, our 78 CF-18s recently completed the final phase of a major modernization.

Procuring new fixed wing search and rescue (FWSAR) aircraft continues to be a high priority, confirming Canada’s long-standing commitment to search and rescue (SAR). Starting in 2015, up to 17 FWSAR aircraft are slated to be delivered to replace the six CC-115 Buffaloand the 13 Hercules aircraft that are used for SAR. We consulted with industry and the Canadian Research Council on FWSAR aircraft, and DND, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), and Industry Canada have completed their review. These inputs and a final Statement of Requirements is being prepared for government consideration.

In the meantime, we are taking steps to ensure that FWSAR service is maintained without interruption.

And last, but far from least, the CFDS announced the acquisition of 10 to 12 Canadian Multi-mission Aircraft (CMA) to replace the CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, starting about 2020. The new aircraft will become part of an ISR “system of systems” that will also comprise sensors, UAVs, and satellites to keep Canada’s maritime approaches secure.

CP-140 <em>Aurora</em>

DND GD2007-0144-002

CP-140 Aurora. While many will receive extensive updates and structural bolstering, they will be due for wholesale replacement relatively soon.

As we plan for the new aircraft, 10 of our 17 CP-140 Auroraaircraft are undergoing extensive modernization to ensure they continue to be effective. Capability enhancements include new radar, a new electronic warfare system, a new acoustics system and an updated magnetic anomaly detection system – all integrated into a new data management system.

Our People

This unprecedented level of recapitalization is not without difficulties. We are faced with the challenges of continuing to maintain and fly our legacy fleets while preparing for and transitioning to our new fleets. This brings me to my third priority, which is the lynchpin of everything we do – our people.

The Air Force has an establishment of about 12,800 Regular Force and about 3300 Reserve Force positions to meet our defence obligations. About 11,700 Regular Force personnel and 2300 reservists are trained and effectively employed in these positions. Furthermore, these numbers do not include those who wear “Air Force blue” but are employed outside Air Command.

Closing the gap between our establishment and trained effective strength is challenged by two key factors: delays in our training system and retention of our current expertise.

We are finding ways to train recruits more quickly without sacrificing the calibre and effectiveness of their training. For example, we have invested in training technologies and simulation techniques for aircraft technicians, thus shortening the length of time it takes to reach journeyman status while improving training quality.

We are increasing the number of pilot graduates by improving the efficiency of our pilot training schools, tailoring instruction to operational needs, and increasing simulation use. We are also expanding the capacity of several operational training units to develop more trainees.

Clearly, traditional instructional methods alone cannot meet the training need. State-of-the-art tools like the Air Force Integrated Information and Learning Environment (AFIILE), a new web-based initiative that combines traditional instruction with e-learning and virtual environments, are helping.

Cockpit of a CH-147 <em>Chinook</em>

DND photo IS2009-3080-03 by Master Corporal Angela Abbey

Improved training is only part of the solution. Air Force occupations generally call for a high level of technical skill and knowledge, lengthy training periods, and regular practice. Our serving members are highly skilled personnel who embody years of training and experience; they are not easily replaced.

We are therefore looking at ways to reduce the loss of experience as the ‘baby boomers’ retire. Like the rest of the Canadian Forces, we have an uneven bell curve in terms of experience within the Air Force, caused by the force reductions of the early 1990s. In other words, we have a substantial number of personnel with more than 20 years of service on one side, and a significant number of newer personnel on the other – but in between these extremes, we see a large deficit in personnel with a mid-range of time in service. We are seeking ways to encourage experienced members to remain in the Forces and thus mitigate that ‘gap’ and give our younger personnel time to grow in knowledge and experience.

In concert with Chief Military Personnel and other DND organizations, we are identifying and addressing factors that will enhance retention – including better family services (such as access to childcare, healthcare and affordable housing), improved career opportunities, and options for greater flexibility to retain some personnel with medical limitations on their employment.

As well, we are improving our selection processes so we do not lose as many people early in their training, while simultaneously actively working to attract former service members and help with their re-enrolment.

Despite their high priority, the full impact of these measures will not be seen for months or even years. In the meantime, we must make the best use of our personnel by carefully prioritizing their overall workload, ensuring that work focuses upon key areas, and ensuring our occupations meet the needs of the future.

Based upon current trends, I expect that we will close the gap in our manning in most occupations by 2013-2014, and I expect that we will be able to declare all our occupations “green” – that is, within five per cent of our establishment – by 2015.

Op <em>Hestia</em>

DND photo (CFJIC) DA2010-0012-11 by Master Corporal David Hardwick

Op Hestia, Port-au-Prince Airport, Haiti, 29 January 2010.

Economic Realities

At this time, DND is undertaking a Strategic Review. This process is mandated by the government and helps ensure federal programs are efficient, effective, and achieving the results Canadians expect. We are one of 13 federal organizations that will complete a strategic review in this fiscal year to ensure that our highest priorities are being met. However, we are not yet privy to the outcome of this review.

As announced in Budget 2010, the government “…remains committed to continuing to build the Canadian Forces into a first-class, modern military. However, as part of measures to restrain the growth in overall government spending and return to budget balance in the medium term, the government will slow the rate of previously planned growth in the National Defence budget.”

The Air Force, like the rest of National Defence, is doing its part to address these fiscal realities, and ensure we are directing our investments to the highest priorities. We are living within our means, and adopting mitigation strategies to adjust to this more financially constrained environment.

To live within our fiscally rebalanced operating budget, we have reduced or deferred some activities that will not affect current operations.

Part of our mitigation strategy is based upon conservative estimates for operationally driven requirements, such as aviation fuel and other key expenses in our budget.  Therefore, significant cost increases or additional requirements could directly affect operations, as there is little in-year flexibility to address new pressures.

If required, we may reduce lower priority missions, or support them only if resources allow. There is no doubt, however, that we will continue to support priority missions, including those associated with international commitments to NORAD, NATO, and Afghanistan, and the vital domestic role of search and rescue.

Ad Astra and into the Future

The events of the 21st Century’s first decade have reaffirmed that the future is highly unpredictable. While planning and training for conflicts and humanitarian activities, we must remain agile and forward-thinking to take on whatever the world sends our way – be it terrorist activities, regional conflicts, growing space activities, devastating natural catastrophes, or global economic meltdowns.

We will soon release the second edition of our aerospace doctrine. Our doctrine is the foundation upon which all our activities are based, and by adhering to its principles, we will continue to build upon our considerable successes and on our tradition of excellence in service to Canada.

Planning for the end of our mission in Afghanistan is also well underway and I have no doubt that our Globemaster, Hercules,and Polaris aircraft will be a pivotal part of this effort.

Additionally, we are looking at our future roles in the Arctic, which is a key government and Defence priority. We have been present in the Arctic since the 1920s, and we operate there on a regular basis, carrying out aerial sovereignty, reconnaissance, and surveillance patrols; conducting search and rescue operations; defending the airspace of Canada and the United States through our commitments to NORAD; and supporting northern operations and exercises.

We have a considerable and permanent presence in the North: CFS Alert – which became an Air Force establishment and responsibility in 2009 – maintains signals intelligence facilities to support CF operations, and supports research through Environment Canada; 440 Transport Squadron in Yellowknife, N.W.T. provides airlift and transport for Joint Task Force North, the Canadian Rangers and other CF entities; NORAD Forward Operating Locations in Inuvik, N.W.T., Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, and Iqaluit, Nunavut, are airfields from which NORAD can deploy fighter jets to defend North America against aerospace threats; and NORAD’s North Warning System, a chain of long and short-range radars along the Arctic Coast, monitors the northern continental airspace.

We will improve current capabilities to ensure we continue to provide relevant and effective responses to real and potential challenges in the North. To guide this process, we are preparing an Air Force Arctic action plan that will progressively improve our capability to project presence and deliver a wide range of effects in the Arctic in support of government and Defence strategic objectives.

CC-130J <em>Hercules</em>

DND photo IS2010-7286 by Warrant Officer Carole Morissette

The first CC-130J Hercules is welcomed to Canada, CFB Trenton, 4 June 2010.


It is clear that the Air Force is, indeed, living in “interesting times.” I am intensely proud of the professionalism and dedication that our airmen and airwomen display every day in ensuring we meet our commitments and are ready for the challenges of the future. At no time in our recent history has our Air Force motto rung so true: Sic Itur Ad Astra – “Such is the pathway to the stars.”

Lieutenant-General André Deschamps

DND photo

Lieutenant-General André Deschamps.

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Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, CMM, CD, a highly experienced pilot and senior staff officer, is the current Chief of the Air Staff and Commander of Air Command.

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