Thursday, August 07, 2008

Announcement: Helicopters and UAVs for Afstan

Here's the DND Backgrounder, with my comments (details on leased helicopters at Upperdate):

Strengthening the Canadian Forces and Canadian Sovereignty

BG – 08.016 - August 7, 2008

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the Canadian Forces (CF) have the people, equipment, and support they need to meet the nation’s long-term domestic and international security challenges.

The Government identified the need for additional helicopters and high performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Afghanistan. Coupled with the acquisition of C-17 strategic lift, Hercules tactical lift and Chinook F medium - to heavy - lift helicopters, the acquisition of Chinook D, commercial charter helicopters and UAVs ensures that the Canadian Forces have the air assets necessary to undertake any mission asked of them.

These capabilities will ensure that Canada is able to play a leadership role abroad and make a meaningful contribution to international security while also protecting Canada’s national sovereignty.

On August 7, 2008, the Government of Canada announced that it had put in place contracts to acquire this additional air capacity, thereby addressing the conditions in the March 13, 2008 parliamentary motion and the recommendation made by the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan led by the Honourable John Manley. Due diligence was exercised throughout the procurement process to ensure that the right equipment for the CF was secured at the right price for Canadians in a fair and transparent manner.

The Government has also begun a process to provide the CF with its own medium-to heavy-lift helicopters. The delivery of the Canadian Chinook F-models is expected in 2012 with initial operations commencing in 2013.

I. Securing Medium Helicopter Lift Capacity:

Additional medium lift helicopters are required to meet a number of Canada’s operational requirements, including conducting independent operations and providing airlift for troops. When this capacity is unavailable, troops are at greater risk of ambushes, land mines and improvised explosive devices. The existing NATO pool of resources has a shortfall in available airlift requirements and is unable to consistently meet Canadian needs.

Immediate Needs:
To address immediate needs, the Government is securing chartered commercial helicopters which will be available for use in theatre later this summer [emphasis added]. These helicopters will be used for resupply missions and potentially for specific troop transport.

The one-year contract for the chartered helicopters is valued at up to $36 million, depending on flight hours logged. Renewable one year options are available [must be a reason for that, eh?--if they're used almost exclusively by us it might be a good idea to keep them, since the Chinooks will be in an ISAF pool though with some priority for us].

[What actual type of helicopter is being chartered? How many? Who will get the contract? What risks will their civilian crew be expected to accept?]

By February 2009:
Canada has signed an agreement with the US Government to acquire six used Chinook D-model helicopters through a Foreign Military Sales Agreement. These military helicopters will be used to fly missions to higher threat environments where the chartered aircraft cannot. They will be available for operations by February 2009 [emphasis added].

The cost for the equipment acquisition, plus initial logistics support [by Boeing--and maybe US Army--in Afstan--see end at preceding link], training and project management costs will not exceed $292 million. [emphasis added]. These figures are currently being finalized by the two governments.

Beyond Afghanistan:
In March 2008, the Government announced that a Request for Proposal had been issued to Boeing Co. to acquire 16 medium-to-heavy lift Chinook F model helicopters. These will be used to meet the Canadian Forces’ longstanding medium-to-heavy lift requirements for the next twenty years. Delivery is expected in 2012. It is anticipated that the F-models will be operational in 2013 [emphasis added--will the contract still be awarded this fall?]

II. Securing high performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance

High performance UAVs provide an indispensable surveillance and intelligence gathering capability that can be used in a variety of operations. Since 2003, the CF have been using the Sperwer tactical UAV in Afghanistan. While this vehicle has served its purpose, the Forces will greatly benefit from new and more advanced UAVs with a greater range and more sophisticated functions.

Immediate Needs:
The Government has leased Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles -- the Scan Eagle -- from Boeing Co. to address immediate needs in Kandahar over the next nine months. The contract, which is valued at up to $14 million, is for the provision of turnkey service and training. This equipment has been in the field since June 2008 [emphasis added]. The contract was awarded to Boeing Co. on May 16, 2008 [so why are we only being told now?]. The company was the only supplier that could successfully meet DND’s aggressive timetable.

By February 2009:
The Government has secured the two year lease of a Heron UAV tactical system to be delivered in Afghanistan by early 2009 [emphasis added--so the news stories were right]. Under Project NOCTUA, the two-year $95 million contract was awarded to MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Vancouver, BC on August 1, 2008 ["Project Noctua will provide a leased, off-the-shelf UAV system that will be operated by CF personnel and maintained by contractors"; so civilian personnel for them will be in Kandahar--with Air Combat Systems Officers (formerly navigators) flying them from somewhere in the States?].

Beyond Afghanistan:
A long term UAV solution, in the form of the Joint UAV Surveillance Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) Program, is currently being developed that will include domestic and deployed operational UAV capabilities.

Support Personnel:
The additional helicopters and UAVs for Afghanistan will require up to 250 personnel to support and operate the equipment.

Babbler's Update: Hmm - Mark beat me to it. No point publishing two posts that cover much the same ground. So I'll just append my comments to Mark's post:

  • I like the fact that DND is laying out a progression of immediate to long-term plans for these capabilities. It not only makes it look less like they're simply reacting to events, it lays the groundwork for future acquisition announcements and prepares the average public and media mind for what's to come. Far less chance of blowback that way. Smart.

  • If we lease these Mi-8 Hips from the same place we lease our Antonovs for airlift, we could well be putting Russian helicopter pilots into the air over Afghanistan yet again. Not that that's a bad thing in this context, but it sure is a bizarre thought.

  • Noticeably absent from this press release is how we're planning to protect our leased and bought helicopter assets - who's going to be flying shotgun on these? Are we sending armed Griffons over to act as escorts? Are we going to try to beg more time from our allies' attack helos? I'm guessing someone other than me has thought about this, but it's not in the published info.

  • I've been told informally by quite a few people that the Sperwers we've been using in Afghanistan are as expensive to fly, on a total-cost-per-hour basis as a CF-18. Which boggles the mind, frankly. But if you tally up the flying and maintenance costs, and include the numerous crashes in the mix, apparently the numbers are jaw-dropping. Glad to hear we've moved past that stage in our aerial surveillance era.

  • Note the "By February 2009" heading in the timelines provided. This reinforces something I noticed in earlier conversations I've had with people at NDHQ - namely, that the government is tightly focused on meeting the Manley recommendations. More so than the Canadian population, or the CF for that matter, I'd wager. Interesting priorities.
Despite a few loose ends, all in all it's a good day for the CF. - Damian

Fed-up-British-date: The good folks at Defence of the Realm comment on UAV's and helicopters needed by British forces. This is not a problem isolated to Canada, in other words... - Damian

Mark's update: I should of course have thanked the government for acquiring these equipments so expeditiously. And thank you especially John Manley et al.

Upperdate: Details on the leased helicopters:
The leased Russian helicopters will come from Toronto-based Skylink Aviation Inc. [check this photo--and note the closest flag], will be upgraded to include a defensive system and will come with their own pilots [what nationalities?], Defence Department officials said.

The federal government has also stipulated the Mi-8s, a 1960s vintage design, be no more than five years old.

Skylink is the company that has been leasing us heavy-lift Antonov transports--good suspicion, Babbling.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone needs to ask why "Chinook F model helicopters"? The cost difference (between the E and F versions" and the delivery dates are miles apart. Sounds like the Air Force sacrified our troops'near term needs for the latest and greatest technology forecast for 2013... don't believe any PWGSC delivery forecast... MHP deliveries are two years late and counting!

11:06 p.m., August 07, 2008  

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