Friday, December 21, 2007

Chief of the Air Staff on Auroras

I wonder what the two "candidates" (final paragraph) were:
The general in charge of Canada’s air force says there will be just as much surveillance of the country’s coast lines, even with fewer Aurora patrol planes on the tarmac in the coming years.

The comment from Lt.-Gen. Angus Watt follows criticism of the decision this week to proceed with upgrades on only 10 of the country’s 18 Auroras, also known as CP-140s.

He called the notion that fewer aircraft will mean less surveillance "a myth."

In the short-term, by juggling flying schedules between upgraded and soon-to-be-retired planes, the air force will be able to increase patrol time, he said.

The nearly 30-year-old Auroras, based in Greenwood and Comox, B.C., fly a total average of 6,500 hours a year.

"We are not going to go below that," Watt insisted in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Watt, who took over the air force’s top job last summer, also took issue with reports that Arctic overflights have been discontinued because of budget restraint.

He said Aurora flights to the Arctic, which rely partly on line-of-sight observation, are routinely scaled back in the winter because it is dark most of the day and there is little activity to begin with.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre both slammed the decision not to upgrade all 18 planes, as had originally been planned by the Chretien government in the late 1990s. Defence Minister Peter MacKay made the choice after weighing whether it was worth proceeding with the refurbishment or buying a new aircraft.

May said she wonders whether cutting the upgrade nearly in half would mean a "50 per cent reduction in the (Aurora’s) capacity" to patrol the coastlines.

The air force has a variety of new fixed-wing planes and helicopters on order — or about to arrive — and has been painted as eagerly searching aircraft catalogues, looking to dump the Aurora.

Nothing could be further from the truth, said Watt, who has kept a low-profile throughout the controversy.

"We don’t thumb through catalogues," he said. "That trivializes a very important matter." [emphasis added--meanwhile some of us do our own dreaming, with Google rather than thumb]..

When it became clear the airframe would need millions of dollars worth of repairs and reinforcements beyond the existing upgrades, staff began tossing around the idea of buying a replacement aircraft.

Two possible candidates were examined [emphasis added] and Watt said aircraft were available but they did not have all of the required electronic features needed, particularly for maritime surveillance.


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