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OGGO Government Operations and Estimates - Tuesday, April 5, 2022 - Air Defence Procurement Projects


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On April 5th, 2022 the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates invited​

Rob Huebert, Kim Nossal and Richard Shimooka to testify on Defence Procurement broadly, and narrowly Air Defence.

It is a long read.

OGGO Government Operations and Estimates - Tuesday, April 5, 2022 - Air Defence Procurement Projects​

Mrs. Julie Vignola:
Thank you very much.
Mr. Huebert, I will address you.
For several weeks, we have been hearing about how obsolete radars are and how we lack a ground-based air defence system.
I feel—and this is very personal—that those factors are especially important for protecting Canada's huge Arctic northern territory.
We cannot change the past. However, I would like to hear you comment on what technologies would be more effective for protecting Canada's north.
What would those technologies be and how many devices should we purchase?
You can also add any other comments you feel would be relevant.
Thank you.

Dr. Robert Huebert:
Well, we can say immediately, of course, that we do have to update the existing architecture of the north warning system. In other words, the Russians are in the process of modernizing not only their nuclear war-fighting tactical capabilities that we see with the Gazelle missiles and other types; they're also modernizing their ICBMs. We have to continue to have that capability to monitor that threat. That means that the RADARSAT systems have to be updated.
We also need to have the ability, however, to be able to detect the Gazelles, the hypersonics. That requires, of course, a system such as the over-the-horizon radar, but it also requires a mobility. In other words, the Arctic is so large that you are not going to be able to have the old-fashioned DEW line system where you can string a set of radar sites across and have a high degree of confidence that you're going to catch everything. You've got to be able to have an anticipation. That then means that you also have to be developing new space-based systems.
The only way we're going to have a proper surveillance capability of being able to anticipate what the Russians are doing in terms of aerospace—I would add the Chinese as well, going to into a little bit longer future—is to have radar sensors. Now, that means, obviously, that we have to tie ourselves much closer with the American space weapons systems, which will be problematic for some people on a political basis.
There's another part, though. You also need to have the ability to respond. It's not just simply having these three-layered sensor systems. We also have to be talking about what it means in terms of ABM capabilities and what it means in terms of being able to take out these hypersonics. That's another layer of anti-ballistic missile. We're also going to have to do anti-missile systems unless we're willing to have the Americans simply bring us around and do it entirely for us.

The Chair:
Thank you, Mr. Huebert.
We'll now go to Mr. Johns for two minutes.

Mr. Gord Johns:
I'm going to expand on that. We know that the F-35 has an operational range of about 1,100 kilometres, which suggests the need for refuelling capabilities. You just talked about some of the infrastructure we might need.
What other additional infrastructure do you think is required to support fighter jets in the far north year round? Should Canada be making these investments now, given that we're heading into this? Also, do you think we should be purchasing specialized refuelling planes?
I'll go back to you, Mr. Huebert.

Dr. Robert Huebert:
Absolutely. I mean, once again, because of the difficulty of getting information, there are suggestions that have appeared in some media reports that in fact our ability, a spur-of-the-moment capability, to actually deploy our aircraft into the hangars, particularly in the middle of winter, is problematic. There are issues associated with sort of bread-and-butter issues. We have issues on whether or not the runways of our four forward operating bases can actually provide the ability for all aircraft...including the Americans'. Of course, we have that shared aerospace under NORAD. If the Americans are sending in their very largest refuellers, can they in fact operate out of the forward operating bases? I don't have the answer for that.
We need to have the four forward operating bases, but if we actually start putting in the over-the-horizon radar, that means going to the northern tips of our Arctic archipelago, which means having some facility beyond Resolute and Eureka to be able to resupply, particularly on the western part of the Arctic.
All of that infrastructure has to be worked out and brought forward.

Mr. Gord Johns:

In terms of the critical path to getting there and ensuring that these aircraft have the equipment, pilots and maintenance, how are we doing on that front, on the human resource side? Do you see us having challenges there?

Dr. Robert Huebert:

We are getting media reports that we are losing pilots and that we are not able to sustain. It goes back to a point that I was raising earlier. Not only do we need to have pilots who can fly the existing fleets; we need to have a surplus.
We have to assume, going into the future, that if we move from this environment that was relatively low-conflict and definitely low-tech in terms of any capability, then we will also need, and this is part of the procurement issue that we have not dealt with at all, to replace pilots who are lost in combat or wounded in combat. At this point in time, I don't think we have any flexibility in that.
The secrecy is very frustrating. When different civil servants come here—I'm sure they're all great people—you get no answers on anything. There's no transparency. You have decisions costing billions of dollars, and maybe one or two cabinet ministers know exactly what's going on. It's maybe one or maybe two.
In the public service, how many know exactly? It's way too much power and way too much secrecy for that kind of money getting spent.
Are there any thoughts on that? Anybody can answer that one.

Mr. Richard Shimooka:
I'll take a quick stab at it.
I wouldn't mind if I could respond later to Mr. McCauley's question directly.
This is a challenge. Part of the problem is that each department that is involved within the procurement process has its own perspectives and objectives. It is not purely the delivery of a capability alone. It is getting costs.... The process is a major focus of PSPC.... There are the industrial benefits.
When you get into the defence procurement process with all of these groups together, that's when you start getting this issue of a lack of transparency. None of the individuals in that process are willing to stand up and say in testimony, “What's the issue?” or “Where is the problem with the process?”. They have to operate within the collegial format.
That is a major issue that you're seeing in your discussions.
Mr. Richard Shimooka (Senior Fellow, MacDonald-Laurier Institute, As an Individual):
This past decade has underlined the importance of air power and modern warfare, including in the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine. They underline the need for the air force's likely acquisition of the F-35 and the army's ground-based air defence program, or GBAD.

The latter is essential to protect our soldiers from air threats on the battlefield, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, which have proven so deadly in modern conflicts such as the one in Ukraine. However, it will likely take eight years or more for Canada to field a response. By comparison, the United States developed and fielded several systems to address this threat, including one in under three years' time.

GBAD is part of our country's underwhelming track record for responding to major threats in a timely manner

Canada's approach to defence procurement has tended to be very platform-centric, which seems to supersede other considerations, including changes to the strategic or technological environment. This is particularly problematic, given the challenges facing program delivery. This means that Canada will often prepare systems that will have limited utility for newer challenges that may emerge.

In addition, many of the public debates around defence do not correspond to a military reality. Much of the public and political discourse over the CF-18 replacement revolved around issues that are more than decades old. Most modern western militaries have long since settled such debates and are addressing much more relevant and current challenges.

The platform-centric approach also means that Canada is highly focused on single capabilities to deal with multi-faceted challenges. That approach may have worked in the past, but is less effective in the new technological and threat environment that emphasizes multiple systems operating synergistically.

Defining features of military platforms today are their sensors, data processing and connectivity, which reflect the changes to how our society now organizes itself.

Our military procurement approaches need to better address this reality. For something like the army's GBAD program, how we address the air threat should start to focus on foundational enablers, such as networking and data links, before addressing sensors and missiles.

Lots more at the link...
One might almost think they were talking about systems of systems.
My guess is ITAR requirement are running counter to many TB requirements?
ITAR, IP, Tooling, Supply lines, materials... the list goes on.

Unless we are willing to expend trillions of dollars and waiting 40 years to establish the industry here in Canada, using Defence Procurment as a stimulus package will and always has created a dangerous impact on our operational ability.
ITAR, IP, Tooling, Supply lines, materials... the list goes on.

Unless we are willing to expend trillions of dollars and waiting 40 years to establish the industry here in Canada, using Defence Procurment as a stimulus package will and always has created a dangerous impact on our operational ability.

Which takes longer? To build a cart or to breed a horse to pull it? Right now we have neither horse nor cart. We need to buy both. We can likely learn how to build a cart before we figure out how to breed a horse and then breed a better one.

Let the Minister of National Defence buy acquire (leasing should be an option) what is needed to meet the immediate needs and let Canadian industry study what is being used, how it is being used and what it is being used for. Then industry, with a better understanding of needs will be better placed to offer better carts and better horses. Or better yet, hovering sharks with lasers to replace them.
I'm going to tuck this in here because the defence we need is based on the threat we face.

Our situation is based on there only being a handful of countries that can threaten us and one of them lives right next door - and wouldn't take kindly to someone messing up the neighbourhood.

But what if everybody and his brother becomes a threat?