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A numbers game

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale used his recent budget speech to acknowledge Canada’s history of responding to international need, and for the government to make certain that capabilities matched demand.


July 11, 2007
By Ken Pole

Topics

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale used his recent budget speech to
acknowledge Canada’s history of responding to international need, and
for the government to make certain that capabilities matched demand.

It
would have been interesting to hear from Canadian soldiers who
regularly depend on our allies’ helicopters to get them to their
forward operating positions. Fearing department backlash, publicly they
would undoubtedly opt of the politically correct assessment. Privately,
they would likely have something different to say.

It seems,
though, that the federal government wants to relegate that often
embarrassing scenario to the dustbins of history. Goodale’s February 23
speech confirmed funding to increase the Canadian Forces’ regular and
reserve complements by 5,000 and 3,000 respectively. That is coming
under an umbrella of $12.83 billion in new defence funding – the
largest increase in two decades.

However, the devil, as they
say, is in the details, and you have to dig through the 415- page
Budget Plan for those. On page 222, you will find that $12.83 billion
but, as the document explains, “the timing and size of DND’s cash
requirement will depend on how the military allocates its new funding
to its various needs.” The scenario set out on that page has only $500
million budgeted for the 2005-06 fiscal year, which began April 1,
followed by $600 million in 2006-07. The really serious money probably
won’t start flowing until 2007-08, when DND would get nearly $1.59
billion. That would be followed by $4.47 billion in 2008-09 and $5.7
billion in 2009-10.

Of the five-year total, $3.06 billion would
be for the additional personnel, $3.22 billion for “operational
sustainability,” $2.76 billion for several equipment acquisitions, and
$3.79 billion for other “investments” after the defence policy review
is done.

Beyond that, it’s impossible to figure out how much
money will be available for the new helicopters because the
aforementioned $2.76 billion and probably some of that $3.79 billion in
follow-on funding includes not only the helicopters but also trucks,
utility fixed-wing aircraft and a new “facility” for Joint Task Force
2, the elite counterterrorism unit. And again, most of money likely
will flow in the last three years of the budget program.

Given
recent history, the Canadian Forces are going to be increasingly busy
at home and abroad. Our troops have been tasked with an exhausting
array of missions, humanitarian as well as military, and the government
is under tremendous pressure from its allies and the United Nations to
keep it up and preferably expand its activities.

While there
were no CF helicopters supporting the security, combat and
reconnaissance deployments in Afghanistan, six Bell CH-146 Griffon
utility tactical transport helicopters were fundamental to Operation
Halo in Haiti. The Griffons entered service in 1994, replacing not only
the Bell CH-135 Twin Huey and Bell CH-136 Kiowa light observation
helicopter, but also the Boeing Vertol CH- 147 Chinook, which could
carry 25,000 pounds of cargo or 44 troops.

Capable as they are,
the Griffons simply aren’t up to heavier jobs. As the Budget Plan
acknowledges, “Canada’s military lacks medium-capacity helicopters that
are capable of moving teams of personnel and their equipment around
in-theatre, whether dealing with international crises or domestic
emergencies.”

So which aircraft will Canada acquire for that
role? There are three logical contenders. One is already in the CF
rotary fleet, a second is about to be and the third has been.

The
aircraft already in service is the AgustaWestland EH101 Cormorant,
tasked with military search and rescue. The one about to be – starting
in 2009, at least – is the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone, which will be
Canada’s new maritime helicopter. The third would be the Chinook, the
distinctive tandem rotor machines Canada retired as an “economy
measure” in 1991; they eventually were upgraded by Boeing Vertol and
sold to the Netherlands, where they remain a backbone of that country’s
air transport role today.

Whichever it chooses, it could result
in the Canadian Forces having more rotary lift capability than ever
before, a key element to restoring the Canadian Forces’ relevance in
the “new era.”


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