Everyone knows that Canada and Russia have been dealing with each other on a lot of issues in the past years. However, both Putin and Harper are racing each other to get the Arctic oil and natural resources.
In a SOFREP article I wrote late last year, I clearly demonstrated the lack of Canadian military infrastructure in our own backyard. Although the Conservative Government has made the Arctic one of Canada’s main priority, our current military can’t and will not be able to protect its sovereignty without the help of the American military through NORAD.
CBC reported that the Canadian F-18s intercepted Russian Tu-95s on at least two different occasions in the month of June alone. We’ve been experiencing these Russian incursions since the start of the Cold War, but with the current Arctic situation, the Canadian government should enforce our airspace and boost our presence in the North.
That being said, National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the Parliament about the Russian incursions on June 19th.
“Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment specifically on operational matters, but I can confirm to the House that, yes, we continue to see Russian military activity in the Arctic. The Canadian Armed Forces remain ready and able to respond. In fact, the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s were dispatched in recent days in response to Russian aircraft movements.
NORAD has intercepted in excess of 50 Russian military aircraft over the last five years. This clearly demonstrates both our capacity to respond and the need for ongoing vigilance. We will continue to work with our allies to defend Canadian sovereignty.”
Canada has only 77 CF-18s fit for service, while Russia has more than 1,319 fighter/strike aircrafts and 181 bomber aircrafts. What evens the score is the huge number of aircraft in the US Air Force inventory. In fact, the USAF had 5,638 aircraft in service as of September 2012.
The real stake here is the 90 billion barrels of oil, and almost 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, sitting untapped in the Arctic. Canada has been claiming a huge chunk of the Arctic due to their Inuit citizens, who have lived up North for generations. These Inuit citizens have also been using the sea routes for fishing and travel. However, even with these claims, the Russians will not let the Arctic go easily.
Canada must be able to defend the North, and it starts by controlling the airspace and developing a ground presence.
Canada has been struggling with his fighter aircraft renewal program. The purchase of the F-35 Lightning have been slowed down due to numerous problems with the prototypes. It is also important to note that Canada needs great interceptors, due to the numerous Russian incursions, and the F-35 isn’t really a good aircraft for these interception missions. There were also communications problems while the F-35 were flying up North in the first stage of testing.
Another major issue is that fact that Canada is looking into buying the single-engine version. With the extreme temperature in the Arctic, the aircraft are vulnerable to the cold and an engine failure would lead to a crash. Knowing the Canadian Search and Rescue capabilities in the Arctic, as I mention in my SOFREP article, a pilot who would need to eject due to engine problems could face a tragic death. It seems like the Conservative government is not even looking into these problematic situations.
Another example of the conservative government lack of judgement on the Arctic security is the cancellation of a $60 million project that would have provide CANSOFCOM with 17 BvS10, a Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) made to give a greater mobility. Dan Blouin, a DND spokesman, confirmed that, “after a thorough examination of the MTV’s capabilities and limitations, training requirements, acquisition and sustainment costs, it was determined that it is not an essential requirement for CANSOFCOM.”
Well-equipped Arctic SOF capabilities would be very useful in case of ground invasion. Those teams could provide Direct Action (DA) and Forward Air Control (FAC) to higher command. We can all agree that a snowmobile provides no armor and has both limited range and limited cargo capacity. SOF teams needs to carry a lot of gear, as they are operating independently most of the time.
The BvS10 can used in a desert environment as well, making them very versatile. CANSOFCOM explained the need for the BvS10, “because currently, there are no in-service armour vehicles that meet the desired requirements and that are capable of operating equally-well in extreme global environments ranging from the Arctic to arid regions.”
Because of the uncertain future in the Arctic, I strongly believe that Canada should invest more in their Arctic capabilities. I really hope that the current government will rethink its policies and will keep its promise to keep our part of the Arctic safe and under the Canadian flag.