Once again, Peter "Airshow" MacKay waxes on to score political points over a "routine" event.
Recall back in February 2009 MacKay making heroic noises about "repelling" Russian Bear-H bomber flights and how we tore apart MacKay's hyperbole. (And his error-riddled press release.)
He's doing it again and this time David Pugliese jumps right on it with others providing the echo of virtually the same text I cranked out almost 20 months ago.
The claims by the Harper government that CF-18s “repelled” two Russian bombers last week was the talk in Ottawa on the news circuit on Friday.Yes. The claims were the talk of a lot of places. The interception was hardly mentioned.
A larger number of those in the military community that I talked to (or sent emails to me) tend to believe that the “leak” of information regarding the intercept to the Sun newspapers was done to focus attention on the Conservative government’s stance on Arctic sovereignty and in particular to build the case for the purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter.So... suggestion of political hay-making on the backs of CF team members going about the business of defence (heinous crime, by the way*), the pre-packaged denial (timed as per PMO instructions) and the discovery that suggested political brownie-point gathering has in fact been orchestrated by the frat-boys in the PMO. Pretty standard fare for the Harper mob and stuff that was the subject of much conversation in the halls outside briefing rooms.
MacKay has denied that the information was released to support Canada’s participation in the JSF program.
But his denials were undercut somewhat when the Conservative government a short time later issued “talking points” to its MPs on how they could take advantage of the news stories about the Bear bomber intercept and drill home the point that the JSF was needed and that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wanted to cancel the program (Ignatieff has actually said he wants to review the program).
MacKay was also on CTV on Friday, suggesting that the two Russian bombers somehow approached Canada undetected. Not so, according to retired and military personnel I talked to.Bingo! And then David Pugliese starts to quote those personnel who give MacKay a severe raking.
In fact, the two bombers had been airborne for more than 40 hours. NORAD and NATO allies would have followed their every movement, right from liftoff from their bases. Both Russia and the U.S. conduct flights like this, without advance warning, to test their own crews as well as see what reaction times of opposing forces are. On other occasions, advance warning of a flight is given.
Why don't we toss in another bit of unclassified information. The Tu-95MS Bear-H flight that MacKay is telling us was such a surprize had conducted two in-flight refuellings before NORAD decided on launching its own aircraft.
CF-18 pilots did not “repel” the Russian aircraft. The Russians never entered Canadian airspace and the Russian crew knew exactly where they were. The CF-18s flew to meet the Russian aircraft, as they have countless times in the past. If Canadian aircraft had taken actual “action” against the Russian bombers in international airspace, Canada would be in the wrong, in essence, potentially sparking a war with Russia.We've been in this place before. There are "rules" and everyone knows them. Call it "cat and mouse" or call it "chicken" (although even that would be a stretch). Even at the height of the Cold War, when everyone had their fingers on the trigger, airspace incursions by the Soviets or a shoot-down in international airspace would have resulted in a steeply escalated and dangerous incident. MacKay's suggestion that the Bear flight was "repelled" is a gross and intentional exaggeration. Here's another little tidbit. The Russians know that they cannot always expect a response because they too can monitor NORAD's launches. And keep in mind that Russian military doctrine has changed very little from the Soviet-era. Russian air missions are strictly controlled from launch to landing by Moscow.
MacKay, during the CTV interview referenced in Pugliese's column, commits a couple of egregious sins. Note:
CTV INTERVIEWER: IS IT USUALLY THE SAME TYPE OF AIRCRAFT THEY FLY IN WITH?Older aircraft? Well, sorta, kinda. It's an older design, but in relative terms the Tu-95MS is a newer version of Bear bomber than the old 1970s variants. The Tu-95MS started building in 1981 and continued through the 1990s. All of them are newer than the US B-52 force and some are newer than the F-18s that intercept them. But if MacKay was trying to score a point for the Joint Strike Fighter purchase, he missed the target by degree of latitude. These are not old aircraft. They have a scheduled life which will take them to 2015 or beyond at which time the Russians plan on replacing them with something new. He might have said that... if he spent a little more time reading up on those facts and actually knew them. Too much time playing dress-up.
MacKay: YES, VERY OFTEN THESE TU-95 SO-CALLED BEAR BOMBERS. THESE ARE OLDER AIRCRAFT, BUT IT'S THE UNIDENTIFIED APPEARANCE OF THESE AIRCRAFT THAT WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT, AND IN FACT WE HAVE REQUESTED THAT THESE SORTIES. THESE FLIGHTS WOULD BE ANNOUNCED THAT WE WOULD BE GIVEN NOTICE THAT THEY WERE COMING. SO IT IS ALARMING IN THE SENSE THAT WE WANT TO BE PREPARED EACH AND EVERY TIME ANY UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT APPROACHES CANADIAN AEROSPACE. I DON'T NEED TO HARKEN UP THE MEMORIES OF 9/11, BUT ANY TIME WE'RE SEEING SHIPS APPROACH UNANNOUNCED, ANYTHING COMING OVER LAND, THAT IS THE CANADIAN FORCES PRIMARY ROLE THAT IS TO PROTECT CANADIAN SOVEREIGNTY TO BE AWARE AND BE PREPARED FOR WHATEVER INEVITABILITIES MAY COME.
Funny how Conservatives and Republicans can't do an interview about "Defence" without uttering 9/11, even though one event has absolutely nothing to do with the other.
Again, the MacKay invocation of "unidentified" is nothing but an attempt at fear mongering and a further attempt to paint himself as a diligent and concerned warrior. They weren't and he ain't.
Contrary to what MacKay is claiming, these aircraft were not “unidentified.” They were tracked the entire flight from their Russian bases by various air defence organizations of allied nations. Over that course of time, the radio transmissions between the two crews, as well as between the aircraft and their main base, would have been monitored. It is not alarming in any sense. NORAD is a professional organization that, along with NATO partners, would have identified and tracked these two Russian bombers. No one was taken off guard, despite what MacKay is suggesting. And although MacKay mentions 911, of course, the 911 attacks came from within North American airspace, not from international airspace.
This man belongs on a cheap summer-theatre stage as a 2nd understudy.
Hat tip Impolitical
* The heinous crime I mention is a politician using the endeavours and achievements of armed service units and personnel for their own political gain. It is a part of the compact which exists between the uniformed services and the civilian political leadership. I'll do your bidding but you don't take credit for my willingness to take risks. MacKay very much violates and cheapens that compact.