Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Harper vs. Putin, air edition

RAF Typhoon with Russian Su-27 - June 2014
Brian Stewart at CBC suggests that Harper's  over-the-top tough-guy rhetoric about Putin has led to increased Russian strategic bomber flights and thus a busier time for Canadian fighters and pilots conducting Arctic interceptions.

I'm not sure there's a direct causal relationship or that Putin is petty enough to care about what an insecure Canadian political leader (and possible secret admirer) has to say about him, but it is probably true that things are starting to feel like the old days at NORAD.  Not that we would know, because as Stewart mentions in Canada these things are secret. I disagree with his reasoning that this to keep the Russians in the dark about what we know. NORAD sees pretty much everything in the air around North America (because that's its job) and the Russians know it, and the Russian aircrew certainly notice when US or Canadian fighters pop up to say hi or radar waves bounce off their airframes.

The secrecy claim is also a little weird when put in the context of Europe where the RAF is happy to highlight their Baltic interceptions of Russian aircraft of all types, including armed fighter aircraft.

Then again, if the Russians are flying armed fighters near Canadian air space, it might look a little more concerning than docile and easy to shoot-down large bombers or reconnaissance planes. Not that anything would happen, but I imagine the dynamic changes and pilots' palms sweat a little when fighters meet fighters.

Perhaps also it puts a particularly problematic repurposed bomber procurement/corporate welfare project in even darker shadow by daylighting reality and thus the need for Spitfires (or maybe, just maybe checking out of the absurd Great Game altogether)...


Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Is Putin trying to kill our CF18 through attrition and force Major Steve into a pre 2015 decision. It would be a smart play by Putin, and one Harper should have seen comming. I expect to see photos of unapposed Russian Migs over Canada soon. Who lost the North Mr Harper, who did, you sir!
And to a site that could not be more patriotic, Galloping Beavers, such a beautiful vista. I wish everyone a happy Canada Day

Dave said...

Wow! Where to start?
The only reason Harper engages in secrecy is to cover his own misdeeds, malfeasance and shortcomings. The truth is the RCAF loves to publicly trumpet interceptions and if they're not doing it, it means something else is happening. Stewart's assertion (or repeating of official Ottawa's line) that it is all being kept secret so we don't tell the Russians what we know is a kindergarten explanation for eating the crayons. Once we've intercepted a Russian overflight they already know how much we know, so the "operational security" line simply doesn't wash.
NORAD tracks EVERYTHING, right down to little bits of space junk and the Russians are more than aware of that.
This isn't about hiding things from the Russians. This is about hiding things from Canadians, (Harper's hallmark), and the fact that he just fucked up yet another geopolitical situation for which he has no real appreciation, no skill and exists in an arena which is so far out of his depth as to be laughable.
I have a hunch, (and it's a little more than that), that the Ottawa ops centre is in a bit of shit. Truth be known, it wasn't Canadian F-18s making all or any of those intercepts, it was USAF 3rd Wing F-22s. THAT is the reason for the secrecy.
Harper's much acclaimed "Northern Policy" falls flat on its face when exposed to the light of day. He has so strapped the armed forces in the name of creating a surplus budget that Canada's 4 Wing and 3 Wing do not have enough serviceable interceptors to respond to Russian incursions.

Michael Byer's also has it wrong. The CF-104 moniker "Widow Maker" originated with the Luftwaffe, not the RCAF. And the replacement for the CF-104 was not the F/A-18, it was the F-101 VooDoo.

Boris said...

!!!, scandal and then some. Canadian (and US) strategic defence is all about oceans and air space, ships and aircraft.

So how long before the Americans let something slip either between the lines or in bold 72 point font about covering Canadian air defence gaps, NORAD responsibilities, etc? I imagine that sort of thing would start to annoy them after a while, and if they can't use backchannel pressure, they'll be a editorial or a comment somewhere.
And what of the flight in Romania (one would think there's plenty enough of NATO fast jets in Europe already)?

There's a bit in the Guardian about Ukrainians crowdsourcing kit for their army. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/29/outgunned-ukrainian-army-crowdfunding-people-drone

Under Yanukovych (more or less Russia's client), the military was neglected but apparently police and internal security forces budgets went up because authoritarian nutcases need to restrict dissent. In Canada, the RCN and RCAF are whittling away, CSIS and others are doing well. I'm not suggesting a literal comparison, but in our case the Harper gov't is a client of name-your-corporation and much more interested in facilitating the lowering of wages and the building of pipelines...

Mark, Ottawa said...


Voodoos replaced CF-100 Canucks, not CF-104s, for NORAD air intercept. CF-104s were based in Germany for NATO ground attack, did not do NORAD.

CF-18s replaced both Voodoos in Canada and CF-104s in Germany.

CF-5s effectively replaced nothing and were waste of money for Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!


Boris said...

I dunno Mark, it's not often that a made-in-Canada 'waste of money' manages nearly 30 years of service and such wide a versatility of roles.

Dave said...

Quite correct Mark, but Byers tried to make a connection that is simply false. Notwithstanding the fact that the European presence of a Canadian air wing had long since changed its role by the time the F-18s showed up.

BTW. The CF-5's bad rep comes from a vocal few. The truth is, it was a pretty useful machine and it backstopped the European commitment perfectly.