Friday, February 27, 2009

Actually, Petey, the coincidence was your news conference... UPDATED

Something James Curran grabbed onto right away.

Peter MacKay must be feeling left out of the limelight after the Obama visit. So how to capitalize on the afterglow and prove he was "on the job"?

Hold a press conference and spread the word! He was busy fighting off the Red Russian menace. (At least that's what it said on the briefing note.)
On the eve of Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa, a Russian jet approached Canada's Arctic air space and had to be turned away by Canadian warplanes, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Friday at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

With Obama poised to leave American soil for the first time as U.S. president on Feb. 19, the joint Canada-U.S. aerospace command, Norad, detected the Russian plane. Two of Canada's CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept one Russian aircraft, MacKay confirmed.


But, despite the faulty reporting, it wasn't a "jet". It was Tu-95MS "Bear" - a propeller-driven Soviet-era platform also known to NATO as a Bear-H.

And "the eve" of Obama's visit? Yeah, well in conventional language the "eve" of a given date is the night before. This advance to the polar frontier occured three days prior to Obama's visit.

Peter MacKay said he wasn't accusing Russia of deliberately timing the flight to coincide with the visit — when Canadian security was focused in Ottawa — but he did call it a "strong coincidence."
Why? Because it fits MacKay's agenda? These flights are nothing new. The Russians announced that they were resuming Bear patrols in August 2007. In fact, Canada was heavily involved in responding to the resumption of those flights... as recorded right here.

MacKay then pulls out the "hotshot" line.

"It was a strong coincidence which we met with … CF-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business," said MacKay.

"[The pilots] sent a strong signal they should back off and stay out of our airspace."

Oh? Like what?! Let's put MacKay's bravado in some perspective here. Not to diminish the risk involved to fighter pilots in making a close approach to a large bomber, the arrival of fighter interceptors was fully expected by the Russian Bear crew. The presence of Canadian aircraft alone was the only message they were looking for. Looking for? Yes. I'll explain further on, but as for "strong messages", there is a long standing protocol that Russian gunners keep their weapons pointed away from any intercepting aircraft and NORAD/NATO interceptors do not illuminate the Bears with fire-control radars. It helps prevent the outbreak of something nasty - like a world war. And keep in mind that the entire event takes place in international airspace. The Bears (they used to travel in pairs) approach North American airspace; they don't enter it.

"It's not a game," said MacKay.
And that, Junior, is where you are dead wrong. It is a game, albeit a dangerous one, and it becomes more of a game when some self-serving politician starts to try to make political hay out of what is essentially a well-rehearsed, close-quarters stand-off. Those Bear bombers don't enter Canadian airspace; they enter the North American Air Defence Identification Zone, some considerable distance from anything near or over Canadian territory.

The purpose of every Bear flight which approaches the frontiers or over-flies a naval force at sea is to elicit a reaction. The expected response is a like action, normally involving some form of fighter scramble. The threat is taken to the limit of being able to say, "I'm in international airspace. If you take the first shot, you are responsible for starting the next war." If the expected response doesn't happen confusion can easily ensue. A Bear patrol approaching the North American polar frontier fully expects to be intercepted. If such an interception did not occur they would be faced with something of a dilemma. It may be that they have orders not to enter territorial airspace and, in the unlikely event that they do not possess such instructions, they would need permission from their operational command to do so. Of course, once inside some country's territorial airspace without permission, the likelyhood of being shot down rapidly approaches 100 percent.

In 1992, with the collapse of the Soviet Union (and due to a severe financial crunch) the Russian Bear patrols came to a virtual halt. In August 2007, Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of permanent Bear bomber patrols, although random flights were being intercepted, including some by the Canadian Air Force, as early as 2002. That makes the statement by Canadian CDS General Walt Natynczyk a little curious.

Friday morning, Natynczyk told reporters that the incursions started about one and a half to two years ago "when we had not seen anything for decades."
Umm... no. Decades would be wrong. At best, one decade which ended in 2002.

Canada doesn't get to play "angel" in this game either. Lest Peter MacKay forget that his father was a senior cabinet minister when the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney sent the Canadian navy on a risky and totally unnecessary task group mission through the back door of the Aleutians to arrive a few miles off the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula on the morning of a Soviet national holiday. The Soviets were kind enough to respond with regimental-strength air forces and frigates which could have chewed the Canadian task group to ribbons with a minimal effort. But then, that was all a part of the "game".

But, so it goes. Petey gets his news conference and gets to talk tough, despite the fact that no one held a news conference for the 13 May, 2008 incursion into the Canadian ADIZ. Using the formula he used today, the "coincidence" would have been Stevie Wonder's birthday.

A little more from Mattt


Oh... isn't this special! You may notice in my post above I mentioned that Russian Bears usually fly in pairs.

Four Canadian and U.S. fighter jets were scrambled to meet a pair of Russian bomber planes found flying on the edge of Canada's Arctic airspace hours before President Barack Obama arrived in Ottawa for his first foreign visit, Canada's defence minister said.
Ahh! So the alert interceptors from both Canadian and Alaskan bases responded to this patrol as would usually be the case. Funny how that part took so long to come out. I guess the fact that Elmendorf scrambled their fighters didn't fit the MacKay script. But the interesting part is that there were, as usual, two Tu-95MS bombers.

MacKay initially said there was a single Russian bomber but a NORAD spokesman and the minister's officer later said there were two.
Jeez! No shit?! How is it, asks the reader, that Dave had a better grip on that little piece of detail than Harper's defence minister?

Beats me!!! But, without MacKay's briefing notes, (which he obviously cannot read), I was wondering why a lone Bear-H was patrolling.

If you want to know why the Russians never let their bombers patrol alone I'll be happy to explain in the comments section... once Haloscan is fixed.

In the meantime, MacKay can take his puffed-up macho mentality down to the library and see what happens when someone tries to mix fiction with a known reality.

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