By David Pugliese
The Liberal government rolled out its long-awaited defence policy review on June 7, promising large-scale spending increases over a decade-long period.
Over the next 10 years, defence spending will increase from $18.9-billion in 2016–17 to $32.7-billion in 2026–27, according to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
Most of the spending increases are projected after the next federal election or near the end of that decade-long period.
More troublesome is that Sajjan continually avoided answering questions from journalists on where the new money would come from. Instead, he repeatedly stated that the Liberal government was committed to providing the funding the Canadian Armed Forces needed in the future.
The policy review contained a list of key equipment programs. Many of them would be recognizable to defence observers and industry officials since they have either been on the military’s requirement lists for years or have been featured in the Defence Acquisition Guide.
In some cases, such as the program to replace the CF-18 fighter jet fleet, the Liberals have provided new details. They say they will buy 88 advanced fighter jets to replace the CF-18s. This number of aircraft will be required to fully meet Canada’s North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and NATO obligations simultaneously, the Liberal government noted.
Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said the 88 aircraft would be the full fleet replacement. As the aircraft are delivered, Canada would remove the CF-18s as well as any interim fighter jets from the flight line, he added.
The purchase of those aircraft would cost between $15-billion and $19-billion. Details were not provided, however, on what long-term maintenance costs the Royal Canadian Air Force would face once the planes are acquired.
Sajjan also committed to acquiring a specific number of Canadian Surface Combatants (CSCs). The Royal Canadian Navy originally wanted 15 CSCs, but the Conservative government’s $26-billion budget would not have paid for that number of vessels.
“This plan fully funds for the first time the Royal Canadian Navy’s full complement of 15 Canadian Surface Combatant ships necessary to replace the existing frigates and retired destroyers,” Sajjan said during the June 7 news conference. “Fifteen, not up to 15 and not 12, and definitely not six, which is a number the previous government’s plan would have paid for as the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported last week.”
The Liberal defence policy would set aside between $50-billion and $60-billion for the CSC program.
In addition, the Royal Canadian Navy’s Victoria-class submarines would undergo incremental modernization in the mid-2020s, which will ensure their continued effectiveness to the 2040s. That program is estimated to cost between $1.5-billion and $3-billion.
The size of the Canadian Forces would increase to around 71,000 (and it would include a boost for Canada’s special forces with an additional 605 personnel).
In addition, the Canadian Forces would increase the number of women in the ranks. Females will make up 25 per cent of the military by 2026, according to the policy.
The defence policy also provides for an income tax break on salaries earned while overseas. “In order to ensure that Canadian Armed Forces members are treated equally on deployment, all troops deployed on any named international operations will be exempted from paying federal income tax on their salary to the level of lieutenant-colonel,” the defence policy noted. “This is in addition to the allowances awarded to compensate for hardship and risk.”
The chief of the defence staff is the authority to designate those “named operations,” according to the policy. The initiative is retroactive to January 2017.
Canada will also grow and enhance its cyber capabilities by creating a new Canadian Armed Forces Cyber Operator occupation.
The new occupation will compliment the capability Canada already has in cyber space, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.
“Canada has the ability to conduct active and offensive cyber operations and those operations will be undertaken consistent with the rule of law, consistent with the law of armed conflict in a very disciplined targeting cycle that can achieve the effects within the theatre of operations,” Vance said.
The reserves would increase to 30,000 — a boost of 1,500 personnel. Reserves will be assigned new roles including light urban search and rescue; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence; combat capabilities such as direct fire, mortar and pioneer platoons and other roles such as cyber operators; intelligence operators; naval security teams; and linguists.
Canada also committed to NORAD modernization, but that is to take place at a later date. Sajjan suggested that new surveillance systems could be added to expand the amount of information that NORAD will collect.
“We will enter discussions with our U.S. counterparts on NORAD modernization that will include replacing the North Warning System with new technology and it will include an all-perils approach to protecting against the full range of threats including air, maritime and underwater threats,” Sajjan said.
The defence policy also calls for the following new equipment or initiatives:
Purchase of new multi-mission aircraft to replace the CP-140 Aurora fleet in the 2030s.
Replacement of the CC-150 Polaris with next generation strategic air-to-air tanker transport.
Replacement of the CC-138 Twin Otter with utility transport aircraft.
Acquisition of a medium altitude remotely piloted system (drones).
Modernization of short-range air-to-air missiles (fighter aircraft armament).
Upgrade of avionics on CH-149 Cormorant.
Upgrade of the C-130Js with new software and hardware.
Limited upgrade of the Griffon helicopters.
Upgrade of the lightweight torpedoes currently used by the RCN and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Acquisition of 20,000 new assault rifles with upgraded sights and barrels.
Purchase of ground-based air defence systems and associated munitions capable of protecting all land-based force elements from enemy airborne weapons.
Modernization of improvised explosive device (IED) detection and defeat capabilities.
Equipping of Canadian Army light forces with utility terrain vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, trailers, lightweight generators and tents, radio rebroadcast kits, long-range communications equipment, special insertion/extraction equipment, and aerial delivery kits to enable deployment and operations in complex terrain and challenging operating environments.
Upgrade of the light armoured vehicle (LAV) fleet to improve mobility and survivability.
Modernization of logistics vehicles, heavy engineer equipment and light utility vehicles. Also replace obsolete material handling equipment such as bulldozers and cranes for domestic and expeditionary operations.
Modernization of land-based command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
Acquisition of all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and larger tracked semi-amphibious utility vehicles optimized for use in the Arctic environment.
Acquisition of a new multipurpose anti-armour, anti-structure weapon system.
Upgrade of air navigation, management, and control systems.
Acquisition of aircrew training systems. This would involve the delivery of a new and cohesive training program that replaces the current Pilot, Air Combat Systems Officer and Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator training systems. This capability will improve the RCAF’s ability to train sufficient numbers of aircrew for various roles.
Acquisition of airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms for Canadian special forces.
Purchase of new commercial pattern SUV-type armoured vehicles for special forces.
Modernization and enhancement of Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), control and communications information systems, and computer defence networks.
Purchase of next generation Special Operations Forces integrated soldier system equipment, land mobility, and maritime mobility platforms and fighting vehicle platforms.
Improvement of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) detection and response capabilities.
Highlighting Arctic Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) as a defence research and development priority.
Replacement of the current RADARSAT system to improve the identification and tracking of threats and improve situational awareness of routine traffic in and through Canadian territory.
Acquisition of new armoured combat support vehicles. This project will replace aging armoured command vehicles, ambulances, and mobile repair teams with a modern, well-protected fleet.
Modernization of the Army’s bridge and gap crossing capabilities. This is needed since existing systems cannot support the weight of many current Canadian Army vehicle types.
Acquisition of a tactical narrowband satellite system. This would provide narrowband near-global communications between 65 degrees South and 65 degrees North latitudes to provide assured, secure, and reliable communications in support of Canadian and international operations.