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Canada and the World

kEiThZ

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Thought I would create a thread where we can discuss Canada's place in the world. As the Russo-Ukrainian war rages on and upsets a lot of apple carts, it's clear that our foreign and defence policies and outlooks have to evolve. We can discuss what we think our place is, and should be in the world. How we think the CAF (and other agencies of our foreign and defence apparatus) should evolve. Etc.
 

kEiThZ

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I'm going to start by moving these posts over from the Ukraine War thread to avoid littering that thread with discussion about CAF future force design.

Yes, to a point. If we are going to have a proper defence review then let's have a proper funding review alongside.

Yes let's. It's pretty annoying (and dangerous to our forces) that our government regularly commits to operations that are at the edge or even beyond capabilities. Hornets not having jam resistant radios during Bosnia comes to mind. Or the deployment of Chinooks in Afghanistan without attack helicopters to escort them.

When I think of Canadian defence requirements and capabilities, I don't look to the US, a nation we can never compete with. Rather, I look to Australia. A country in a slightly different geo-political position, but one with very similar global outlook that is about 80% of our size but has about 150% of our defence capability. And, more often than not, cross-party consensus on defence policy and procurement.

I'm a big fan of Australia. And I do wish that we had what we had. However, there's a substantial difference in strategic culture between Canada and Australia. In Australia, being far from the US, having Indonesia next door and China in the neighborhood, along with some remote territories (Heard and McDonald Islands is nearly 4000 km from the mainland), drives defence decisions that Canada would never consider. It's unlikely, that Canada (a de facto American protectorate and dependency) will ever have that kind of strategic dialogue and maturity. For example, just imagine our major national parties reaching a consensus on acquiring nuclear fast attack submarines. Or even just a mature discussion in parliament on what our national interests are and how to defend them. I wish that were different. But I don't think it'll happen in our lifetimes.

I think we'll see some funding boost in the weeks to come. I hope that it's done relatively smartly and in a manner that will let us make more meaningful contributions in the future.

New Zealand essentially eliminated much of its air force because they deemed it unnecessary. Instead they’re investing more money on the navy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_the_Royal_New_Zealand_Navy

Perhaps we need to question why Canada needs much of any army. Can we meet our NATO obligations, deploy on the occasional UN third world mission, and handle domestic disasters with a smaller army? Instead it’s navy and Air Force that may need to be our focus.

Maybe. I'm not going to say either way. All I'll say is that we need this discussion. And there are new areas where we definitely need to grow. For example, our geography makes us very valuable in space surveillance. We're growing a space community now that could probably use more funding. There's also cyber, which is how fundamental to everything. But mostly we need a doctrinal rethink akin to something with what the US Army is doing with Multi Domain Operations. I'm a big fan. We're seeing this play out in real time in Ukraine. Consider the information warfare and the moral plane in Ukraine. We're seeing asymmetry on morale and will to fight. We're seeing cellphone video and photos rally a global response. That should tell us the importance of these communications networks and messaging.

Multi-domain_operations%2CinvestmentPlan2020.png

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On the force structure itself, I'm a fan of what the US Marine Corps is doing. There's plenty of controversy over there. Especially from all the old retired guys. But they are moving to less infantry, less armour and more missiles and sensors. Here's a good video explaining where they are going:

 

kEiThZ

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Next, I am going to trigger some of you by saying that some of you old guys dreaming about tanks and ships aren't thinking about 21st century warfare, with heavy reliance on space assets, and the evolving battlespace with information warfare, hypersonic and directed energy weapons coming up. To be fair, explaining some of these concepts inside the CAF is hard. Explaining the implications outside is even harder.

In Ukraine, we've already seen, for example, Russians use lasers as a counter-sniper strategy for years. They blind snipers with lasers. We've seen a levelling of the battlefield to some extent with Ukrainians using drones and SIGINT (plenty of intercepted phone calls), effectively reducing the asymmetry in situational awareness. We've seen Ukrainians substantially blunt Russian armour using ATGMs that cost 5% of the cost of the armoured vehicle (or less). We've seen Russians make up for the lack of air superiority with drone surveillance and artillery or missile strikes instead. And most notably, we've seen substantial compression of the kill chain, so that sensor to shooter time is minutes. From the time there's a drone overhead, to artillery rounds or a missile landing is 10 minutes or less now.

It's not just a discussion on tanks. After watching Russian airborne and air assault forces get decimated, there's questions about how valuable those forces are in a near-peer fight where air dominance isn't assured. There's also logistics. We've seen how badly Russian logistics are doing just 150 km from their borders. So any force design needs to consider a force that can actually be sustained at a distance. Or power projection is substantially blunted. And information warfare. All the best kit in the world is useless, if a 20 yr old private gives away his units your position by calling his girlfriend from a payphone, or worse a hasty instagram post that can have the background analyzed by AI to geolocate in minutes.

So as we come up on what might be the only real substantial investment of our lifetimes in the CAF, there needs to be a real thought to not just the battlespace of today, what it might be 10-15 years from now when some of these investments enter service, to 30-40 years from now when these capabilities might be mature or even exiting. Also, needing to be considered is where we'll fight. Urban areas and small pacific islands, drive very different requirements than the forests and plains of Central and Eastern Europe. There's, of course, plenty of discussion in all the requirements shops at militaries around the world on this stuff and at think tanks. But I wanted to put some points out here for y'all to consider as you ponder what the CAF should look like 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now.
 

kEiThZ

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Quite a discussion, and I'm not knowledgeable enough to take a definitive stance, let alone get into a debate about a particular piece of kit. My problem with the way we do things is, even if we come up with a cohesive defence and security policy that everybody is happy with, by the time we fund and equip it into reality, it is out of date and the world has moved on. Rather than do incremental or generational modernization, we keep out infrastructure until a wholesale replacement is necessary, and the attendant price tag and timeline causes everyone to run for cover, demand more studies and reviews and otherwise generally poo themselves. It's all about votes - and the general public generally doesn't care.

You're not the only one calling this out. There's increasing criticism inside the institutions (not just the CAF, but also in the US, UK, etc.) about a lack of institutional agility and the massive risks in the face of asymmetric developments. What use is a $13B aircraft carrier if it has to stay out of the range of its own strike aircraft for fear of being sunk by a $2-3M hypersonic missile? There's increasingly an argument that we should follow the iPhone model. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, more numerous and most importantly attritable (low impact if lost).

Yes, we will need some ships, fighters and tanks, etc. But we need to start thinking more holistically about how we fight and how we deploy those forces and what our public's appetite is for war and losses, etc.

Taking a stand that, for example, we don't need tanks, strategic lift or heavy lift rotary is fine - until a political or foreign policy decision is made where we do. Military leadership speaking truth to power should be listened to, but at the end of the day they serve the Crown and will go into the fight with what they have, not what they want. Gone are the days where we can take some prairie farm boys and turn them into sailors on board ships that were built in a month.

This is why we need a rethink of foreign and defence policies. And we need participation from more than just the party in power. We also need procurement policies that are based on defence policies, not defence policies that are simply arms bazaar shopping lists. A defence policy should state when and where we will use force and how much. The procurement policies can then procure to that. Instead we get governments that run for office pledging to buy x amount of fighter jets and y amount of tanks and then writing up defence policies based on the shopping list they ran on.

Maybe it makes sense that we pick niches or specialties to work with our allies but, as mentioned, what is the industrial impact. Do we just determine our specialties and expect our allegiances to simply deal with it or should it be done in a more collaborative way ('ok Canada, you're bringing the napkins so nobody else has to'. But we [country x] have our own napkins and we like them better).

We're the folks who show up with a half pack of napkins and then whine about others not bringing enough food.

Broadly, you are right. We really should think long and hard about what we can contribute in earnest. There's nothing wrong with specializing. We do it today. We don't have SEAD assets to protect our fighters. We don't have attack helicopters to protect our transport helicopters or do route surveillance for our ground forces. We have very limited space and electronic warfare capabilities. We substantially rely on allies for all those things. So the idea that we should be capable across the spectrum is already fiction. Instead of perpetuating that fiction, we should consider about what we can contribute that makes a meaningful difference.

May concern with allowing ourselves to pick the niche is that we will pick 'safe stuff' because it is relatively safe and cheap, doesn't have Canadian actually committing violence, or have them come home in caskets. King originally thought that by offering to be the major host of the Commonwealth Aircrew Training Program, our allies would be satisfied with our contribution and allow us to stay out of much of the fighting in Europe. More recently, apparently to our Global Affairs Minister, we are convenors, not warriors. We could excel in strategic air or sealift, but would we be viewed by the world as protecting the vulnerable or ensuring peace and security by having a very efficient way of repatriating the bodies of others to their home nations?

Yes. Avoiding responsibility and criticizing the imperial power that does the heavy lifting (Britain till the 1900s, US after that) is a long Canadian tradition. Our contributions brought us some reprieve from being seen as irrelevant, as we crafted a true middle power role. But we rode that horse till it died in the 90s and then some. Unfortunately, a lot of Canadians still thinks that the rest of the world thinks of us as relevant or independent, rather than seeing us for the American dependency that we are.

This isn't just about warfighting. Consider that the best thing we might have been able to bring to the table is not aging weapons for Ukraine, but the ability to replace Russian oil and gas in Europe. National power consists of more than just military capabilities. It's Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economic capabilities (DIME). What makes us increasingly irrelevant, is not just that we have scaled back on military axis of national power. Its that we've not compensated by growing our relevance on the other axes. Qatar is more useful to Europe right now than Canada. So in addition to talking about improving our military, we might want to talk about fixing our foreign service that was gutted, our inability to meet foreign aid targets like the Millenium Development goals (0.7% of GDP on foreign aid), or our woefully underfunded intelligence agencies.
 

afransen

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I found some videos talking about some lessons other countries could draw from the war in Ukraine. Drones and relatively inexpensive missiles being quite disruptive.



 

kEiThZ

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Ha. I'm a big fan of Perun's analysis too. Though, as a military officer, I should probably wait for more academic sources to come out! Good first cut though....

The only thing I would caution is that there are places where this war isn't a straight up lesson. For example, a competent air force wouldn't be allowing medium sized drones to be moving around so freely.
 

kEiThZ

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Directed Energy Weapons

Hypersonics:

Unmanned refueller:

Manned-Unmanned teaming:

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:
https://youtu.be/65n7JIMXfs8
https://youtu.be/VoEFOM-2-ug

Autonomous Drone swarms:
https://youtu.be/qW77hVqux10

Just some of the many examples of what is coming up. I won't even get into all the stuff that can be done in the space domain, information warfare, AI and data analytics, etc.

Force design that imagines 2050 being just like today is significantly missing the point. For that matter, technology is moving so quickly, we'd be fools to think traditionally for some of the capabilities we need to field in 2030.
 

lenaitch

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As your links show, the rate of change is quite astonishing. For the general populace, thinking in terms of the 'last war' or existing technologies is probably natural; for professional planners it is probably inexcusable. Large, ponderous platforms and tactics may well become obsolete because of their lack of agility, and therefore vulnerability, but newer specialized platforms aren't without their problems. The USN's littoral combat ships, first commissioned around 2008, are rumoured to have an early date with the breaker.

Increasing reliance on autonomous platforms, certainly at the pointy end of contact will no doubt raise discussions around morality and rules of war. Similarly, increasing use of remotely operated weapons systems will add a new angle to the stressors of combat including PTSD, when you can dispatch the enemy from the comfort of a non-deployed location and perhaps walk home for lunch.

It wouldn't surprise me if the later lot of the pending Canadian Surface Combatants forego some of their 'kinetic assets' for a conducted energy weapon if the tech can be proven and the US is willing to share. I don't know the power requirements, but the history in law enforcement forensic lasers saw significant advancements in very few years.

As far as our energy relevance in the world, it seems current and future governments will be caught between managing realistic goals and those who demand that all forms of carbon be immediately left where they are. An LNG terminal on the east coast would take years to bring online, even if Quebec agreed, which they won't. Perhaps Churchill. It would be a shorter season but at least it would be something. In terms of nuclear power, are we even still in the game? That's the type of longer-range applied research that governments seem to have little interest anymore.

On the international relations front, I was originally going to say that our diplomatic corps was largely gutting during Conservative governments (has any conservative government been big on professional diplomacy, anywhere?) but I don't have the data to back that up and. besides, our current government has managed to kick it out of bounds twice now. Perhaps the world doesn't like being preached to. It seems it has gotten to the point that when we speak nobody listens and we carry no sticks of any size.
 

kEiThZ

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As your links show, the rate of change is quite astonishing. For the general populace, thinking in terms of the 'last war' or existing technologies is probably natural; for professional planners it is probably inexcusable.

Indeed. Which is why the public and political discourse can be so frustrating for those who of us who do this for a living. It's bad enough trying to explain this stuff to old guys who retired in the 80s (before the internet), 90s (before pocket computers, aka smartphones) or 2000s (before touchscreens, AI and data fusion). For example a Hornet pilot from the 80s and 90s would not have had experience flying a modernized Hornet with helmet mounted cueing systems. Excuse the cheesy narration:


Now imagine trying to explain to some Wikipedia expert that this stuff matters more than just some raw range or speed number. "We need two engines to fly in the Arctic." "If we buy the Gripen, we can buy more airplanes." Ugggh those arguments.....

There's a few times in history where military technologies advance rapidly. Being caught behind because of orthodoxy or an unwillingness to invest will result in tragic mismatches like the Poles riding horses in the era of tanks. This is one of those eras. For example, we're going to be up to replace our Griffon helicopters in a decade. Imagine replacing them with a standard helicopter just as stuff like this is entering service:



Large, ponderous platforms and tactics may well become obsolete because of their lack of agility, and therefore vulnerability, but newer specialized platforms aren't without their problems. The USN's littoral combat ships, first commissioned around 2008, are rumoured to have an early date with the breaker.

Ships like the LCS and Zumwalt were a bit ahead of their time. But you'll notice that most of what I've posted is now either in service or going to be fielded this decade. These are maturing ideas and we need to start considering them as we reconstitute the force.

It wouldn't surprise me if the later lot of the pending Canadian Surface Combatants forego some of their 'kinetic assets' for a conducted energy weapon if the tech can be proven and the US is willing to share. I don't know the power requirements, but the history in law enforcement forensic lasers saw significant advancements in very few years.

There's questions about why aren't building Directed Energy Weapons on them now. The Brits are putting lasers on their Type 26. On the air side, a part of the preference for the F-35 was the growth margin built into the platform. It was built with extra generator capacity so it can support DEWs. It's existing radar and electronic warfare suite is already capable of jamming and even "frying" enemy radar in some circumstances. Most important, therefore, in considerations about what we buy going forward is growth margin. It doesn't necessarily need to have the latest kit. But it needs to be adaptable so that we can upgrade it to keep up.

As far as our energy relevance in the world, it seems current and future governments will be caught between managing realistic goals and those who demand that all forms of carbon be immediately left where they are. An LNG terminal on the east coast would take years to bring online, even if Quebec agreed, which they won't. Perhaps Churchill. It would be a shorter season but at least it would be something. In terms of nuclear power, are we even still in the game?

It doesn't have to be LNG piped in from Alberta. We have projects on the East Coast awaiting approval. There are projects with a decent carbon profile and developers with a history of decent stewardship that we could approve. Yes, we need to cut emissions. But that doesn't mean oil and gas consumption will end tomorrow. There will be the odd case where it actually makes sense to allow an O&G development to proceed for various reasons including replacing reserves, our own or allied energy security, etc. Newfoundland's Baie du Nord led by Equinor comes to mind.

On the international relations front, I was originally going to say that our diplomatic corps was largely gutting during Conservative governments (has any conservative government been big on professional diplomacy, anywhere?) but I don't have the data to back that up and. besides, our current government has managed to kick it out of bounds twice now. Perhaps the world doesn't like being preached to. It seems it has gotten to the point that when we speak nobody listens and we carry no sticks of any size.

The Liberals never restored or rejuvenated our foreign service. Nor have they gone out of their way to match diplomacy to their own foreign policy goals. They want to be leaders on climate change? Cool. Let's put climate policy or economics experts in our embassies in key partner countries and target countries of interest. Let's revamp our foreign aid program to focus more on climate change. They seem to think that ministers talking at international conferences is all that is needed for diplomacy. There's a lot more that can be done. And it really won't even cost that much more. Just requires actual effort and leadership from the government.
 

afransen

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Hypersonic missiles seem interesting potential gamechangers. They may spell the end of massive aircraft carriers if effective countermeasures can't be developed, much in the way that aircraft carriers brought the age of battleships to an end.

I think both Taiwan and China are taking notes on this war as well. The more I think about it, the more I am becoming confident that China would really struggle to successfully invade Taiwan, even if they were willing to pay the very heavy price in lives and sanctions.
 

kEiThZ

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I think both Taiwan and China are taking notes on this war as well. The more I think about it, the more I am becoming confident that China would really struggle to successfully invade Taiwan, even if they were willing to pay the very heavy price in lives and sanctions.

China-Taiwan is a toss up. Yes, Ukraine is showing the effectiveness of modern missiles in asymmetric warfare. But Ukraine is also showing the importance of supply lines. And China's are a lot closer and better protected than Taiwan's.

Hypersonic missiles seem interesting potential gamechangers. They may spell the end of massive aircraft carriers if effective countermeasures can't be developed, much in the way that aircraft carriers brought the age of battleships to an end.

Carriers still have usefulness and I would advocate for Canada fielding one on each coast. Enables anti-submarine warfare. Some amphibious warfare. Etc. Not everybody will have hypersonic long range missiles for a long time.

China is a different story. And there are discussions that the USN might be better off with lots of smaller carriers instead of 10 supercarriers.
 

afransen

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China-Taiwan is a toss up. Yes, Ukraine is showing the effectiveness of modern missiles in asymmetric warfare. But Ukraine is also showing the importance of supply lines. And China's are a lot closer and better protected than Taiwan's.
China conquering Taiwan through blockade? China storming the beaches akin to Normandy is hopeless.
 

kEiThZ

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China conquering Taiwan through blockade? China storming the beaches akin to Normandy is hopeless.
I wouldn't say that. The Pentagon itself keeps assessing every year that defending Taiwan is getting more difficult (not in the least because the Taiwanese aren't taking defence seriously enough). At minimum, supplying Taiwan is an order of magnitude more difficult than pushing kit over the Polish border into Ukrainian. There's literally a Ukrainian airfield where the threshold of the runway abuts the Slovakian border, making it impossible for the Russians to shoot down planes on approach.


There will be nothing like this with Taiwan. Once the war starts, they will be on their own for days at least. Not just for ammo. But for food and fuel and refugee care.

And nobody knows what the will to fight will be till the fight starts. Keep in mind that everybody thought the Ukrainian government and military would fall in 3-7 days. The US and NATO were planning on supporting a low intensity insurgency for years. Turns out, we all (including the Russians) massively underestimated the Ukrainian will to fight. Will the Taiwanese show the same resolve? Hard to say.
 
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lenaitch

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Indeed. Which is why the public and political discourse can be so frustrating for those who of us who do this for a living. It's bad enough trying to explain this stuff to old guys who retired in the 80s (before the internet), 90s (before pocket computers, aka smartphones) or 2000s (before touchscreens, AI and data fusion). For example a Hornet pilot from the 80s and 90s would not have had experience flying a modernized Hornet with helmet mounted cueing systems. Excuse the cheesy narration:
[/QUOTE]
It must take significant training to effectively manage all that information that is, quite literally, in your face. I had heard that, early on in the F-35 roll-out, pilots were complaining about the sheer mass of the helmets and the impact on their neck and spine. I don't know if or how things have improved.
It doesn't have to be LNG piped in from Alberta. We have projects on the East Coast awaiting approval. There are projects with a decent carbon profile and developers with a history of decent stewardship that we could approve. Yes, we need to cut emissions. But that doesn't mean oil and gas consumption will end tomorrow. There will be the odd case where it actually makes sense to allow an O&G development to proceed for various reasons including replacing reserves, our own or allied energy security, etc. Newfoundland's Baie du Nord led by Equinor comes to mind.

I was vaguely aware of Baie du Nord and one I think there are a few others in the pipeline (?) but didn't realize it had much of a gas component.
 

lenaitch

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China conquering Taiwan through blockade? China storming the beaches akin to Normandy is hopeless.
I'm not so sure all 'massed forces' operations are necessarily dead. Russia's airborne attempt in Ukraine, or the infamous stalling of the convoy north of Kiev strikes me more of bad planning, bad intelligence or strategic hubris; somewhat like Arnhem. Either that or they just figured a relatively low-intensity regional invasion would escape much international response - it worked before. Quite frankly, Russia likely had the capacity to conventionally pound all or parts Ukraine into dust - but chose not to. I'm not sure China would have such reservations. All they have to do is 'own' or sterilize a sufficient beachhead and control the strait and, as mentioned, their logistical tail is shorter and better developed. They have been working towards expanding and maintaining their China Sea area of control and influence for quite some time.
 

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