So, it appears that Canada will follow the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium in providing the aviation support to the UN mission in Mali. Last year the German government described their contribution as “Hintergrund sind die Stationierungen von vier deutschen Kampfhubschraubern des Typs “Tiger” und von vier Transporthubschraubern vom Typ “NH90”. Mit ihnen werden ab März 2017 die aus Gao abziehenden niederländischen Hubschrauber ersetzt. Das aktuelle Mandat gilt bis zum 30. April 2018 … [which I read as] … The background to this are the deployments of four “Tiger” German combat helicopters and four “NH90” transport helicopters. As of March 2017, they will replace the Dutch helicopters leaving Gao. The current mandate is valid until April 30, 2018.” Belgium announced that it “will deploy two NH90 helicopters which will be operational from 1st March with transport and medical evacuation capacities for one rotation of six months.” It appears to me that we will relieve the Belgians who replaced the Germans who took over from the Dutch who had, until 2017, “been operating Apache attack helicopters to protect the peacekeepers and transport helicopters to evacuate sick or wounded soldiers.“
OK, so far so, good … the Canadian Chinook has a much bigger payload (10,000 kg vs 4,200 kg) than the NH90 but it is, slightly, slower and has a, slightly again, shorter range. My problem is that the Dutch escorted their NH90s with Apache attack helicopters and the Germans escorted their NH90s with Tiger attack helicopters and Canada is going to send the best it has, some lightly armed Griffons …
… now, the Griffon is a good helicopter and its crews, including the door gunners, are at least as good and very likely much better than any aircrews anywhere on earth, but they do not have the “punch” of any attack helicopter.
According to CTV News, this is a single, twelve month, mission ~ which, I guess, means two or three crew rotations ~ which, Defence Minister Sajjan says, will involve having troops (and aircraft?) on the ground in August, ready to begin operations before Labour Day. It is, of course, far to late to equip the Canadian Forces with attack helicopters for this mission … but they, attack helicopters represent, as I have said, a serious operational deficiency which I fear this mission will prove to skeptical politicians, bureaucrats and even some RCAF generals who dislike army aviation.
Defence Minister Sajjan, speaking at the United Nations, lectured others about “doing better,” to get their collective act together to improve UN Peacekeeping … it would help if Canada got its act together, first, before hectoring others … it would help if this government took action to properly, even just adequately equip the Canadian Forces for operations.
I have to believe that many Canadian Forces admirals and generals and, I suspect, Minister Sajjan himself, know that Canada needs attack helicopters … along, of course, with remotely piloted vehicles, new cargo trucks, new ships and submarines, additional artillery, enough boots, first line fighter jets, and, and, and … I suspect, again, that all are quiet because they also know that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants zero new defence spending … he may like dressing up as a soldier but that is, it seems, where his interest in the defence of Canada and in the men and women who risk life and limb and sanity in Canada’s service ends. Canada needs a new government, one that puts service ahead of self.