Air Force Readiness

Transcript / Speech / January 18, 2012

Appearance before the
House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence
December 13, 2011

Success in operations, my number one priority, rests on a foundational pillar of readiness - that is, our ability to act – to deliver the right air effect, at the right time and at the right place. It demands that our capabilities exist in various states of readiness.

Since no two national or international operations are ever the same, the question becomes “how do we ensure our country has the ‘right stuff’ to respond quickly and effectively?”

It boils down to a mix of the right people, with the right training, the right doctrine and the right equipment.

In terms of readiness, the RCAF generates relevant, responsive and effective air power to meet the defence and security challenges of today and tomorrow.

In other words, we equip, train and sustain air power to carry out operations for the force employers who actually employ our people and assets to conduct the missions.

These force employers include Canada Command and NORAD for continental operations and Canadian Expeditionary Force Command for operations overseas.

The strategic, operational and tactical effects that we achieve nationally and internationally are the ultimate test of our readiness.

And we have passed that test with flying colours.

As we approach the end of an extraordinary year, we look back at an unparalleled number of domestic and international operations, including engagement in combat operations in two separate theatres.

Operation Mobile was one of our most recent demonstrations of our readiness.

As you know, the morning after the United Nations passed its resolution on Libya, our CF-18 Hornet fighter jets were en route to Italy to take part in the operation.

CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuellers and CC-177 Globemasters loaded with personnel and equipment, followed immediately. And a few days after leaving Canada, our aircraft were in the skies around and over Libya, working side-by-side with our coalition partners.

During our mission, we also had Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, Hercules refuellers and Hercules transport aircraft in the air, as well as a Sea King helicopter embarked with our frigate in the Mediterranean.

All of our airmen and airwomen fulfilled their duties with the professionalism that has been the hallmark of RCAF service throughout the years, and I was extraordinarily proud to welcome them home last month.

The rapidity with which we responded was due entirely to our readiness.

Our equipment was ready, our highly professional people were trained and ready, and our logistical support was robust.

Moreover, during this period, our Air Wing in Afghanistan was still active, delivering air power to Canadian and Allied commanders under extremely demanding situations.

Around the same time that Op Mobile began, we deployed six CF-18s to Iceland to carry out an air policing mission under the auspices of NATO.

In August, we deployed Griffon helicopters and crews to Jamaica to conduct search and rescue training and to support the Jamaican Defence Force during hurricane season.

Closer to home, we responded to threats from Mother Nature.

We evacuated residents of several northern communities who were in danger from wildfires in northern Ontario and evacuated others from flood threats in the Richelieu Valley in Quebec.

We continued to deliver on our domestic no-fail task of protecting Canadians from air threats through NORAD.

And we continued to fulfill our very demanding search and rescue mandate, assisting Canadians in peril.

In this extremely busy – I might even say unprecedented – period of activity, we delivered excellence in every area of responsibility.

In fact, there was a point this spring where every one of our operational capabilities – in varying numbers – was committed to operations. Throughout my career, I have never seen this level of engagement.

In addition to ensuring our people and fleets are ready to carry out missions such as those I have described, we have certain tools at hand to aid us in ensuring we can turn our readiness into action effectively and efficiently.

In particular, I want to make note of a true success story – the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre, or – as we call it – the “CAOC”, located in Winnipeg.

This entity was established a little more than five years ago and is having a significant, positive impact on our ability to deliver operational effect at home and abroad.

The CAOC supports our Air Component Commander, enabling him to exercise centralised command and control and facilitate decentralized execution of air power at home and around the world. 

As a result, we can exchange information rapidly and accurately throughout the Air Force and the Canadian Forces, with other government departments, and with our allies.

The CAOC allows us to effectively allocate and rapidly re-group and re-task capabilities to force employers and thereby better support operational commanders.

Now, it goes without saying that airplanes are fast – that is, faster than land- or sea-based capabilities.

Therefore, the inherent nature of air power allows us to respond rapidly.  Our agility and resilience are important organizational values that are foundations of our readiness.

So, what is the state of readiness of RCAF?

All of our capabilities have a high risk component that enable us to respond rapidly to developing situations.

In fact, the Air Force maintains the highest overall readiness of the three environments; most of our forces are either ready for – or conducting – operations.

I want to give you a few examples of our readiness in our aircraft fleets, by way of illustration

  • Our CF-18 Hornets maintain high alert states to support NORAD and Canadian air space control. They could be airborne in minutes on any given day.
  • Our readiness assignment for the CC-177 Globemaster III ranges from 24 hours to 21 days for humanitarian assistance missions.
  • Our CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft maintain readiness to respond within 12 hours for domestic operations, conducted under the auspices of Canada Command.
  • Our tactical transport communities, which include our helicopters, maintain a number of platforms on high readiness by region for domestic emergency response, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours “notice to move”.
  • For example, the CC-130 Hercules readiness is the shortest, at 30 minutes for search and rescue, 24 hours for domestic operations, or three days for unforecasted support to the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command.

Maintaining this level of readiness requires a significant level of planning, effort and resources. Moreover, as we look to the future, we will be challenged to maintain our readiness.

We need to ensure that our ability, creativity and innovation – the factors that enable our readiness – are institutionalized.

We have always been able to adapt to new technologies, procedures and techniques largely because of our flexible, highly competent, and extremely knowledgeable airmen and airwomen.

For instance, our personnel at the air wing in Afghanistan acquired a very sharp focus on high-intensity, multi-fleet combat operations.

In this operational Petri dish, the learning curve was tremendously steep, but our people adapted wonderfully – often learning in days, or even hours, what might normally take months or years.

Our “lessons learned” from Afghanistan are being analyzed and institutionalized, to guide our doctrine and training for years to come, and thereby further strengthen our readiness.

In addition, we have made tremendous investments in our human resources over the past decade.

We have revamped several of our occupations to ensure career structures are optimized, that training, experience and tasks are aligned, and that opportunities for career advancement are improved.

Moreover, we are creating efficiencies in personnel training and seeing promising improvements through the use of technologies such as networked virtual training in simulated environments.

We are also transforming the training system for our technicians: training more students in less time but graduating them with an even greater degree of technical competence.

We need to continue to carry out this type of self-examination and refinement in the years to come.

With regard to our aircraft fleets, we are facing tremendous opportunities – but many will challenge our ability to maintain readiness.

Very soon we will integrate the Cyclone into our fleets.

We will have personnel availability challenges, training challenges, as well as the growing pains that can be part of bringing any first into operation.

The new CH-147F Chinook will bring similar challenges, although our experience in Afghanistan should facilitate its entry into service. 

In late 2016 we expect to start taking delivery of the F-35 Lightning II, our next generation fighter.

We know that some of the threats faced by the CF-18 Hornet in the 20th century have faded, some have continued and new ones have emerged. There is no reason for us to doubt that we will continue to see similar fluidity and evolution in threats as this century unfolds.

Acquisition of the fifth-generation F-35 will enhance our readiness, giving us the flexibility to face the threats we know and, just as importantly, the threats that have yet to emerge.

In conclusion, we face many challenges every day in the Royal Canadian Air Force but we see these as opportunities to strengthen the institution. 

Supported by a robust operational command system, relevant equipment, effective training and education, and rich operational experience, our airmen and airwomen are willing to take on whatever domestic and global security challenges our nation may face today or tomorrow.

The Royal Canadian Air Force is ready.


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