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EXCLUSIVE: Defence bureaucrats inflated fighter replacement program, and it could cost taxpayers billions

Canadian taxpayers would be right to ask why the RCAF needs such an expensive first strike capability, especially given how it will inflate the costs of performing our NORAD and NATO air policing missions by over $10 billion.




This is Part III of an ongoing Western Standard feature examining leaked F-18 fighter replacement program documents.

Read Part I
Read Part II

The public line from the federal government is that the CF-18 fighter replacement program is coming along just fine, and that defence bureaucrats are conducting an open and fair competition. 

This is called into question by 800 pages of leaked documents obtained by the Western Standard showing that defence bureaucrats are defying their political orders by inflating the replacement program requirements in favour of the F-35, the most expensive option by far. At stake are Canada’s air defence capabilities, and billions of dollars in federal taxpayer funds.

The strike scenarios in the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) draft RFP all involve a hypothetical war between a Western NATO equipped “Blueland” and an aggressive “Redland” armed with the latest Russian weapons. This is standard jargon for wargames.

Scenario 3 is laughable, as it reads like a subtle insult to the Prime Minister for his 2015 promise to spend more on the navy. In this scenario, Redland sends a state-of-the-art Russian S-400-armed frigate down an unnamed Blueland river (that looks like the St. Lawrence) to attack a Blueland port (that looks like Quebec City). The Blueland navy is nowhere to be found, thus leaving the Air Force to save the day. When I shared this scenario with a naval expert, he said that this scenario sounds like a job for Canada’s new Type-26 Frigates: the ships Trudeau promised to spend more money on instead of buying the F-35. Only a naval warship can perform a blockade, intercept another ship, and deescalate a conflict. 

Instead, two fighters are asked to sink six small fast boats and disable the frigate. Weapon configurations are not dictated, but the requirement to sink 6 small boats and only temporarily disable the frigate’s S-400 system, suggest the mission should be flown using small weapons that fit inside an F-35. The Gripen gains little to no advantage for supporting the new Saab RBS15 Odin’s Spear anti-ship missile, one of the more advanced large anti-ship weapons in NATO’s arsenal. A weapon that is also supported on the made-in-Canada Saab/Bombardier Swordfish: the leading contender to replace our aging CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft.

Swedish Saab Gripen-E armed with anti-ship missiles. Photo by Jerry Lindberg (Copyright Saab AB)

Scenario 4 is a combination of defensive and offensive counter air missions against a Redland defended by S-400 Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS), and a mix of Su-57 and Su-35 fighters. While unlikely, it is not entirely unreasonable to assume that sometime in the next 30 years NATO nations may be called upon to bomb a dictator who possess some of these impressive Russian weapons. However, the way the strike is designed represents a departure from how coalition forces have historically neutralized modern IADS and from how Canada participated with the CF-18. 

In the First Gulf War and Libyan campaign, IADS were targeted for destruction in the opening salvo of naval cruise missiles, American stealth strikes (F-117 over Iraq, B-2 over Libya), and coalition air launched cruise missiles. Surviving SAM sties were then ruthlessly hunted by specialized SEAD fighters. In both conflicts, the CF-18s transitioned from defensive counter air, to offensive counter air, to bombing missions only as the enemy’s air defences were significantly weakened. If these are the future weapons the RCAF will be up against, then we should ensure that the Royal Canadian Navy’s Type 26 Frigates have enough money in the budget to be armed with modern long-range cruise missiles.

While the Saab Gripen-E, armed with meteor missiles, should prove capable of performing the offensive counter air mission as written, the method points are awarded gives an unfair advantage to the F-35. Only the F-35 is likely to earn the maximum points for getting close to the S-400 system and for threatening the enemy A-50 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft. 

Points in every scenario can be deducted by the Department of National Defence’s (DND’s) evaluators based on a risk factor. The strike scenarios allow for bias to significantly influence that risk factor. If DND evaluators accept Lockheed Martin’s claims that the F-35’s systems will perform perfectly, then it will receive a “low risk” factor and earn full points. If DND evaluators decide that the Gripen’s systems will fail miserably, then they can assign the “very high risk” factor and deduct sixty percent of Saab’s points. This presents a worrisome opportunity for principal-agent mischief and should demand checks and balances like those under the New Fighter Aircraft (NFA) program that selected the affordable CF-18 over the considerably more expensive F-15 that RCAF leadership preferred at the time.

The Scenario 5 strike missions include close air support (CAS), coordinating a naval missile strike on an S-400 system, and engaging moving targets while minimizing collateral damage. All are reasonable air-to-ground missions that would have to be flown during a coalition bombing campaign. That said, the tasks involving the S-400 are biased to benefit the F-35. These types of missions are far beyond the capabilities of the CF-18 and have historically been left to the Americans. 

History has shown that affordable light fighters can make valuable contributions to coalition campaigns. By flying the US Navy defensive counter air mission on day 1 of the First Gulf War, Canada’s CF-18s freed up more advanced US Navy assets to fly missions over Iraq and earned Canadian pilots praise from US Navy controllers. Swedish Gripen-C jets flew 570 armed recon missions over Libya, earning Swedish officers a guest seat at Five Eyes intelligence meetings and praise from the NATO commander, Canadian Lt-General Bouchard: “The Gripens have a strategic importance for the operation. They have a spectacular capability.” French Mirage 2000 light fighters successfully flew numerous missions over Libya, destroyed many Libyan tanks, and bombed Gaddafi’s convoy.

Scenario 6 demands capabilities so far beyond what the RCAF has ever possessed that even the F-35 may be hard pressed to deliver. In a major coalition conflict, it is likely that none of these strike missions would be performed as written in the RFP. The Americans would go in first using the full breadth of their arsenal including stealth drones, an overwhelming naval cruise missile strike, and the future B-21 next-generation stealth bomber. The last stealth bombing mission ordered over Libya by President Obama involved a pair of B-2 stealth bombers, carrying 160 JDAM precision guided bombs. It would have required 80 F-35s to carry that many bombs in stealth mode.

Canadian taxpayers would be right to ask why the RCAF needs such an expensive first strike capability, especially given how it will inflate the costs of performing our NORAD and NATO air policing missions by over $10 billion. Scenario 6 should be discarded, and the associated points distributed to the two NORAD Arctic scenarios.

With COVID-19 related deficits placing a huge financial burden on future taxpayers, there will be significant pressure to keep military spending to a minimum.. Canadian Gripen-E jets would be made in Canada, with full technology transfer, and full industrial offsets. The Gripen is the only jet in the competition that costs less per flight hour than Canada currently spends on the CF-18. 

When Pierre Trudeau purchased the CF-18, it was the least expensive jet in the competition that fulfilled reasonable mission requirements. Respect for the taxpayer and respect for the military are not mutually exclusive concepts in Sweden. The Gripen-E is the right jet to replace the CF-18.

Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist with the Western Standard and a Canadian military analyst


MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”




Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.

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Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 




A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.

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What you need to know about new Alberta government restrictions

“Once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.”




Guest contribution from Jonathan Denis, former minister of justice and solicitor general of Alberta.

COVID-19 is a very divisive subject, and the laws and regulations around it can be confusing as they are both complex and often changing.  Our office (Guardian Law Group LLP) has been receiving increasing inquiries about the restrictions reintroduced by the Government of Alberta.

In response to rising daily infection rates – the so-called “fourth wave” – Premier Jason Kenney announced the new restrictions are as follows:

  1. Masks – Effective September 4, 2021, masks are mandatory for all indoor public spaces and workplaces until further notice.  Schools are not required to impose forced-masking, but school boards will continue to set their own COVID-19 management policies.

There are further requirements and exceptions to the province-wide forced-masking regulations:

  1. Children under two-years of age are exempt;
  2. Individuals who have a medical exemption from masks are required to obtain a medical exemption letter from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or psychologist.  This medical exemption letter may be presented when in a public setting if requested by law enforcement, or in Court if a ticket is issued. A non-exhaustive list of medical conditions for which mask exemptions are granted include sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, mental illness, facial trauma, recent oral surgery, allergic distractions, or respiratory distress (I.e. asthma).
  3. Human rights legislation adds a further layer of complexity. Employers are not permitted to ask an applicant or an employee about current or past medical conditions. Therefore, once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.
  • Early “Last call” – Also on the same date, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, night clubs, and other licensed establishments are required to end alcohol service at 10 pm MST. 
  • Voluntary recommendations – 
  1. Gatherings for unvaccinated people: The province is recommending (but not yet requiring) that unvaccinated Albertans limit their indoor social gatherings to “close contacts” of only two cohort families to a maximum of 10 people.
    1. In-person work: The province is also recommending that plans for in-person return to work be paused and that employers revert to work-from-home where possible.  

There is no legal requirement for mandatory vaccination.  Vaccination info can be found at ahs.ca/vaccine.

The province is also providing incentives for a $1 million draw for those who have two shots which will close on September 23, 2021.  You can enter this draw at alberta.ca/lotterty.  There is also a lottery to win an outdoor adventure which can be entered at alberta.ca/outdoor-adventure-vaccine-lottery.aspx.  Lastly, the province is now offering a $100.00 payment to persons who receive a first or second dose between September 3 and October 14, 2021.

Disclaimer: This column is for information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  We recommend that you follow all laws and regulations.  If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities, please consult a private lawyer.

Jonathan Denis, Q.C. is a partner at Guardian Law Group LLP in Calgary.  He previously served as a two-term MLA and in five cabinet roles, most notably as Alberta’s 23rd Minister of Justice, Solicitor General, and Attorney General.  He has made the choice to be vaccinated twice.

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