The Canadian Forces must replace their ageing
Hercules fleet and rebuild their capacity to transport personnel
and equipment, according to The Need for Canadian Strategic Lift
, released today by The Fraser Institute.
"Strategic lift" -the ability to get Canadian Forces where they
are needed in theatres overseas, whether by air or sea-is a
necessary condition for the eventual rebuilding of Canadian
Because Canada is isolated by wide oceans from most of the
trouble spots of the world and because Canada has no overseas
bases, if our armed forces are to be deployed abroad, whether the
mission involves combat, peacekeeping, or humanitarian relief,
they must be sent there from home soil.
"The fact is that in order for Canada to realize its
international objectives, it must be able to get to wherever
those objectives can be achieved," pointed out Barry Cooper,
co-author and director of the Institute's Alberta office. "If
Canada is to have a foreign policy worthy of the name, our armed
forces require strategic lift."
The well-publicized delays surrounding Canada's response to the
South-east Asian tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004, vividly
illustrate the Canadian Forces lack of transport capability.
The authors point out that with the bulk of Canada's CC-130
Hercules transport aircraft fleet being over 35 years old, they
must be replaced or Canada will lose a major means of maintaining
its place in the international system.
The study rejects the common argument that Canada can rent assets
when needed. "It is our position that Crown assets, not
rent-a-ship or rent-a plane programs, are needed," said Cooper.
"In our estimation of the long term costs, owning beats renting."
The authors recommend that the Canadian Forces' airlift needs can
best be met by purchasing a mix of C-17 Globemaster III and
C-130J Hercules aircraft.
The sealift mix is more complex and the study lays out the
options and the implications of specific choices. The federal
government's recent announcement of a replacement for the
auxiliary oiler and replenishment ships (AORs) is a start; but
additional ships and decisions regarding the future of the Navy
in joint operations with the Army will determine the kind of
However, Cooper points out that in the larger context, what
aircraft to buy or lease, or which ship to build, buy, or convert
is secondary to the overarching question of how committed Canada
wants to be in the world.
Without a firm understanding of the benefits and costs, and of
the link between policy and strategy, procurement decisions may
result in acquiring too little capability or wasting dollars for
He notes that Canada may require a smaller fleet of large
transport planes and a handful of ships but that can be decided
only by a consideration of where Canada wants to be in the
"It is up to Government to show sufficient leadership, courage,
and imagination to make the appropriate choices and to explain to
Canadians why it is at least as important to be able to project
power as to enunciate a lofty vision of international justice,"