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New Study Recommends that Canadian Forces Replace Ageing Hercules Fleet

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Release Date: August 3, 2005
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 military capabilities.

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 vessels needed.

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 too much.

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 future.

"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," concluded Cooper.


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