OTTAWA (CP) - Canada's largest-ever joint military exercise in the Arctic had one decidedly weak link - a Sea King helicopter, which broke down repeatedly, leaving its crew idle in the midst of key manoeuvres.
Exercise Narwhal was another demonstration that the aging choppers, not due to fully retire until 2011, are highly unreliable, newly released records show.
The helicopter "was a problem aircraft from the first day it landed on the flight deck," says an internal Canadian Forces report, dated Nov. 30.
The "technicians worked extremely hard to keep the aircraft flying, but there are only so many battles that can be won with a 41-year-old (aircraft)."
In a nutshell, that is the problem - a 41-year-old aircraft. Of the 41 of these things purchased back in 1963 more than half are still in service. The helicopters, using 1950s-era technology, require 30 hours of maintenance for each hour of flight.
The Mulroney government had announced plans in 1992 to replace the fleet with the purchase of 50 EH-101 helicopters at a cost of $5.8 billion. However that was deemed "too expensive" by the newly elected Liberal government in 1993 which subsequently cancelled the purchase. Of course taxpayers were still on the hook for $500 million in penalties for the deal's cancellation. At the time the Liberals referred to the EH-101s as "cadillacs" the country couldn't afford. For the next 10+ years absolutely nothing further was done about the problem - the Liberals remained non-committal and the Sea Kings continued to either crash, fail to lift off or suffer from a myriad of other problems.
Finally in July of last year it was announced that Ottawa would spend $3.2 billion to purchase 28 Sikorsy S-92 twin-engine helicopters. The only problem with the deal is that we are stuck with the Sea Kings until at least 2012 - wow, only another 7 years to go. This is on top of the dud submarines we purchased not long ago.
All of this has prompted someone to finally say enough is enough.
OTTAWA (CP) - Canada's new top soldier used his inaugural speech Friday to criticize the Liberal government for not spending enough on the military.
"In this country, we could probably not give enough resources to the men and women to do all the things that we ask them to do," Gen. Rick Hillier said at a full military ceremony, as the prime minister and the defence minister looked on. "But we can give them too little, and that is what we are now doing," the new chief of defence staff said. "Remember them in your budgets."
At a news conference, Hillier made no apologies for his earlier remarks, saying he was speaking on behalf of the Canadian Forces.
Bravo General Hillier! It's about time somebody took the initiative to speak out loud and say what needs to be said. I find it appalling that our government makes it a regular practice of sending our brave troops into dangerous situations with substandard equipment. It's appalling, revolting and borderline criminal.
It's alright for the Liberals to refer to the $5.8 billion purchase of military hardware as "too expensive" yet continue to fund the bloated Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to a tune of $1 billion a year - a network with less than 6% of the audience share. It's about priorities and this Liberal regime has some strange ones.
[cross-posted to Rite Turn Only]