Archive for category Canada

Drone crash grounds US surveillance drones on the Canadian border

David Pugliese, reporting in the Ottawa Citizen, says that a drone operated by US  Customs and Border Protection has crashed off San Diego. Apparently the crash grounded the entire fleet of surveillance drones that monitor both the Mexican and Canadian borders of the US. Presumably the drone was a Predator drone, made by General Atomics.

A description of the drone surveillance programme along the US border with Canada has been posted on the blog previously.

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My 2014 Prediction: Canada will announce purchase of Israeli drones

The Canadian government long ago said that it intended to buy a drone system for the Canadian military, and implemented a programme to determine needs and set out criteria for purchase, in the form of Project JUSTAS (Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System).

Very little information has been released to the public that would allow anyone to follow the deliberations of this body, even as a procession of lobbyists have had access to all levels of government.

In October 2013 MacDonald Dettwiler announced that it would provide Canada with Raven hand-launched drones, and associated training and maintenance. It isn’t clear whether this acquisition was related to Project JUSTAS, but clearly the Canadian government is still in the market for large surveillance, or even armed drones.

In November, 2013 the Canadian Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson, welcomed the Israeli Minister of Defence, Moshe Ya’alon, and was effusive about the relationship between Canada and the apartheid regime. Nicholson stated ‘I am confident that we will find avenues to expand our defence relations even further in the near future.” Several ministers in the Conservative government waste no opportunities to support the Netanyahu regime.

While no specifics were released it seems likely that the two discussed the possibility of Canada buying Israeli drones, as Israel has become the largest retailer of drones worldwide. Several Israeli companies make large surveillance drones, of which Israeli Aerospace Industries (Heron family of drones) and Elbit Systems (Hermes family of drones) are the largest. Elbit Systems often tries to sell its drones as ‘turn key’ systems, manufactured in the buyer country to permit ‘manufacturing offsets’. Both companies provide drones to the Israeli military for repressing Palestinians, and both drone systems have been implicated with deaths of civilians in Israeli drone attacks on Gaza. Canada has rented Heron drones from IAI for use by Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Aside from Israeli companies, America’s Northrup Grumman has been aggressively trying to sell their Global Hawk drone to Canada. However Global Hawk is very expensive and likely to be unpopular with the Conservatative base.

General Atomics, which makes the Predator/Reaper class of drones has been less in evidence, perhaps sensing that the quagmire of Canadian defence procurement is best avoided. Predator/Reapers are cheaper, but are clearly thought of as armed drones, which may be a step the Conservative government isn’t ready to make as an election approaches.

Another possibility for a Canadian drone purchase would be the British-Israeli Watchkeeper, which will be part of UK military exercises at CFB Suffield in 2014. Watchkeeper will likely have civilian airspace certification. The Canadian military claims it doesn’t neen civilian authority to fly drones domestically, but certification would make it easier to fly drones to monitor pipeline protesters, (and other Canadian dissidents), which must surely be one of the goals of the Conservative government. Watchkeeper has a very large Israeli component, which would allow the Harper government to support the Netanyahu government while keeping the purchase within NATO. However the Canadian public is sure to react to buying any equipment from the UK military after the submarine debacle of a few years ago.

The Conservative ministers would have trouble facing their Israeli counterparts if they wasted the most obvious  opportunity to make a high profile purchase of military technology from the apartheid regime.

Based on the information that is publicly available it my ‘best guess’ that the Canadian government will announce that it intends to buy one of the Israeli drone options in 2014.

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British Israeli Watchkeeper drones will be tested at Canadian Forces Base Suffield

Flight Global reports that the UK armed forces will test the Watchkeeper drone  at Canadian Forces Base, Suffield, Alberta in 2014 and beyond. That the UK would test Watchkeeper there was anticipated from at least 2006 as indicated in the Environmental Assessment for that year.

British forces have long used Canadian Forces Base, Suffield for training, calling it British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS). There is already a drone test facility at Suffield. It isn’t clear whether the British drones will be tested there, or as autonomous units.

TTU Online has reported that British military officials will invite French military officers to join in the testing of Watchkeeper, as part of the ongoing effort of the British military industrial establishment to sell the French a few Watchkeeper systems.

Watchkeeper is an Anglo-Israeli-French drone, based on the Israeli Hermes 450 drone used widely in the suppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

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Canada to loosen restrictions to boost arms trade

In line with its Conservative cousins in the UK, Canada’s government has moved to increase arms sales by removing some restrictions on exports. Diane Finley, the Minister of Public Works tasked with managing a review of the items that can be exported, announced recently that more than half the items would be taken off the list. (In other words, items deemed too dangerous to export in 2002, are now considered safe). In keeping with this governments habit of secrecy, the review was announced with little fanfare.

According to Finley’s statement, reported by Lee Berthiaume in the Ottawa citizen, the purpose of the review was to align Canada’s policies with that of the US.

Arms sold by Canada to the Saudi dictatorship were recently used to suppress democracy demonstrations in nearby Bahrain. Bahrain is home of the US Fifth Fleet, and the US has been reluctant to support democratic movements which could destabilise the ruling dictators who gave them permission to be there. Likewise Canada’s foreign affairs Minister John Baird has given support to the Bahrain dictators, over democracy protesters.

Lee Berthiaume reported that Canada would like to widen exports to countries like Chile, Peru, South Korea and Brazil. (Brazil may not be so keen after recent allegations of Canadian industrial spying). Whether the list  will be expanded to a longer list of autocratic countries isn’t clear. But if the government is willing to export arms to the Saudi dictatorship, one assumes that our government will have few limitations on who it sells to.

When the UK Conservative government greatly expanded the list of export targets, they were quickly stung by the Arab Spring, which revealed them in numerous arms trade transactions with Colonel Qadaffi of Libya.



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Opinion: Questions about Canadian arms procurement

The Canadian government, stung by lack of job growth, is making ‘industrial offsets’ a key priority of for defence spending, according to Public Works Minister Diane Finley as reported in the Ottawa Citizen. According to Finley the government would make defence spending conditional on the creation of jobs in Canada by the successful companies bidding on government defence contracts.

While there is nothing new about industrial offsets, the practise has been criticised for increasing the costs of military spending on one side, and allowing arms companies to ‘bribe’ cities or regions with job claims on the other. Job claims that have a history of being bogus.

Finley ominously said that defence spending (military procurement) plans would be reviewed by ‘third party advisors’, without specifying who these third parties might be. Another layer of bureaucracy? Costly international consultants?

The announcement comes as the Conservative government has failed to deliver on most of its military procurement plans, and seems to signal the failure of its past policies and administration.

Perhaps Canadians should be grateful that Canadian arms procurement has been so inept that the military must have grave doubts about being embroiled in any more international conflicts.

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American maker of attack drones strengthens ties with Canadian military supplier

General Atomics, the maker of Predator and Reaper drones has formed an alliance with CAE, the Canadian supplier of training and simulation technology to consider integration of CAE training and simulation into General Atomics products world wide. The companies were already teamed to try to sell General Atomics drones to the Canadian military under Project JUSTAS. CAE touted the alliance as providing future Canadian jobs, and the alliance obviously is poised to offer manufacturing offsets to sweeten any potential deal to between Canada and General Atomics to buy drones.

Deliberations on the purchase of military drones continue under the radar of the Canadian public, which soon may be faced with a Cabinet decision to buy either a General Atomics drone, or one from either of the leading Israeli drone companies. Either way the most likely drone choices have a bloody history in the suppression of Palestinian independence, or in the conflict zones of the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia.

CAE’s Group President, Military Simulation Products, Training and Services is Gene Colabatistto, a former US marine major with long history in security and space organisations.

General Atomics is a major lobbyist in both Canada and the US, and makes substantial political donations in the US to federal politicians. CAE regularly lobbies Canadian politicians and bureaucrats.

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Militarist revolving door in Canada

Like every other country exporting and importing arms, there is a revolving door of people through the military, government, the arms industry, and the lobby industry. Because of the vast potential for profits in the arms industry, arms companies are able to hire post career politicians and military personnel, who in return help them persuade their former government peers to buy arms from the companies involved.

This week there were revelations that Maureen Murphy, the new chief of staff for recently appointed Minister of Defence Rob Nicholson, is married to a lobbyist and Conservative Party insider, Rick Morgan. Yesterday, it was announced that Morgan had resigned from his job as Vice President for Tactix Government Relations. Tactix has (or had) contracts to work for Pratt and Whitney (supplier of engines for the F-35, and for a variety of companies in countries including Israel and the US), Bombardier,  and MDA (which has many space science contracts with the government and sometimes represents Israeli Aerospace Industries, a drone supplier). At Tactix Morgan worked along side a variety of political insiders, former army officers, and arms company veterans. By today most traces of Morgan were gone from the company’s website (but cached here).

Newspapers are filled with articles about Ms Murphy building ethical firewalls ‘to protect herself from undue influence by her husband’. But is it only window dressing? Morgan was himself a political insider who managed the electoral campaign for now deposed Defence Minister, Peter Mackay. In the tangled web of personal connections, loyalties, and hope for future considerations, is there a realistic hope that the interests of the arms company clients of Tactix won’t be somehow promoted in cabinet?

Canada needs stronger laws to prevent the revolving door of political insiders and former military officers from profiting by working for arms companies.

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UK arms ties with Israel show complicity

A recent report released by the UK illustrate just how widespread Israeli arms sales are, and how many British components are sold along with Israeli weapons. A detailed list of export control decisions can be seen on the Campaign Against the Arms Trade website .

Among the countries receiving Israeli arms exports (with British components) were Algeria, Pakistan, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz stated there were hundreds of applications from Israeli companies to use British components in Israeli arms, (even while the UK was admonishing Israel over its continued illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and attacks on Gaza). Some of these arms were used by the Israeli military, others were exported. Exports of arms and components from Britain require permits under military end use control legislation.

Among the other clients were India, Singapore, Turkey, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Sweden, Portugal, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Thailand, Macedonia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, Ecuador, Mexico, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Equatorial Guyana, Poland and Argentina. (These are all purchasers of Israeli weapons with UK components).

According to Haaretz in the past five years the UK rejected only 52 applications to use UK weapons or components on the basis that they could be used for repression in the Palestinian territories.

Clearly the UK is profitting handsomely from its arms sales to Israel which may explain its reluctance to take any serious action against the apartheid policies and human rights abuses of the Netanyahu government.

Haaretz states that more than half of Israeli drone exports in the past seven years were to Europe, with the largest purchase the Watchkeeper drone, ( the beleaguered history of which can be found elsewhere in this blog). So even while the UK was rejecting a few arms sales from Israel, it continued to approve hundreds of exports, as well as purchasing hundred of millions of pounds worth of drone technology from Israel.

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Project JUSTAS, Canadian plan to acquire military drones drags on

Project JUSTAS is the Canadian military initiative to acquire military drones.

David Pugliese is reporting in the Ottawa Citizen that Canadian Associate Minister of Defence Kerry-Lynne Findlay is saying that the ‘option analysis’ stage of Project JUSTAS is taking too long. The project has been at that stage for more than five years. It has been years longer since the military first announced an interest in acquiring drones.

It isn’t clear why the process is taking so long. The arcane nature of the military procurement process, combined with the secretive,controlling behaviour of the Harper government means that the public isn’t privy to what’s going on. So why has the process taken so long and been so secretive?

Is it legendary military incompetence?

Is it conflicting and changing objectives?

Is it rapid evolution of the drones industry which makes it difficult to pick a drone system?

Is it conflict between the military establishment, and the Harper government with respect to goals, and preferred providers? Are the behind the scenes players lobbying, jockeying, manipulating to get what they want?

Is it interference from lobbyists hired by drone sellers, lobbyists who are mostly retired Canadian military officers with inordinante influence in their old department?

Canadian military planners have stated that they want to have armed drones. Despite knowing the ugly record of extra-legal assassinations carried out by the US, Israel, and the UK, Canadian military brass and politicians appear to see having armed drones as a way to play in the ‘big leagues’ with their NATO allies. The leading source of armed drones has previously been General Atomics with its Predator/Reaper family of killer drones. But Israeli companies are also selling armed drones and there are other companies promoting drones capable of being armed with missiles. (John Baird, touted as the next Defence Minister after Peter Mackay has been jettisoned, is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel who may wish to throw business to an Israeli company).

Military planners in Canada are notorious for wanting hardware that ‘does everything’ so it may be that they are having trouble marrying the armed drone objective with their other stated objective of having arctic surveillance drones.

The CANSEC arms fair is currently being held in Ottawa. Among the exhibitors are at least 8 drones vendors, including Thales (France), Aeryon Labs (Canada), BAE Systems (UK), Elbit Systems (Israel), EADS (Europe), General Dynamics (US), Northrup Grumman (US), MacDonald-Dettwiler (Canadian vendor for IAI of Israel). There are other companies, like L-3 Communications, that provide component technology for drones. No doubt some of them will be using the opportunity to further promote their drone products.

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Speculation: Canada’s drone acquisition policy about to shift toward Israel?

Some time in the next few weeks Canada’s Department of National Defence will release the results of its Project JUSTAS (the programme to identify what drones Canada wants to acquire). In the past the military, and the government, have made it clear that among its requirements would be armed drones.

The leading suppliers capable of providing armed drones of the type required would be General Atomics of the US (Predator, Reaper), and the two Israeli drone companies Elbit Systems (Hermes drone variants), and IAI (Heron drone variants). Canada already has a working relationship with IAI and its Canadian agents through its rental of Heron surveillance drones during the Afghanistan occupation.

Israel does not appear to have sold armed drones abroad to date. However Israel is one of three countries to have used armed drones (in its occupation and wars in Palestine) and is reputed to have several variants of armed drones. Several of its surveillance drone variants are easily capable of being armed, and in any case its surveillance drones can be used as attack drones by marrying laser ‘markers’ with other attack systems, like ground-to-ground missiles or jet fighters. Though Israel remains tight lipped, most observers report Israel using drones as part of its recent attacks on Gaza.

Canada is part of the Missile Technology Control Regime, indeed was its originator and among the earliest signators. While the US has ratified the MTCR, Israel is not a signatory. It would be politically difficult for Canada to buy armed drones from Israel, because some of the terms of the MTCR relate to armed drone technology, which can be considered ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

But news of an impending cabinet shuffle may influence this decision. David Pugliese, writing in the Ottawa citizen, has described rumours around Ottawa that current Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay, (who has been ineffectual), will be shifted laterally in the cabinet, or out. Under MacKay Canada’s defence procurement projects have continued to drift from one crisis to the next (though he isn’t the only minister reponsible).   MacKay’s replacement is rumoured to be John Baird. Baird is a combative Israelophile who, in his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, has shifted Canada’s foreign policy sharply in favour of Israel, making Canada arguably Israel’s most vociferous ally.

It is easy to imagine that Baird’s appointment as defence minister would sharply improve the prospects of Israeli companies hoping to sell drones or other military hardware to Canada. Baird has the focus and determination to bulldoze over objections to purchasing military hardware from Israel. He can also be assumed to continue Canada’s move to a beligerent foreign policy in support of American interventions around the world.

Whether or not Canada buys armed drones from Israeli companies, it can be assumed that a John Baird appointment to the head of the Defence ministry would raise their prospects for selling surveillance drones to Canada. Both Elbit Systems and IAI maintain lobbyists in Ottawa, and IAI has a well connected Canadian agent in MacDonald Dettwiler.

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