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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Russian Bombers Challenge Canada's Air Defences

For years the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been calling on the federal government to make the military base at 5 Wing Goose Bay a fully operational and integral part of Canada’s defence.

During the last federal election Stephen Harper promised to station a 650 member rapid response contingent at the base but since taking office there has been little talk of the issue. Now residents of the area are expressing concerns after Russian bombers arrived in the area unexpectedly on several occasions in recent months.

5 Wing Goose Bay was once a key installation in protecting Canada’s sovereignty. Geographically located on the eastern and northern approaches to Canada it is ideally situated for such a mission. Since the end of the cold war the base has largely been used as a training facility and in recent years has been all but forgotten by the Canadian government.

Canada’s Eastern and Northern air defence in the area is now managed from a base at Bagotville Quebec, nearly a thousand kilometres further inland than the 5 Wing base.

Recently Russian planes have made several forays either to the edge or, according to some reports, even inside Canadian airspace without permission. There are also unconfirmed reports that on several occasions the pilots of those planes refused to identify themselves when directed to do so by military personnel.

During the first such incident, in August, Canadian forces CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled from the Quebec base however witnesses say that by the time they arrived in the area the Russian plans had already reached Labrador. Since that time six F18s have been temporarily assigned to 5 Wing in order to respond to any potential infractions by the Russian military.

One of the people strongly in favour of renewing the role of 5 Wing is Liberal Senator George Baker, who said in the past that CF-18s are sometimes scrambled from Quebec and are forced to touch down in Goose Bay to refuel before continuing out over the Atlantic to complete their missions.

In response to the latest incidents Lt. Col. Brian Bowerman, acting wing commander for the squadron, said he believes the Russian bombers have been testing North American air defence response, and although he does not consider their actions hostile the Canadian forces are indeed on alert.

The stationing of 6 CF-18s in Labrador, in response to this move by Russia and the apparent ability of foreign aircraft to reach, or even enter, Canadian airspace, has led to renewed calls on the federal government to live up to its obligation to Canada’s air defence and to the Labrador base. So far there has been no response from either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence.

Meanwhile, Dean Clarke, a town councillor in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said he believes the presence of the CF-18s at the local base proves 5 Wing still has strategic importance. This sentiment is echoed by Newfoundland and Labrador Transportation Minister, John Hickey.

According to Hickey, “Goose Bay is as important to our military, the defence of our country and North America as it was back in the '40s and '50s and this is evidence of that".

"It makes sense to position aircraft here on a permanent basis."

In his recent throne speech Stephen Harper indicated that Arctic sovereignty was a key issue for his government yet the lack of a military response team in Labrador has left some wondering just how sincere the Prime Minister really is on the issue and how secure our borders truly are.

There has been no confirmation of whether or not the Russian bombers might have been carrying any offensive weapons when they approached Canadian airspace.

UPDATE - October 25, 10:30 am:

Canadian military officials are saying today, that dispite claims to the contrary, at no time did the Russian bombers off North America actually enter Canadian airspace.

In addition, a military spokesperson delivered the offical government position that the CF-18 jets now at Goose Bay are stationed there because of renovations underway at the Bagotville base. There is some speculation that this official line has been carefully crafted to avoid what might be considered a major international incident in the area.


Anonymous said...

Christ, this is nuts. I don't think Russia is planning to attack but its scary that military jets can get to our shores before we can respond.

The only reason to station those fighters in Quebec and not Labrador is political. The voters of Quebec are happy, the businesses in that part of Quebec are happy but all the while our eastern and northern borders are open to attack.

Way to go Stevie!

Ussr said...

"from the Quebec base however witnesses say that by the time they arrived in the area the Russian plans had already reached Labrador"

After nearly having the population killed off in two world wars we now allow this to happen!!!

Question Number One: Where was the AirForce!!!

Question Number Two:Why do we have a Federal Governement Again!!!

Cheep ,Pathetic ,federal government.Thease idiots couldn't ward off the fight from a bad Flue Bug!!!Can you believe this!!!GEEEZ!!!

Anonymous said...

Of course the government and military are going to dance around what's really going on. When you're caught with your pants down deny, deny, deny.

Did you really expect them to admit they coudn't respond fast enough in the first place and that they had to use Goose Bay so they could do what needed to be done?

Same old story, Lies and more lies.

Starrigan said...

The best part is Steve is going to look like a moron in the eyes of the Americans. Just think Steve is yapping about security and he can't even get a plane in the air in time to intercept a Russian bomber. Sad thing is he is probably aware that this sort of thing is going on but he just absolutely hates to give anything to NL. So in his effort to not give Danny any crumbs he gets caught with his pants down. It's unbelievable that the Prime Minister of a country could be so petty and full of hate. I hope the media jumps all over this, if not ours, maybe the American media can blow this out of proportion, they always freak at security short comings.

Patriot said...

NOTE: Early this morning several comments that were sent in during the overnight were accidentally deleted. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

I encourage anyone who's comment did not get posted to re-submit for review.

Mental note: It doesn't pay to review comments when you're not fully awake.


Anonymous said...

If Labrador ever wanted a loophole to fight for the promise made by Prime Minister Harper to station 659 Canadian Military personnel in Goose Bay, it received that loophole last week with the event that supposedly occurred with the Russian incursion.

It is silly to think that before any such strike can be attempted by the Canadian Military, it first has to launch a plane 1000 kilometres further west than Goose Bay, then have the plane stop for refuelling at Goose Bay before any mission can get started.

Whoever drew up such a Militaristic plan to fight incursions into our airspace from the East must have indeed been very inept.

I can remember during the Cold War every other month there seem to have been a report of a Russian Fighter having to be intercepted. Why did our Newfoundland and Labrador government leaders not pick up on the fact that the nearest Canadian air base was 1000 kilometre to the west? One would think that they could have secured one of the many Canadian Military bases for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is unthinkable that Canada would have allowed 1000 kilometres of its extreme eastern and northern landmass to be without protection. Who really is in charge of such planning for the Canadian Military?

Starrigan said...

I guess the military planners concluded that there are no important targets in Atlantic Canada worth protecting, except maybe the Naval Base in Halifax but, then again the Americans would be there before the Canukistani's showed up.

Anonymous said...



Tories playing politics with Quebec military college: Bloc MP
Last Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2007 | 9:36 AM ET
CBC News
A Bloc Québécois member of Parliament is accusing the Conservative government of playing politics in its decision to reopen a Quebec military school.

MP Claude Bachand said it is suspicious that the Defence Department announced in July that it would reopen the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu —when only a year earlier, the Tories drafted a memo that suggested the school should remain closed.

Bachand, who represents the riding of Saint-Jean, said the possibility of an upcoming federal election and federal byelections may have been behind the Conservatives' change of heart about the fate of the school, which is about 35 kilometres south of Montreal.

As it turned out, three byelections were held in Quebec on Sept. 18, two months after the defence minister announced the school would reopen. The elections were won by the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc.

"[The Conservatives] had a sense that maybe an election was coming and so they wanted to distribute some goodies around," Bachand told CBC News. "It was politically driven. It was not the good intent of the government, it was political intent."

CBC News obtained a document dated May 2006 that suggest the Conservatives didn't want to open the school. The document was prepared by the Defence Department to brief then defence minister Gordon O'Connor for question period in the House of Commons.

"There are no plans to reopen the military college at Saint-Jean," the document reads. "Our needs are currently being served by the Royal Military College in Kingston, and there is no need for a second institution."

Officials with the Defence Department argued that notes prepared for ministers don't always reflect the ultimate government policy and that, in the end, the government decided that closing the school down was wrong for Canada.

The college, which counted retired general Roméo Dallaire and astronaut Marc Garneau among its alumni, closed in 1995 after the Liberal government of the time cut spending in its 1994 budget and shut down 21 military institutions.

The school will reopen in the fall of 2008, offering a two-year junior college program for 200 students. Unlike the Royal Military College in Kingston, the St. Jean school will not offer university-level courses, something it had done before closing.

When O'Connor announced the school reopening on July 19, pledging $200 million to the institution over 20 years, he said he was correcting a grievous wrong committed by the Liberals.

"This has nothing to do with politics," he said. "It has to do with giving francophones their place within the military, giving them the institutions to grow, so they can fulfill all the positions in the Armed Forces."