Vanguard Magazine

Aug/Sept 2014

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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Page 13 of 47

type of package has been very interesting," he said. "Seeing what radios they have, what capabilities, and how we can best opti- mize their capabilities when operating with the CF-18s and other newer generation fighters has been fascinating." The experience has also encouraged the RCAF to begin pro- moting the vast Romanian air space – a rare feature in Europe – to NATO allies for future training exercises. Scalable concept All the training, of course, is happening against a political back- drop. Whether the exercises of Canadian and Romanian fighter jets have any impact on Russian actions Pletz leaves to higher au- thorities. But he says the RCAF presence is making a difference in Romania. "Working with the Canadian embassy in Bucharest, seeing the Canadian whole-of-government approach that is being used, re- assuring our allies and Romanians that Canada is committed to NATO and helping reinforce security and stability – that is where I see an effect." Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin, commander of the RCAF, has lauded the Air Expeditionary Wing as a sign of the RCAF's versatility and flexibility to deal with security challenges of the 21st century. As ATF prepares to transition to air policing in the Baltic on September 1 – the BAP mission has been conducted over Lithuanian, Latvia and Estonia for the last 10 years – that adaptability will once again be on display as it scales down to meet new mission requirements. "The whole ATF concept is designed to be deployed anywhere," Pletz said. "We can have this set up and scaled up from 50 people to 280 plus. This has been proof of concept for us and it has worked very well." While both countries have benefited from sharing best practices, the Canadians have learned one hard lessons: pick your partners carefully when it comes to sports – or at least pick your sport carefully. A soccer game between the two resulted in a resound- ing Romanian victory, prompting Pletz to try and keep the score hidden from superiors. "I think after they scored the fifth or sixth goal, they started to take it easy on us," he said. "It was crystal clear that their national sport is indeed soccer. The sportsmanship, however, was outstanding." He's now working on getting hockey equipment into theatre to host a rematch – in ball hockey. A Air ExPEdiTionARy 14 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 Romanian tactics and procedures and of the iconic MiG21 were an experience, Pletz said. "We are very used to working with the western Europeans but this is the first time that we have conducted anything like this with a former Eastern bloc country. It's exceeding all of my ex- pectations. It has gone so much more beyond just the aircrew exchanges. Every aspect of flight operations support has had ex- cellent exchanges of best practices: for example our firefighters, maintenance crews, medical personnel, air traffic controllers. It has been extremely valuable for all of us." While the usually language barriers were prevalent at first, French proved to be a useful workaround. (RAF pilots speak Eng- lish but on occasion will revert to Romanian, which the Canadian pilots jokingly refer to as "going classified.") Much of the mission has been centred on bilateral air-to-air training with the RAF, performing air defense, air superiority and tactical support missions. But it soon expanded into joint bilateral air-to-ground training with Joint Tactical Air Controllers from the Romanian army and special forces, and, in the last months, into multilateral training with NATO partners, introducing NATO AWACS and other NATO aircraft. Primarily, however, the focus has been on knowledge transfer. Last October, Romania closed a deal to acquire 12 Lockheed Mar- tin F-16 fighters from Portugal. The MiG, which Pletz calls a tank- like aircraft, is far less susceptible to foreign object damage, among other things, then its newer generation counterparts and thus re- quires a different approach to aircraft and airfield maintenance. For the Romanians, the operation has been an opportunity to work with Link 16 data exchange networking and understand the infrastructure required as they prepare to transition to the newer fleet of F-16s, which will be Link 16 capable. The knowledge and infrastructure is also a necessity as the U.S. and other NATO partners deploy and exercise with the Romanians more frequently. "We have some Link 16 expertise in our task force," Pletz said. "Interoperability is one of the keys to success that we want to focus on, to identify any issues and improve. We are looking more long term to provide what we can for the Romanians." For the Canadians, it has been an opportunity to further refine NATO's flying doctrine and hone mutual skills, especially those ap- plicable to air policing practices in the Baltic (Romania has previ- ously provided aircrews to the Baltic Air Policing [BAP] mission). "Being able to integrated some of these nuances into a coalition Loading a CC-177 in Campia Turzii and Romanian Air Force JTACs. Photos: Cpl Jean Archambault.

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