Praemonitus, Praemunitus – How did that Happen
How did five Army officers from three countries find themselves in a Huntsville, Alabama, restaurant on a Sunday night in 1991 playing brain-teasers with a UK-born waitress with a southern accent?
In part, because the US gave Stingers to several groups including the Mujahidin for use in the Afghan-Soviet war. Stinger requires very little training. The problem is that many have gone missing and could easily show up at an airport near you in the hands of bad guys.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. In 1990, the Mulroney government determined the Cold War was over and Canada should take a peace dividend. Their Defence White Paper called for a Reserve Force of 90,000 (never happened) and that Canada would withdraw from Germany. In 1990, Saddam Hussein was hurling SCUD missiles at Israel and Saudi-Arabia. The low-level air defence (LLAD) system in place in Israel was the American PATRIOT (capitalized because it is an acronym). In early 1991, the coalition responded to free Kuwait. In late 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.
Canada was a leader in LLAD. When Canada announced that they were leaving Germany, the Europeans were upset – even today Trudeau is left out of European defence conferences. In particular, Europe did not want to lose the Canadian ADATS (LLAD system). In fact, they tried first to keep the entire Canadian contingent in place, then backtracked to try to keep the LLAD component, and finally said, ‘just leave the state-of-the-art equipment’. Canada was not listening.
In mid-1991 the future of Canada-US-UK LLAD was unknown so we went on a fact-finding tour.
Some of the questions were: Should, could, would the US take on the LLAD role in Europe? Would they actually buy and deploy the hundreds of ADATS that they had on order? Should, could, would Canada (and the UK) switch from the Javelin to the Stinger to reduce the high cost of training and the operator dependency particularly given that the government was set to move the LLAD role to the Reserve Force? Were there any new LLAD systems or improvements to existing systems in development?
The American LLAD rested on Stinger – manpack, shoulder-launched, fire and forget – and PATRIOT – capable of acting without operator intervention but not particularly effective. Canadian LLAD relied on Javelin – UK-sourced, manpack, shoulder-launched, operator-guided – and ADATS – highly mobile, multi-capable, extremely effective, but not operator independent. I’m leaving out the various guns.
In 1992, much of the Canadian Army contingent in Germany went by road and rail to Belgrade and later Sarajevo. What didn’t go on that deployment was the Canadian low-level air defence systems (ADATS). There was no air threat in the former Yugoslavia so ADATS was sent to Canada and distributed to a few Reserve units. Most famous among these was the Lanark and Renfrew Scottish that traces its origins to 1866. They were usually infantry but had been a light anti-aircraft regiment from 1946-1959. In 1992, they became “1st Air Defence Regiment (Lanark & Renfrew Scottish), Royal Canadian Artillery”. Gunners in kilts. In 2011, ADATS was retired. Canada had been the only country to have them except for one that went to Thailand – the US cancelled their buy. The Javelin was retired in Canada in 2005 without replacement.
What is Canada currently using for low-level air defence? As far as I know, slingshots. There is a current project (2018) in name only that is supposed to acquire an off-the-shelf LLAD system. That project is stalled perhaps because the stealth snowmobile project has a higher priority. Really? Really.
If you are an invading Russian force in the Canadian Arctic, you won’t hear the snowmobiles coming. On the other hand, nobody is going to shoot down your low-flying aircraft. How did that happen?