Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Peter MacKay debunked

A follow-up on Peter MacKay's hyping of the Russian jet "incident" of last week. Ottawa Citizen defence reporter David Pugliese has some military reaction to MacKay's publicizing of the event. They tend to believe that the F-35 purchase was indeed driving MacKay's leaking of the information to the media.

Pugliese also helpfully sets out the transcript of MacKay's CTV interview in capitals then immediately underneath, juxtaposes the military personnel's reaction to MacKay:
MacKay: “WHAT WE'VE BEEN REQUESTING REPEATEDLY IS THAT THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT GIVE US A HEADS UP. THAT IS GIVE US NOTICE WHEN THEIR AIRCRAFT ARE COMING THAT CLOSE TO OUR AIRSPACE.”

In fact, the two bombers had been airborne for more than 40 hours. NORAD and NATO allies would have followed their every movement, right from liftoff from their bases. Both Russia and the U.S. conduct flights like this, without advance warning, to test their own crews as well as see what reaction times of opposing forces are. On other occasions, advance warning of a flight is given.

MacKay: “THOSE CF-18 PILOTS AND THEIR CREW SCRAMBLED VERY QUICKLY. THEY WERE ON THE SCENE TO REPEL THESE RUSSIAN BOMBERS, LET THEM KNOW THAT THEY WERE THERE. THEY WERE NOT TO ENTER INTO CANADIAN AEROSPACE. THEY DID COME CLOSER THAN WE'VE SEEN IN RECENT TIMES, AND THEY WERE PICKED UP BY NORAD.”

CF-18 pilots did not “repel” the Russian aircraft. The Russians never entered Canadian airspace and the Russian crew knew exactly where they were. The CF-18s flew to meet the Russian aircraft, as they have countless times in the past. If Canadian aircraft had taken actual “action” against the Russian bombers in international airspace, Canada would be in the wrong, in essence, potentially sparking a war with Russia.

CTV INTERVIEWER: IS IT USUALLY THE SAME TYPE OF AIRCRAFT THEY FLY IN WITH?

MacKay: YES, VERY OFTEN THESE TU-95 SO-CALLED BEAR BOMBERS. THESE ARE OLDER AIRCRAFT, BUT IT'S THE UNIDENTIFIED APPEARANCE OF THESE AIRCRAFT THAT WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT, AND IN FACT WE HAVE REQUESTED THAT THESE SORTIES. THESE FLIGHTS WOULD BE ANNOUNCED THAT WE WOULD BE GIVEN NOTICE THAT THEY WERE COMING. SO IT IS ALARMING IN THE SENSE THAT WE WANT TO BE PREPARED EACH AND EVERY TIME ANY UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT APPROACHES CANADIAN AEROSPACE. I DON'T NEED TO HARKEN UP THE MEMORIES OF 9/11, BUT ANY TIME WE'RE SEEING SHIPS APPROACH UNANNOUNCED, ANYTHING COMING OVER LAND, THAT IS THE CANADIAN FORCES PRIMARY ROLE THAT IS TO PROTECT CANADIAN SOVEREIGNTY TO BE AWARE AND BE PREPARED FOR WHATEVER INEVITABILITIES MAY COME.

Contrary to what MacKay is claiming, these aircraft were not “unidentified.” They were tracked the entire flight from their Russian bases by various air defence organizations of allied nations. Over that course of time, the radio transmissions between the two crews, as well as between the aircraft and their main base, would have been monitored. It is not alarming in any sense. NORAD is a professional organization that, along with NATO partners, would have identified and tracked these two Russian bombers. No one was taken off guard, despite what MacKay is suggesting. And although MacKay mentions 911, of course, the 911 attacks came from within North American airspace, not from international airspace.
This reporting suggests it was all a matter of routine flight exercises that were indeed tracked by NORAD. MacKay appears to have been way off base with his exaggerating posture and ill-chosen words. Not exactly a surprise given their history of making these exaggerations but it's always helpful to have it blown wide open.