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Air Force Commander Says RCAF Not Ready for Conflict

By James Careless

If a conflict breaks out that directly involves Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is not ready to fight it. This sobering statement comes from the person in charge — RCAF Commander Lieutenant-General E.J. (Eric) Kenny.

Speaking in Ottawa November 7th at the 2023 Canadian Aerospace Summit, LGen Kenny said that his personnel are able to keep up with the various ‘competition’ management missions currently assigned to it by the Canadian government — such as monitoring sanctions against North Korea from the air that does not involve actual fighting. (He was speaking on stage with Mike Mueller, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada that is hosting this event.)

However, should an armed conflict occur, “I’m very concerned right now about our ability to do our job effectively against the current threats,” LGen Kenny said. “As long as we stay in a competition phase, we’re fine. [But if] We get into conflict: We need to rapidly evolve our efforts because we’re not ready, quite frankly, with what we have right now.”

He was quick to add that his statement was “not a criticism” of the RCAF’s personnel.. “Our folks work very diligently and they love what they do,” said LGen Kenny. “But they don’t have the equipment that they need.”

LGen Kenny was also quick to acknowledge that “a lot of funding has already been given to the air force to do modernization efforts. Having said that, what we know across the board is that we don’t have sufficient funding for the sustainment of our current capabilities,” he explained. “In particular, older fleets are becoming more costly to sustain, and in some cases suppliers are not able to provide us with what they currently have available to replace the [older] systems, let alone find options for new replacements. So fleets are becoming more expensive to maintain and then typically new capabilities also cost a lot of money. So our ability to sustain it is the challenge facing us, and I’m worried about how that will affect our readiness as we move forward.”

Given the plight of the RCAF when it comes to conflict readiness, is there anything the Canadian defence industry can do to help? Apparently the answer to that question is yes. “Where industry can help us is — when we do get the contract signed — making sure that they deliver on the time lines that are part of the contracts,” said LGen Kenny, plus “ working collaboratively [with the RCAF] together.”

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