28 February 2009

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Or maybe not, according to the Russians.

David Pugliese has a neat blog entry on the whole flap of the past 24 hours coming out of the defence ministers odd comments about an interception of unspecified Russian aircraft by Canadian and American interceptors somewhere north of the continent.

Initial reports suggested the plane – which became two planes at some point – were Tu-95 BEARs.  File footage and still photos of BEARs turned up in all sorts of Canadian media.

The National Post ran a photograph of an Su-24 FENCER for a while in its online coverage.

The Russians said the aircraft were TU-160 BLACKJACKs and that the Canadians and Americans had been notified of the flight in advance. The Post is now running a picture of both Tupolev aircraft.

All of this raises a few questions:

1.  What’s the fuss?  The flights have been going on for a year and a half. It’s a far cry from the height of the Cold War.

2.  Did anyone see that?  Odd that NORAD hasn’t released any photos of the intercept mission.  That would clear up right away any of the obvious discrepancies in the story about how many aircraft were involved and what type they were.  For those whose knickers are in a twist over the security implications of the alleged intercept, the confusion in identifying the type should cause concern. 

Not only are the aircraft different visually, but they also look different on radar and have significantly different flying characteristics.  If Canadian operators can’t tell the difference between the two then we may have a much bigger issue if some sort of Cold War breaks out again between the Russians and the rest of us.

3.  And where are those icebreakers again, Peter?  The federal Conservatives were pushing Arctic sovereignty.  They had all sorts of promises about bases and new icebreakers. Nothing has materialised on this supposedly significant file.

Even worse, these guys  - Peter and his boss - can’t seem to sort out replacing a few replenishment vessels for the navy, a task that’s been in train for a while and which is much much higher up the order of priorities given that it affects naval operations along the east and west coast.  These guys are dealing daily with sovereignty issues much more pressing than the odd flight by the Russians.

What may have looked like some kind of virtuous media spin performance to some actually winds up being a giant national embarrassment no matter how you look at it.

Farce – as the Russians called it – doesn’t begin to describe it.