Aerospace Warfare Centre
© 2007 FrontLine Defence (Vol 4, No 4)

Established in the fall of 2005, the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre is tasked with serving as a catalyst for aerospace power development and as the central repository for knowledge and guidance in how to create the optimum Air Force for Canada.

Occupying what used to be the base hospital at 8 Wing Trenton in Ontario, the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre (CFAWC, informally pronounced “see-fawk”) is the designated “engine of change” for the transformation of Canada’s Air Force. Currently comprising 95 personnel – a mix of military and civilians, and divided between Trenton and a detachment located within a multi-­disciplinary Industry Canada high-tech “campus” at Shirley’s Bay, near Ottawa – CFAWC stood-up in October 2005, and is still very much in a growth mode, expected to reach full operational capability and a staff of 178 by the spring of 2010.

And just how does an outfit tackle the weighty task of being the centre of excellence for Canada’s Air Force of the future?

“The core reason for CFAWC’s existence is to bring together relevant knowledge from a wide variety of sources – especially real-world ‘lessons learned’ analyses – that will provide solid guidance both for Air Force senior management as they oversee the ongoing transformation of our service, and for individual Air Force members at almost any rank, who will be able to consult the hardcopy and electronic publications we’re producing that outline CF aerospace doctrine in ­various areas,” Colonel Jim Cottingham, commander of CFAWC, explains. “These publications are basically ‘how-to’ guidelines that will cover a wide range of aerospace warfare functions.”

Multifaceted Activity
The areas of activity at CFAWC are multifaceted, but here’s a brief summary of the sections: at Trenton there’s Doctrine Development (the largest single group, and more about that later); a Lessons Learned section, which assesses what works and what doesn’t, especially in deployed operations (to include sending section members into operational theatres to gather first-hand feedback from personnel at the “pointy end” regarding how adequately the current doctrine and SOPs are functioning); Strategic Aerospace Research and Liaison, an “information-mining” group that works with sources ranging from outside academics and corporate think-tanks to top-secret government/military intelligence organizations in order to ­envision and address the threats and ­challenges that lurk in the future; and the Administrative group, which is basically an in-house publishing cell that designs and produces CFAWC’s hardcopy and electronic publications.

Meanwhile, over at Shirley’s Bay there are five more small but active teams: the Experimentation Centre; a Synthetic Environment Coordination Office (software specialists who work to allow different computer-simulation systems to “talk” to each other); a Distributed Mission Opera­tions Centre (ultimately a 12- to 15-person team that will run geographically widely dispersed air-operations exercises where all the “flying” is done via sophisticated networked simulators); an Elec­tronic Warfare Operations Support Centre; and an Operations Research Team (which is not a standalone cell, but whose members get plugged into other projects to assess areas for improvement).

With such a broad mandate and wide range of concurrent activity, keeping an overall – and mutually complementary – focus is vital, Col Cottingham explains.

“We get direction for our concept-development work from three main sources,” he says. “Some are direct taskings from the Chief of the Air Staff, while other input comes from the Aerospace Capabilities Investment Forum conducted annually by 1 Canadian Air Division, as well as from ‘anywhere else’ – any Air Force member who scratches their head one day and thinks, ‘Geeze, wouldn’t it work better if we did it this way?’. We encourage anyone with a doctrinal or operational-technique-related suggestion to contact us and share their thoughts.”

Ultimately, these inputs are all evaluated, and then a prioritized list of proposed activities covering a two-year work plan is submitted to the CAS for approval.

Doctrine is the Key
One of the highest-profile groups within CFAWC is the doctrine-development branch, headed-up by LCol David MacKinnon. Having started his military career as an air traffic controller, he’s typical of the wide range of backgrounds that have been attracted to working in the complex and demanding field of doctrine. A sign on the wall of his section reads: “Military doctrine is the foundation on which every aspect of military activity is based. It sets the tone for every military operation.”

“There’s no ‘doctrine course’ to teach people how to write doctrine,” he smiles, “so, when the initial team gathered here in late 2005, it was a question of learning on the job. There hadn’t been any ongoing organized, comprehensive staff work to create strategic doctrine for Canada’s Air Force ever since the demise of the RCAF in 1968 – so that was the level we tackled first.”

Doctrine for an air force is developed on the same three levels as for land or naval operations: there’s the strategic  level, then the operational level, and finally the tactical level. In the classic warfighting analogy: strategy is the grand plan to win the war; operational art oversees the various campaigns within that war, and tactics is how you conduct a given battle within a campaign. The further down those three categories you go, the more detailed, customized – yet flexible –  the doctrine must be. Regular review is another key element, and it’s envisioned that the Air Force’s strategic doctrine will be revisited on a four-year cycle, while more dynamic lower levels will be reviewed every two years, at a minimum.)

“1 Canadian Air Division was in a lot better shape regarding past development and current availability of tactical doctrine, but, even there, it needed an authority that could provide comprehensive review, updating, and co-ordination functions,” LCol MacKinnon continues.

Development of the strategic-doctrine publication began with creation of a special “tiger team” (military terminology for a custom-assembled team of specialists whose goal is to urgently focus on a given issue and provide solutions), whose members represented the eight Capability Advisory Groups in the Air Force: training, support, aerospace control, tactical aviation, air mobility, maritime aviation, fighter operations, and the Air Reserve. Not coincidentally, each colonel who chairs an Advisory Group also sits on the Aerospace Doctrine Committee.

Writing, editing and gaining approval from the Aerospace Doctrine Committee, the Aerospace Doctrine Authority (a brigadier general) and the Chief of the Air Staff for the contents of the manual took from January to September 2006. Then followed the publication’s lay-out and design, and “B-GA-400-000/FP-000” rolled off the presses in March 2007.

Explaining the guidance contained within “Canadian Forces Aerospace Doctrine” in detail would require much more space than this article can allow, but here’s a look at the chapter titles plus sub-headings, which give a good idea of the wide-ranging yet focused scope of this publication:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Doctrine (Doctrine Defined; Military Doctrine; Aerospace Doctrine; CF Aerospace Doctrine Authority).
  • Chapter 2: Canada’s Air Force (The Early Years; The Cold War; Unification; Post-Cold War).
  • Chapter 3: National Security and Aerospace Power (National Security; National Power; Military Power; Aerospace Power).
  • Chapter 4: Fundamentals of Aerospace Power (The Nature of Conflict; The Principles of War; Characteristics of Aerospace Power; Applications of Aerospace Power; Tenets of Aerospace Power).
  • Chapter 5: The Functions of Canada’s Air Force (Air Force Functions; Sense; Shape; Move; Sustain; Command).
  • Chapter 6: Command and Control of Aerospace Power (Command and Control; Principles of Command; Command and Control Relationship; Command in the Canadian Forces; Air Force Command and Control; Air Component Commander)

Future Projects
“We’re now simultaneously working on a number of operational-doctrine and tactical-doctrine products,” LCol MacKinnon explains. “To an even greater extent than with the strategic-doctrine publication, we will emphasize compatibility for both ‘joint’ (such as air operations also involving the Canadian army and/or navy) and ‘combined’ (operations with allied foreign armed forces) activity, because effects-based coalition warfare is definitely the way of the future.”

The term “effects-based” is also key, because it’s now widely accepted that ‘achieving the desired result – with whatever assets can do the job’ is what really matters. Therefore, falling into the “tunnel-vision trap” of seeing air force operations primarily through the lens of what platform you employ (meaning, the type of aircraft, and with a too-rigorous or traditional definition of that aircraft’s applications) is something that CFAWC doctrine developers are studiously avoiding.

“It’s all about capabilities, and not platforms,” LCol MacKinnon sums up. “That’s why it’s vital that doctrine be seen as integral to the Air Force culture. It will be part of the professional education of every person who joins and trains in the Air Force, at any rank level. This first document we’ve produced is being distributed to every Air Force unit, as well as elements in the other services. We printed 7,500 copies (it’s also available on our Web site), and we hope to put one of these into the hands of at least every fourth person who wears light blue.

“As the Chief of the Defence Staff has said, the core goal of transformation for Canada’s Armed Forces is to create a ‘…strategically relevant, operationally responsive, and tactically decisive organization.’ We feel that developing appropriate, high-quality Air Force doctrine will make a significant contribution to that goal.”
Recently retired from the Air Reserves, Major Mike Minnich completed overseas assign­ments in Germany, Somalia, Italy, and most recently, a 6-month tour in the Arab-Persian Gulf as Host Nation Liaison Officer with Theatre Support Element – South West Asia at Camp Mirage.
© FrontLine Defence 2007