Old Russian fighters and smartphone hacking: What the Canadian military learned in 2017

Old Russian fighters and smartphone hacking: What the Canadian military learned in 2017
From CBC - January 3, 2018

The international endeavour to check Russian ambition in eastern Europe has a produced a trove of valuable lessons for the Canadian military, including insights that could be useful in the wider, increasingly uncertain, world.

Among those lessons: Canadian fighter pilots have a good idea what it would be like to face North Korean warplanes.

Soldiers have also learned how vulnerable their smartphones are to hacking and how they could even be used as a means to target them for artillery and other rocket fire.

Earlier this week, National Defence announced four CF-18s are headed home from a NATO mission in Romania.

Mock dogfights and aerial combat

The four-month air policing deployment, which formally concluded on Dec. 31, saw pilots conducting mock dogfights and aerial combat manoeuvres, including intercepts, against Russian-made MiG-21 jets.

There are only a handful of countries in the world, notably the regime of Kim Jong-un, that still fly the 1960s-vintage warplanes, which were a common sight during the Cold War for now-retired Canadian pilots.

Having the chance to measure the CF-18s and this generation of pilots against that particular aircraft, which is slowly being phased out of the Romanian air force, was significant, said the task force commander.

"We are getting very beneficial training at an important geopolitical time," said Lt.-Col. Mark Hickey, in a recent interview with CBC News.

"Although the Romanians, a NATO ally, are flying the MiG-21, it is in fact a Russian-made aircraft. It is great to fly with the MiG-21 and see its capabilities and work on our tactics, techniques and procedures with the MiG-21 airborne. It's been a great experience."

Looking for a diplomatic solution

In Romania, they were flying and testing their skills "almost every single day" against not only the Romanians, but other NATO countries, Hickey said.

Maj.-Gen. William Seymour, the chief of staff for operations at the country's overseas command, said flying against the MiG-21 was not the principal reason for undertaking the NATO mission and the air force has,in the past,had other opportunitiesfor such training.

But, he said thenew round helpedcontribute to building"stronger, more effective, fighter pilots."

The focus of international energy over North Korea is being directed at a diplomatic resolution of the standoff with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

But for military planners, being prepared should an open, prolonged conflict break out on the Korean peninsulaone that could involve a request for Canadian fighter supportis top of mind.

Aside from having standard contingency plans on the shelf, officials at National Defence hope the upcoming foreign ministers conference on Korea will yield clear guidance for the military on what may andmay notbe expected should diplomacy fail.

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