Canadian warplanes in final preparations to extend bombing campaign into Syria

The commander of Canada’s combat operations in the Middle East says preparations to send air strikes into Syria are in the final stages and bombs could be falling on Islamic State targets within days.

OTTAWA — The commander of Canada’s combat operations in the Middle East says preparations to send air strikes into Syria are in the final stages and bombs could be falling on Islamic State targets within days.

Brig.-Gen. Dan Constable, speaking in a conference call from Kuwait on Thursday, said Canada’s allies are “excited” that the CF-18 jets will expand their operations beyond Iraq, where they have been conducting missions for six months.

Since last September, the U.S., and at least three Persian Gulf countries, have also been hitting extremist targets in Syria, which is tangled in a brutal, four-year-long, civil war.

Constable said Canadian pilots are being briefed on the new territory and reviewing potential threats in specific areas.

“From our perspective, operations in Syria are going to be very, very close to those over Iraq in terms of how we mitigate threats, surface-to-air threats,” he said. “As you can imagine, the safety of my aircrew is paramount for me and I’m very confident we have all of the procedures in place to deal with any threats that could be presented.”

Constable would not say whether pilots have been instructed to attack Syrian air defence batteries that lock on to them with radar, nor would he comment on the state of that country’s early warning system.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney has said strikes against extremists will take place in areas where there is no Syrian air-defence radar, but open-source technical reports show as many as five of the country’s 31 early warning sites are located in the region. Whether they are still operational is unclear.

Earlier this week, Parliament approved a motion that extended the combat mission for a year and expanded the campaign to include missions in Syria, where the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant holds sway over a vast swath of territory in the eastern and northern portions of the country.

The CF-18s flew six bombing missions in Iraq over the last 10 days, but none of them involved supporting the major offensive in Tikrit, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias and the Iraqi army have fought a bloody, protracted battle.

The U.S.-led coalition initially held back air support because of the involvement of Iran’s elite Republican Guard, known as the Quds Force, in training the militias. It has since relented and conducted a series of strikes — beginning March 25 — that paved the way for government forces to advance.

Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson insisted last week that Canada does not “align with the Iranians.”

Yet, Constable confirmed on Thursday there is no ban on Canadians supporting the Tikrit operation. The absence of CF-18s from the strike roster was a decision by the American commanders who allot targets.

“There is no specific prohibition,” he said. “We would strike in support of the government of Iraq, Iraqi security forces and it just so happens in the Tikrit area, there’s enough coalition strike assets that we were assigned in other areas on that day.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: Songwriters discuss what makes a great country tune, creative process

Alberta Country Music Awards Songwriters Showcase was held in Red Deer Saturday

RCMP investigating fatal fire in Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin RCMP and the Major Crimes unit are investigating after human remains… Continue reading

The Mustard Seed to launch new wellness centre in Red Deer

A new service is coming to Red Deer to help the city’s… Continue reading

Penhold firefighters handle ‘difficult’ blaze

Penhold firefighters battled a “difficult” blaze Friday afternoon. Fire crews were called… Continue reading

Clearwater County firefighter recruitment campaign deemed a success

A firefighter recruitment campaign is being considered a success by Clearwater County.… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: The basics you need for your body type

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

Weersink and Kings shutout top-ranked NAIT Ooks

Queens hockey also knock off Olds College Broncos

Calgary Hitmen roll over Rebels 5-2

Hitmen 5 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels looked like a team… Continue reading

RDC Queens sweep weekend series with Lethbridge

The RDC Queens picked up a pair of crucial wins on the… Continue reading

Photos: Strong turnout for 38th annual Oilmen’s Bonspiel

The 38th annual Red Deer Oilmen’s Bonspiel is well underway at the… Continue reading

St. John’s, N.L., lifts state of emergency eight days after massive storm

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The City of St. John’s has lifted a… Continue reading

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay announces Tory leadership bid

STELLARTON, N.S. — Former federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay says he will… Continue reading

Most Read