Military used unarmed Airbus for Kandahar airlift after U.A.E. flap

The loss of a not-so secret base in Dubai last year forced the Canadian military to use its unarmed Airbus planes for flights into Kandahar Airfield during the final phase of the combat mission, ministerial briefing notes say.

The loss of an airbase in Dubai last year forced the Canadian military to send Airbus aircraft into Kandahar Airfield during the final phase of the combat mission

The loss of an airbase in Dubai last year forced the Canadian military to send Airbus aircraft into Kandahar Airfield during the final phase of the combat mission

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The loss of a not-so secret base in Dubai last year forced the Canadian military to use its unarmed Airbus planes for flights into Kandahar Airfield during the final phase of the combat mission, ministerial briefing notes say.

“Pressures imposed by the closure of Camp Mirage and the need to maximize flexibility in providing strategic airlift to support OP Athena have culminated in the (censored) using C-150 flights in KAF,” said a Nov. 1, 2010, briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

The Canadian military designates its Airbus passenger jets as the CC-150 Polaris but often refers to it simply as the C-150.

The air force initially certified the Airbus aircraft to fly into the war zone in 2007. But their use, according to the documents, was considered a “last resort” and a “calculated risk” by commanders on the ground.

The planes were given two trial runs into Kandahar in August and September last year, before Canada was evicted from Camp Mirage in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Their further use was to be approved by the commander of the 1st Canadian Air Division “on a case-by-case basis,” said the documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The air force has five Airbus aircraft. There were plans to use them sporadically during the recently completed withdrawal of combat troops from Kandahar. The time-honoured practice through much of the mission had been to use them to fly between Canada and Dubai.

Once in Dubai, soldiers and even VIPs would switch to a rugged turbo-prop C-130 Hercules transport for the two-hour flight into Kandahar. The Airbus planes do not have a defensive suite to deflect incoming missiles and are generally considered a civilian aircraft not suited for a war zone.

An air force official who spoke on background said the C-150 was always considered a “back-pocket capability” to be used only when necessary.

The closure of Camp Mirage following a diplomatic spat with the U.A.E. over commercial landing rights proved to be one of those occasions.

The airbase was a critical logistics and supply point for Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, and the loss of its use complicated the military withdrawal as the combat mission was coming to an end.

As a stopgap, the military routed Canadian flights through Cyprus.

Use of the Airbus planes was considered sensitive enough to be the subject for two briefing notes for MacKay in 2010, and for the chief of defence staff to ask for the minister’s permission to use them to bring home the Task Force Kandahar headquarters unit last fall.

Officials told MacKay the threat and risk situation was “stable.”

The scramble to get out of Camp Mirage put a strain on the air force as almost nine years worth of equipment was packed up in a hurry and flown out, according to the records.

Relations between Canada and the U.A.E. have remained frosty. Canadian visitors face the imposition of visas costing between $200 and $1,000.

A few weeks ago, the Conservative government inked an agreement with Kuwait to establish a replacement staging area.

Brig.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, in charge of the Kandahar withdrawal, says the arrangement will ease some of the transport strain. It may help the military get everything out of Kandahar before the December deadline set by Parliament, depending upon how quickly the packing and sorting can be done.

“It’s closer,” Lamarre said in a recent interview. “If by chance the production lines can surge ahead a little, certainly that advantage in transportation will be to our advantage.”

Not having to fly to Cyprus means the air force could potentially lay on more than the 18 C-17 cargo flights it had planned.

The military is flying out sensitive equipment and vehicles, and loading them onto a container ship for the trip back to Canada.

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

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Most Read