Pardon me, but my carpenter father always taught me "it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools".
In this instance, I can only snort in derision at the suggestion a "better" winch is the only solution (whereas my personal opinion is proper training, technique and personnel might provide even "better" results - "thinking outside the box", wouldn't it have been even faster to rappel? And, for that matter, why send a bunch of swabbies to board a ship - other countries are quite comfortable giving this task to "marines" vice sailors ... or, heaven forbid, maritime infantry ... ?)
Come on - let's get real. I acknowledge the fact that close quarters combat on board a ship is not something our infantry currently practices. However, I am dubious about the naval contention that a rag-tag bunch of stewards, supply techs, etc., could fight better than infantry (similarly trained in boarding). Please note, I am limiting my discussion solely to the combat task of boarding.
I've previously speculated upon the utility of posting an infantry section aboard our ships - it would certainly break up the monotony of conventional army activities, volunteers could get a chance to experience navy life, and the logic is borne out by the employment of marines or naval infantry by other countries.
Okay - that's my personal opinion - I feel better for having vented.
Now it's your turn to fire away:
Sea King endangered Katie troops
Obsolete hoist caused 'unacceptable' delays while boarding ship, military report says
The Ottawa Citizen; with files from Canadian Press
Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen / Obsolete hoists aboard Canada's Sea King helicopters meant navy crewmen spent an 'unacceptable' amount of time dangling in the air waiting to board the GTS Katie, a navy incident report says.
Members of the Canadian naval crew that stormed the GTS Katie last summer were left dangling above the vessel for an "unacceptably long period" of time, according to a military report written after the risky operation.
The report blames the slow-moving hoist used on all Sea King helicopters for putting the 14-member boarding party in a highly vulnerable situation.
The findings are contained in a standard post-deployment report, under a section titled Lessons Learned: How We Can Do Things Better. The report, which was produced by 12 Wing Shearwater in Nova Scotia, was obtained by Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act.
Last night, the commander in charge of Canada's fleet of 29 aging Sea Kings acknowledged that, with newer equipment, Operation Megaphone could have been completed much more efficiently.
"It means that the aircraft has to remain over the deck for a longer time," said Cpl. Brian Akitt, referring to the obsolete hoists. It does put the people at risk for a greater period."
The Aug. 3 boarding operation off Newfoundland took about 45 minutes. Had the Sea King been outfitted with newer hoists, officials estimate the mission could have been completed three times more quickly -- in about 10 to 15 minutes.
To make things worse, one of the Sea Kings aboard the Athabaskan broke down forcing the other Sea King to make two separate trips, lowering seven men each time.
The GTS Katie -- carrying over $200 million worth of army equipment from Kosovo and three Canadian Forces personnel -- was at the center of a messy dispute between the ship's American owners and a charter company in July.
After failing to broker a resolution between the main contractor, SDV Logistics Canada Ltd. of Montreal, and Andromeda Navigation Co. also of Montreal, and Third Ocean Marine Navigation Co. of Maryland, Defence Minister Art Eggleton ordered the navy to take over the ship.
The HMCS Montreal and HMCS Athabaskan stationed themselves on either side of the Katie. Over the course of 45 tense minutes, 14 armed navy personnel were lowered onto the Katie from a Sea King that hovered five storeys above the vessel's deck.
At a post-operation briefing that day, the defence minister and military officials gave a glowing account of the mission.
Mr. Eggleton told reporters that the Sea Kings were "working fine." Walter Natynczyk, director of joint operations, said the Sea King performed "exceptionally well." And Drew Robertson, the captain of the Athabaskan, said the operation was "quickly and smoothly done."
There were other problems besides the hoist, according to the post-deployment report. For one, the navy personnel were forced to crouch on the floor of the Sea King because of a lack of seats. When the helicopter flew from its Shearwater base to the Athabaskan, it experienced mechanical problems. It broke down upon completion of the mission.
Cpl. Akitt said last night that the entire fleet of Sea Kings should be retrofitted with newer hoists by the end of 2002. The new hoists, similar to the ones used on Labrador helicopters, use 75-metre cables, 40 metres longer than the cables used on existing Sea Kings.
The federal government has said that it will begin to replace the aging Sea Kings in 2005.
Earlier this summer, following an embarrassing series of breakdowns of Canadian Forces helicopters, Canadian Alliance Defence critic Art Hanger urged the government to stop playing "political football," and to devise a long-term strategy for its military.
"When it comes to helicopters and this government, they've embarrassed themselves and this country far too many times," he said.
Canada's Sea Kings need 30 hours of maintenance for every hour that they're in the air.
Of Canada's original fleet of 41 Sea Kings, 11 were destroyed in crashes between 1967 and 1994. One was written off in 1993, then rebuilt and restored to service, only to crash and burn in 1994. The crashes have killed seven airmen.
"At 37 years old, (the Sea King) is showing its age," said Cpl. Akitt. "It's a challenge, but we're managing to meet our bottom line."