Canadian Power Timeline (2001-2012)
From Canadian Power Wiki
The expectations of 2001 being a year for exciting politics was not mistaken, and it got off to a bright and early start. On January 10th, 2001, Britain proposed that the Turks and Caicos Islands be brought into Canada, followed the next day by a similar proposal put forth by five Canadian MPs. The idea was a stunning one - the small Turks and Caicos Islands, with a population of 30,000, couldn't be a province, and the idea had been canned three times before.
But what had changed was demographics. Canada's population was changing demographically at a rapid rate, largely through immigration, which brought nearly 420,000 new Canadians to the country in 2000. The idea of bringing into Canada a small, moderately wealthy territory would not cause any particular demographic issues. Also under consideration was the immigration issues posed by the positioning of the islands off of Cuba. But Defense Minister MacKay and Maritime Command Commander Admiral Greg Maddison both told parliament that it was an obligation that the Forces could handle. MacKay also pointed out the increasing problem of illicit drug trades in the Caribbean region, and that having the territory be part of Canada would give the Forces a forward base, as well as alleviating many unemployment concerns on the island.
On March 20th, 2001, Canada agreed to allow the Turks and Caicos Islands to become part of Canada if the people voted to support it in a referendum. This referendum was held on May 3rd, 2001, and turned out to be a formality - 74% of the voters were in favor of the Union. On June 1st, 2001, the Turks and Caicos Islands officially became Canada's fourth territory, and were invited to elect a MP for the Canadian House of Commons. That MP was the former Premier of the territory, Derek Hugh Taylor, and officially took his seat in the House of Commons on August 10th, 2001, to wide applause.
Before the idea of the Turks and Caicos Islands becoming part of Canada rose, the most exciting political detail was the Reform Party. In a serious state of disrepair and with support in the gutter after Jason Kenney's political stunt in September 2000, there was talk of the Reform Party being brought into the Progressive Conservatives. But the three leading candidates to replace the retiring Preston Manning - Stockwell Day, Janet Brown and Deborah Grey - all angrily said that they would not join the Progressive Conservatives. Day ripped Harper as a "sellout" who was more interested in power than principles, which drew an angry response from Harper: "I made my decision based on what was best for my wishes to serve my, and it is because of ideologues that the Reform Party is still a small party. And they know that, but Mr. Day continues to look at issues in black and white." Day's hardline comments also angered two of the Reform Party's MPs, which led to Manning asking Day to bow out for the sake of the party. Deborah Grey, which was the first Reform MP in 1989, was ultimately elected to be the party's leader.
Faced with a major new challenge in terms of security with the entry of the Turks and Caicos into Canada, the Maritime Command began to station a permanent present at the Islands. The first vessel to take on this challenge is HMCS Huron, which arrives at the islands on May 26th, and a flag from Huron is the first Canadian flag to be raised over the islands. Huron was busy while it was based out of the Turks and Caicos, as it and its Cyclone helicopter caught no less than three go-fast boats around the islands, frequently headed from Cuba or the Bahamas towards Florida.
Huron's challenge to ensure security led to the decision to immediately dispatch HMCS Bluenose, Canada's first landing platform dock, to the Turks and Caicos, along with five of Canada's S-2T Turbo Tracker aircraft. Though this helped, bigger plans were in the works for the new Canadian territory.
The new MP for the Turks and Caicos, Derek Hugh Taylor, asked for investment to his small, relatively poor territory. On September 5th, 2001, the response came. The plan, proposed by Conservative MP Peter Goldring, would have a Canadian Forces permanent base built on the islands, and would also establish a deepwater port and international airport on the islands, with the goal of building a thriving tourism and trade economy there. Goldring pointed out that as Canada now has a "tropical paradise" of its own, Canadian tourists would come in vast numbers. The decision of Air Canada to run direct flights between Toronto, Montreal and Halifax to Cockburn Town on Grand Turk reinforced the idea of Canadian tourists coming in numbers. The plan was passed by the House of Commons on November 17th, 2001. But as big as this news was, it was not the biggest news of the year.
That big news was the horror that befell New York City, Washington and a small town in Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001. Four hijacked airliners crashed - two into the World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon in Washington and one, which would be later determined to be headed for the Capitol in Washington, crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The two towers in New York, struck at 8:46 am and 9:03 am, collapsed at 9:59 am and 10:28 am, claiming the lion's share of the nearly 3,700 lives lost in the attacks. A Canadian vessel, HMCS Ville de Quebec, was in New York at the time, and many of its crew raced from its berth in Midtown New York, along with its CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, to the attacks, attempting to help. The helicopter was successful in recovering 45 people from the towers before they fell, and also was helped by two USAF helicopters, which recovered 56 people between them. Eighteen members of Ville de Quebec's crew, including Lieutenant Commander Andreas Marceon, the ship's XO, died when the buildings collapsed.
The response from Canada, as in the United States, was immense grief and an immense roar of anger, as well as many selfless acts. More than 700 volunteers from over thity different police and fire departments in Canada went to the side, many of them paying for the travel costs themselves. Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie offered to pay all of these costs himself, and did. Marceon was awarded the Canadian Victoria Cross, as were the two pilots and four rescuers on Ville de Quebec's helicopter, one of whom died in the attack trying to help an injured person off the building. Four of the five Canadian Forces C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and all twelve of Canada's then-present A400Ms raced repeatedly from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Fredericton and Halifax to New York, delivering all the supplies that could be delivered.
The United States' airspace was closed after the attacks, and Canada in response initiated Operation Yellow Ribbon. Over 240 flights were forced to land in Canada as a result of the situation in the US. 38 of them landed at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, and the residents of the small town opened their homes and hearts to the people in acts that would later be looked upon as being kind on many levels. They landed as far west as London, Ontario. Some even landed at CFB Shearwater near Halifax, Canada's naval aviation home. Needing to get people home, on September 13th, A "air convoy" of 45 airliners flew from several places to their destinations in the US, escorted by a dozen Canadian Forces Tomcats and Hornets.
In many cases, flights that had been diverted had their passengers housed in as best a conditions that could be arranged. Gander was the best scene, as many local residents called it one of the best experiences of their lives and many of the over 6,000 people whose planes landed at Gander to this day continue to keep in touch with those they met during Operation Yellow Ribbon. When the bodies of Canadian Forces personnel were recovered from Ground Zero, they were carried back to Canada. The USAF out of respect offered to deliver the bodies right to the people's hometowns, but instead ten of them were delivered by a USAF airlifter to CFB Trenton, arriving on September 16th. The ceremony was private, though news photos would later see both PM Charest and Ontario Premier Mike Harris struggling to compose themselves. Despite the privacy, nearly 20,000 people gathered outside CFB Trenton, and the Convoy from Trenton to Toronto had a OPP escort and people lining virtually every bridge from Trenton to Toronto to watch.
The aftermath of the attacks was an almost immediate discovery of those responsible, and their connection to Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. The Canadian Forces immediately went to high alert. HMCS Warrior, which was off Argentina having just went around Cape Horn at the time, was ordered to immediately head for Halifax. New anti-terror legislation was introduced by the Charest Government, and easily passed on October 20th.
With news of the response to Afghanistan filtering into Canada, The Canadian government easily and unequivocally signed on to the effort in Afghanistan. Warrior arrived in Halifax on September 23rd, and was only there long enough to resupply and refuel, which didn't bother its crew much, and left for Afghanistan on September 25th. Arriving on station, Warrior was one of no less than six aircraft carriers on the scene - USS Nimitz and USS Abraham Lincoln, HMAS Australia, HMS Ark Royal and MN Charles de Gaulle being the others. The Pakistani Air Force did not make any trouble for them, and striking aircraft flew right over Pakistan.
President Gore, however, made 9/11 both an attempt to destroy terror, but also mend a bridge. A week after the attacks, Gore invited Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to the site, a move criticized by some at the time but would prove to be incredibly astute. Gore is said to have told Khatami "This is what real extremism looks like, isn't it?" Khatami responded by saying that Iran "Is a proud society, proud of our heritage, proud of our society." To which Gore responded "So is America, and that is why our long-standing disputes must end."
Gore took a hard line with terrorists, but repeatedly stressed that it was not a battle with Islam, but with terrorists. Gore's invitation to Khatami gave him a lot of weight in the debate. Khatami was understandably quite moved, and upon arriving back in Iran commented "America was once a nation which sought to dominate us. But I do believe that as we have changed, so have they, and we ought to respect that. I believe that if we respect them, they will do the same." The hardliners hated that, But Khatami sailed to his 2001 re-election nonetheless.
Forces of more than sixty nations began pouring into Afghanistan on October 12th, 2001. The destruction of the Taliban was primarily undertaken by Afghans themselves, assisted by Special Forces troops and airpower in abundance. The Canadian SAS and Airborne Regiment were part of this, and Hornets, Tomcats and Tornados from Warrior were also in large part responsible, to the happiness of the Canadian public. The Toronto Star's headline on 9/12 had been "Bastards!" and that pretty much summed up the opinions of Canadians, and the knowledge - and in many cases, gun camera footage - of Canadian aircraft striking Taliban positions.
On December 10th, 2001, a multinational effort - including the Canadian SAS - raided the Tora Bora complex, in the process picking up Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. bin Laden was seriously ill from kidney disease, but medics kept him alive and treatment allowed him to be healthy enough to stand trial. He would stand trial, in New York, through 2002, before being found guilty on July 19th, 2002, and sentenced to life in prison. The jury foreman in the case said that "Having you sentenced to death, sir, I know is what you wish, because then you can be seen as a martyr to your cause. I will not do that, because I want you to spend the rest of your life, no matter how long it happens to be, thinking about your actions."
In June 2001, Canada began the process of ordering its new Fast Sealift Ship. Three vessel designs had been proposed, but the chosen design was heavily influenced by the American Algol-class of vessels, though the Canadian version was 30 feet longer than the American - it had been designed to just barely fit through the Panama Canal - and it was fitted with six cranes, with a lifting capacity of up to 55 tons, and the ability to drive vehicles on and off in two places. The vessel could carry as designed up to 750 vehicles and 300 TEU of containers, as well as being fitted with a massive desalinization unit to supply fresh water to others, and accommodation for up to 420 people. Fitted with four General Electric LM2500+ gas turbines, which when combined with four shafts and the fully automated engine control that was becoming de rigeur on Canadian-designed warships, the ship design made some 162,000 shp - enough for 33.5 knots (62.04 km/h) all out.
Halifax Shipbuilders won the bid to build the big ship, which was expected to displace some 62,500 tons fully loaded, on August 14th, 2001, with delivery expected in late 2003. The vessel would be christened HMCS Terra Nova (LKA-03), supposedly after the valley in Nova Scotia and what the island portion of Newfoundland is often called.
Opening up with a war in Afghanistan, a shaky economy due to the problems of 9/11 and a new territory to integrate into Canada, 2002 opened on a rougher note than most had hoped. But that didn't stop it from being a good year.
The world spent much of 2002 focused on New York City, both the ongoing cleanup at the former World Trade Center but also the trials of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and eight other senior Al-Queda officials. There was virtually no doubt of their guilt, and even Arab countries closely watching the trial pronounced that it had been a fair one. The FBI had done a very good job laying out the evidence in the case, and the accused's attempts to mock the court didn't help things. Incendiary rhetoric from some of the Republicans and parts of the American media wasn't helpful. This became a Canadian issue, when American commentator Ann Coulter, while speaking at York University, called for the United States to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and force all of the savages to convert to Christianity and see God." Coulter went back to the US before the response came, but Canadian authorities asked her not to come back if she was going to say such rhetoric - under Canadian law, Coulter may well have been guilty of hate speech. As it was, Coulter never did come to Canada again.
Early 2002 also saw the ugliest incident in the Quebec biker war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine, when on April 19th, a bomb in a jeep exploded, but did so in front of an elementary school in Blaineville, Quebec, killing three school students as well as three people in the jeep. Furious, the RCMP and SQ came down on the bikers like a ton of bricks. A gun battle between Hells Angels members and RCMP which killed three officers in Trois-Rivieres a month later just made things worse. The RCMP set up a special unit designed to beat biker gangs and organized criminal units in May 2002, and this unit would be trained in heavy-hitter tactics by the CF, namely the Canadian SAS.
Afghanistan through 2002 saw a steady escalation. The Taliban had mostly fled over the border into Pakistan, and Pakistan's already badly-burdened governmental structure could not keep track of the lawless tribal areas that bordered Afghanistan. Trying to move people and goods through this area was a challenge already, trying to do both was too much for Pakistan. Realizing this problem, President Gore made a massive political gamble and called the Iranians, asking if the US could overfly their territory to deliver needed supplies and equipment to Afghanistan. To the surprise of the Americans, the Iranians had no objections - indeed, in early 2003 Khatami offered to allow troops to land in Iran and move overland into Afghanistan, an offer the Americans would take up.
All twenty-one of Canada's Airbus A400Ms - named the CC-176 Airmaster in CF service - had been delivered by August 2002, but demands on Canada's airlift ability saw ten of Canada's C-130H Hercules aircraft, which had been slated for retirement, kept on to provide additional airlift capacity. In addition to that, the CC-150 Polaris aircraft were also incredibly busy, moving people and goods. This began to raise the idea of additional airlifter orders.
Warrior, having arrived home from Afghanistan after a very long deployment on February 11th and needing upkeep on its systems, spent much of the early part of 2002 in a dry-dock in Halifax. Warrior had sailed nearly 200,000 nautical miles in its five years of Canadian service, and the idea soon percolated through the Canadian government of a second, smaller carrier to allow some reserve, as Warrior was being worked hard and as a result was starting to require more substantial maintenance. The problems also were quite real for the support fleet, particularly the destroyers - the newest of which had been built in 1980. With that in mind, the Navy began its plan for its new destroyers, and the plan was to build eight to ten units to replace the ones already in service.
That procurement project quickly grabbed bidders. Britain had been paying an arm and a leg to develop and build its new air warfare destroyers, known as the Type 45, and was keen on the Canadians buying them - and their case was helped by the fact that the Two Canadian Type 42s, which had served the Maritime Command since 1988, had done so quite successfully, with few problems and no serious breakdowns. Three bidders - the Americans (with Gibbs & Cox's Canaburke design), Japanese (with Mitsubishi's Atago-class and Spaniards (Navantia's F100-clas) ( proposed a vessel for Canada using the American AEGIS Combat System, which had been astoundingly effective in service. And in a very surprising move, the Russians bid, offering up a heavily modified version of their Udaloy II-class to the Forces. DCNS and Fincantieri would both propose modified versions of the Horizon-class destroyers as well. Two indigenous Canadian designs were also proposed, one using AEGIS and the other using a modified variant of the SAMPSON system used by the Type 45.
The Russian bid was far out and was the first to be eliminated - it had too small of a helicopter deck and too many new systems, and it could not use many of the weapons in the Canadian arsenal. The size of Canada's ASW helicopters was a problem for everybody, because even with the beartrap system employed by the CF the helicopter decks in several cases are too small, and several of the designs lack anti-ship missiles or ASW weapons. One of the Canadian designs was the largest, coming in at an astounding 9,650 tons, but it had all of the features and used the SAMPSON system.
BAE Systems, realizing that the Canadians wanted to use their well-known SM-2 Standard missiles on their new destroyers, began looking at installing it on the Type 45, which would require additional software fixes. But by then, the Canadians were aiming for a proven systems.
In November 2002, Canada announced its preferred design, a home-grown design using the AEGIS Combat System, which was a large design displacing roughly 9,000 tons, which had two 64-cell Mk.41 Vertical Launch Systems, 8 anti-ship missiles, a large helicopter deck and a towering forward superstructure with the AEGIS radar panels on it. The vessel was powered by four gas turbines in a COGOG system, similar to the Iroquois class destroyers.
As this was coming to an end, the search for a second carrier came to a surprise. France offered its aged, but still useful, Clemenceau to Canada for peanuts, and offered to send over museum ship Colbert right with it. The decision was a surprise. Clemenceau was an old ship - 40 years old by this point - and could not handle the big F-14s that were part of the Maritime Command, but it could be operated cheaply - she required only 1340 men in French trim, and the Canucks guessed that adding the systems used on Warrior could drop this down to about 900. It was also noted that the excess manpower realized from the older destroyers being replaced would provide 700 men, so the Navy would only be needing 200 additional manpower, for a second aircraft carrier. Supporters also pointed out that the Warrior had entered US service as Forrestal the year Clemenceau was ordered. The detractors pointed out that the Forces already had big manpower requirements and big procurement needs. Expecting an knowing this, Defense Minister MacKay said that if the Clemenceau was acquired, the manpower-intensive sub tender would have to be cancelled. MacKay also defended the decision by pointing out that Warrior was being worked very hard, and that the hard toll would almost certainly reduce its lifespan. The debate over the new ship raged through the late stages of 2002.
In terms of military significance, few points beat out the Open Skies treaty, which went into effect in 2002. The idea was that countries would be allowed flights over each others' terrain as a means of ensuring that attacks were not being prepared. Satellites had made the idea of hiding anything problematic, but the Open Skies treaty was made to address this for good. This also provided a reprieve for two of Canada's aging CC-137s, which were converted into reconnaissance planes, including cameras, synthetic aperture radars, infrared line scanner and video scanners, which ultimately made them very similar to the American OC-135B aircraft. These aircraft, which began their modifications in June 2001, would be used for Open Skies work, but they would also see extensive work in Afghanistan, and both would enter service in November 2002, seeing four missions to Afghanistan before the end of the year.
Operation Anaconda was the first direct action of the Canadian Forces (aside from Special Forces units and Air Command/Maritime Command aircraft), beginning of March 1st, 2002, with the direct goal of destroying what little was left of the Taliban insurgents. The mission was a tactical victory, with the Taliban being routed and taking serious casualties at the hands of the 2000 Coalition troops involved. A newsmaker here was the longest sniper kill in history, which belonged to Master Corporal Rob Furlong, a sniper from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, who recorded a kill at an astounding 2,430 meters, more than a mile and a half in imperial terms, which earned Corporal Furlong a promotion and a commendation, not to mention enduring respect. Canadian CH-146s became lifesavers on March 3rd-4th, as an American Force ran headlong into a Taliban ambush at Takur Ghar, and realizing the mess, Australian UH-1s and Canadian CH-146s both, in both cases armed with Dillon Miniguns, came to bail them out. Seven US soldiers were killed in the battle, but the minigun-equipped choppers ultimately made the difference, though one Canadian pilot, the co-pilot on his CH-146, was hit by small-arms fire and ultimately died of his injuries. The commanders of the Australian and Canadian units involved in the battle were awarded Bronze Stars by the US Army, and in both cases the honors were given to the individual soldiers involved. A lesser note happened on the night of April 18th, 2002, when four soldiers from the PPCLI were killed in a friendly fire incident when a USAF F-16s mistakenly dropped a 500-lb bomb on them.
Growing numbers of Canadian Forces personnel were arriving in Afghanistan. By the summer of 2002, 3,200 Canadian troops were in Afghanistan, and their gear was also arriving. The Taliban's tendency to attack anywhere and everywhere led to problems, especially with the G-Wagen, MILCOTS Silverado and Iltis vehicles. Most of the time, the troops were going out with armored personnel carriers, though by the time they reached towns and villages, they frequently disembarked. The goal of the Canadians had been the same as it was in South Africa, Rwanda and Bosnia - try to make the local population into allies. The tactic, while it caused five Canadians to be killed by the Taliban in 2002, did have positive effects.
Outside of Afghanistan, things began to get better. A Norwegian-negotiated ceasefire brought peace to Sri Lanka for the first time in 15 years on February 22nd, 2002, to the relief of 500-strong Canadian contingent that was part of UN peacekeeping operations there. That was added to three months later on May 20, when East Timor formally gains its independence. To the stunned surprise of France and much of the world, on July 14th, 2002, during Bastille Day celebrations in France, French President Jacques Chirac is saved from an assassination attempt by a Canadian tourist. The assassin was a lone gunman with a rifle in a guitar case, but it was still enough to cause more than a little embarrassment to the French security forces and yet another reason for headlines in Canada.
As if that was not enough, a shocker came in February. Australia's oldest airline, Ansett Australia, which had suffered serious financial problems in 2001, had an unsolicited buyout offer sent to them from a Canadian coalition, including Bombardier, North American Aviation and Air Canada. Qantas didn't think it serious, and caused a massive political mess when they advocated to Canberra to not accept it, and the financial uncertainty around the new buyers of Ansett meant its future was still very much in doubt. Ansett's employees howled in anger, demanding to know why Australia would not allow another nation - and a Commonwealth one which was fighting alongside them in Afghanistan, no less - to buy the firm, expecting that Bombardier would keep it running.
On March 4th, 2002, Canberra agreed to the deal. Ansett officially passed into Canadian hands on March 20th, 2002, and on April 1st, 2002, the company's A320 fleet began operating. As expected, new airliners began being ordered for Ansett, and not surprisingly many of these came to Bombardier, though the company established a plant in Australia for assembly and repair purposes, and also began fixing the Boeing fleet Ansett owned. The two 747-400s owned by Ansett were originally to be transferred to Air Canada, but instead wound up flying what became known as "The Commonwealth Route", flying from Toronto and Vancouver to Sydney, and Ansett fliers able to go via codeshare immediately to Air Canada flights to Europe or other places in North America. Ansett stayed in business, and the takeover, which had been substantially underwritten by Ottawa and Quebec City saw a new wave of tourism between Australia and Canada.
The Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II resulted in what became as the Party in the Palace, and part of this was an air show, put on enthusiastically by the Royal Air Force. The Canucks, keen to show off themselves, painted up four F-14s in old-school RCAF white and red paint and sent them for the show, along with one of the CC-180 VIP aircraft, which showed off during the flypast, all four of them doing the wing sweep while they passed overhead. That same CC-180 would see service when Queen Elizabeth II traveled across Canada in October, ferrying the Queen of Canada, as well as in many cases the Governor General and high-ranking political leaders, along their tour routes. On the Request of the Queen, the CC-180 would also ferry Queen Elizabeth II on the next leg of her worldwide tour, flying her from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia, staying for five days for an Air Show in Melbourne, before getting another honor by flying Australian PM John Howard and his entourage to Canada.
In a stark contrast to her hard running during 1997-2001, Warrior after returning home from Afghanistan spent 2002 usually cruising the Atlantic Ocean, exercising and twice making the trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Cockburn Town, Turks and Caicos. Part of this is the need for repairs for a number of the CF vessels which usually escort Warrior - all four of the Ontario-class destroyers have new engines installed in 2002-2003 and get the DELEX life extension upgrades - and part of is the need to show the flag in a part of the world that will almost certainly end up involving Canada deeply in the years to come.
Ground is broken in October 2002 for two new CF bases. The first is at Iqaluit, Nunavut, which includes a major airport and naval base. CFB Iqaluit would end up the community's biggest employer, but the base also provides a strong element of security to the Canadian North. Iqaluit is the home base for the Nunavut Defense Regiment, which has existed since 2000, and is already starting to get a reputation as the CF's cold-weather experts.
The other is the massive base at East Caicos, set to become CFB Turks and Caicos, which will include a naval and air base, a training area for the Forces and one of two big deepwater ports, designed to be transhipment points for goods between Quebec and the Caribbean. One of the dreams of many of those who supported the islands entering Canada was that the islands would see Canada become one of the major players in the Caribbean, simply by allowing Caribbean goods and services using the islands as a trans-shipment point between there and Canada or Europe. Also broken ground in May 2002 was a major expansion of the JAGS McCartney International Airport on Grand Turk, which will gain a new runway and an extension and repaving of the original. Some are lamenting what some figure is an inevitable loss of the islands' more natural character, but most of the residents are enthusiastic about the possibility of hundreds of thousands of tourists making the islands much wealthier. Canada Steamship Lines, which had been contracted to develop and improve the Canadian merchant marine, is also very enthusiastic about the idea, seeing the possibility of a major improvement of its business.
2003 began with Canadian Forces winding down operations in East Timor - the nation's independence had been set up in 2002, and while problems persisted in Indonesia, the need for Canadian Forces troops there is winding down. Just as in Rwanda and South Africa, peace had come, and now the people of East Timor were on their way to making their own destinies for the first time ever.
The Forces in Afghanistan were facing problems too, namely those centered around the Taliban's ability to operate from Pakistan. Since their almost total destruction in Operation Anaconda in 2002, the Taliban had fought a guerilla war, run form bases in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions. These were proving to be a massive problem for the entirety of International Forces in Afghanistan. On February 15th, 2003, it backfired in the faces of the Taliban, however. Some 60 Taliban fighters ran into a patrol of CF Airborne Regiment and US Marine Corps troops, resulting in a massive battle that is said to have crossed the Pakistan-Afghan border repeatedly. Three Canucks and two Americans were killed in the fight, but Pakistani authorities came and broke up the fight, with the Taliban retreating back over the border into Pakistan, as the Pakistani paramilitaries opened fire on the American and Canadian troops, forcing them back into Afghanistan, killing at least one Canadian.
General Rick Hillier, who was now commanding the Afghan mission, was openly furious with Pakistan, and demanded an explanation. Ottawa didn't push all that hard, causing more fury on Hillier's part. Charest wound up having to explain to Hillier personally that Canada's concern was the stability of the Pakistani government. This didn't reduce any of Hillier's fury, or for that matter much of the Canadian Forces. Things were made worse when Pakistan's president demanded a halt to the patrols along the border, saying that "our first concern is our country's territorial integrity. We will not apologize for attacking those who violate Pakistan's boundaries." The comment was aimed primarily at India, but it caused a diplomatic row between Canada and Pakistan. Hillier and his boss, CF Chief of Staff General Romeo Dallaire, demanded that Pakistani shut down the Taliban inside Pakistan. Islamabad attempted to do so, but their offensives had at best mixed results.
Faced with the unpleasant reality that Taliban fighters had effectively garnered themselves a safe haven, Hillier decided to add to the troop presence strategy and turn up the heat along border areas. In April, another group of Taliban came over the border and ran into a Canadian patrol, but this time the patrol called on one of Canada's Rooikat 105 fire support vehicles and a pair of American AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which helped the patrol send the Taliban running. Another firefight in an isolated village a month later had much the same results, but with civilians in the area, open fire risked friendly fire and civilian casualties. But the presence of two Canadian CH-136 Kiowa Warrior observation choppers allowed CF troops to accurately target fire and avoid casualties. Taliban fire, however, killed a Afghan boy and wounded four others - these other four were rescued, under fire, by the crew of one of the Canadian Kiowas, earning the two rescuers the Order of Valour. By mid-2003, the Taliban had promised a summer offensive - but regular patrols by American helicopters and observation aircraft, as well as UAVs, were quickly locating Taliban fighters. Several squads in 2003 also wound up wounding Afghan civilians, which started to turn Afghan public opinion against the Taliban. Assisting in this was a growing number of Muslim soldiers within the CF - recruiting efforts had been partly aimed at Canadian Muslims, and the CF had made the fluent speaking of local languages a skill which earned such troops extra pay. Between this and substantial aid that began flowing to the area in 2003, the tide began to turn against the Taliban for good.
February 1st, 2003, saw the first tragedy of the year for the CF, and this time it was aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. The eight crew of the shuttle, including Canadian Forces Colonel Ryan Hamilton, was lost when the shuttle broke up on re-entry over Texas. It was the first eight-crew flight of the Shuttle, and also among those lost was veteran Israeli pilot Ilan Ramon. Colonel Hamilton, being the first Canadian astronaut lost in an accident, was posthumously awarded the Canadian Victoria Cross, for both his shuttle ride and his 18 years flying for the CF.
The 2003 Canadian Military Budget included the provisions to upgrade the Hornet, Corsair and Tomcat fleets, and continue the improvements of the Forces' naval capabilities, including a massive provision for buying new submarines to finally replace the Oberons, which were in reduced status at this point. The plan was to buy four to six conventionally-fueled submarines to allow the three nuclear vessels to focus on escorting the ocean-going forces of the Canadian Forces.