Win the adventure of a lifetime!

UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Royal Canadian Marine Corps
Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF)

Canada does not have a Marine Corps. Nor, unlike Australia, does Canada even have Army units that are preferentially tasked to conduct amphibious operations. Indeed, despite the fact that it has one of the world's most powerful navies, Canada has no amphibious capabilities whatsoever, not even the sort of modest maritime special operations capability such as maintained by a country such as Israel. The Canadian Army did participate in a number of amphibious operations in World War II, but since then the Canadian Forces have managed to get along without any discernable naval infantry capability. For a brief period in the 2005-2007 timeframe, the Canadian government flirted with establishing a Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF) which would have implied the creation of a Naval Infantry, if not a Marine Corps. But as with so many other Canadian ambitions, nothing came of this brief excursion.

Under the British the original purpose of Marines was to provide an infantry force capable of protecting the ship and it's officers from the crew, and was very limited in it's offensive role, apart from sniping at enemy officers from the fighting tops. The whole ship's crew would often be used for offense, for example boarding a ship, or attacking a town or fort from the sea, as naval infantry. The Army's infantry was used for more serious land-based maneuvers, and could be ferried if possible, but not often used in a marine role.

LCdr L.N. Hartell writes " ... that Canada might be well served by adopting the USMC model and culture is highly suspect not only on doctrinal grounds but, as well, for cultural reasons. The idea that a CMC might have proved useful historically or might be favourably viewed within the framework of the current FSE is not contested; it is only the ability of the CF to adopt the accompanying alien technology that is in doubt." To many Canadia's Marines would look too much like war-making, not peace-keeping.

Canada has a long history of amphbious operations. On 19 August 1942, over 6,000 soldiers, primarily Canadians of the 2nd Infantry Division, waded ashore at Dieppe as part of Operation JUBILEE. The plan called for a raid-in-force by a closely coordinated joint attack of air, sea, and land forces. Planners anticipated that the joint operation would take only 15 hours for successful execution and withdrawal. Unfortunately, within 7 hours the raid on Dieppe ended in complete disaster. The losses were grim: 60 percent of the ground force was killed, wounded, or captured; 106 of 650 aircraft were destroyed; 33 of 179 landing craft were lost at sea or on the beaches; and one of eight destroyers was sunk. The raid on Dieppe was conceived as a coordinated joint plan of air, sea, and land battles. However, as planning progressed, it devolved into a complex and inflexible script in which synchronization was used to make up for operational shortfalls.

Inevitably, Clausewitzian friction affected the battle, and the inability to achieve operational objectives within carefully prescribed timelines meant that the pre-conditions for successive steps were not met. It was not any single event that led to the catastrophe at Dieppe, but rather a cascading series of events which began with the drafting of the plan and ended in the failure of the mission. Operation JUBILEE did not fail because of poor intelligence, a lack of preparation, or the loss of operational surprise. It failed because a plan that originally started out as a joint battle of air, land, and sea forces, had devolved into an overly complex, scripted event that had no possible chance for success.

The Normandy invasion took place 6 June 1944 in the Bay of the Seine, on the south side of the English Channel. The planned landing beaches covered about forty-five miles of the Bay's shoreline. Westernmost was "Utah" Area, stretching eight miles southward along the low-lying southeastern coast of the Cotentin Peninsula. Directly to the east was "Omaha" Area, covering twelve miles of generally hilly terrain. United States forces were assigned to take both of those areas, with important assistance from the navies of Great Britain and other Allies. British and Canadian troops would assault the areas code-named "Gold", "Juno", and "Sword", which ran twenty miles eastward from "Omaha". The British and Canadian attacks, assisted by an air-dropped division on their eastern flank and a longer naval bombardment, generally went well.

Hartell notes that of 59 separate deployments and/or executed missions in the years 1945 through 1969, ten might be seen as not just opportunities to deploy amphibious forces, but opportunities that could not be fully exploited because no amphibious capability existed. Of these ten events, five involved the evacuation of Canadians from states that were failed and/or fragile: events in China (1959), Egypt (1952), St Lucia (1957), Haiti (1963) and Egypt again (1967). The period of 1970 to 2000 was as busy as the period of 1945 through 1969. A continuing need to plan and execute Evacuation Operations in coastal states was evident with separate events in West Pakistan (1971), Grenada (1974), Portugal (1974), Iran (1978/9), and twice in Haiti (1987/8, again in 1993).

In its Defence Policy Statement (DPS) of April 2005, titled Setting Our Course, the Canadian government announced a radical shift in the political direction that had guided the Departmentof National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF) for decades. The Canadian government's Defence Policy Statement represented the defence policy component of the government's overarching - and reasonably (and surprisingly) integrated - International Policy Statement. The central thrust of the International Policy Statement, and its DPS component, was on the need to reinvest in Canada's international role. The changes were even greater than the post-Cold War 1994 Defence White Paper that continued the commitment of forces to overseas missions. The major change was the DPS requirement for a Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF) of air, land and sea forces, to be available on 10 days notice to deploy on expeditionary operations.

Although the DPS did not say so explicitly, it was clear from comments made by the Minister of National Defence (MND) and the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), that the SCTF would have anamphibious capability. The need for a reinvestment in Canada's expeditionary military capabilities is given a particularly prominent place in the Defence Policy Statement. The sharp end of this capability would be the Special Operations Task Force (SOTF), a joint military formation capable of operating in both Canada and abroad, and which would include an expanded Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2), alongside intelligence, aviation, maritime and land and other support capabilities.

Such a force would be ideal for rapid evacuation operations, as well as provide an enhanced combat and intelligence capability for the Canadian Force. According to reports, JTF-2 will be supported by a Light Force of fast-moving highly trained "ranger" troops. Comparisons have been made to the disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment, though perhaps a better comparison would be the US Army Rangers - due to their key support role for US special forces. The Light Force would be used to secure an area, and to enable the JTF-2 force to conduct its smaller, surgical missions. According to the DPS, the SOTF will be joined by a Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF), a larger high readiness force made up of designated land, air, maritime and special operations forces. This force will be based on a strategic sealift capability.

The Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF) of the Defence Policy Statement is also known as a Standing Contingency Force (SCF) or as Integrated Rapid Response (IRR). The SCTF - aside from providing a more significant support for special forces operations - was clearly designed to deal with the threat posed by failed and failing states, which are seen as planting "the seeds of threats to regional and global security," whether in the form of terrorist sanctuaries or refugee flows. Such low to medium-intensity "stability operations" require a significant and reasonably robust "boots on the ground" presence, and this need will likely be fulfilled with the expeditionary and more manpower- intensive SCTF.

What began as the SCTF, was redefined as the SCF, was trialed during the Integrated Tactical Effects Experiment (ITEE) and was suspended due to competing priorities two years after the 2005 Defence Policy Statement (DPS) was released. The navy led a 'proof-of-concept' exercise of the re-named Standing Contingency Force (SCF) in amphibious operations off the coast of North Carolina in November 2006. The navy conducted the Integrated Tactical Effects Experiment (ITEE) with the participation of more than 1,000 CF members. Support was provided from the United States Navy, consisting of mentors and the participation of USS GUNSTON HALL and USS DOYLE. The ITEE helped the CF assess the challenges associated with developing a maritime expeditionary force.

On 30 January 2007, the Vancouver Sun reported that Department of National Defence (DND) would establish a 250-member Marine Commando Regiment at its base in Comox, BC. According to the Vancouver Sun, the new regiment would concentrate on maritime operations, be able to react to sea borne terrorist incidents and rescue Canadians trapped in war-torn nations that are accessible by sea. The regiment was to be part of the military reorganization that was also to see the Joint Task Force 2 counter-terrorism unit moved to Trenton, Ontario, from Dwyer Hill, outside of Ottawa. While it was expected to start with about 250 personnel, the military planned to expand the regiment over the years.

Due to operational and fiscal pressure, work on the SCF was stood down in early 2007.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:32:55 ZULU