An international air force exercise will not be returning to Cold Lake in 2019. 4 Wing announced that Exercise Maple Flag will not run next year to allow for what the Royal Canadian Air Force is calling “An opportunity to re-focus [our] resources to update the exercise’s mandate and to modernize the infrastructure used during the exercise.”
4 Wing Public Affairs Officer Captain Julie Brunet says another reason for the cancellation has to do with information passed between nations.
“What this means is basically we need to go from more of an ‘unclassified’ environment to a ‘classified’ environment so that we remain relevant with our allies.”
The exercise, which usually begins at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range at the end of May, featured pilots and aircrew from France, Qatar and Belgium among other countries this year. This isn’t the first time that Maple Flag hasn’t run. No exercise was hosted in 1991, 1999, 2011 and 2015. Brunet says all those cancellations came as a result of the RCAF conducting warfare operations in places like Kuwait, Kosovo and Libya.
“Essentially because of high tempo in regards to operations was the underlying reason why they didn’t take place in those four years.”
Officials with the RCAF say it’s too early to say what may happen with the exercise in 2020 and beyond. Air Force Commander Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger says the pause is needed.
“The landscape of warfare has evolved, and Maple Flag must also evolve to ensure it remains operationally relevant for ourselves and our joint and combined partners, both now and into the future.”
Exercise Maple Flag has been a staple at 4 Wing since 1978.