Operational support hubs

Operational support hubs (OSH) are facilities in other countries that provide support for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations. They can be physical premises or service providers, or both. The CAF has negotiated their set up under arrangements with the host nation or service provider. They allow the CAF to move people, materiel, equipment and supplies in far-reaching places. They can be activated or de-activated as needed.

OSHs are not military bases. The CAF maintains the hubs in overseas locations because of cost and convenience.  They offer fast, flexible and cost-efficient ways to launch and sustain global operations. They also allow the CAF to respond to crises like natural disasters in a timely way.


The location of an OSH is selected with care to provide:

  • a safe and secure environment in a friendly nation; and
  • an airport, a seaport, or both, capable of handling movements of people, materiel, equipment and supplies. 

OSH – Europe

The CAF has operated a small European OSH in Germany since 2009. It is there with the consent of the German government. It was first located at the United States Air Force base at Spangdahlem in western Germany. It was moved in July 2012 to the joint military-civilian airfield at Köln-Bonn. This was to gain the broader range of support services readily available in that region. CAF members are co-located with the German Air Force on the military side of the airfield.

This location at the large Köln-Bonn airport provides a very capable OSH. It can operate on a 24/7 basis. It has flexible infrastructure to meet CAF requirements. It also has access to the full range of transportation networks needed to support OSH operations.

OSH – Kuwait

In 2011, Canada entered into an OSH arrangement with Kuwait. It was to establish a means to support CAF operations in Afghanistan. This operational support detachment was a transportation point. It was a place where CAF personnel, materiel, and equipment were transferred between modes of transportation (for example from air to sea). This was done in order to reduce operational costs.

Canada signed a new agreement with Kuwait on 12 May, 2014 to establish and maintain an OSH.  It covers CAF personnel, materiel and equipment who will transit through Kuwait to and from their areas of operation outside of Kuwait. It also supports CAF members and assets who may be present in Kuwait.

OSH – Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

June 2016 marked the CAF’s first operational activation of the OSH Latin America and the Caribbean. It served as the in-theatre support platform for CAF members who took part in Exercise Tradewinds 2016 in Jamaica.

Support included:

  • Camp services (power, accommodations, workspaces and washing facilities);
  • Equipment storage;
  • Transportation;
  • Feeding;
  • Communications; and
  • Local contracting

OSH operations - levels of readiness

Caretaker status

Caretaker status

An OSH at caretaker status is not staffed. It consists of contracts, agreements and activation plans. CAF members visit the location at least once per year. They confirm arrangements with the host nation and contractors. This ensures that the hub can be activated quickly if and when it is needed. 

Cadre status

Cadre status

When the CAF first goes in to an operational theatre, the hub serving that region steps up from caretaker status to cadre status. At cadre status, the OSH has limited facilities. This includes a small staff (up to 10 personnel). The cadre can deliver essential operational support while preparing for potential full activation. This can include storage of pre-positioned materiel.

Full Activation

Full Activation

When an OSH is fully activated, it has everything it needs to support deployed task forces in the area it serves. It is staffed and supplied for both the current and projected needs in the operational theatre.

Even at full activation, operational support hubs are scalable. They are only as large and complex as they need to be. The operational support staff decide the nature and extent of the requirements for operations. The OSH returns to cadre or caretaker status when fully-activated hub capabilities are no longer needed.

Functions of an operational support hub

OSHs are designed to be flexible. They grow and shrink according to the needs of the task forces they serve. The level of support depends on their readiness status. OSH provide some or all of the following services.

Local procurement and contracting

Local procurement and contracting

OSHs are placed in strategic locations in other countries. This allows for obtaining a good selection of local goods and services under contract.  The overall intent is to benefit deployed task forces. 

Material movement and storage

Material movement and storage

Shipping equipment and supplies to and from deployed task forces is among an OSH’s most important functions.

When an operation is underway, an OSH provides the facilities and skilled staff required to:

  • receive shipments arriving by air or sea;
  • inspect and prepare the contents for use in theatre;
  • reconfigure the loads for delivery to their destination by whatever means is needed, such as airlift.

The OSH also serves as a final checkpoint. It inspects and prepares all materials being shipped into a theatre of operations, or back to Canada.

Personnel support

Personnel support

An OSH is the ideal location for various personnel support services. These are required by deployed task forces and include:

  • the Arrival Assistance Group. This group handles the administrative tasks involved in deploying CAF members into a theatre of operations;
  • the Departure Assistance Group. This group handles the process to send CAF members who have completed their tour back to Canada;
  • pay and compensation services;
  • personnel records management; and
  • mid-tour leave.
Health services support

Health services support

A fully activated OSH can be adapted to offer health services support. This support requires the cooperation of the host nation. Health services support can include:

  • medical evacuation by airlift; and
  • admission to local hospitals for sick or injured CAF members who need to be stabilized before continuing their journey home.
Military Police

Military Police

Security is a major concern at OSH. The Military Police Security Service hires and supervises local security forces. This is done to safeguard warehousing and freight-forwarding facilities. Military Police services at a fully activated hub can extend to investigative and risk-mitigation services.

Engineer support

Engineer support

Depending on its readiness level, an OSH can offer some or all of the following engineer services:

  • real property and lease agreements;
  • environmental and industrial hazard assessment;
  • facility construction, operation and maintenance;
  • engineer contract management;
  • engineering planning and design services;
  • provisions for fire safety; and
  • mission reduction and close-out services.
Communications and information support

Communications and information support

OSH easily accommodate installations of basic and advanced information and communications technology.

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