CF-18 jets won't join anti-ISIS fight for 3 weeks

Canadian generals are preparing an early draft of a two-track bombing campaign designed to hit ISIS fighters in the coming weeks, as part of Canada's newly approved military mission against Islamic State militants.

6 fighter jets being deployed from Alberta; 3 other planes coming from Ontario and N.S.

Canadian CF-18s, like the one pictured, will take part in airstrikes in the Middle East, but CBC News has learned that won't happen for at least three more weeks. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canadian generals are preparing an early draft of a two-track bombing campaign designed to pick off ISIS fighters when they come out from under the cover of civilian enclaves, and then to ramp up offensive operations in the ensuing weeks, as part of Canada's newly approved military mission against the Mideast militants.

Canadian jets won't be in the air in the region for up to three weeks, CBC News has learned. Generals have to prepare for a fight that will see fewer hard targets after weeks of allied bombing of ISIS from the air.

Multiple sources told CBC News the government has not yet decided whether its policy will be to assert a legal basis for bombing targets in Syria as well. Those targets could be added to Canadian pilots' hits list once the government makes it decision.

The federal government on Thursday confirmed an agreement with Kuwait to stage its CF-18 pilots and support crews at an air base in that country.

Reconnaissance teams are on the ground now in Kuwait and will report back to the government in a week on infrastructure and weaponry needs for the co-ordinated coalition effort.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons Wednesday that the six CF-18 fighter jets will come from the Canadian Forces base in Cold Lake, Alta., while a refuelling plane and two surveillance planes will be deployed from bases in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

"I can confirm to the House that six CF-18s will be deployed from the 4 Wing Cold Lake [Alberta], the Polaris will be deployed from 8 Wing Trenton [Ontario] and two Auroras will be deployed from 14 Wing Greenwood [Nova Scotia]," Harper told MPs in response to a question from Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair during the House of Commons daily question period.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson later issued a statement confirming the deployments.

"As our government continues to work with our allies to confirm the logistics of our asset deployment, I am pleased to confirm that Canada's military reconnaissance team is already on the ground in the Middle East preparing for the arrival of the aircraft Canada has committed to this fight," Nicholson said in the statement.

Until Thursday's announcement, the government had not said officially where Canada's force will be based. The Canadian Forces already maintain a staging base in Kuwait to aid in the forward deployment of equipment.

MPs voted 157-134 Tuesday night to back the government's motion to join U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS for a period of up to six months starting last Friday.

The government motion expressly rules out ground troops, but leaves open the possibility that Canada could participate in airstrikes against ISIS forces inside Syrian territory if invited by the Assad government.

With files from James Cudmore