Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dassault & Airbus Team-Up - What Does it Mean for the CF-18 Replacement

By: Daniel Maillet, CAF Dispatch Author

With the breaking news announced today from the Berlin Airshow that Dassault Aviation and Airbus are teaming up to build what can only be considered a "Fifth" or "Fifth & Half" Generation Fighter Jet.

French air force flies Rafale B fighter jets like this one photographed in operations over Mali last year. Dassault Aviation wants Canada to choose the Rafale as a replacement for the CF-18, and is willing to have the planes assembled in Canada. (Anthony Jeuland/French Air Force)
In the brief announcement, Dassault and Airbus indicated that they would be starting work immediately on a new fighter jet that will at first supplement both the Dassault Rafael and the Eurofighter Typhoon; but the long-term goal is for this new fighter to replace both jets between 2030-2040.

That leaves one question for those us of on the other side of the Atlantic. What does this mean for the RCAF CF-18 Replacement?

The official list of approved bidders in the process are: (In Alphabetical Order)
  • France—Dassault Aviation (Thales DMS France SAS and Safran Aircraft Engines)
  • Sweden—SAAB AB (publ)—Aeronautics 
  • United Kingdom and Northern Ireland—Airbus Defense and Space GmbH 
  • United States—Lockheed Martin Corporation (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)
  • United States—The Boeing Company
In Canada's search for a new fighter jet - the Dassault Rafael and the Eurofighter Typhoon are among the options. While many consider the Typhoon too expensive, and the Rafael too limited in its use - they are not top contenders. This is despite Dassault having repeatedly offering to transfer technologies to Canada and build the Rafael aircraft in Canada. Others argue that both aircraft are also incapable of interoperability with the US and Canada's NORAD commitments. This argument seems weak - especially when you consider Rafael aircraft were used alongside USAF fighters in the recent bombing of Syria. I digress... 

Canada has recently announced that it will extend the life-expectancy of its current fleet of CF-18s from 2025-2030. Will this announcement mean Canada might look to supplement its current CF-18 fleet until this new aircraft arrives? Will Dassault and Airbus be able to pitch or even offer it to the Canadian Government as a viable option? 

Are 2 RCAF Chinooks Enough for Mali Mission?

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch
RCAF Chinook in action during training in the U.S. in 2016. Photo courtesy Canadian Forces. 
Melissa Kent, the CBC correspondent at the United Nations, has raised some interesting points in her article today about Canada’s contribution to the Mali mission.

Talks will take place today between UN and Canadian officials about the contribution.

Canada will supply two Chinook helicopters and four CH-146 Griffon helicopters to the UN mission to Mali. The UN, meanwhile, is expecting that two Chinooks will be available at any given time — which means Canada would need to send more than two to Mali, Kent points out. ”A helicopter is not like a car. They have planned maintenance,” a UN official familiar with the talks told Kent. ”Therefore, in order to have two available on a daily basis you would need three.”

At least three.

Whether the Canadian government acknowledges this remains to be seen.

The Mali mission was announced March 19 by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, with Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance standing by to answer questions. The “press conference” lasted probably a whole 10 minutes. There was no technical briefing to provide details of the mission.

At times, the press conference was an exercise in confusion, as Defence Watch has reported.

Sajjan announced Canada would send to the two Chinook helicopters and four armed Griffon helicopters to escort them. A few minutes later at the same news conference Vance said the number of helicopters being assigned to the Mali mission had still not been determined.

The government’s news release on the deployment indicated helicopters would be sent but did not provide specific numbers.

And Sajjan’s office later sent out a message to journalists, contradicting Vance by stating that ‘up to’ two Chinooks and four Griffons would be sent.

Dassault & Airbus Team up to Build Next European Fighter Jet

By: The Associated Press - Originally Published on Defense News 
Airbus and Dassault Aviation have joined forces to develop and produce Europe’s Future Combat Air System. (Airbus Defence and Space)
BERLIN — European plane-maker Airbus and France’s Dassault Aviation have agreed to join forces to develop and produce a new European fighter jet.

The two companies’ announcement at an air show in Berlin on Wednesday follows a decision in principle last year by the French and German governments to develop a new fighter jet together.

The new aircraft is slated at first to complement and then replace the Eurofighter and Rafale aircraft currently in use, between 2035 and 2040.

Dirk Hoke, the CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said that “never before has Europe been more determined to safeguard and foster its political and industrial autonomy and sovereignty in the defense sector.”

He said the “schedule is tight” and the companies need to start work immediately on a project road map.

Belgian King Returns Field Gun to Canada

By: STEPHEN J. THORNE, The Legion Magazine
Defence Today Journal
It’s been nearly a century since Canadian guns fell silent at Mons, Belgium, the last city they liberated before Germany surrendered and the war to end all wars was ended.

Canadian 18-pound field guns, ubiquitous among Allied forces between 1914 and 1918, are said to have fired their last shots at Mons immediately before the armistice was signed in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France, terminating the slaughter at about nine million soldiers on all sides, including 68,000 Canadians.

Two of those guns were left behind as gifts from Canada to the City of Mons in 1919. One has come back on long-term loan to the Canadian War Museum where the occasion was marked on March 13 by a visit from Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde.
One of the 18-pound field guns Canadian artillery fired in the liberation of Mons during the last hours of the First World War. It was one of two given to the city after the war and has now been placed on long-term loan to the Canadian War Museum.
“I would like to express Belgium’s gratitude toward Canada,” King Philippe told an audience in the museum’s LeBreton Gallery.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force began and ended the war in Belgium, from Ypres, where they faced one of the world’s first chemical attacks in 1915 and 6,000 died, to Flanders, where John McCrae wrote his immortal poem just a month later.

They fought at Passchendaele in 1917 where 2,600 Canadians were killed, and on to the Belgian villages they liberated on the road to Mons—names like Marchipont, Baisieux, Elouges and Quiévrain. There was La Croix, Hensies, Boussu-Bois, Petit Hornu, Epinois and Bois de l’Eveque. The list goes on: Saint-Aybert. The Condé Canal. Dour. All taken in the war’s final week.

Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres, Belgium is the final resting place of 35,000 soldiers of the British Commonwealth. Many were killed in the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.
Canadian soldiers lie buried in 13 municipal cemeteries between Quiévrain, near the French border, and Mons, in the heart of what was then Belgian coal country.

Among them is George Price of Falmouth, N.S., recognized as the last soldier of the British Empire to die in the First World War. He was shot in Ville-sur-Haine, south of Mons, two minutes before the armistice was signed. A member of the 28th Battalion, Saskatchewan North West Regiment—known as the Nor’westers—the 25-year-old private is one of two Canadians buried in the city’s Saint-Symphorien Military Cemetery.

It would be just a quarter-century before Canadian uniforms returned to Belgium to fight another war, taking a lead role in opening the Scheldt River estuary, gateway to the Belgian port of Antwerp. More than 1,800 died in the fall 1944 campaign.

The First World War field gun belonged to the 39th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, which joined the fight in 1916 and fought at the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, culminating in Canada’s Hundred Days, a series of offensives during which the Canadian Corps spearheaded the armies of the British Empire.

The 39th Battery brought the gun into Mons and deployed it on the Champ de Mars, where it was fired in support of infantry and cavalry units. Canadian military brass presented it to the city in August 1919 and it was displayed in the Mons Memorial Museum. Museum curators hid it from German occupiers during the Second World War.

The gun is in exquisite condition, no doubt reconditioned since it was given to the Mons museum. But among the telltale signs of the hard ground it has travelled are its worn spoked wheels and a dented brass hub.

“The destinies of our two countries were tragically interwoven in the 20th century during two world wars,” the king said after he and Queen Mathilde toured the museum and viewed paintings of war-ravaged Belgian cities and battlefields that are part of the 14,000-piece Beaverbrook Collection of War Art.

“It gives me great satisfaction to see that, thanks to the support of the Mons authorities, the Canadian artillery gun that fired the last shells of the war can be presented here today,” he said. “Our commemorations enable us to recognize the past but also to become more aware of the vulnerability of the present. They invite us to experience life’s adversities without losing faith in humanity.”
Rifling (left) inside the muzzle of an 18-pound field gun that helped Canadian troops liberate the Belgian city of Mons. The dented brass wheel hubs help tell the story of the gun’s travels through the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.

RCAF Seeks to Manage Shortfall of Pilots

By Chris Thatcher, RCAF News 
Originally Published in Skies Magazine

The RCAF is addressing staffing shortages through targeted
and creative retention and recruitment strategies.

Royal Canadian Air Force CT-155 Hawk aircraft fly in close formation over the desert during Exercise Antler South at the Naval Air Facility El Centro in California, U.S., on November 30, 2017. PHOTO: Ordinary Seaman Erica Seymour, CK02-2017-1043-033
Royal Canadian Air Force CT-155 Hawk aircraft fly in close formation over the desert during Exercise Antler South at the Naval Air Facility El Centro in California, U.S., on November 30, 2017. PHOTO: Ordinary Seaman Erica Seymour, CK02-2017-1043-033
The pilotless cockpit may one day become the norm, but for the foreseeable future, pilots will remain in high demand.

Global forecasts by commercial aircraft manufacturers, airlines and industry associations anticipate a need for 500,000 new pilots over the next 20 years, as new routes open and existing markets expand. In Canada alone, more than 7,000 new pilots, flight engineers and flying instructors will be required between 2016 and 2025, according to the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace.

Yet projections by organizations such as the International Air Transport Association suggest those targets will be difficult, if not impossible, to meet.

For military air forces already struggling to retain experienced pilots, aircrews and maintenance technicians, those forecasts are cause for concern. Few will have trouble attracting prospective pilots–applicants who since they were young boys and, increasingly, girls, are still drawn to the wonder and excitement of flying a fighter jet or maritime helicopter.

But the lure of commercial pay cheques, especially for maintainers, may challenge an air force’s ability to hold on to its best people while managing a normal rate of attrition.

The United States Air Force (USAF), for one, has felt the pressure of commercial hiring and a draining operational tempo in recent years. Lieutenant General Gina Grosso, the USAF’s personnel chief, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel in March 2017 that the entire air force was short 1,555 pilots, including 1,211 fighter pilots, as of the end of fiscal year 2016. The warning prompted Congress to authorize an increase in bonus pay to as much as $35,000 per year, up from the previous cap of $25,000, to retain talent.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has traditionally been able to maintain an acceptable 10-year attrition rate of about 6.5 per cent, a turnover necessary to the overall health of the organization. But with the growing demand for aircrews and maintainers, “we are seeing an uptick and it has increased the pressure,” acknowledged Lieutenant-Colonel Rich Kohli, whose team within the directorate of air personnel strategy monitors occupation health and develops recruitment plans.

At first glance, the RCAF is in reasonably good shape. All aircrew officer occupations are above the 80 per cent range of desired strength: pilots are at about 84 per cent; air combat systems officers are at 80 per cent; and aerospace engineering officers are around 98 per cent.

Maintenance technicians are also well accounted for, averaging around 96 per cent of desired strength, though specific trades such as aircraft structures are about 87 per cent.

But the RCAF is working through a problem that originated in the 1990s, when the federal government cut spending and reduced the size of the military, prompting many to accept a golden handshake before retiring from service. That created a gap in the force that is now affecting training, maintenance, and operations. Those who left would today be among the most experienced instructors, technicians and squadron leaders, with 18 to 20 years of service under their belts.

“We have very few people with 18 years of experience right now,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli. “It would have given us a larger cadre to draw from to fill those critical positions. They would be our most experienced people involved in the line operations.

“It means we have a smaller population of people at that rate. So the attrition of a single senior pilot, for example, in Trenton right now would be felt quite dramatically when there isn’t a large group of people to draw from to replace that individual.”

Complicating matters further, the RCAF is also experiencing the gradual retirement of the baby boom generation, in many cases the very personnel who picked up the slack when the force was downsized.

“We are hitting that demographic bubble where a large number of individuals—about 20 per cent of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)—are in that retirement zone and eligible for annuity,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Elisa Cass, who oversees attraction, in-service selection, research and retention for the directorate of air personnel strategy. “That is still primarily the reason people are leaving.”

She noted, however, that many have opted to remain in the Reserve Force, allowing the Air Force to “keep their corporate skills.” Or, they have decided to return after a stint in the commercial sector, a move her team works to “expedite to the greatest extent possible.”

The RCAF has also welcomed a handful of allied pilots interested in joining the force to bridge that experience gap, but it’s a touchy area since allies have an informal agreement to not “poach” each other’s aircrews. Ultimately, the bubble will have to run its course, Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli said.

In response to a shortfall of roughly 4,000 maintainers at the end of fiscal year 2016 due to a variety of factors, including budget cuts over the past decade, the USAF took the dramatic step of upping the number of new maintainers it enrols in the training system each year from 6,000 to 8,000. That has reduced the deficit to just 400 technicians, but created challenges in providing sufficient training platforms.

Unfortunately, even if it were possible, significantly increasing the quantity of trainees will not solve the problem in Canada without affecting operations, Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli noted. For one, the RCAF lacks that large pool of experienced instructors and, as commander Lieutenant-General Mike Hood told the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence in November 2016, “Our occupations are highly technical and require long periods of training.”

“It can take pilots three and a half years just to get their wings, and most technicians, from when they are enrolled, take about three years before they are on units fixing airplanes,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli. “If we are short 200 technicians somewhere, we can’t just have 200 basic qualified people show up tomorrow. We have to bring them up to ensure they develop expertise in their particular field.”

In the past two years, the RCAF has increased the number of pilots receiving their wings to about 110 from the five-year average of about 95, the number necessary to meet normal attrition rates. Not surprisingly, the RCAF has “no problems attracting pilots,” Lieutenant-Colonel Cass said, with the CAF receiving about 1,000 applicants each year. However, only one third–about 300–survives a rigorous aptitude test at the aircrew selection centre in Trenton, and just 150 to 200 are enrolled annually.

Technicians pose a more significant challenge. In total, the RCAF receives about 425 to 450 maintainers per year into the training system and graduates between 375 and 400, Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli said. But in fiscal year 2017/18, which ran until March 31, the Canadian Forces Recruiting Group (CFRG) had processed 503 applicants on behalf of the RCAF for aviation, avionics and air weapons technicians, and enrolled 204 as of late December 2017. That is about 100 fewer applicants and 50 fewer enrolled than in fiscal year 2016/17, though the RCAF expects to be just short of last year’s intake by the end of the fiscal year.

“We are seeing shortfalls in our annual recruiting targets,” he said, though he emphasized the RCAF remains “discerning” in who it selects for aircrew. “We want to make sure that people who are trained have a high probability of success.”
In search of retention keys

As part of a new defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, released in June 2017, the Canadian government laid out several initiatives to “retain valuable military skills and accommodate changing career paths,” including more flexibility in career options and enticements to encourage more former Regular Force personnel to remain in service by transitioning to the Reserve Force.

It also proposed a comprehensive CAF-wide retention strategy. In conjunction, the RCAF is now developing an Air Force-specific plan, gathering evidence-based research from a variety of sources and directly from members to identify “key things we need to focus on,” explained Lieutenant-Colonel Cass. That will include a way for members “to anonymously make suggestions that would help retain them longer” through the RCAF website.

The reasons for leaving the military are as varied and personal as the reasons for why members originally joined, and what might entice them to remain in service is equally diverse. Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli noted the RCAF commander has “limited levers” and focuses on job satisfaction and ensuring people have the tools to do the job well within the RCAF, while working with the Military Personnel Command on things like retention bonuses or other benefits packages.

As RCAF commander, Lieutenant-General Hood has also launched a concerted effort to encourage the flow of innovative ideas. “While I uphold the chain of command for the controlled use of force and for military operations, I am flattening the organization when it comes to sharing and considering innovative ideas from all ranks and occupations,” he explained to the Senate defence committee in 2016. “In our online forums we have aviators commenting on complex ideas alongside generals and colonels. That is a cultural evolution that I want to see continue to grow.”

To date, that approach has included a Vector Check modelled on the popular TV show, “Dragon’s Den”, which provides any aviator with a chance to “sell” senior leadership on an idea or solution, and the launch of an innovation hub in the Waterloo, Ontario, technology triangle intended to expose Air Force personnel to the tech entrepreneur mindset. That cultural change in the RCAF alone may encourage airmen and airwomen to remain in service, but Lieutenant-Colonel Cass’s team will also be monitoring the “suggestion box” for any novel ideas around retention and recruitment.
Targeted recruitment a strategic game

The defence policy also committed to grow the CAF to 101,500 personnel, an increase of 3,500 for the Regular Force, to 71,500, and 1,500 for the Reserve Force, to 30,000. Much of the growth is aimed at filling needs in space-, cyber- and intelligence-related occupations, but could include additional aircrews and technicians as the RCAF introduces new maritime helicopter and fixed-wing search and rescue (SAR) fleets, considers expanding its SAR helicopter fleet, and moves forward with a plan to acquire new fighter jets and remotely piloted aerial systems.

A senior government official acknowledged during a briefing in December that even the interim fighter program, which will see delivery of 18 Australian F/A-18A/B Hornets to augment the current fleet, could mean a need for more pilots and technicians, and that “retention and recruitment efforts were underway.”

While flying or working on cutting-edge aircraft is admittedly “a huge hook” to attract talent, the RCAF nonetheless faces stiff competition for skilled trades and technology workers, said Kohli.

All sectors are chasing the same demographic, so the military has had to experiment and be “adaptive to the marketing strategies [of] our competition,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Mainguy, the senior staff officer for marketing and attractions with the CFRG.

The CFRG applies benchmark enrollment criteria provided by the Army, Navy and Air Force to deliver increasingly creative and often very targeted recruitment campaigns, using online and various social media channels and face-to-face specialist recruiters to identify and interact with potential candidates. One program, called “Ask Me Anything”, gives prospective candidates direct online access for an hour to a serving member of similar age to answer any questions about their job.

“It is a very strategic game, played out tactically across the country,” Lieutenant-Colonel Mainguy said. “We really have to create a value proposition as part of our marketing strategy to be competitive alongside industry. We do very well as far as offering a salary that is relatively competitive with the rest of industry, but we have to sell all of the other intangibles [such as] professional development throughout a career, diversity of employment, diversity of location, bilingualism, pension benefits…to be more competitive.”

Aerospace-specific programs at trade schools and colleges have also become a prime target for RCAF and CFRG specialist recruiters. Members of Cass’s team have audited aircraft maintenance courses to understand the skills students acquire and are finding “between 70 to 90 per cent of our core military material is being covered,” she said. “Those programs are so well delivered that oftentimes the training that we have to provide is very minor once they come in.”

To encourage students to consider the RCAF before embarking on a commercial sector career, the Air Force is also marketing the fact that journeyman status for most trades can be acquired in much shorter time and at far less cost.

And it is providing credit for such programs by shortening the length of some courses once a trainee has completed basic training, and accelerating promotion. “Both pay and rank are biased to recognize what they are bringing to the table as semi-skilled entrants,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli.
Working smarter

Personnel shortages are often cyclical and carefully managed to minimize their impact on operations, but retention and recruiting issues will likely remain a constant challenge as Canadian demographics continue to change. So, the Air Force will have to work smarter, Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli acknowledged. That will mean greater use of simulation in the training system and to keep pilots current, reserving precious flying hours for operations.

In December, Lieutenant-General Hood directed staff to look at using other air operations officers to perform operations tasks, keeping qualified pilots focused on flying. And an air combat systems officer (ACSO), rather than a pilot instructor, may provide the initial cadre of unmanned aerial systems pilots. “It may require a dedicated operator or we may be able to continue on the ACSO route, or we may find that a pilot is actually required,” Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli explained. “It will depend on the hardware of the system that we put into place.”

New fleets with ever more complex sensor systems will also mean fundamental changes for technician training. More maintenance will be contracted, meaning “maintainers won’t need to know how every one and zero is working inside the box. They [will] need to be more focused on management of the systems, to be more aware of software versions,” Lieutenant-Colonel Kohli said.

The pilotless cockpit is estimated by some to be a decade away, though militaries, despite embracing unmanned drones, will take decades more to be totally comfortable with the idea of no pilots in their fighter, transport, maritime patrol and tactical aviation fleets.

In the meantime, they will have to continue applying innovative and focused personnel strategies to attract and retain the aircrews and technicians needed to keep those aircraft flying. And if some do seek opportunities in the commercial sector? Canadian aviation will be the beneficiary of well-trained, high-quality people.