Thursday, December 15, 2016

RCAF Trainign Contract Delayed until 2017

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

A $1.5 billion project to train Canada’s fighter pilots, touted by the Liberal government as an example of how it is improving defence procurement, has gone off the rails.

Discovery Air Defence aircraft training with RCAF CF-18s.
Discovery Air Defence aircraft training with RCAF CF-18s. (Photo courtesy Discovery Air)
A private company was to have been selected by the end of December to provide aircraft and pilots to act as adversaries in training for Canadian fighter pilots, as well as provide planes to act as the enemy for Canadian land and naval forces.

But the Liberal government has quietly pushed the contract award date to next year, an extension that could see the deal announced as late as October.

Sources say government procurement specialists don’t have the resources to review the information from the bids on the Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) project and the process is still limping along.

Earlier this year Liberal government officials, including Procurement Minister Judy Foote, highlighted how CATS and other projects were benefiting from a new “win-win evaluation process.” The process was supposed to streamline and simplify defence equipment purchases.

But the Liberals have now delayed the CATS contract. Bids were submitted from various aerospace firms in February 2016 and were valid for a one-year period. That period has now been extended to Oct. 31, 2017 although there is the possibility the contract could be awarded sooner, sources say.

“We are not in a position to provide an announcement date for the awarding of the CATS contract, as we are still in the evaluation phase,” noted a statement from Public Services and Procurement Canada to the Ottawa Citizen. “The Request for Proposals, as it was initially posted in 2015, did not include a commitment to have a contract in place by December 2016.”

The Citizen, however, has obtained the tender documents from both 2015 and 2016 and they clearly state the contract is to be awarded by Dec. 2016. In addition, the Department of National Defence acquisition guide states the contract would be awarded by the end of 2016.

Earlier this year, Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold released the following statement about CATS to the Citizen: “The evaluation, which includes aircraft inspection, is expected to take up to five months. The contract is expected to be awarded by the end of 2016.”

It is unclear why the department now claims that is not the case.

Discovery Air Defence from Montreal, Que., has been providing such services for the Canadian military since 2005. It has also expanded its operations internationally and was recently hired to do the same thing for Germany’s armed forces.

But the Canadian government wanted to open the competition up to other firms.

Two firms have publicly acknowledged they submitted bids; one from Discovery Air, the other from CAE, also from Quebec, who has allied itself with Draken, a U.S. firm.

Garry Venman, vice president of business development and government relations at Discovery Air Defence, said the company looks forward to the announcement of the winning bid and working with the Canadian government in the future. He said the firm pioneered the concept in Canada of such airborne services and is now considered a leader in the industry throughout the world.

Chris Stellwag, spokesman of CAE, said the firm is also eying potential international business for such services. “We have a bid in and we await the Canadian government’s decision,” he said.

CATS will provide aircraft to the Canadian Forces to simulate hostile threats for ground and naval forces as well as fighter pilots. The winning firm also provides aircraft to tow targets and carry electronic warfare systems for various training scenarios, according to the information supplied by Public Services and Procurement Canada to industry.

CATS will run over an initial 10-year period, followed by the option to continue for another five years.

The winning bidder is required not only to provide planes and pilots but also maintenance crews and engineering support. The Canadian government estimates that aircraft operated by the winning bidder will have to fly between 2,500 and 3,500 hours a year.

The majority of services will be provided in Victoria, BC; Cold Lake, Alta; Bagotville, Que; and Halifax, NS. Other training flights could take place outside Canada, including in the U.S. and Mexico.

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