Friday, June 10, 2016

Lockheed may shift F-35 fighter work away from Canada

By: ANDREA SHALAL,  Berlin, Reuters

Top U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp is studying whether to shift work on its multibillion-dollar F-35 fighter jet away from Canadian firms amid uncertainty over Ottawa’s plans to buy the jet.

Jack Crisler, Lockheed’s vice president of business development for the F-35 program, told Reuters Lockheed was under pressure from other partner countries that had placed firm orders or accelerated orders to shift more work to them.

In this July 7, 2006, file photo, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is shown after it was unveiled in a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. (Matthew Otero/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
In this July 7, 2006, file photo, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is shown after it was unveiled in a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas.
“This is not anything punitive. It is just business,” he said in a telephone interview from the Netherlands, where the F-35 will fly in its first international air show on Saturday.

Canadian firms will account for development and production work on the F-35 program worth about $1 billion by the end of 2016, Crisler said.

But future work could be in jeopardy if Canada decides to skip a competition and order F/A-18E/F fighter jets built by rival Boeing Co, as indicated by recent Canadian media reports, he said.

A spokeswoman for Canada’s defense ministry said the reports were not accurate, but gave no further information.

Crisler said Lockheed had been unable to secure a meeting with the Canadian government to discuss the issue.

He said F-35 supply chain contracts were competitively awarded in rough proportion to the purchase plans of the nine original partner countries that helped fund development of the radar-evading jet: the United States, Britain, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia and Denmark.

Canada’s ruling Liberals won an election last October on a promise not to buy F-35s because the planes were too expensive. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons the opposition Conservatives had “clung to a plane that does not work and is far from being able to work.”

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 office, said Canada remained a partner in the $379 billion program, and U.S. officials continued to provide the Canadian government information about the jets as they decided how to proceed.

More than 180 of the new jets are now flying, including an initial squadron of U.S. Marine Corps F-35 jets that were declared ready for combat a year ago, he said.

Crisler said if Canada held an open competition, Lockheed would retain contracts with Canadian firms, but it would need to rethink if Ottawa opted for a sole-source deal with Boeing.

“We are evaluating all that now,” he said. “The most important thing is that we’ve got to protect the enterprise as we get ready to ramp up production.”

However, in a note to clients on Friday, Macquarie analyst Konark Gupta questioned Lockheed’s rhetoric, noting that the company recently awarded long-term F-35 contracts to another Canadian supplier.

“(This) suggests to us that Lockheed could simply be threatening Canada to win an F-35 order,” Gupta wrote.

Sixty Canadian firms had worked on the F-35 development program, and 70 others are now involved in production of the jets, including Magellan Aerospace, Crisler said.

Canadian firms involved urged Ottawa on Thursday to hold a fair and open competition to replace its aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets. Their supply contracts, they wrote in the joint statement, were contingent on Canada buying the F-35.

“Not selecting the F-35 will set off a chain of events that will see hundreds of millions of investment dollars lost, and high-tech jobs leaving Canada, going to countries who are buying the F-35,” they said.

Open competition for fighter jet contract an option, Parliament told

By: Daniel Leblanc, Globe and Mail 

There is nothing stopping the Liberal government from fulfilling its promise to hold a full and open competition for new fighter jets, a top procurement bureaucrat told MPs.

“That is definitely an option that can be pursued, and again, it’s information that we are providing [to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan],” Patrick Finn, the assistant deputy minister in charge of procurement at National Defence, said to a committee of the House on Thursday.

Mr. Finn was responding to questions from NDP MP Erin Weir, who brought up the possibility that the Liberal government could use a sole-source contract to replace the current fleet of CF-18s.

The Conservatives are raising concerns that Ottawa is seeking a way around a competition to avoid buying Lockheed-Martin F-35s, opting instead for a sole-sourced purchase of Boeing Super Hornets.

The F-35 is a leading-edge stealth aircraft that has faced a series of technological challenges and delays in its development, while the Super Hornet is an older aircraft that offers fewer short-term risks to its buyer.

During the past election, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would not buy the F-35 aircraft, which was championed by the previous Conservative government.

Once in office, however, the Liberals promised to launch an “open and transparent” competition for new aircraft.

Mr. Finn confirmed that the government is currently exploring a series of options to purchase new fighter jets, suggesting the Liberals could eventually opt out of an open tendering process.

“Right now, no decisions have been made,” Mr. Finn said. “The full spectrum is being looked at. Our minister has asked us many questions about approaches, products, how it could be done, what could be done, to make sure he has all of the information that he needs to bring to his colleagues.”

Sources said the file is currently in front of the cabinet “ad hoc” committee on defence procurement, which is chaired by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

Government officials said the cabinet committee is working to refine the choices that will eventually be put in front of the full cabinet, where there will be a debate before the government makes a final call.

The acquisition of the new fighter jets is estimated to cost at least $9-billion, plus decades of maintenance and operation costs.

Mr. Finn said the government considers many issues when it looks at aircraft, including cost and whether they can be bought “off the shelf,” but also the long-term ability to upgrade their capabilities to prolong their efficiency.

“Maturity at the outset can be an important factor, but it’s one of many. Interoperability, price, being able to upgrade – all of those are important factors,” he said.

Retired lieutenant-general Ken Pennie, who is a former head of the Air Force, has said he hopes the government will make its choice based on Canada’s defence needs rather than political considerations.

NATO request that 1,000 Canadian troops be deployed in Eastern Europe


OTTAWA — Eastern European NATO allies have been pressing Canada to deploy up to 1,000 soldiers into the region to bolster the alliance’s presence amid continued concerns about Russian aggression.

The Liberal government says it is looking “actively considering options.” However, Eastern European diplomats say Ottawa has so far been giving “contradictory” signals.

“One day we hear we might be pleased with what is coming,” one envoy told the Citizen Thursday, “and the next things do not look good at all.”

Liberals ‘considering’ NATO request that 1,000 Canadian troops be deployed in Eastern Europe
Members of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment during NATO exercises on May 16, 2015 in Cincu, Romania
The allies’ request has been conveyed through diplomatic channels as well as political meetings between Canadian ministers and their NATO counterparts in recent months. Polish President Andrzej Duda raised the issue personally with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a visit to Ottawa in May.

Canada has had 220 soldiers in Poland since June 2014, three months after Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. They are currently involved in a 10-day military exercise with 30,000 other NATO troops, the largest such exercise since the end of the Cold War.

NATO, however, wants to establish a new force in eastern Europe that would provide a bulwark against any further Russian expansion or aggression. The U.S., Britain and Germany have each promised 1,000 troops that will be stationed in different countries, but they need a fourth ally to step up.

If the request is approved by cabinet, one of Canada’s nine infantry battalions would rotate through Europe, serving between six and nine months before being replaced by another battalion.

Another possibility under discussion is for Canada to send an armoured reconnaissance unit to eastern Europe, a source in NATO said.

NATO has also requested that Canada keep a warship continuously on patrol in European waters and to continue from time to time to contribute CF-18 fighter jets to the Baltic Air Policing mission, which was set up after repeated violations of NATO air space by Russian aircraft.

A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that other European allies are stretched thin because of operations in Africa, Afghanistan or at home, which is why Canada is being singled out.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s spokeswoman, Jordan Owens, was non-committal when asked if Canada would contribute the requested troops. “As a committed NATO ally, Canada is‎ actively considering options to effectively contribute to NATO’s strengthened posture,” she said Thursday.

Discussions between Canada and the alliance are ongoing, diplomats told the Citizen on condition of anonymity, and a decision should be made before NATO leaders gather in Warsaw next month. Before that, however, the issue is expected to come up when Sajjan meets with other NATO defence ministers in Brussels next week.

Deploying so many soldiers overseas could be taxing for the Canadian Armed Forces given recent operational and budgetary pressures. Canada is ramping up its mission in Iraq to more than 800 personnel, including helicopters and other equipment. This is in addition to existing commitments in Europe.

At the same time, Canadian defence spending as a percentage of the economy has reached levels not seen in decades. This is despite NATO members having agreed in Wales two years ago to reverse the decline, and aim to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. Canada spends one per cent.

Eastern European NATO members, however, see the alliance force that Canada is being asked to support as essential for ensuring their security in the face of Russian aggression. Most are former Soviet states, and they worry that what is happening in Ukraine could also play out within their borders.

Canada previously had troops in Western Europe on a permanent basis during the Cold War, though most were returned home when the Soviet Union collapsed. The new force would be comprised of troops who would rotate through the region on a regular basis.

Despite not having a clear indication where the Liberal government was leaning, Eastern European diplomats said they were hopeful Canada would contribute the requested troops.

“I very much hope that by the time of NATO summit, it’s more clear and decisions will be taken at the summit that match our expectations,” said one. “I think Canada won’t let us down.”

With files from Postmedia News

Analyst: Liberal government’s fighter jet replacement process flawed

By Richard Shimooka

Defence Watch Guest Writer

As revealed on Sunday by the Ottawa Citizen, the Liberal Government is considering a sole source interim purchase of Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets, in order to cover an expected capability gap between the retirement of the CF-18 and the purchase of a next generation fighter. Interestingly this follows on the heels of Canada’s NATO ally Denmark’s release of its evaluation of the options to replace its fleet of 44 F-16MLUs. The Danish government accepted the reports’ recommendations, and is now debating the budget it will put forward for a potential purchase.1 The two approaches are a study in contrasts, which calls into question the process and potential outcome of the Liberal government’s approach.

Denmark’s impetus for re-evaluating its initial decision to purchase the F-35 was similar to Canada history with the project. Their study was launched in March of 2013 amid political concerns over the project’s escalating costs and development challenges. The resulting report is a comprehensive evaluation prepared by military and civilian subject matter experts, combining binding data from manufacturers and government sources.

What makes the Danish process of particular interest for Canada is that the findings were released in a transparent manner. Although a number of nations have selected the F-35 over the past decade, the underlying analysis that lead to such a determination has remained conspicuously absent. This has occurred twice in Canada: the original 2010 DND assessment to select the F-35, and the 2014 National Fighter Procurement Secretariat report. The lack of any comparison analysis has been immensely confusing for the Canadian public, and left it with no ability to judge the features in this debate. This has helped turn opinions against the program, which the Liberal Party sought to exploit in the last election.

The Danish report provides an inconvenient critique of the potential Liberal decision to undertake the procurement of the Super Hornet. First it undermines the contention that the F/A-18E/F represents a low cost option for Canada. The original Liberal announcement to exclude the F-35 a potential competition was largely based on the belief that the Super Hornet or other options could be procured at nearly a third of the overall cost of the F-35. This utilized an erroneous cost analysis that applied out of date data of an aircraft without any key equipment, and left out mandatory fees and charges levied by the US government on foreign procurements. The Danish report clearly shows the F-35 is the lowest cost to both procure and operate, with a total lifecycle cost of only 70% that of the F/A-18E. This was a function of the F-35’s lower production cost, more efficient logistics and training system, and longer airframe lifespan. The F-35’s lower procurement cost was recently highlighted in a statement by the JSF project executive officer, General Bogdan, who emphasized his belief that the F-35s purchase cost drop to between 80~85 million dollars by 2019.2

In sum: Denmark found they required 38 Super Hornets to accomplish the same role as 28 F-35s over the same period, with the former’s fleet costing more to operate and being less capable. Although Boeing has questioned some of the analysis, subsequent clarifications by the Danish government, have made evident the process was done with thoroughness and integrity.3

Perhaps the most comprehensive area of the Danish evaluation was the capability assessment. It involved a broader examination of the international environment, Danish foreign and defence policy and how they related to Royal Danish Air Force’s future operations. A key feature of this section was a detailed analysis of their core allies’ military intentions (including Canada), which emphasized Denmark’s strong commitment to multilateral bodies, specifically the UN and NATO.

These highlighted missions were then further distilled down to six operational scenarios, in which the various fighter options were evaluated. The report found that in all but one category (where all the candidates tied) the F-35 was superior to the Super Hornet and Eurofighter. The latter two options were shown to be deficient in their ability to manage the increasingly complex threat environment of the future. Members of the RCAF’s CF-18 community have become aware of the potential lethality of these threats during their recent operations over Syria and Eastern Europe, where they encountered new Russian air defence systems.

The Danish report does not – obviously – have data that would be helpful to address the primary Canadian government justification for a potential Super Hornet purchase; preventing an apparent gap in capabilities due to the retirement of the CF-18 fleet. Leaving aside questions as to whether such a replacement is imminently required, the potential remedy itself is dubious. It is important to note that an interim buy would commit Canada to either a much reduced fighter force (as Super Hornets will be out of production in the next few years), or a mixed fleet with F-35s. This is a poor outcome, as the 2014 National Fighter Procurement Secretariat report opined; “a mixed fleet would provide less capability at a higher cost.”4

Canada’s approach to the F-35 has no relevant parallel among any other state. Australia’s initial purchase of Super Hornets occurred nine years ago to address the impending retirement of the F-111C, not their 71 F/A-18As (a contemporary Canada’s CF-18s with similar fatigue life issues). Their Hornets will be replaced by F-35s, with the first squadron of planes delivered in 2019 and the fleet declared operational in 2020. Canada could easily follow Australia’s lead and have an orderly transition to a F-35 fleet as fast as they could with the F/A-18E Super Hornet, at a lower cost and greater capability.

The Liberal government has repeatedly stressed that it will avoid playing politics with defence issues. However, the sole source selection of the F/A-18E/F, in any capacity, is simply a blatant form of political interference. While the Conservative government also attempted a sole-source selection of the F-35, they did so upon the recommendation of the military and bureaucracy. It is questionable whether that occurred here, as there is no military, economic or financial benefit for an interim purchase of the Super Hornet over the F-35. The only reason evident for the proposed purchase is to fulfill a questionable political campaign promise that was based on shoddy analysis.

And perhaps this is the greatest disappointment of the Liberal Government’s apparent decision. It entered into power with the promise to be better stewards of the public interest by practicing transparency and evidence based policymaking.5 Denmark has followed this path, resulting in a transparent process that has given credibility to its likely final selection of the F-35. Instead, the Liberal government seems intent in taking the opposite path, disregarding expert analysis and data from Government of Canada sources, as well as foreign reports like the Danish evaluation. It made an evaluation without a proper, credible procurement process, diminishing our international credibility and potentially saddling Canada with an inferior, higher cost aircraft – one that will leave the state and Canadian Armed Forces personnel exposed to greater threats in the future. This should not be allowed to pass.


Richard Shimooka is a defence analyst. His previous articles for the National Post and Defence Watch have argued that Canada should purchase the F-35

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The CF-18 and procurement: Oh God, here we go again

By Alan Williams, iPolitics 

Many people believe we can’t trust politicians to live up to their campaign promises. Maybe they’re right. But there was one item in the Liberals’ 2015 campaign platform that I really thought was going to happen.

“We will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft,” reads the Liberals’ platform document. “The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability.”

Now we’re told that the government may have made up its mind to purchase Super Hornet fighter jets to replace the CF-18s, and is casting around for a political narrative to justify buying them without a competition. Call me naïve, but I felt the Trudeau Liberals could at least be counted on to keep their word on replacing the CF-18s through an open competition — for three excellent reasons.

Reason one: No government in its right mind would want a repeat of the disaster that befell the Conservatives when they announced the sole-source purchase of the F-35. On July 16, 2010, the Harper government announced it would purchase the F-35 as it was “the best plane at the best price.” It went on to claim that the F-35 offered the best industrial benefits for Canadian businesses and the highest level of interoperability with NATO allies. It also claimed that no competition was necessary because one had already taken place.

As the person who signed the Memorandum of Understanding committing Canada to Phase II of the F-35 program, I was in a position to know that none of those statements was true. From my own articles, from the criticisms of the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Office of the Auditor General, from probing questions by the media and members of the opposition parties, Canadians learned that our elected officials were knowingly and purposely misleading them.

"Unless the government can contend that a contract must be sole-sourced for national security reasons (and in this case, it can’t), it has no legal basis to undertake a sole-source contract.

When citizens can’t trust their elected officials, those officials relinquish their right to govern. Less than a year into their mandate, I was certain that the Trudeau government would not want to share the last government’s stigma.

Reason two: Sole-sourcing is bad business. Only governments that have little or no understanding of defence procurement resort to sole-sourcing purchases. While there are rare circumstances which make sole-sourcing appropriate (an unforeseen emergency, for example), they don’t apply here. Anyone who’s ever hired a contractor understands that when you tell someone you’re going to buy their product, you lose all bargaining power.

Sole-sourcing is bad policy. It’s bad for industry because it imposes no incentive on the seller to provide high-quality jobs. It’s bad for the taxpayer because sole-sourced acquisitions can cost up to 20 per cent more than those purchased through a competition.

And sole-sourcing is a double disaster for the military. The extra cost comes out of the limited National Defence capital budget. And without an open, fair and transparent competition, you can never be certain you’re getting the best product.

Reason three: the law. Unless the government can contend that a contract must be sole-sourced for national security reasons (and in this case, it can’t), it has no legal basis to undertake a sole-source contract.

In Canada, defence procurement is subject to the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). Article 506.2 of this agreement lays out the requirement for competitive tenders in all cases — unless clearly identifiable exceptional circumstances exist. No such exceptions apply to the CF-18’s replacement. The only way Ottawa can sole-source this contract is to invoke article 1804 of the agreement, citing national security. Whether any company would end up challenging the government in court isn’t certain — but for a government to undertake an action that cannot be legally justified certainly suggests moral decay.

To this day, nobody seems to know why the Conservative government remained so steadfast in its commitment to sole-sourcing the F-35. For more than five years it was offered a great many opportunities to take an off-ramp and commit to an open, fair and transparent competition. It chose not to. It paid a price.

The current government’s contention that it needs the jets as soon as possible to meet the country’s defence needs is mere nonsense. Spinning this as an “interim” acquisition is insulting. The government has a detailed statement of requirements for the CF-18’s replacement, which means it could choose that replacement less than a year after launching a competition.

It would be simple. It would be fair. It would be legal. And it would send the Canadian public a message: Promise kept.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

Alan Williams is a former assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defence. He is now president of The Williams Group, providing expertise in the areas of policy, programs and procurement. He has authored two books, “Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement: A View From the Inside” and “Canada, Democracy and the F-35”.

Cabinet Committee deciding on final options to replace Canada CF-18s

By: Daniel Leblanc, The Globe and Mail 

A seven-member federal cabinet committee is drawing up final options to replace Canada’s aging fighter jets, sources say – and the ministers include Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who openly advocated against the purchase of Lockheed-Martin F-35s in recent years.

Government officials said the cabinet committee is working to refine the choices that will eventually be put in front of the full cabinet, where there will be a debate before the government makes a final call. The acquisition of the new fighter jets is estimated to cost at least $9-billion, plus decades of maintenance and operation costs.

“We may have no bigger or more complex [decision to make] this mandate,” a senior Liberal official said

The Liberals promised in last year’s election campaign not to buy the F-35, but once in government, they committed to holding an “open and transparent” competition to select the new aircraft.

However, the government has been putting growing emphasis in recent weeks on the “urgent” need to find a replacement for the three-decade-old fleet of CF-18s, and critics, including Conservatives, accuse the Liberals of rigging the process to purchase a fleet of Boeing Super Hornets at the expense of the F-35. That aircraft had long been championed by the previous government.

Retired lieutenant-general Ken Pennie, who is a former head of the Air Force, said he hopes the government will make its choice based on the need to protect the country’s territory instead of political considerations.

“I think there should be a competition based on the requirement to defend Canada,” he said in an interview. “I don’t know what that requirement is today, but it has to be something that will be effective against what the Russians are going to put on the table in the next 20, 30, 40 years.”

Sources said the file is currently in front of the cabinet “ad hoc” committee on defence procurement, which is chaired by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

The other members of the committee are Treasury Board President Scott Brison, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Procurement Minister Judy Foote, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan and Mr. Garneau.

When he was in opposition, Mr. Garneau repeatedly slammed the F-35 for having a single engine, saying the aircraft would put pilots at risk in the event of engine failure in the Arctic. The Super Hornet, while featuring older technology than the F-35, has two engines.

“All things being equal, two engines are better than one,” Mr. Garneau said in 2011.

Mr. Garneau added the manufacturer should have to guarantee that 100 per cent of the value of its aircraft would be reinvested in Canada. The F-35 project does not include traditional regional benefits, but rather opportunities for Canadian firms to bid on work for the aircraft’s international production line.

“We know we can get a better deal for Canadians, with guaranteed offsets,” Mr. Garneau said at the time.

During Question Period on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was critical of the F-35, which has faced delays and technological challenges in recent years, as an aircraft “that doesn’t work.”

Former CF-18 pilot Billie Flynn, who now works for Lockheed-Martin as an F-35 test pilot, disputed the Prime Minister’s characterization. In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Flynn said the so-called “fifth-generation” F-35 is already operational with the U.S. Marine Corps, meaning it could “go to war” right away.

“The F-35 is better, more capable than any fourth-generation aircraft that flies today, period,” Mr. Flynn said.

He added the F-35 beat out the Super Hornet and other fighter jets in a recent competition in Denmark, not only in terms of technical capabilities, but also cost.

Lockheed Martin still has hopes to sell Canada the F-35

By: Jordan Press, The Canadian Press 

A top executive says the firm wants back into the competition to replace CF-18s, and will “evaluate all of our alternatives” if it is shut out.

OTTAWA—The company building the F-35 fighter jet says all it wants is a chance to compete in an open and fair competition to provide the next generation of airplanes to Canada’s military.
New F-35s in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, last month.
New F-35s in the Netherlands, June 2016 (Getty Images) 
The possibility of being part of that process is murky, with the Liberal government having promised during last year’s election campaign that it would not buy the F-35, but vowing to hold an open competition to replace Canada’s fleet of aging CF-18s.

Further complicating matters is a published report that the Liberals have decided to purchase Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet — a direct competitor to the F-35 being built by Lockheed Martin — as an interim measure to buy time for a long-term fix.

Jack Crisler, Lockheed Martin’s vice-president of F-35 business development and strategic integration, said the company plans to support the Canadian procurement process, but believes its plane can compete with and beat the Super Hornet for any contract.
Examples of Boeing's F/A-18 on a U.S. aircraft carrier. One report says Ottawa has already decided to buy this aircraft type as an interim replacement for its aging CF-18s.
When asked if the company would sue the federal government if blocked from competing for the fighter jet contract, Crisler said the company would look at all of its options.

“Right now, all we want to do is to be able to compete,” Crisler said in a telephone interview.

“So if we get told that we’re not allowed to compete, then we’ll go and evaluate all of our alternatives at that point. But right now all we’re asking to do is be able to compete in a fair, open, transparent and requirements-based competition for the replacement of the CF-18s.”

The comments came amid a tumultuous two days in the House of Commons where the opposition parties attacked the Liberals over the path the government appears to be taking on a replacement for the CF-18s.

The Ottawa Citizen reported this week that cabinet had discussed buying the Super Hornets while officials seek a long-term replacement.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed the Conservatives for backing “a plane that does not work” and was a “long way from ever working” when peppered with questions about the F-35.

Crisler said Trudeau’s comments “couldn’t be further from the truth.” He said the U.S. Marines declared earlier this year that their fleet of F-35s is ready for combat, while the American air force is expected to make the same declaration by the end of 2016.

On Wednesday, the Conservatives questioned the Liberals about why they were reportedly sole-sourcing the purchase of the Super Hornets, rather than holding an open competition.

“I find it ironic and rich for the opposition to talk about an open-sourced, full competition considering they were going to be sole-sourcing the F-35,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told the Commons. “No decision has been made, but we will be replacing the CF-18s.”

He said the government wanted to ensure that the procurement process ends with the military receiving the equipment it needs and that Canadian companies benefit as well.

“We will go through an appropriate evaluation and when I’m good and ready, our government will be announcing (the results) to this House,” Sajjan said.

The CF-18s, purchased in the 1980s, were designed to last for 20 years. Having been pressed years beyond that timeline, the previous Conservative government decided to spend $400 million to keep the jets flying until at least 2025.

Federal lobbying records show Boeing has had a dozen meetings with government officials between February and April, including with senior staff in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Those records show Lockheed Martin hasn’t been able to meet any federal officials on the CF-18 file.

However, Annie Trepanier, a spokeswoman for Public Services Minister Judy Foote, whose department oversees major military procurements, said company officials had a meeting with Foote’s office on April 21 and again on May 25, both about the CF-18 replacement.

Liberals cite CF-18 'capability gap' due to upgrades being in limbo

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

A nearly $500-million upgrade to the country's CF-18 jet fighters, ordered by the Harper government almost two years ago, is still under study by the military, an evaluation that won't be completed for another 16 months.

A $500-million upgrade to Canada's existing fleet of CF-18s has yet to get underway, even though it was ordered by the former Harper government almost two years ago.

Capt. Alexandre Munoz, a spokesman for the air force, says the refurbishment, which is meant to keep the 1980s-vintage jets flying until 2025, is still in the "options analysis" phase.

The Conservatives directed the work be done in September 2014 as it released a series of independent reports on the failed bid to buy F-35 stealth fighters.

They deemed the program important and necessary to keep the jets out of retirement and to avoid a "capability gap" in the fighter fleet, which is considered a strategic military capability.

Despite that, Munoz conceded the process of analyzing how the extension would take place and what was required didn't get underway until September 2015.
International obligations lagging?

A spokesman for Procurement Services says no contract has been arranged for the work.

"As the Department of National Defence (DND) is working on requirements for the life extension of the CF-18s, no request for proposal has been issued and no contract has been awarded," said Jean-François Letourneau.

The new Liberal government recently resurrected the notion of a "capability gap" between fighter fleets and used it to justify their desire to take immediate action.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan stuck to that line on Wednesday, telling the House of Commons that the air force was "risk-managing a gap between our Norad and NATO commitments at this time."
'The state of the fleet is far worse than has been described because the upgrades haven't happened.'- George Petrolekas, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

That suggests Canada is struggling to meet its international obligations to both continental defence and overseas operations.

Up until just recently, both Liberal and Conservative governments, in tandem with the head of the air force, have insisted that the situation was under control, and a defence analyst said some tough questions need to be asked.

"It means the state of the fleet is far worse than has been described because the upgrades haven't happened," said retired colonel George Petrolekas, of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

The Trudeau government has been under fire all week after a published report suggested that cabinet was prepared to sole-source the purchase of an unknown number of Boeing Super Hornets as an interim measure in order to address the gap.
'It can't be that hard'

"I don't see the value of an interim purchase," said Petrolekas, who noted that acquiring interim jets would likely take between two and three years.

If the condition of the CF-18 fleet is that dire, he said: "Why not just go straight to the competition right now. It can't be that hard."

It has been suggested publicly that Canada would follow Australia's example and acquire Super Hornets until its order of F-35s is ready.

Petrolekas says it's an irrelevant example, because the circumstances of both countries are not the same.

The CF-18s, originally purchased in the mid-1980s, were given a $2.6-billion facelift about a decade ago, receiving new electronics and up-to-date targeting technology.

Depending upon the age of the aircraft, the "capability gap" that Sajjan refers to could mean several things. It might be needed to update the avionics, strengthen the airframe, and reinforce different stress points on the fighter so it can make high-speed turns.

It could also mean the air force is having trouble mustering the required number of jets because so many are in the shop for maintenance.

Petrolekas says he's been told the air force has been "husbanding" and conscious of gently flying the jets over the last several months.

Follow @Murray_Brewster on Twitter

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

CAE proposes 16 Draken A-4 Skyhawks for RCAF fighter training

This news is a few weeks old but I missed it when  it was announced; so if you haven't yet heard... 

By: James Drew, Flight Global News 

Canadian training and simulation firm CAE has teamed with American warplane contractor Draken International to offer 16 Douglas A-4 Skyhawks as aggressors for Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 combat training.

The company is also offering two CAE-owned Bombardier Learjet 35s with electro-optical/infrared sensors and electronic warfare panels for carrying mission pods and towed targets, as part of the realistic combat training environment the Canadian air branch desires.

The company announced its bid for the Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) programme and the joint venture with Draken in February, ahead of a source-selection decision due later this year.

CAE Canada vice-president and general manager Mike Greenley shared more details about the company’s offer during a media briefing on 24 May on the eve of the CANSEC military convention in Ottawa.
Draken A-4 Skyhawk on show in Ottawa, Canada
CAE Defence & Security
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk first flew in 1954, with 2,960 built through 1979, including approximately 550 twin-seat trainers.

CAE and Draken would provide six single-seat and 10 twin-seat versions as "multi-role combat support fighters" for the Boeing CF-18 training mission, with the 16 aircraft split between Canada's Cold Lake and Bagotville air bases. One Learjet “medium-endurance aircraft” would be located in Victoria, British Columbia and the other in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The main CAE-Draken contracting office would be stood up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Greenley says the training proposal brings together live, virtual and constructive (LVC) elements to simulate realistic, modern enemy aircraft, and the system would be fully developed in Canada.
CAE Defence & Security
If successful, the Skyhawk fleet would be upgraded to meet specific Department of National Defence requirements, like adding a satellite navigation-assisted approach system, identification friend or foe (IFF) Mode S transponder and targeting pod. The Learjets would also carry military-grade IFF transponders.

The Draken aircraft already carry the same APG-66 radar found in many legacy Lockheed Martin F-16s and have been upgraded with modern avionics, similar to the F-16 mid-life upgrade standard.

Using this blended LVC training system, two A-4 aggressors could mimic four or more Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighters on the CF-18's display screen in training, CAE says.

“We can stimulate that display through constructive simulation through radio links, so it could look like there were four or six aircraft coming from many miles away, even though there’s only a couple of aircraft in the air,” says Greenley. “Or, the type of aircraft in the air could be A-4 SkyHawks, but on their display it might look like an Su-30, or some other type of Russian or Chinese aircraft. [LVC] will allow for much richer scenarios, so this will be the next-generation of this type of capability with R&D in Canada for export [from Canada].”

Of the Draken team, Greenley notes that the company employs experienced combat pilots and its Skyhawks already support this type of fighter training at Nellis AFB in Nevada for the US military.

“They already provide this service against [Lockheed Martin] F-22s and F-35s, so we have a very strong experience base in our team to draw from as aggressors for fourth and fifth-generation aircraft,” he says. “We’ve delivered a fourth-generation aircraft and have experience fighting against fourth and fifth-generation aircraft, which is a unique capability in the world.”

The competition for the Canadian fighter training programme comes as the Liberal government explores options for replacing the outdated CF-18 Hornet, with options ranging from the American-made Lockheed F-35 and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to European types such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale. Saab could offer its Gripen fighter as a lightweight alternative.

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston appointed Honorary Captain (Navy) for Military Personnel Command

National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces Press Release

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston was appointed Honorary Captain (Navy) of Military Personnel Command of the Canadian Armed Forces today at an investiture ceremony at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.

Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander Military Personnel Command, presented Mrs. Johnston with an official scroll signed by Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan.

The responsibilities of honorary appointments include fostering esprit de corps; developing, promoting and sustaining strong community support; establishing and maintaining liaison with unit charities and associations as well as with the commander and other persons with honorary appointments; participating in parades and official functions in which the Command takes part; and advising the commander.

“Her Excellency Sharon Johnston is a distinguished Canadian whose extensive volunteer involvement with medical and educational institutions demonstrates the values of an Honorary Captain (Navy), such as personal commitment and sense of duty. I couldn’t be happier welcoming her to our Command.” - Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander Military Personnel Command

Early in her career, Her Excellency Sharon Johnston worked in the area of child psychiatry and obtained her doctorate degree in rehabilitation science, all while raising five daughters with her husband, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. 

She has volunteered on many administrative boards, including that of the Collège de Marie de France, in Montréal, and Bishop’s College School, in Lennoxville, Québec. She was also a founding member of the Friends of the Neuro volunteer group at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.

Mrs. Johnston is an avid horse-riding enthusiast. She ran a horse-training centre for 12 years out of Chatterbox Farm, in Ontario, which she shared with her husband.
Mrs. Johnston has also published her first novel, Matrons and Madams (2015), a fictional account of life in southwestern Alberta during the post-Great War era.

CF-18's Scrambled for Drone near Ottawa Airport

By: BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH, Ottawa Bureau, Toronto Star 

OTTAWA—Two CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled into the skies over Ottawa after reports of a large drone flying near commercial jets, the Star has learned.

The fighters were dispatched from their base in Bagotville, Que., and were quickly over the nation’s capital after the pilots of two arriving airliners spotted the unmanned aerial vehicle during their approach into Ottawa’s airport on May 25.

While the presence of drones has become increasingly common over Canadian cities, scrambling fighter jets to intercept them is a rare occurrence, suggesting this incident jangled nerves among security officials.

“What we’re concerned with from a NORAD perspective, obviously, is any unidentified aircraft,” said Maj. Steve Neta, senior public affairs officer for the North American Aerospace Defence Command Canadian region headquarters.

“It’s a relatively new phenomenon . . . something that everyone is trying to deal with and to address. It’s certainly not common for us, from a NORAD perspective either.

“The risk that these things could pose to aircraft, considering a large airliner approaching an airport . . . is significant.”

Neta could not say why fighter jets were deployed in this incident. But the fact it was a large drone, flying over the nation’s capital probably all factored into the decision to scramble the jets.

“It’s something that we’re definitely taking very seriously,” he said.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the incident underscores growing worries about the proliferation of drones in Canadian skies.

“We are hearing more and more from pilots . . . that they are spotting drones at different altitudes near airports,” Garneau told the Star Tuesday.

The airspace around Ottawa airport — like most major airports in the country — is controlled by air traffic controllers to ensure the safe separation of aircraft.

As well, some airspace in the Ottawa area is barred to low-flying aircraft because of security concerns, such as over the Parliament buildings, Rideau Hall, the prime minister’s cottage retreat in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills, and the secret training facility for JTF2, Canada’s special forces soldiers.

While it’s not clear whether the drone violated any of that restricted airspace, it had no authorization to fly into the airspace overseen by air traffic controllers.

The pilots of an arriving WestJet Boeing 737 were the first to report the aerial intruder at 2,042 metres during their descent into Ottawa airport.

“Just to let you know that we just flew pretty close to a drone,” the pilots told the controller, according to a recording available on

About 11 minutes later, the controller alerts the pilots of an Air Canada jet arriving from Toronto about the drone, telling them of a target he’s got on radar.

“Type and altitude unknown. It might be that drone,” the controller said.

“Thanks for the heads up,” the Air Canada pilot replied

The controller called with another warning a few minutes later — the target is now 1.2 km off the left wing of the Air Canada Airbus A320 jet.

“I see him there now. Yeah, a couple of thousand feet below me and yeah, I can see the drone,” the Air Canada pilot replied.

It was soon after that last report that the CF-18s — on standby as part of their duties for North American air defence — were scrambled from Bagotville.

“They did go over Ottawa to investigate the reported area where the drone was reportedly spotted. They did a pretty thorough search of the area and weren’t able to find anything,” Neta said.

“Our fighters were not able to make any positive identification.”

With an hourly operating cost of about $8,700, the price tag to scramble the two fighters for the 90-minute mission would have clocked in at about $26,000.

The incident was turned over to the RCMP for follow-up.

Garneau said the department is moving on two fronts to counter the possible risks of drone flights.

“We’re working very hard to put in place not only the education but also the regulation. This is something that has exploded all over the world,” the minister said.

Transport Canada laid out a proposal to regulate drones last year. The rules would apply to drones weighing 25kg or less and would set out requirements to have the drones marked with a four-letter registration for identification. It would also require training for those operating them.

The federal regulator says growing sales of drones have given rise to “novice pilots” who are in the dark about aviation rules and lack the knowledge to operate the devices safely.

Those operating drones heavier than 25kg are currently required to get special authorization from Transport Canada.

In the meantime, Transport Canada is educating drone operators about existing rules. Those include not operating them within nine kilometres of an airport, not flying them higher than 90 metres, not allow them to travel beyond line-of-sight.

Former CF-18 Pilot: Super Hornet wrong decision for RCAF

By: Matthew Fisher

A recently retired senior air force officer says he knows of no emergency that would require Ottawa to buy Super Hornets as a stopgap.

“This gives Canada the wrong aircraft forever, or certainly for the next generation,” says the veteran who spent decades flying fighter jets.

“The fact is that there is no urgent need to bolster the fighter force right now.”

A photo released by aeronautical manufacturer Boeing shows Super Hornet fighter jets during tests at an unidentified location.
A photo released by aeronautical manufacturer Boeing shows Super Hornet fighter jets during tests at an unidentified location.
By deciding to buy the Super Hornets without a competition, Ottawa is not waiting for the findings of a defence policy review that was supposed to seek input from Canadians about the country’s strategic needs and procurement priorities.

Even if new fighter jets were urgently needed, there is still time to hold an open and fair competition, says the former officer, who flew CF-18s and CF-104 Starfighters in the High Arctic and Europe before holding key staff positions.

If the F-35 won such a competition — and it has won every competition where other air forces have pitted it against the Super Hornet and older European fighters — the U.S. Air Force would be willing to slow its acquisition of F-35s to enable the Royal Canadian Air Force to jump the queue and get enough of them within three years to fill any alleged gap in Canada’s ability to defend the Arctic and assist NATO in a time of war.

The RCAF had told the government and a parliamentary committee it could safely operate the current CF-18s until 2025 and meet all Canada’s obligations to NORAD and NATO with a $400-million life extension program the Conservative government approved.

It has been reported that the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau is intent on buying Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing rather than F-35s from Lockheed Martin.

“I assess the situation as entirely political,” the retired officer said. “Nobody will even have this discussion a year from now.”

This is because with nearly 200 F-35s already flying and solutions being found for initial technical problems with the software and high-tech pilot’s helmet, “it is becoming more and more obvious every day that it is the best aircraft.”

More and more obvious every day that (F-35) is the best aircraft

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan suggested several months ago there would be an open competition to choose the next fighter. A few weeks ago, he indicated another shift in policy: the government would fill “a capability gap” by seeking an interim solution and would make a final choice later on.

But the retired pilot said it was “disingenuous” of the government to hint that after buying Super Hornets it would buy another type of fighter jet at some point.

One of the reasons long cited by the Liberals for excluding the F-35 — also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) — was that it cost a lot more than the Super Hornet. That is no longer true because the JSF has dropped dramatically in price. Finland recently costed the Super Hornet at about $92 million each, compared to $85 million for the JSF, he said.

Trudeau says F-35s are ‘far from working,’ as Liberals, Tories spar over fighter jet strategies
Michael Den Tandt: Liberals must get on with job of modernizing Canada’s rapidly aging air fleet
Liberals planning to buy Super Hornet fighter jets before making final decision on F-35s, sources say

Repugnant, deceitful and dishonest are some of the milder words used by others in the defence community when asked to describe how the Liberals have handled the fighter jet file.

While much more polite, the former fighter pilot was highly critical of the government for leaving the defence of Canada for the next 40 years to an aircraft developed more than 40 years ago and rebuilt 20 years ago, instead of acquiring the cutting edge F-35, which has been designed to be invisible to enemy radar. That, he said, was a critical issue in the Far North, where other air forces, including Russia, will soon be flying only stealthy aircraft.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has warned of a pending "gap" in Canada's military capabilities.

Debunking the myth that the twin-engine Super Hornet was a wiser choice for Canada’s vast north than the single-engine F-35, he noted engine technologies had greatly improved since Canada bought its CF-18s in the 1980s and jets seldom fly at low altitude any more, rendering them less vulnerable to bird strikes.

The U.S. has such confidence in the F-35s, they were the only jets being based in northern Alaska.

Ottawa has argued that by buying Super Hornets as a stopgap measure it would only be following Australia lead, but the retired pilot said, “there is no comparison to be made. That was a very different situation.”

Australia bought Super Hornets to fill a gap created by the retirement of its F-111 jets. But it had already decided to buy F-35s as its front-line fighter and had remained committed to that purchase.

“If you do get the Super Hornet in 2016 that would be an upgrade on our CF-18s. Nobody would argue with that,” the officer said. “But it is not going to be updated. The manufacturing process is shutting down and pretty soon the Super Hornet will be frozen in time.

“The F-35s will have parts and be maintained for five decades. The beauty of the F-35 is that 15 to 20 countries are getting it. Many of them will be working on better radars and more stealth.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Interim Super Hornets Plan risks becoming the EH-101s, all over again

By: Matt Gurney, National Post 

The Liberal government is planning to procure a few American-made Boeing F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets on an “interim” basis, to shore up Canada’s current fleet of aging jets. The Super Hornets are an advanced jet, operated in large numbers by the U.S. Navy. The very capable aircraft are larger, more modern version of the CF-18 jets already operated by Canada’s air force. They would make a fine plane for Canadian pilots.

But the process the Liberals seem set to embark on raises many questions. In trying to sidestep one problem, they may entrap themselves in others.

During last year’s federal election campaign, the Liberals pledged to scrap Conservative plans to buy the F-35 fighter jet, even though Canada has long participated in developing the jet in expectation of future industrial spinoffs. They also promised to hold an “open” competition before choosing an alternative. But open competitions take time and the results can’t be predicted. Time isn’t something the government enjoys: The CF-18 jets in use are dwindling in number and may have 10 years or less of reliable service.

It’s easy to see the appeal for the Liberals in procuring Super Hornets. They can honour their promise in spirit, if not in letter — they would procure jets that aren’t F-35s, while keeping the door open, at least in theory, for F-35s later. That would allow Canada to remain a part of the program while purchasing “interim” Super Hornets. This would help meeting growing operational gaps caused by the fact Canada’s fighter fleet is far too small to reliably meet our domestic patrol obligations and international commitments. It might also make it easier for the government to officially decide, at some later date, against the F-35. Since we already have all these Super Hornets, after all …

Liberals planning to buy Super Hornet fighter jets before making final decision on F-35s, sources say

But this poses obvious problems. If Canada is to buy new jets, we need to buy enough of them, and quickly enough, to make a real difference. We will have to invest heavily in infrastructure and training and simulators. Super Hornets evolved from the same F-18 jet that Canada first bought in the 1980s, but they are, in many ways, very different aircraft and would involve significant expense. Even as an interim solution, the air force would need enough of them to be able to actually deploy in strength.

How many would that mean? Australia, for instance, spent $2.5 billion on two dozen Super Hornets, as an interim measure until its F-35s could arrive. Canada is a larger country, with more sky to patrol, plus, thanks to membership in NORAD and NATO, greater international obligations. It would be difficult to buy enough jets to fill even an “interim” role without having to buy so many it would be transparently obvious that the “interim” claim was a fiction. The CF-18 fleet is down to only 80 jets. If Ottawa bought 40 Super Hornets as an “interim” measure, would anyone believe the next 40 (or so) would be anything else?

There’s another risk, one that anyone who has observed Canada’s troubled history of procurements is keenly aware of. When the Liberals took office in 1993 and cancelled a Conservative order for replacement helicopters, under circumstances similar to the F-35 debate, they paid $478 million in penalties and set off a 20-year delay in finding a replacement helicopter. Canadian pilots are still waiting. There is also the possibility a cash-strapped government will later cancel additional purchases, leaving the “interim” jets as the permanent replacement for an air force that will shrink, again, leaving Canada less able to patrol its own skies and help allies overseas.

Giving the military the tools its needs to do its job properly shouldn’t be secondary to honouring ill-thought campaign promises. If the air force needs interim jets, fine. Procure them. But this must not be a way for Liberals to dodge making a final decision. Canada needs a new fleet of jets, and in large numbers. Delay, by any other name, won’t help.

National Post

An Argument for E/A-18 Growler's instead of Super Hornets

Last Updated: June 7, 2016 2:30 pm

Early this week numerous reports announced the government's intention to purchase Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an interim replacement to the RCAF's aging fleet of McDonnell-Douglas CF-18 Hornets.

Canada's current CF-18 fleet is quickly approaching the point of no return when it comes to hours flown. The majority of the 77 remaining active CF-18s have flown close to an average of 6,000 hours each. In fighter-jet mileage - that is like running your car past 200,000 kms and expecting it to continue working like new. Except the CF-18s are not new - they were all built in the 1980s so Minister of Defence Sajjan was right when he said a replacement is needed sooner rather than later.

I personally do not think an interim solution is needed. If a decision on a complete fleet replacement is made within the next 2-3 years; and deliveries start by 2021 - the entire fleet will be replaced before 2025; and the current retirement date of Canada's CF-18s. So a gap in capabilities? Perhaps this is being fabricated.

However, if you want to fill a gap that currently exists; purchase a small number of EA-18 Growlers instead of Super Hornets. While the RCAF has argued against the creation of a mixed fleet for years; whether it is the Super Hornets or Growlers, they need to get over it. The Super Hornet and CF-18's are not the same aircraft and will need to be in mixed fleets. If done correctly costs are not as big of an issue as the RCAF makes it seem to be. Besides, before the CF-18s were introduced the RCAF operated 3 different fighters; the CF-104 Starfighter, the CF-101 Voodoo and the CF-115 (or CF-5) Freedom Fighter.  Understandably the RCAF does not want to maintain 3 different aircraft. The Growler, like the Super Hornet is a 80%+ clone of the original Hornet.

So why should Canada look to purchase E/A-18 Growlers instead of Super Hornets? Simply because it fills a gap in the RCAF's current capabilities - electronic warfare.

EA-18G Growler
Features of the new RAAF Growlers from the RAAF. 
In the RCAF's history of operating the CF-18s they almost always been deployed internationally against ground based insurgencies.

    • Deployment of 24 CF-18s; which completed 2,700 sorties, 56 bombing missions and flew more than 5,700 hours. 
  • OPERATIONS MIRADOR, ECHO, & KINETIC (Former Yugoslavia -1997-1999) 
    • Deployment of  18 CF-18s; which completed 327 sorties, dropped 532 bombs, and flew more than 2,600 hours.
    • Deployment of 7 CF-18s; which completed 946 sorties, dropped 696 bombs, and flew more than 3,880 hours. 
  • OPERATION IMPACT (Iraq - 2014-2016) 
    • Deployment of 6 CF-18s; which completed 1,378 sorties, dropped 606 bombs, and flew more than 4,000 hours. 
While the CF-18 is an agile multi-role combat aircraft; more than capable of attacking ground targets we know it is not stealth; and has no electronic warfare capabilities. The E/A-18 Growler on the other hand could easily be attached to a Squadron of CF-18s and provide that capability on sorties while also being able to attack ground targets easily. 

The E/A-18 Growler is a clone of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; but with electronic warfare equipment installed, and the leading edge of the wings adapted. Boeing began testing the idea of the Growler early in 2001 after the initial flights of the Super Hornet. The fully developed Growler entered service in 2009. So it is a much newer aircraft that the Super Hornet.

According to Boeing, The Growler's flight performance is similar to that of the F/A-18E/F. This attribute enables the Growler to perform escort jamming as well as the traditional standoff jamming mission. Growlers are able to accompany F/A-18s during all phases of an attack mission. Therefore, when deploying our CF-18s against grown based targets (which is the main purpose of all international CF-18 deployments - other than OP REASSURANCE and the NATO Baltic Policing) a force of E/A-18 Growlers would be beneficial - especially as Russia continues to deploy anti-aircraft weaponry in Syria and near its boarders. The Growlers can protect our current CF-18s while also providing additional firepower.

According to the Canadian American Strategic Review, The Growler is the 'Electronic Attack ' variant of the Super Hornet family. Growler operates in a way that is diametrically opposed to stealth aircraft like the F-35. Rather than hide from a threat radar, the Growler hunts them. Equipped with sophisticated jamming equipment and armed with 'anti-radiation' missiles for attacking ground-based radar, theGrowlers carry out their Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) missions. Growler flies its SEAD missions either in the traditional stand-off jamming role or as a close escort – protecting other strike aircraft. This Electronic Attack capability is in short supply within NATO and added SEAD capability from Canada would be more welcomed by the Alliance than extra strike aircraft.

Critics of the governments announcement to buy Super Hornets point to Australia and their decision to by 24 Super Hornets as an interim solution while waiting for their 70 F-35s. The same people should mention that Australia also purchased 12 E/A-18 Growlers to help those Super Hornets. Australia expects its Growlers to begin operations in 2017 and be fully operational by 2022.

So even if the government officially announces an interim purchase of F/A-18 Super Hornets; don't expect deliveries tomorrow - they would most likely start taking place in 2018 - behind the Australians, and the US Marine Corps which also purchased more while waiting for the F-35.

To sum up simply - Canada should consider E/A-18 Growlers as a true interim solution to the aging CF-18 Fleet.

USAF E/A-18 Growler - Russel Hill

Dion: Canada still has leverage in Saudi LAV deal

By: TONDA MACCHARLES, Ottawa Bureau reporter The Toronto Star 

OTTAWA—Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion insists Canada still has leverage over the controversial contract to sell light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia despite the Star’s revelation that the federal government could be on the hook for a multibillion cancellation penalty.

“Each time you break a contract, there is always the danger of penalties,” Dion said Monday. “I always said that, but this is not the issue, because we’re not — we’ll respect the contract.”

At the same time, Dion insisted Canada’s hands are not tied when it comes to ensuring “that the military equipment that any Canadian company is selling abroad is not used against human rights and the interests of Canada and our allies.”

Dion said the arms “export permits allow Canada to be sure that military equipment . . . sold by Canadian companies is not misused by the country that received them.”

The Star on Saturday reported the cancellation penalty is in the multibillion-dollar range, under the contract signed by the previous Conservative government.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, said his greater concern is Dion has made up his mind that the contract will continue despite valid questions about the human rights implications of proceeding with the deal.

In signing export permits for the vehicles, said Jaramillo, Canada has already given up “leverage.”

“They speak of evidence, but the threshold (for export approval) is neither certainty nor evidence, it is reasonable risk” the weaponized vehicles might be used against unarmed populations, he said. “The practical difference is if you use ‘evidence’ — this is something that takes place after the exports have taken place and after the human rights violations have occurred.”

Project Ploughshares joined Amnesty International and other groups in writing an open letter to the Liberal government asking it to halt the sale on the grounds that there is “reasonable risk — the threshold for Canadian export controls — that Canadian-made goods will be used against civilians by Saudi Arabia.”

The sale of an unspecified number of weaponized vehicles, to be built by General Dynamic Land Systems in London, Ont., was signed between Saudi Arabia and the Canada Commercial Corporation, a Crown corporation.

A briefing note for Finance Minister Bill Morneau, released under Access to Information and shared with the Star on condition the source not be identified, states clearly there is a question of liability for the government.

While the international trade minister has direct responsibility to Parliament for the Crown corporation that is the contracting party for Canadian suppliers, the document flags to the finance minister that it is he who approves the corporation’s borrowing plan and also has a direct role in approving CCC’s involvement in large capital projects.

The document, which contains redactions, identifies CCC’s signing of “a record $14.3-billion contact with Saudi Arabia for the sale of light armoured vehicles produced by General Dynamics Land Systems, and says “fees from transactions like this help maintain CCC’s financial viability.”

Liberal MP John McKay, the parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, said in an interview that if there were any move to stop the Saudi contract it would have to involve “very, very serious consideration.”

“There’s reputational damage, there’s financial damage, there’s employment damage and at the end of the day what did you actually accomplish? It’s not if the Saudis wouldn’t be able to buy LAVs. They can buy LAVs. So in an ideal world you wouldn’t have to be discussing this but this is not an ideal world.”

Members of the former Conservative government adamantly defended the contract in interviews with the Star last week. On Monday, Conservative foreign affairs critic Tony Clement clarified previous statements he’d made questioning whether the Saudi regime’s cross-border military efforts in Yemen should result in the contract’s cancellation.

Clement said “if the situation on the ground is the same as when we signed the contract, ie., that the LAVs are going to be used against terrorists, I’m in favour of implementing the contract. If there’s something different on the ground that indicates that the LAVs would be used to crush legitimate internal dissent that’s a different story.”

He now says the issue in Yemen is more complicated than when he suggested the contract should be shelved.

Liberals playing defence with reports of Super Hornet Purchase

By: Lee Berthiaume & David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen (Post Media) 

The Liberal government has brushed aside opposition concerns following a report it intends to purchase Super Hornet fighter jets, saying it must act “sooner rather than later” to meet the country’s defence needs.

But the opposition says the government has manufactured a crisis so it can fulfil its promise not to buy the F-35 stealth fighter.

The Ottawa Citizen, citing multiple sources, reported over the weekend the Liberal government is intent on buying Super Hornet fighter jets.

Rather than a full replacement of the air force’s aging CF-18 fighter fleet, it’s believed the purchase will be labelled an interim measure to fill what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has warned is a pending “gap” in Canada’s military capabilities.

The Liberals promised during the election campaign not to buy the F-35 to replace the CF-18s. But the government has been struggling with how to fulfill that promise for fear any attempt to exclude the stealth fighter from a competition will result in a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit, says a senior Defence Department official.

In the House of Commons Monday, Conservative defence critic James Bezan accused the Liberals of having already decided to buy the Boeing Super Hornet.

John McKay, Sajjan’s parliamentary secretary, didn’t deny the charge, but blamed the Conservatives for failing to deal with the fighter jet replacement during their tenure.

“Unfortunately, the last five years has been a bit of a loss, and as a consequence, there is a developing capability gap which needs to be managed,” McKay said. “We have obligations to NATO. We have obligations to NORAD. We have obligations to our own defence and to expeditionary matters.”

Sajjan has “taken the responsible action and he is moving forward with making a decision sooner rather than later, which should have happened maybe five years ago now.”

Bezan questioned the Liberal government’s claim the CF-18s are close to the end, pointing out they can operate effectively until 2025.

“Liberal suggestions that our fighters are literally on their last legs is patently false,” he said.

In 2014, the Conservative government said it was upgrading the CF-18s so they could continue to operate through 2025. That $400-million initiative was intended to buy the government time to make the right decision on a replacement.

The Royal Canadian Air Force is continuing to work on the project and contracts are expected to be awarded in the next two years.

In April, Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood, the air force chief, told the Commons’ defence committee the military had enough CF-18s to do its job for the foreseeable future.

The end of the CF-18s “useful life” has been established as 2025, and while some aircraft will be retired before that, there is no rush on a replacement, he added.

“I’m confident, heading into what the government has suggested for an open and transparent competition, about the timelines associated with that project,” Hood said. “I’m confident that if a decision were taken, certainly in the next five years, we’ll be in a comfortable position changing that aircraft.”

In the last month, Sajjan has introduced the idea that a fighter capability gap has emerged and the government needs to move quickly on a replacement jet.

McKay said the government finds itself in the situation “where we are going to have to make serious decisions about the replacement for the CF-18. We cannot any longer carry on in the fashion that we’ve been carrying on.”

There is precedent for buying Super Hornets on an interim basis. Australia paid $2.5 billion for 24 of the aircraft to replace antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready.

However, the idea of Canada needing to follow suit was largely dismissed by a government-appointed expert panel and the military’s research branch.

The expert panel, whose mandate was to evaluate options for replacing the CF-18s, wrote in its final report in December 2014 “there was no need to pursue a bridging option,” as “it is possible, with certain investments, to fly the CF-18 to 2025 and even beyond.”

In 2014, Defence Research and Development Canada wrote ,“The costs involved with bridging options make them unsuitable for filling capability gaps in the short term … any short-term investment results in disproportionately high costs during the bridging period.”

The reason such a stop-gap would be more expensive is because the air force would be operating two types of aircraft, requiringdifferent training, infrastructure and supporting equipment. Opinion is divided over whether buying the Super Hornet could mitigate some of those costs given its similarities to the CF-18.

Sole-sourcing Super Hornets; Liberals now look identical to Tories on fighter file

By: John Invison, Post Media 

The idea that political power corrupts is hardly new: George Orwell chronicled its corrosive effects in penetrating fashion in Animal Farm.

The surprise is how short a time it has taken for the Liberals to become what they professed to despise.

Assuming Postmedia’s story predicting the Liberals will buy Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets to bridge a “capability gap” comes to pass — and I have every confidence it will — it signals a government that has lost its moorings.

John McKay, parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, told the House of Commons on Monday that a decision is coming “sooner, rather than later” and did not deny the government plans to sole-source the purchase of a small number of Super Hornets to supplement the aging CF-18 fighter fleet. Sources suggest a memorandum to cabinet on the subject will be presented to ministers on Tuesday.

The benefits in the short term for the Liberals are obvious — it postpones the need for a competition to replace the CF18s, a competition Lockheed Martin’s F-35 might win, unless it is specifically excluded, in which case, the company’s learned friends might take an interest in suing the government. (Lest you slept through last October, Trudeau’s Liberals promised not to buy the F-35.)

By sole-sourcing the Super Hornets, it pushes off the need for a competition into the next parliament.

Brilliant. Except it’s too clever by three-quarters.

While that plan might work for the Liberals in the short run, it will likely be an inflection point in their fortunes — the moment that many supporters became aware that they are just as contemptuous of process and the broader national interest as their predecessors.

By sole-sourcing the contract, they will be doing exactly what the Conservatives did when they chose the F-35 in the first place.

The only justification for sole-sourcing would be on national security grounds. But that is usually done when Canadian Forces are in theatre and need life-saving equipment quickly. That is not the case here.

It’s true that the CF-18s are reaching the end of their lifespan. But nobody talked about a “capability gap” until Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan did so in a speech last month.

Back in April, the commander of the Air Force, Lieut.-Gen. Michael Hood, told the House Defence committee that the end of the CF-18s’ useful life will be in 2025. “I’m confident, heading into what the government has suggested for an open and transparent competition, about the timelines associated with that project. I’m confident that if a decision were taken, certainly in the next five years, we’ll be in a comfortable position changing that aircraft.”

What is clear is that the purchase of Super Hornets will come with costs. Boeing has argued that buying from them will save the Department of National Defence half a billion dollars in infrastructure costs — the same hangars can be used to house the Super Hornet as the CF-18, and so on.

What is obvious is that this decision was not the military’s idea.

But the planes are not carbon copies and the new additions will mean the creation of a mixed fleet, something the RCAF has rejected on the grounds that it lowers capability and raises costs.

If part of the motivation is to free up money that can be diverted to the shipbuilding program, it would be interesting to first find out the full life cycle cost of operating two fleets.

What is obvious is that this decision was not the military’s idea.

Sajjan might roll out the example of the Australians as political cover. The Aussies also bought 24 Super Hornets to bridge a capability gap.

But they are absolutely committed to the F-35. In common with other countries that have a long-term vision of their defence needs, they know the Super Hornet will operate well into the 2030s but will be obsolete by the second half of the century.

Canada needs a fighter jet for the next 40 years.

The Liberal time horizon looks shorter — by, say, 37 years.

Liberals planning to buy Super Hornet fighter jets before making final decision on F-35s, sources say
Matthew Fisher: Suitability for Arctic defence, lower cost may put F-35s on Liberals’ radar
Michael Byers: The F/A-18 Super Hornet — a better fighter jet

The interim solution avoids the embarrassing prospect of the F-35 winning an open competition. But the purchase of Canada’s first line of defence should not be predicated upon the Liberal party’s electoral prospects.

“It’s an horrific start for this government — no better than the previous government,” said Alan Williams, a former head of procurement at the Department of National Defence, who helped blow the whistle on the sole-sourcing of the CF-18 fighter jet replacement program. “It’s not good for the men and women in uniform, the taxpayer or the industrial benefits that flow to this country. I don’t care which plane they pick, but they should go through the front door.”

That’s the bottom line. The Canadian people, and their Armed Forces, deserve the straight goods — an open and transparent competition that ends up choosing the plane best suited to defending this country against all threats.

But it was always going to be this way. The balder and dash about doing politics differently was destined to be undone by the realities of governing — a Sisyphean task, made harder still by the party’s 219 campaign commitments.

The Liberals and Conservatives now look indistinguishable on this file, just as the creatures of Animal Farm eventually saw the pigs and the humans as tantamount: “[They] looked from pig to man and from man to pig; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Liberals Miss Membership Payment to Stay in F-35 Consortium

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

The Trudeau government has missed the deadline for a multimillion-dollar payment that keeps Canada in the club of nations involved in the F-35 stealth fighter program, CBC News has learned.

The $32-million membership fee was due on May 31, but a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed late Monday that the U.S. project office overseeing development of the highly complex jet has not received the instalment.

But Jordan Owens cautioned not to read too much into the oversight and that Canada is still on the hook for the cash.

"We will honour our financial commitments," she said, responding for the minister who was in transit from a defence conference in Singapore.

F-35 fighter jet purchase by Liberals may still be in the mix
Sajjan refuses to rule out F-35 from fighter jet replacement competition
Canada's F-35 decision anxiously awaited, says U.S. deputy secretary of defence

It's unclear when the instalment will be made and whether there are any penalties associated with a late payment.

The policy issue is an uncomfortable conversation for the Liberals.

Earlier this year, the fact that Canada was still paying to be part of the F-35 buyers' club raised questions about their campaign pledge to purchase something else other than the stealth fighter. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it "no longer makes sense" to buy the Lockheed Martin fighter because Canada would not participate in any first strike missions.

The annual payment also gives the federal government the right to buy F-35s at a discount price and gives Canadian companies access to supply contracts for the construction and maintenance of the high-tech jet.

The missed payment does not signal Canada's withdrawal from the agreement, Owens said.
Sole-sourcing a new jet

But it does shine a further spotlight on the contradictions in the Liberal policy and comes one day after published reports stated that cabinet was mulling over the sole-source purchase of an unknown number of Super Hornets, the Boeing-built rival to the F-35.

"I was shocked," said Alan Williams, a former procurement manager at the Department of National Defence, and one of the most strident critics of the Harper government's plan to acquire the F-35 without a competition. "I don't think anyone would have expected that kind of behaviour."

Williams was one of the defence insiders most impressed with the Liberal promise of open competition and transparency in last fall's election.

He said that if the government does a sole-source deal with Boeing, it makes the Liberals no better than the government they replaced.

"There is no legal justification to sole-source this," said Williams, who noted that the use of the national security criteria would not apply.

The move would possibly open the door to a legal — or even trade — challenge by competitors, he said.

"I'm not sure companies want to take the government to court on this kind of thing, but, you know, there is no legal justification for doing this," he said.

Owens denied cabinet has discussed a sole-source deal.
Capability gap or no capability gap?

But it was less than clear where the government was headed Monday when John McKay, the parliamentary secretary for defence, said the Liberals must do something about CF-18s that are getting old and need to be retired.

​"There is a developing capability gap that needs to be managed," he said. "We have obligations to NATO. We have obligations to Norad."

Up until the last couple of weeks, the line from both the Liberals and their Conservative predecessors was that the 1980s vintage CF-18s, which have been upgraded, are still good to keep flying into the 2020s.

Indeed, a year before being defeated, the Harper government ordered a further life-extension to the fighters — worth hundreds of millions of dollars — so they could stay airborne until 2025.

In light of that, Conservative defence critic James Bezan said the so-called capability gap is fiction.

"I think it's imaginary on their part and they're trying to use that as the narrative," he said. "There isn't this need to actually go out there and select immediately."

Follow @Murray_Brewster on Twitter

Monday, June 6, 2016

RCAF Super Hornets - Difference between CF-18 and F/A-18 Super Hornet

With today's announcement that the Liberal Government will purchase an undisclosed number of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an interim replacement to Canada's CF-18 Hornet fleet; there have been a number of questions as to the differences between Canada's current Hornet's versus the new proposed "Super Hornets."

The Royal Canadian Air Force's current fleet of CF-18s were adapted from the American McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 A/B variant.  In 1977, the Canadian government identified the need to replace the NATO-assigned CF-104 Starfighter, the NORAD-assigned CF-101 Voodoo and the CF-116 Freedom Fighter (also known as the CF-5).  The Canadian government originally purchased 138 CF-18s that were almost identical to the American F/A-18s with a few exceptions. The undercarriage of the CF-18s were painted with a false canopy - something the US Marines later adapted. 

The CF-18s were originally produced between 1982 and 1988. Of the original 138 purchased, the RCAF has 77 remaining. As of January 2016 - each CF-18 has flown close to 6,000 hours. The earliest models of the fleet are approaching 40 years of age; and with life-extension plans to keep them flying until 2025; the entire fleet will be older than 40. 

Boeing took over McDonnell-Douglas and developed the F/A-18 into the F/A18 E/F Super Hornet. The aircraft took its maiden flight in 1995, and went into service in 1999. While the two aircraft appear remarkably similar; it is actually a completely new air-frame - despite having 90% of its avionics in common with its older siblings.

The Super Hornet has 25% larger wings; is capable of carrying 33% more fuel; has 41% longer mission range; 35% more thrust; and 50% more endurance. The Super Hornet also has the ability to carry a heavier back-load; which increases the ordinance available. 

While the Super Hornet is obviously a larger aircraft that the CF-18 Hornet; its radar cross section is actually smaller - but it is still not "Stealth."
Simple scale version of the F/A-18 C/D (also based on the A/B which the CF-18s are modeled on) versus the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet
The purchase of Super Hornets as an interim replacement is not a new idea. The Royal Australian Air Force purchased 24 Super Hornet's as a stop-gap measure until the F-35 Lighting is delivered; and so they can begin retiring some of their aging F-18's. The RAAF also purchased 12 EA-18 Growler aircraft ( a ground attack variant of the Super Hornet). The US Marines also ordered more Super Hornets while they wait for the F-35.

Here is a thought:  If Canada intends on future deployments of CF-18s against ground insurgencies (Kosovo, Iraq (1999), Libya, and Iraq (2014/16) perhaps a purchase of EA-18's should also be considered. This would mean fewer fighters could be purchased in any future purchase; and Canada could easily maintain a medium fleet of ground attack aircraft and a medium fleet of fighter aircraft instead of one large fleet of multi-role aircraft.