Friday, June 17, 2016

Former CF-5s in Bostwana being Replaced by SAAB Gripens

David Pugliese, Defence Watch

The former CF-5 jets that Canada sold to Botswana will be replaced by Gripens.

A former RCAF CF-5 "Freedom Fighter" at its current airfield in Botswana. 
The CF-5s were removed from service in June 1995, shortly after the Canadian Forces pumped $79 million into upgrading some of them. Botswana purchased 16 of the aircraft as well as a supply of spare parts. Another 57 of the planes were sent to museums or to Canadian Forces bases for use as training aids.

My Defense News colleague Oscar Nkala is now reporting that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has confirmed negotiations with Swedish aircraft manufacturer F√∂rsvarets Materielverk are underway for the acquisition of between eight and 12 JAS Gripen “C” and “D” aircraft.

Botswana looked at the purchase of F-16s, Russian as well as Chinese jets.

The Gripen had the lowest operating cost, said BDF commander Lt. Gen. Gaolathe Galebotswe. “The Gripen fits our requirements and could give us a certain edge over our competitors,” he explained. “F-5s have become unsustainable for the BDF. We needed something that is cost-effective but still capable of carrying out our aerial defense mandate because we should have the capability to operate in both contested and uncontested space.”

The cost of the possible contract is estimated at US $1.7 billion, Defense News reported.

Oscar’s article can be read here:

Dogfight: Breaking down Procurement of Canada's next Fighter Jet

Ottawa  - The Globe and Mail 

It’s getting harder and harder to figure out who is the underdog and who is the favourite in the dogfight between the Lockheed-Martin F-35 and the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.

From 2006 to 2012, the new-kid-on-the-block F-35 was the federal government’s one and only choice to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s. The Conservatives were in power at that point, but the process to select the fighter of the future had started in 2001, under the previous Liberal regime.

Everything fell apart in 2012 when the Auditor-General slammed the acquisition process for the F-35 as risky and uncompetitive, forcing the Tories to put the procurement process on hold.

By the time the 2015 election came, the Liberals made a clear promise: They would not buy the F-35. Instead, Justin Trudeau proclaimed, a Liberal government would launch an “open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft.”

Left unsaid was what would happen if the F-35 were to win that competition. To square that circle, there are now those in the Liberal Party who argue that a competition would be a waste of time and that the best solution is simply to buy another aircraft: the Super Hornet.

Has the long-time underdog – the older, less technologically advanced fighter jet – now become the favourite in the race to replace the CF-18? Or is this simply a bump in the road for Lockheed-Martin, which first won a competition 15 years ago to produce the next-generation Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) for allies such as the United States, Britain and Canada?

The Liberals are promising a speedy decision on the replacement for the CF-18. Here is a look at the two aircraft now involved in a lobbying duel that is set to ramp up a notch before the winner flies off into the sunset.

The F-35

Asked whether they would be willing to compete for the $9-billion contract for 65 fighter jets, officials at Lockheed-Martin have one message: Bring it on.
Source: Graphics Live; U.S. Department od Defense Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program; Lockheed-MartinTRISH MCALASTER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
They repeatedly point to a recent competition in Denmark that directly pitted the F-35 against the Super Hornet. In the four ranking areas, the F-35 finished first. It was not only the best aircraft in terms of military and strategic performances, but also the best on cost per plane and industrial spinoffs, according to the Danes. Given that Denmark was looking for an aircraft to protect Greenland, Lockheed-Martin argues, this sets a great precedent for the Canadian Forces, which are looking for a fighter to patrol in the Arctic.

Steve Over, an engineer and senior member of the F-35 team, said there is a “quantum leap in capability” between the F-35 and all other Western fighters. Radars, sensors and communications devices between aircraft provide pilots with an “omniscient perspective of their battle space” that is unrivalled in the world, Mr. Over added.

Lockheed-Martin and the various partners in the JSF program will continue to upgrade the F-35 in coming decades, helping to keep up with rival countries that threaten Canada’s sovereignty, he said.

“In 10 to 15 years, fourth-generation fighters [like the Super Hornet] will be absolutely inferior to the fleets of fighters that the Russians and Chinese are fielding,” he said. “If you don’t fear conflict with these nations, what you should fear is that they are going to proliferate that equipment to any nation with the money to buy it.”

The F-35 underwent a number of teething pains in recent years, including production delays and cost overruns, as well as problems with pilot helmets, engines and ejection seats.

“It’s a development airplane, but we’re almost through the development program,” Mr. Over said.

While Mr. Trudeau has dismissed the F-35 as an aircraft that “doesn’t work,” Lockheed-Martin said it is ready to “go to war” with the U.S. Marine Corps and will receive the same certification from the U.S. Air Force later this year.

There should be more than 200 F-35s in the air by the end of the year, and more than 600 by 2020, at which point Canada could start to build its new fleet.

“All the milestones are ticking off,” Mr. Over said. “This airplane, make no mistake about it, is a mature airplane.”

The Super Hornet

Her remarks weren’t intended for a domestic audience, but Boeing executive vice-president Leanne Caret threw cold water on her Canadian team when she recently signaled that her company’s defence division was moving away from fighter jets.
“If I told you that I am and want to be a market leader in the fighter business, you all would tell me that I’m an idiot,” she said in an interview published in Aviation Week. “Let’s be real clear: We lost JSF.”

The hat tip to Lockheed-Martin gave a sense that the Boeing Super Hornet, which made its first flight in 1995, is in the final stages of its life cycle. Competitors jumped in, questioning whether the Super Hornet will still be a top-notch fighter in two or three decades if Boeing doesn’t stand behind its aircraft.

Boeing test pilot Ricardo Traven (who flew CF-18s in his time in the Canadian Forces) said the reality is that the Super Hornet is at the top of its game and ready to help Canada right away.

“We’re in our prime,” he said in an interview. “In terms of customers buying or flying the plane, we’re not getting out of the business. We’re still supporting the CF-18, and we’re going to support the navy for decades to come.”

Designed initially to serve with the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is perfectly suited to serve in the Canadian Arctic, with two engines (instead of one on the F-35) and robust landing gear for icy strips, Mr. Traven said.

He added that the CF-18 and the Super Hornet share many similar characteristics, and that the transition to a new fleet would be easy and less costly in terms of training and maintenance.

“It’s everything that the CF-18 is, on steroids. That’s why I know the pilots are absolutely going to love that air frame,” Mr. Traven said.

Boeing has delivered 709 Super Hornets and Growlers (a variant of the Super Hornet) to the U.S. Navy and Australia, “all on cost and on schedule,” the company said. If the Canadian Forces decide to call on the aircraft to complement or replace their CF-18s, Mr. Traven said, “we’re 100 per cent capable, right now.”
The government’s options

The Capability gap

National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is increasingly invoking a “capability gap” to explain the urgent need for new fighters. The concept is not universally acknowledged in academic and defence circles, but Mr. Sajjan said it is a simple fact, given the age of Canada’s fleet of CF-18s.

The federal government originally purchased nearly 140 CF-18 fighters, which started starting to enter into service in 1982. Today, there are 77 left in operation, including four that have flown for more than 7,000 hours and 46 that have between 6,000 and 7,000 flying hours.

To last into 2025, the fighter jets will need to be upgraded.

For now, the Department of National Defence said it is increasingly scrambling to meet its international commitments.

“The total number of aircraft the government of Canada has committed to NORAD [the North American Aerospace Defence Command] and to NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] is greater than the number of mission-ready aircraft we can put into the sky on an average day,” said Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Mr. Sajjan.

“This government finds that unacceptable. With any aircraft fleet, especially one as old as ours, there are a number of planes in maintenance at any given time. The Royal Canadian Air Force does a good job risk managing this capability gap. But our confidence in their ability to risk manage does not mean we should delay addressing the problem. Risk managing the situation allows us to be good allies. However, as the fleet continues to age, the situation will only get worse.”

“The full spectrum is being looked at,” Patrick Finn, the assistant deputy minister in charge of procurement at the Department of National Defence, said last week.

While all of Ottawa is in speculation mode, federal officials insist that they are exploring all possibilities to buy new fighter jets.

Mr. Finn, speaking to a House of Commons committee, made it clear that his boss, National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, is using his police interrogation skills to ensure that he knows everything he needs about the file. “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,” he said.

Sources said the matter is in front of a seven-member cabinet committee, which will eventually take the matter to the full cabinet. Here are the options facing the government, according to procurement experts:

Launch an open and transparent competition based on existing DND requirements. However, there is a possibility this could lead to an automatic victory for the more-modern F-35, as a number of defence experts have said the existing requirements can be met only by the stealth aircraft. “It is not only the aircraft that best meets Canadian Forces’ requirements, with the longest life expectancy, but also is the most affordable,” National Defence said of the F-35 in 2006.

Launch a competition based on new requirements. Redrafting the requirements could be a lengthy process, but that could be the only way to have a competition that does not lead to an F-35 victory. The government could justify the change by stating that it has different priorities than the previous government – for example, putting more emphasis on “the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability,” as stated in last year’s Liberal platform.

Sole-source the contract to one manufacturer for a new fleet. According to Treasury Board rules, the government would have to invoke a “pressing emergency in which delay would be injurious to the public interest” to avoid going to tenders. However, it would also have to explain why it feels that one manufacturer, such as Boeing, can offer the best new aircraft instead of, for example, Lockheed-Martin.

Sole-source a contract for an interim fleet. Such a move would be a half-step, and would push other decisions and costs down the road. For starters, buying an interim fleet would force the government to launch an eventual competition or award a second sole-source contract for the rest of the fleet. It would also open up the possibility of a “mixed fleet” featuring two types of fighter jets in the Canadian Forces – which experts say is more costly to maintain than a single fleet.

Liberals: RCAF Doesn't have enough CF-18s

By: Lee Berthiaume, National Post/ Post Media 

OTTAWA — The Liberal government says it is pressing ahead with upgrades to Canada’s CF-18s so they can fly through 2025. However, it maintains the upgrades will not address a shortage of fighter jets today.

The state of Canada’s CF-18 fighter fleet has become a hotly debated point since Postmedia revealed earlier this month that the government was looking to purchase new jets, likely Super Hornets, without a competition.

Canada doesn’t have enough fighter jets, Liberals say, despite plans to upgrade CF-18 fighter fleet
A Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet fighter jet. Twenty-six CF-18s — or about one-third of the fleet — have already undergone structural work to be able to operate to the mid-2020s.
The government says there is a “gap” in the military’s capabilities. Speaking in Vancouver on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government has a “responsibility” to buy new jets for the military, and is working “respectfully and carefully through options” to get planes “in a responsible way for Canadians.”

Critics, however, allege the government has manufactured a gap to justify buying a plane other than the F-35. They note the previous Conservative government committed $500 million in 2014 to extend the lives of the CF-18s until 2025.

A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the government has no plans to cancel those planned upgrades. In fact, Jordan Owens said 26 CF-18s — or about one-third of the fleet — have already undergone structural work to be able to operate to the mid-2020s, and electronic upgrades are planned next.

However, Owens said Canada has a certain number of CF-18s committed to defending North America through the joint Canada-U.S. aerospace command, NORAD, on a daily basis. It also has a certain number of fighter jets committed to NATO.

“And when you add these two numbers together, that is greater than the number of planes that we can put into the sky on an average day, which we would call mission ready,” she said. “So that is what we are defining as a capability gap.”

Owens wouldn’t say how many CF-18s are actually needed to meet Canada’s NORAD and NATO commitments for operational security reasons.

Asked the same question, Defence officials pointed to Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood’s comments to a parliamentary committee in April.

“We started with 138 (CF-18s),” Hood told the Commons’ defence committee on April 14. “Currently, we feel that we do not need more than 65. The situation has changed. Our commitments have changed over time. So that was a conscious decision not to increase.”

Conservative defence critic James Bezan said there is a balance because Canada would require 65 fighter jets if it was at war. “That’s not the daily operation requirement, though,” Bezan said, adding Liberals should “easily meet” Canada’s commitments after withdrawing the CF-18s from Iraq and Syria earlier this year.

A 2015-16 internal business plan prepared by 1 Canadian Air Division, which manages the RCAF’s numerous aircraft fleets, also made no mention of a shortage of CF-18s. Rather, it identified government-ordered budget cuts and increasing fuel, utility and training costs as the air force’s biggest challenges.

Owens said the gap hasn’t been pronounced to this point because “most of the time, we don’t have to put all of the NORAD fleet into the air at once. But, at any given time, we have enough planes in maintenance, which is even more so as the fleet is older. We have an old fleet.”

Documents tabled in the House of Commons this week show many of those that are still operational have flown more than 6,000 hours, and four more than 7,000.

In his testimony, however, Hood told the committee he was comfortable with the CF-18 fleet as long as a decision on a replacement was made in five years. The previous Conservative government had planned to purchase 65 F-35s.

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NATO chief makes personal pitch for Canada to join Baltic force


By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

While Canada is facing a lot of international arm-twisting to join a NATO brigade destined for Eastern Europe, sources are telling CBC News the Trudeau government is hesitating over concerns participation could detract from future peacekeeping missions.

The military alliance's top official, Jens Stoltenberg, said it's imperative Western nations respond to "a more dangerous security environment" involving Russia in Eastern Europe.

"I'm glad to see Canada is among several NATO allies which are considering to contribute to this forward presence," Stoltenberg, said in an exclusive interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Thursday.
Canada considers European troop commitment as CSIS warns Russia is 'mobilizing for war'
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Crimean leader visiting Canada urges strong sanctions against Russia

He noted that Ottawa has already supplied CF-18 fighter jets for Baltic air policing, a frigate as part of NATO's standing force patrolling the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, as well as a company of soldiers for training exercises in Poland.

"We are very grateful for the contributions from Canada, which we [have] already received, but we would welcome even more," Stoltenberg told CBC.

In the aftermath of Russia's annexation of Crimea two years ago, NATO leaders agreed to expand their multinational rapid reaction force to include up to 40,000 troops, who would be on notice to move within a week of a crisis. They also announced plans to create an ultra-mobile brigade of 4,000 soldiers that could get to trouble spots within a couple of days.

Canada was recently asked to provide troops and lead one of the four battalions that make up the contingent, but the Trudeau government has yet to formally sign off on the proposal.

The soldiers would likely be stationed in the Baltic, but other Eastern European nations have apparently indicated their willingness to host the brigade.
Personal pitch

Stoltenberg made a personal pitch to Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a telephone call last week, according to the sources who have knowledge of the file, but could not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The proposal, which has apparently been endorsed by Sajjan, was up for discussion at a cabinet sub-committee but has not been given the government's full blessing.

Concern seems to revolve around the Liberal promise in the last election to put more emphasis on peacekeeping.

Behind closed doors, the suggestion is that tying the army into a NATO engagement involving several hundred troops might prevent the government from taking on a potential United Nations mission in French West Africa.

The sources said senior military commanders have indicated they can do both and that involvement with NATO would only last up to nine months.

The army already has one company of soldiers — just over 150 — training in Eastern Europe and the thinking is it would not be too hard to add an additional company and a headquarters unit.

Despite that, skepticism remains on the political side with some pointing out the last time the alliance asked for a short-term commitment (in Kandahar), it turned into a five-year combat mission, with an additional 2½-year training detachment in Kabul.
Caution justified

The political apprehension is well founded, said Steve Saideman, an international affairs professor at Ottawa's Carleton University.

"Anybody who is saying this is temporary is missing the boat," said Saideman, an expert on NATO.

By creating the brigade, NATO's intention is to establish a "persistent" presence in Eastern Europe in order to hold Russia at bay. It is reassuring jittery allies, many of them new members of the alliance and former East Bloc countries.

Whatever countries agree to in the coming weeks, it should be understood it will be for the "foreseeable future," he said.

Saideman also added that the Liberal government put a lot of emphasis in last fall's election on winning a UN Security Council seat and a commitment to NATO "doesn't move the needle" on that endeavour.

The final troop commitments will be revealed at the upcoming leaders summit in Warsaw, Stoltenberg said.

"This is a very strong and firm response, but it is also a measured response. We don't want a new Cold War. We don't want to provoke a conflict, but we want to prevent the conflict. That's exactly what we are doing."
Defence spending

Under the Harper government, Canada came in for a tongue-lashing on the issue of defence spending. Following the Afghan war, the budget for National Defence was trimmed — leaving the country spending approximately one per cent of its gross domestic product on the military — or about half the NATO benchmark.

"I've told Canada the same as I've told all other allies, who are spending less than two per cent. We have to stop the cuts and we gradually have to increase the defence spending," Stoltenberg told CBC News.

"Canada has actually stopped the cuts and I welcome that very much."
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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Case to Merge VAC and DND

By: Ryan Olshansky, CDA Institute 

CDA Institute Analyst Ryan Olshansky makes the case to merge Veteran Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence.

Transition has been an ongoing issue for veterans who have to deal with both the Department of National Defence (DND) and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). Our sacred obligation to veterans requires seamless transition to civilian life. Yet, with the rocky transition between VAC and DND remaining rampant, I suggest veterans would be better served if the two departments merged.

Veterans who begin their transition to civilian life jump through several hurdles to receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled. Once they are released by the military, veterans participate in a transition interview with VAC, where all the requirements for benefits and services are made clear. Responsibility is put on the veteran to collect the necessary medical records and to submit them alongside a completed application form. Given the sheer volume of applications, and the fact that many applications are incomplete or are missing records, decisions often take a few months.

Admittedly, VAC has made improvements to transition over the past couple of years. For example, VAC recently hired 101 more staff in disability benefits processing to support veterans with applications and to render decisions more quickly. Budget 2016 provided $78.1 million over five years to hire more case managers. VAC also recently created MyVAC Account, an online portal in which veterans can apply for benefits and services and track their applications online in the comfort of their own homes. Indeed, ever since the Auditor General issued a report in 2014 that said the Disability Benefits Program is “slow, and the application process is complex,” the Department has made tangible efforts to make transition easier and less stressful.

But these solutions still ignore a fundamental problem: silos between departments. Interdepartmental client-​exchange has proven to be a thorn in the side of veterans and the government alike. It has compromised standards of care, compounded wait times and added additional stress to veterans.

I do not think we should be surprised that standalone veterans’ affairs departments are mired in controversy around the world. Obviously, VAC has dealt with a number of issues the past few years. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has been under intense scrutiny for long wait times. While the reasons are obviously multifold, it is clear that the transition of mentally and physically debilitated veterans into separate departments is difficult. The French government has paved a different path, where veterans’ affairs is administered by the Ministry of Defense. In France, the Minister of Defence is advised on veterans’ affairs policy by the Secretary of State for War Veterans. The Secretary of State is held to account politically, and French veterans enjoy the benefits of tightly integrated military and post-​military administrations.

One way to reduce these silos in Canada is to have an interdepartmental committee that standardizes and synthesizes all health-​related policies, processes and IT programs between VAC and DND. This would be a huge undertaking at which successive governments have not proven to be very good. A simpler way to deal with these silos is to eliminate them altogether and merge the two departments. Former Senator and retired general Romeo Dallaire posited in the Senate Committee on National Defence that VAC should be absorbed as a sub-​department in DND and be represented by an associate minister. He has a point. One soldier served under a single roof for their entire life makes eminent sense. A move to DND would simplify the points of contact for veterans and it would consolidate service providers. Veterans would get access to all health and wellness services offered to serving members. A merger would also benefit serving members; a single department with the goal of equality for all soldiers and veterans has the mandate to do away with the outdated policy of excluding many modern-​day veterans from guaranteed beds in long-​term care facilities.

Most importantly, it would provide for near immediate information sharing and consistent decisions. A medically released soldier would straightaway qualify for benefits that are equal to the injury that caused their release. Too many times a soldier is medically released from the military with a seriously debilitating injury – let’s say 70 percent, only to discover that it was measured by VAC at a lesser mark – maybe 35 percent. How is that fair? A merged department would be able to use consistent calculations when deciding benefits.

VAC’s mandate also includes commemoration, but they exercise that mandate in conjunction with DND and Heritage Canada, both of which are capable of growing their departments to celebrate veterans and historic battles, especially since VAC’s budget last year allocated less than one percent to commemoration.

There would be pushback from VAC staff located in Charlottetown; a move to National Defence or a separate merged department would require a good many to relocate to Ottawa. This is why a VAC-​DND merger will require a dose of good faith and political will, both of which the current government has in spades. It is not coincidental that Prime Minister Trudeau made the dual appointment of Minister Hehr to VAC and DND to deal with transition. To the Prime Minister’s credit, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.

Minister Hehr would be wise to heed the advice of General Dallaire, and if this government isn’t bold enough to swallow the pill and face internal backlash from public officials at VAC, then cries about the treatment of our veterans will amount to nothing more than crocodile tears.
Ryan Olshansky is a former advisor to the Veterans Affairs Minister and the Associate Defence Minister. He recently graduated from Carleton University and is an Analyst at the CDA Institute. (Image courtesy of Justin Tang/​Canadian Press.)

Openness, Transparency…and “Interim” Super Hornets?

By: The CDA Institute 

CDA and CDA Institute CEO Tony Battista and Research Manager and Senior Editor David McDonough comment on the government’s apparent interest in procuring Super Hornets as an interim measure against a perceived capability gap.

Many expect the government’s Defence Policy Review (DPR) process will conclude with a new Defence Policy early next year. But, even in the midst of these public consultations, one can detect hints at the government’s plans and priorities – from reports that the government is not planning on cutting either personnel numbers or military bases to rumours (and potential ‘leaks’) that it plans on purchasing the Super Hornet as an ‘interim measure’ before a final decision on the CF-​18 fighter replacement.

These important details provide some tantalizing hints at the government’s approach to defence matters. On the issue of personnel and bases, it raises questions on how the government expects to recapitalize the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and particularly fleet-​replacement for both its navy and air force, without significantly increasing funding levels or recalibrating personnel numbers or rethinking basing infrastructure.

When it comes to the Super Hornets, one needs to ask serious questions on the extent to which there really is animminent capability gap – something seemingly refuted by the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Lieutenant-​General Michael Hood, at a Parliamentary committee earlier this year. Of course, one should add the caveat that much depends on retaining current CF-​18 modernization plans designed to keep them in the air until 2025, as well as the timeliness of the eventual fighter replacement itself. Ultimately, this raises questions on the need for Super Hornets as an interim or “bridging” solution in the first place (the number being bandied about ranging from 25 to 30, although it could well be even more), to say nothing about the broader implications of such a decision.

If only an interim measure, we’d be wasting resources to fill a purported imminent capability gap that has yet to arise – with little explanation on or rationale for why the Super Hornet was selected at this particular moment in time (especially with the F-​35 finally now in or on the cusp of achieving the so-​called “sweet spot” of its production run, with attendant low per unit costs). If the Super Hornets are here to stay, the RCAF would either be forced to operate a mixed fleet, or alternatively have much less leeway to select a different platform as a permanent replacement for the CF-​18. Either possibility is worrisome. A mixed-​fleet is an expensive proposition, as noted by the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat’s Summary Report, while the latter possibility would represent a de facto end-​run of the government’s own promise to pursue an open competition for the next generation fighter aircraft.

In particular, this latest, apparent ‘leak’ about the Super Hornets – and the government for now staying rather mute about it – is rather puzzling, to say the least! Cabinet decisions do not usually leak out that easily, especially not ones that involve lots of money. So, one might be led to speculate it is a ‘leak’ from somewhere at the top (government) to test the waters. If so, it would seem that a pattern is emerging here, whereby important decisions might be shaped and coming out ahead of the DPR and expected new Defence Policy, through statements and announcements (inadvertently or deliberately), rather than through the systematic, consultative, and open process that the government announced earlier this year.

It is certainly curious that such details emerged in the middle of a public consultation process. One hopes such decisions would only be made upon the completion of these consultations when the actual DPR is being formulated. (Parenthetically, it will be interesting to observe what other ‘hints’ might come out in the coming weeks when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is going to the NATO summit in July and likely to make ‘announcements,’ and when he goes to the UN General Assembly in early fall and is expected to make more announcements about “peacekeeping.”)

Of note, the government has been insisting (even before it took power) that it knows how to “govern in a way that is inclusive, transparent, respectful and effective” and to rely on “evidence-​based decision-​making.” While there may be nothing wrong with the government making quick decisions to equip the Canadian Armed Forces with necessary capabilities, the fact of the matter is that it has promised to be “inclusive, transparent, respectful and effective” and to be in favour of “evidence-​based decision-​making.”

And the manner by which the Super Hornet interim option has leaked in the midst of public consultations about the DPR, and the extent to which claims about a purported capability gap seemingly contradicts the view of the military leadership, raise questions on whether the government is truly fulfilling its promises here. Canadians, including our extensive list of stakeholders (close to half a million people) and hopefully the Office of the Auditor General, should take note.

Just to be clear, the CDA and CDA Institute do not take positions on specific platforms, like the Super Hornet or the F-​35; rather, both organizations focus predominantly on Policy issues, on the Profession of Arms and strategic-​level considerations, such as capabilities and mission requirements. The CDA does so through balanced and informed advocacy, while the CDA Institute offers a multitude of distinct voices as part of its educational and awareness emphasis on policy research and informing the public.

Still, it is important to underline that this government has been clear on the need to have transparency, fairness, diligence, and due process in defence procurement decisions, which will shape what the CAF can do for decades into the future. These decisions come with particular responsibility not only from the current government’s mandate, which given its majority electoral win is undoubtedly strong, but also by determining what military tools are available for future governments, irrespective of which political stripe. As such, rather than focusing too narrowly on parochial, electoral or even ‘politicized’ service-​specific concerns, the government needs to place the national interest in the heart of its plans for recapitalization – and that the decision on such issues as the fighter aircraft replacement, personnel levels, or basing infrastructure are done in accordance to such broader strategic (and indeed stately) perspective.

Specifically, a next generation fighter capability is required by Canada as part of its overall package to maintain sovereign control over its vast territory – including the Arctic, and its credible share of the defence of the North American continent. Given how successive governments – of both Liberal and Conservative stripes – have opted to contribute fighter aircraft for international military operations, such as over Kosovo in 1999 and more recently in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, Canada also needs a capability that can be used in expeditionary operations abroad, whether in coalitions of the willing or with our traditional Alliance partners. Thus, the need for such a capability should not be in question.

In addition, the government decision to maintain such a capability must also be taken with a number of key considerations in mind, such as overall cost (per unit and operating), interoperability with our major allies (especially theUS Air Force), and capacity to operate in a variety of different threat environments, which may change and evolve (becoming either more benign or perhaps contested) over coming decades. Irrespective of whether the Super Hornet, the F-​35, or an altogether different aircraft (e.g., Eurofighter) is ultimately chosen, these considerations need to be foremost in the minds of decision-​makers.

Tony Battista is Chief Executive Officer of the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) and the CDA Institute.David McDonough is the Research Manager and Senior Editor at the CDA Institute.

The CF-18 capability gap: Time for some Transparency

By: George Petrolekas, Canadian Global Affairs Institute 

Published by Globe and Mail
June 15, 2016

On May 25, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada was facing a capability gap in its CF-18 fighter fleet so severe that commitments to both NATO and NORAD were becoming endangered. Almost overnight, the procurement of new fighters was propelled to the top of the government’s acquisition priorities. The issue is apparently so acute that the government is exploring a so-called “interim” acquisition of Super Hornet fighters – out of the blue, without any further details to Canadians.


Everyone – in Parliament, in the public and in the media – has known for quite some time that Canada’s F-18 fighters were approaching the end of their service lives having flown for 20 years more than what was intended when they were acquired. But years of flight do not tell the full story.

Capability gaps could exist in three areas: The sensors and mission systems of the aircraft and associated payloads; the service life of the airframe and its ability to undertake high-stress manoeuvres; and the actual number of planes available to Canada for its missions. The government has yet to explain which of these invoked the new sense of urgency.

The sensors and mission systems have received continual upgrades. For example, in Kosovo, our CF-18s could drop unguided bombs only, but the risks of collateral damage resulted in upgrades to sensors and targeting systems to permit the use of precision-guided weapons. Before the mission against Islamic State, CF-18 airframes were reportedly upgraded to extend their service life and ensure that they were safe to fly. On any given day, a minimum number of CF-18s have to be available for daily NORAD missions, and a number held in lower readiness for NATO commitments.

A deficiency in any of the above would provoke a rush for an interim acquisition, but the government has yet to explain the reasons.

Mere weeks ago, the commander of the RCAF told a Parliamentary committee Canada has enough fighters to meet its national and international obligations until at least 2025. This is ample time to conduct an open competition and buy new aircraft well before the CF-18s’ expiry date of 2025. Has someone been manipulating facts to Canadians?

Yet the government has now stated that the capability gap is so severe it needs a quick fix.

The thing is, there are no quick fixes unless an ally is willing to sell existing aircraft to Canada. If not, an interim purchase would still have to be built after it is contracted, and that would entail a wait of at least two to three years for delivery. And so if this is not an immediate problem but a projected one, an interim new aircraft purchase solves little, and if anything, constrains Canada’s future options.

Some point to Australia’s interim acquisition of Super Hornets as a model for Canada, but the context and circumstances were entirely different. Australia needed to replace an out-of-production fighter for which parts were in short supply until their F-35s were delivered. That is not Canada’s situation.

But what is most disconcerting is that this possible acquisition is being contemplated in isolation from the current defence review. Ideally, the defence review will consider what Canada wishes to do in the world, and equally, equipment will be acquired from an analysis of the future security issues and characteristics that will dominate that future landscape. Does the proliferation of portable and larger anti-aircraft equipment mean aircraft survivability will be at a premium? Are potential adversaries or their proxies being equipped with aircraft that are better electronically camouflaged, or with greater manoeuvrability or with enhanced networking abilities? Two years ago, an independent panel commissioned by Public Works produced a detailed analysis of competing aircraft – why have Canadians not seen that report?

Nevertheless, it is within a defence review that affordability, the future operating landscape and our future needs should be defined. Apparently, that is not happening.

Given that our new fighters can be expected to last at least 30 years, after a vigorous defence review, a competition should be held to find an aircraft that meets all of Canada’s requirements. Without a competition in which the best aircraft might emerge, a future government could be saddled with a capability gap in the making.
George Petrolekas served with the military in Bosnia, Afghanistan and NATO and is a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Evan Solomon in conversation with David Perry

An interesting interview:
Evan Soloman talks CF-18 Replacement and Canadian Surface Combatant Fleet with David Perry.

CF-18 Airframe hours for entire RCAF Fleet

By: David Pugliese,

New information tabled in the House of Commons gives some insight into the number of hours on the airframes of the RCAF’s CF-18s.

The document lists 77 CF-18s in service at Cold Lake, Alberta and Bagotville, Que.

The “to be determined” columns are for “hours at retirement” and the date of retirement.

The information was current as of April 22.

It has been reported that the maximum flying hours for a F-18 is around 8,000 hours.

Four Canadian jets have more than 7,000 hours on their airframes, according to the chart provided. Forty-six have more than 6,000 hours.

The rest are in 5,000 to 5,900 range. One has just under 4,000 hours.

At this point the RCAF is still looking at a life extension to keep the aircraft flying until 2025. Sources tell Defence Watch the life extension is to proceed but it is unclear at this point how a proposed purchase of Super Hornets might affect that program.

CF 18 Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 8.14.19 AM CF18 Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 8.12.04 AM CF18 Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 8.12.22 AM CF18 Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 8.13.32 AM

NDP renews call for inquiry into Afghan detainee abuse

By: Amanda ConnollyiPolitics 

The NDP repeated calls Wednesday for a full public inquiry into the Afghan detainee abuse scandal amid fresh allegations by former military police officers who served in Afghanistan in a letter to La Presse.

Canadian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) walk during a patrol in Panjwayi district 30 km in the west of Kandahar province on March 28, 2008.
“We’ve called for a public inquiry for a number of years and the Liberals supported that call when they were in opposition,” said NDP defence critic Randall Garrison. “When we asked the minister of defence on Monday, there was no response so we’re repeating the call today for a full public inquiry.”

La Presse posted the letter online Wednesday morning (it can be read here) alleging that almost half of the Afghans captured and detained by Canadian soldiers had nothing to do with the Taliban.

It also says that most of them were released for lack of evidence after spending an average of two months in detention.

The former Conservative government had said the prisoners were held by Canadians for between 48 and 96 hours.

“What we have here is a potential stain on Canada’s international reputation through possible violations of international law, and also a stain on the reputations of all those Canadians who went there and served,” Garrison said.

Garrison, along with NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere, called for an inquiry focused on whether there was a clear policy created to deal with the transfer of detainees after the lack of one was identified as a problem, and how the Afghans held in Canadian custody were treated.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan said Wednesday he doesn’t think there is evidence to suggest the need for an inquiry, calling the letter in La Presse “one person’s opinion.”

“It all comes back that our troops have conducted themselves honourably,” said Bezan. “I don’t believe that the evidence is there. As you know, there was a special parliamentary committee that went through all the documentation and again came up that there was no reason to pursue any further inquiry.”

The Liberals and NDP both called for an inquiry while in opposition during the Conservatives’ minority mandate in 2009.

The government formed an all-party committee to go through documents on the issue but refused to release unredacted records to the committee.

The government was ultimately voted in contempt of Parliament by the opposition parties for their refusal and Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament before disbanding the committee after their 2011 majority win.

CF-18 airframes approaching their age limits: Report

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

Canada's current fleet of CF-18s is rapidly wearing out, according to new figures tabled in Parliament, and there are fresh questions emerging about how well the fighter jets, and other so-called legacy aircraft, will be able to communicate with the new F-35s.

The new data emerged on the same day as the corporate air war over the Trudeau government's fighter replacement program heated up, with one of the principal contenders going on a PR offensive to counter the notion that choosing anything other than the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter would cost Canadian jobs.

Last week Lockheed Martin warned it would pull hundreds of millions of dollars in F-35 related work out of the country unless its jet was selected to replace Canada's CF-18s.

On Wednesday, rival aerospace company Boeing tried to paint that notion as an empty threat and promised to match or even exceed the value of lost contracts should Canada go with it instead.

Peter MacKay says he regrets Conservatives' failure to buy new fighter planes
Lockheed Martin warns it will pull $825M in F-35 contracts if Canada buys different jet
Canada's F-35 decision anxiously awaited, says U.S. deputy secretary of defence

But it was the release of a defence department chart, which tracks maintenance on the 77 remaining CF-18s, which may be the most startling development. It shows many of the fighters have used up to 85 per cent of their anticipated airframe life.

On average, each aircraft is expected to end its service life with just over 7,000 hours in the air.

As many as 49 of them have already logged in excess of 6,000 hours, according to air force data tabled at the request of Conservative defence critic James Bezan. Three of the aircraft had even exceeded the limit.

The figures are current up to April 22, 2016, and therefore would have included the wear and tear accumulated during the recent bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.

The Harper government set aside nearly $500 million to extend the life of the CF-18s, a program the Defence Department recently said was still in the "options analysis" phase and wouldn't be completed until October of next year.
Defining the 'capability gap'

Despite that, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told the House of Commons on Wednesday that 26 of Canada's CF-18s have undergone some sort of refurbishment, but he gave no further details.

"A lot more work needs to be done, but we would not be here if we had replaced the fighters 10 years ago," Sajjan told the Commons.

The Liberals have said Canada faces a "capability gap," meaning either the air force doesn't have enough fast jets to meet its obligations — or the current aircraft do not have the right capabilities.

They've forwarded that argument as justification for taking swift action, which might include the sole-source purchase of a handful of Boeing Super Hornets.

But there are new questions within the defence community about what that would mean for the air force, especially when many allies operating in the Far North, including the U.S., Norway and Denmark, have all opted for the F-35.
Communication issues

The U.S. is currently wrestling with important technical aspects, including how the stealth fighters can communicate and exchange data with older model jets, such as the CF-18s, the Super Hornets and European designed fighters.

It has been known for years that F-35s and F-22 Raptors will have trouble signalling and handing off "weapons quality data" to older planes while maintaining their radar-evading capabilities.

The U.S. air force and Lockheed Martin have been working on a solution to the communications problem through something called Project Missouri.

But proponents of the stealth fighter say Denmark's recent selection of the F-35 means Canada will be relegated to the back seat in terms of operations, including in the Arctic.
Traven says concerns over the ability to communicate between various makes of aircraft are misplaced. (Terry Milewski/CBC News)
But Ricardo Traven, the chief test pilot for the Boeing Super Hornet, denied there's a problem and called it a "ridiculous" notion.

Communications among everyone on the battlefield are paramount and the obstacles will be overcome, he said.

"We're all going to be able to communicate and share information, whether you're a tank, a [joint strike fighter] or a Super Hornet," Traven said.

Boeing vice-president Roger Schallom also attempted Wednesday to put to rest the notion that Canadian aerospace jobs would be lost if the F-35 isn't selected.

Many of the 110 Canadian companies doing business with Lockheed Martin are also working for Boeing on separate contracts.

If Boeing's plane is chosen, Schallom said, the company could replace or even exceed the current $825 million in contracts and the up to $10 billion lifetime value of industrial benefits.

"We will put in much more work than those numbers. I can't quantify it until we see what the [air force] requirement is, but we will definitely trump those numbers," he said.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Canadian officer assumes American command of 80th Wing

U.S. 80th Operations Group Commander Colonel Paolo Baldasso (left) transfers command of the 89th Flying Training Squadron to Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Rhett Chambers.
U.S. 80th Operations Group Commander Colonel Paolo Baldasso (left) transfers command of the 89th Flying Training Squadron to Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Rhett Chambers during an April 22, 2016, Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program change-of-command ceremony held at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The handover represented the first time a Royal Canadian Air Force officer has been appointed as a squadron commander in the 35-year history of the program. PHOTO: Debi Smith, USAF photo

RCAF Press Release

From Sheppard Air Force Base

Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Rhett Chambers assumed command of the 89th Flying Training Squadron on April 22, 2016, in a ceremony at the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The change of command ceremony marked the first time in the 35-year history of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program that an RCAF officer has been appointed to a squadron command position.

He has 4,000 flying hours to his credit; 330 of those he amassed during 75 missions in Afghanistan. His wife, Major Martine Chambers, retired last year after serving for 23 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1994. Many of his flight hours were spent in CT-114 Tutor, CH-139 Jet Ranger, CH-146 Griffon, and CT-156 Harvard II aircraft.

The 89th Flying Training Squadron traces its lineage to the Second World War 89th Pursuit Squadron. As part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, 89th Flying Training Squadron trains 250 pilots a year in the T-37 twin-engine jet-powered Cessna Tweet. Designed specifically for training purposes, the Tweet is used for undergraduate pilot, undergraduate navigator, and tactical navigation training, during which students learn the fundamentals of aircraft handling, and instrument, formation and night flying.

Pacific Fleet Departs for RIMPAC

DND Press Release

June 13, 2016 – Esquimalt, B.C. – National Defence / Maritime Forces Pacific

Halifax-class warships Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Calgary and Vancouver, and their nearly 500 sailors departed Esquimalt Harbour today to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Taking place from June 30 to August 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, the exercise will allow the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to enhance interoperability for a wide range of potential operations and strengthen partnerships with other Navies.

Joining the Halifax-class warships will be Kingston-class warships HMCS Saskatoon and Yellowknife, and their nearly 80 sailors. Departing next week for the waters off Southern California, the warships will conduct coastal operations with other Navies and diving units.

Beyond their exercise responsibilities, the Kingston-class warships will also carry out testing and exercises using advanced mine countermeasure equipment, thereby reducing risk to sailors and warships while increasing interoperability with allied nations.

HMCS Calgary and HMCS Vancouver will test weapons systems and upgrades to their equipment. RIMPAC will allow RCN warships to test electronic countermeasures designed to better protect sailors and warships operating in war zones, and fire Evolved Sea Sparrow and Harpoon missiles as well as heavyweight torpedoes to increase the warfighting capabilities of the Halifax-class warships.

“Participation in RIMPAC allows the Royal Canadian Navy to work together with our partner nations while providing unique training opportunities for our sailors to maintain and enhance operational readiness. These opportunities allow our sailors to continue to develop and deepen partnerships with countries from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.” - Commodore Jeff Zwick, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific

Quick Facts
Captain (Navy) Jason Boyd, Director New Capability Introduction for the RCN, will be the Sea Combat Commander for the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group. Embarked in HMCS Calgary, he will be responsible to direct naval combat operations for up to 10 international warships in the Carrier Strike Group.

The Royal Canadian Navy has both domestic and international roles. At home, maritime defence and security is the Navy’s first priority in ensuring that Canada’s maritime approaches are effectively monitored and protected. Canada also needs naval forces with the ability to act internationally — whenever and wherever issues arise that threaten our national interests.

The RCN remains very active internationally by conducting maritime security operations, including intercepting narcotics shipments in the Caribbean and conducting counter-terrorism patrols in the Arabian Sea. Operation CARIBBE, Operation REASURRANCE, and Operation ARTEMIS are examples of how we protect Canada's interests on the international stage.

The Pacific Fleet is home to 11 warships and two submarines. It is also home to thousands of sailors, soldiers, airmen, airwomen, and their families — all of whom make up the extended fleet family. With the support of Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyard and the number of support and maintenance facilities, the Pacific Fleet generates and operates balanced, multi-purpose maritime forces to support domestic and international Canadian security operations.

Lockheed Gets Sole-sourced Maintenance deal on CC-130 Hercules

By: Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen 

OTTAWA — Months before a mini-war of words over the F-35 stealth fighter, the federal government and Lockheed Martin quietly inked a deal for the U.S. aerospace giant to provide maintenance support and training for one of the military’s transport plane fleets.

The $500-million agreement, which extended an earlier contract to 2021, was never publicly announced or put to a competition. This was despite Defence Department auditors flagging a lack of transparency and raising questions about value for money in the original contract.

The government has cited national security to justify why other companies were not allowed to compete. It also says the new contract addresses the auditors’ concerns.

One former Defence Department official says it’s no surprise Lockheed and the government have continued to do business while wrangling over the F-35. “There are only so many big players out there,” said Alan Williams, former head of procurement at National Defence.

However, Williams said the way the deal was concluded doesn’t pass the smell test, and that it raises fresh concerns about waste.

“National security exemptions should be used in really exceptional cases where there really is a national security risk to Canada,” he said. “You shouldn’t use it to get around poor planning.”

In December 2007, the Conservative government inked a $1.45-billion deal for Lockheed to sell 17 Hercules military transport aircraft to Canada.

Two years later, the contract was amended to include seven years of maintenance support and training at a cost of $800 million. The support work was not put to a competition because National Defence had implemented a policy that year to award support contracts to the company that provided the equipment.

Then last June, Lockheed proposed extending the contract another five years. Public Procurement spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold confirmed an extension was signed on Dec. 15 for $504.3 million. He said the contract was not put to a competition because it was “subject to a national security exemption.”

The new deal was signed the same month Defence Department auditors raised concerns with the original contract. In particular, Lockheed received full payment but only did half the work originally expected because a shortage of pilots and mechanics meant the Hercules were only flown half as much as planned.

Complicating matters, the auditors wrote, was the fact Lockheed closely guarded how much the work cost it to perform. That threatened to make negotiations difficult for government officials wanting to tailor any new contract to the air force’s needs.

Defence Department spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said Tuesday that the new contract includes enough flexibility to meet the military’s current and future needs. Williams, however, said the only way to truly ensure the government and Canadians are getting value for their money would be to run a competition.

“I don’t know if the deal with Lockheed was the best one,” he said. “I worry when you sole-source any type of contract, you’re wasting taxpayers’ money. And there may have been other players out there, equally capable, that would be in our best interest.”

In addition to the Hercules maintenance contract and the F-35, Lockheed is also hoping to secure billions of dollars of work as part of the federal national shipbuilding plan.

• Email:

Sajjan: F-35 consortium agreement never seen as commitment to buy

By TIM NAUMETZ, The Hill Times 

A 2002 agreement Canada signed with the U.S. and seven other countries for development of the F-35 stealth warplane was never viewed by the partners as “a commitment to buy the F-35,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office told The Hill Times.

Meanwhile, a leading expert on military affairs said the Liberal government could make good on its 2015 election promise to exclude the F-35 stealth attack plane as it wrestles with the need to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fighter jets, but the decision would inevitably anger “a lot of powerful people in the Pentagon.”

In the wake of reports the government may be considering a sole-source acquisition of new fighter planes to replace at last part of Canada’s fleet of roughly 80 1980s-vintage CF-18 Hornets, University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers told The Hill Times Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his cabinet could either hold a competition, as Mr. Trudeau promised in the election campaign, or acquire more modern versions of the Boeing CF-18 without inviting other bids.

“Doing a fleet extension of Canada’s existing planes, Canada would buy a number of the latest model of the same plane,” Mr. Byers said, in reference to the fact Canada initially acquired the U.S. Boeing Corp. aircraft, under a previous Liberal government, coincidentally led by Justin Trudeau’s father, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau, in 1982.

“It would be like, let’s say you had a taxi fleet of Toyota Priuses that were all from 2010 and you decided to buy a sizeable number of 2016s, you’re buying the latest model of the same equipment, which means that your mechanics and your pilots don’t need to undergo the same degree of re-training,” Mr. Byers said in an interview this week.

Under his scenario, either through a sole-sourced contract with Boeing or a competition to replace part of the aging fleet whose life span was extended by the previous government to 2025 the year before the federal election, the Liberal government could still have an option in later years to acquire a smaller number of the new generation F-35 aircraft, sophisticated to the point some avionic experts refer to it as a “flying computer.”

Development delays, however, have been extensive.

U.S. Air Force news releases this month reported one of its major bases has yet to declare F-35As, the same model plane Canada was set to buy, fully combat operational.

Hill Air Force Base, Utah, also reported its wheel-shop technicians found a hydraulic tire-changing machine Lockheed Martin had supplied in 2015, along with the base’s first batch of F-35 planes, was designed to require four technicians to lift one wheel onto the changer.

The shop adapted its legacy changer to fit the heavy F-35 wheel.

Furthermore, the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida reported on May 24 that its technicians saved $84,000 by using locally manufactured parts and tools rather than those available from Lockheed Martin.

Mr. Byers noted Australia has already beefed up its similarly aging F-18 Hornet fighter jet fleet by acquiring Boeing F-18 “Super Hornets,” a more modern version of the original F-18, while waiting for the delayed Lockheed Martin F-35 to reach full operationally ready levels, as well as production levels that provide economy of scale prices Lockheed Martin promised as the plane was in early development and testing stages.

Canada in 2002 signed on with a consortium of eight other countries after the U.S. launched the Pentagon-led Joint Strike Fighter Program.

The previous year, the Pentagon conducted a prototype competition that defence giant Lockheed Martin Corp. won over Boeing Corp., for development and production of the so-called next generation of fighter jet warplanes.

In 2010, the former Conservative government announced Canada would exercise its option of acquiring a fleet of the costly planes—a total of 65 F-35 fighters with no timeline yet set for the actual purchase—but the Conservatives put the acquisition on hold in 2012 after a raging controversy over costs that had been withheld from Parliament prior to the 2011 federal election.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Heritage, Alta.) and his Conservatives concluded an analysis of options from among a range of fighter jet makers in 2014, including Lockheed Martin, but Parliament has received no update on the estimated cost of acquiring and operating a fleet of 65 F-35s since the last government report that year.

The 2014 update estimated a cost of $45.8 billion for acquisition, maintenance and sustainment over the fleet’s 35-year lifecycle, and the estimated price tag has since risen by at least $3 billion for acquisition and operating costs alone, due to the Canadian dollar’s lower value in exchange with the U.S. dollar.

Liberal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan last week did not rule out the possibility that the government is set to begin replacing the declining CF-18 fleet without competitive bidding.

“The CF-18 will be extended to 2025,” Mr. Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) told the House of Commons on June 7.

“We do need replacements, they should have been replaced a long time ago, we have to start the process soon because our fighters have been flying for some time, they should have been replaced,” Mr. Sajjan said.
Canada intends to pay instalment to F-35 consortium

In response to the speculation about sole-sourcing, a Lockheed Martin official raised a requirement that the Canadian aerospace industry would be able to bid on future aircraft sustainment and contracts only if Canada acquires some of the planes.

Mr. Sajjan responded Tuesday by pointing out that none of the original members of the Joint Strike Fighter Consortium are required to buy any F-35s, and Canada’s participation in the development of the plane through the consortium has led to $743 million in contacts for the Canadian aerospace industry.

“Canada remains a member of the Joint Strike Fighter program and has not notified the JSF Office about any changes to our participation,” Mr. Sajjan’s press secretary, Jordan Owens, said on behalf of Mr. Sajjan in response to questions from The Hill Times.

Ms. Owens said the government still owes an instalment to the consortium, but intends to pay it.

“To date, our participation in the JSF MOU (Joint Strike Fighter Memorandum of Understanding) has allowed companies in Canada to secure US $743 million in contracts,” the email from Ms. Owens said.

“New skills and technologies gained through access to the JSF Program have helped position Canadian industry to take advantage of other advanced aerospace and defence projects; it has always been clear that participation in the JSF MOU is not a commitment to buy the F-35.”

Canada currently has four Canadian Forces personnel assigned to the Joint Strike Fighter Office near Washington, D.C.

The Liberal campaign promise to hold a competition while excluding consideration of Lockheed Martin has come under severe criticism, including from Alan Williams, the former Department of National Defence procurement chief who was with DND when Canada joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in 2002.

Mr. Byers said the Liberals, now having delayed a decision for seven months, could have delivered on their campaign promise by either sole-sourcing a CF-18 fleet extension with Boeing or releasing a competitive request for proposals whose maximum cost and desired type of fighter jet, along with required regional industrial benefits, would have ruled out the F-35.

The DND statement of operating requirements for the new plane could have established a maximum unit price, lower than the costly single-engine F-35, or a need for two engines, which the legacy Hornets as well as the modern version of the Boeing fighters have.

“There was nothing inherently difficult with the Liberal position in the campaign, but obviously it would require certainly annoying Lockheed Martin and by extension a lot of powerful people in the Pentagon,” Mr. Byers said.

He said the Liberals still have the option of sole-sourcing the Boeing plane, with no competition from any other bidders.

“That is my understanding, you are able to do a sole-source procurement, we do sole-source procurement for lots of things,” Mr. Byers said, referring to Conservative government procurement of long-range jet transport planes from Boeing, as well as short-haul cargo aircraft from Lockheed Martin.

“You can do this, and obviously it’s easier politically to do that when you’re simply acquiring the same model of equipment, that same type of equipment, in effect the same but a newer model,” Mr. Byers said. “It (the Super Hornet) is not a totally new plane, it’s based on the same air frame and a lot of the avionics are based on 30 years of experience and technological development at Boeing.”

The NDP has been insisting on an open competition to replace the CF-18 Hornets, with cost and capability among the required parameters.
“Either of those aircrafts might have pros and cons, but the only way to make that evaluation is to have an open and transparent competition,” said NDP MP Erin Weir.

“One of the things I find striking is that the federal government has not even put forward what those parameters would be for a competition,” said Mr. Weir (Regina-Lewvan, Sask.)

“We challenge the government, they say there haven’t been any decisions, there’s still a possibility of an open competition, but in seven months they haven’t taken any steps towards initiating such a competition,” Mr. Weir said in an interview.

“Certainly I would agree that one of those first steps is to lay out parameters of what the government is looking for, in terms of our defence requirements.”
The Hill Times

Canada considering European troop commitment

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

Putin 'is modernizing conventional military capability on a large scale'

CSIS warns Russia is 'mobilizing for war'

The Trudeau government is considering a request to commit hundreds of troops to eastern Europe and take part command of a new NATO force being assembled to deter Russian aggression.

Canada's participation in the Baltic operation was discussed Tuesday by the military alliance's defence ministers, including Canada's Harjit Sajjan, at a meeting in Brussels.

This comes just days after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service quietly released an open-sourced global security analysis warning, among other things, that the hard-line policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin are becoming more deeply entrenched and that Moscow is retooling its military for a fight.

The U.S., Britain and Germany publicly committed to the force on Tuesday, but federal sources said that while Canada has not yet made a decision, an answer could come soon and that Canada "supports what NATO is doing in the region."

Troops from Canada's 3rd Division participate at a NATO-led exercise with the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Poland's 6th Airborne Brigade. Canada is considering a request to supply troops for a new NATO force in the Baltics.
Troops from Canada's 3rd Division participate at a NATO-led exercise with the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Poland's 6th Airborne Brigade. Canada is considering a request to supply troops for a new NATO force in the Baltics. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
NATO vs. Putin sabre-rattling raises Cold War concerns
Crimean leader urges strong sanctions against Russia

Up to 4,000 troops are envisioned for the force, but the number coming from Canada, along with the type of equipment and vehicles that would be involved, is still being assessed.

The federal cabinet is expected to meet again on Wednesday but it is unclear whether the NATO request is on the agenda.

At the moment, just under 200 Canadian troops are involved in a massive drill — Exercise Anakonda — alongside Polish, Turkish and American forces near a base in Poland.

The Harper government committed Canada to a regular rotation of ground forces for exercises under the NATO's Operation Reassurancebanner following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

But the new proposal goes a step further with the creation of four battalions, which would rotate through bases in eastern Europe and the Baltics, and be on standby for emergencies.

The contingent would be backed by NATO's highly mobile, 40,000-strong rapid reaction force.
Baltic states could be overrun

Federal sources said Tuesday that it's not been decided where Canadian troops might be based, although published reports in Europe, quoting diplomatic sources, offered up two possible locations Poland or Latvia.

The Rand Corporation, a non-partisan U.S. think-tank, released a report last winter suggesting the proposed NATO force would simply be a speed bump for the Russian army should fighting take place. It said the Baltic states — Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania — could conceivably be overrun with 60 hours unless the West was willing to station several, heavily armoured brigades in the tiny nations.

Even before the contingent is finalized, political leaders in the Baltics have privately complained it is too small, according to published reports in Europe.

The request by NATO and the U.S. to fill one of the four slots took some in Ottawa by surprise, where the notion wasn't on the radar as little as two months ago, said one source with knowledge of the file.

It is expected the government will signal its intentions before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau goes to the NATO leaders summit in Warsaw next month.

The potential commitment is unfolding against the backdrop of an increasingly unpredictable Russian regime, said a security analysis released last week by the Canada's spy agency.
Russia 'mobilizing for war'

The report is a distillation of open source academic research and evaluations and not based on internal CSIS assessments.

It does however use stark language, and warned decision-makers not to treat Putin's rearmament drive lightly.

"Russia is not modernizing its military primarily to extend its capacity to pursue hybrid warfare," the 104 page report said, referring to the Kremlin's use of irregular tactics to take over Crimea. "It is modernizing conventional military capability on a large scale; the state is mobilizing for war."

The West has primarily responded to the annexation and Moscow's support of separatists in eastern Ukraine with economic sanctions.

The prevailing wisdom is that fiscal pain will bring Putin around, but the report dismissed that notion, saying two years after war erupted in Ukraine, the Kremlin "appears to be coherent, durable and united" at the centre.

"Western assessments that Russia is vulnerable to economic collapse and disruptive internal discontent are exaggerated," said the assessment, titled 2018 Security Outlook.

"Russia is adapting to adversity; the economy is deliberately tilted to security rather than economic freedom."
Polish president wants more Canadian troops

Retried Read Admiral: No Need to Decide on Number of Warships Today

Reported by: David Pugliese,

The top procurement official in the Department of National Defence says there is no need – at this point – to figure out the number of Canadian Surface Combatants that are required. The Royal Canadian Navy had insisted that 15 is the minimum number needed. That figure is now up in the air.

“We’re talking about decisions for ships that will be in service for half a century,” said Pat Finn, the assistant deputy minister for materiel. “There is no need to decide on the exact number of ships today.”

Finn, a retried rear admiral, said during the construction of the Halifax-class frigates in the 1990s the number was determined as things progressed. “Certainly, we want to bring it as close to 15 as we can, but we also don’t need to make that decision right now,” he said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Coyne: Fighter-jet purchases more about politics than what military needs

By: Andrew Coyne, National Post 

Ever since the Liberals promised, during the past election campaign, that they “would not buy the F-35” stealth fighter-bomber, at the same time pledging to hold an “open and transparent” competition to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging fleet of CF-18s, speculation has raged over which promise the Liberals would have to break.
The suspicion is that the Liberal government's intended purchase of Super Hornets has been undertaken for (are you sitting down?) political reasons.

It was plainly impossible to keep both. By definition, a competition cannot be open and transparent if one bidder has been excluded at the outset. But if they did hold a competition, and excluded the F-35, they faced the prospect of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit from Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s manufacturer. On the other hand, if the F-35 were allowed to compete, it might well win — which would be even more embarrassing.

So it was always a certainty they would have to break one promise. The defence minister’s pointed refusal to rule out the F-35 from consideration, notwithstanding the platform’s unequivocal language, suggested to many observers it would be the former. Others leaned to the latter possibility, on the theory the competition would be “wired” in such a way as to effectively exclude the F-35, much as the process had been rigged in its favour under the Conservatives. Little did anyone suspect that in fact they planned to dispense with the competition altogether.

Yet, that would appear to be the best explanation for the news, as reported last week, that the government intends to purchase an unknown number of Boeing Super Hornets via a sole-source contract, i.e. without competitive bids of any kind. Ostensibly this is being defended as an “interim measure,” to close a suddenly discovered “capability gap” between our promises to our NATO and NORAD allies and our actual force on hand. But this has been widely dismissed as a fig leaf — the previous government had budgeted $400 million to refurbish the CF-18s, enough to keep them in the air until 2025.

The suspicion, rather, is that the purchase has been undertaken for (are you sitting down?) political reasons. By postponing the competition, neither buying the F-35 nor explicitly refusing to do so, they escape both the threatened lawsuit and the ignominy of choosing the F-35, without formally reneging on the promise to put the bulk of the purchase out to competitive tender at some later date. At the very least, they put off any difficult choices until after the next election. And if the “interim measure” should prove indefinite? Or the first in a series? Could the air force end up with a fleet of Super Hornets, acquired a few at a time?

After all, what option would remain, the initial commitment having been made? Bad enough the air force should have to maintain two fleets, CF-18s and Super Hornets, each with different training and equipment needs. But these are at least related, both using roughly similar technology, both made by Boeing (the Super Hornet is essentially an upgrade on its older cousin, originally known as the Hornet). But to add yet a third, entirely different category of plane? Possibly the military’s statement of requirements could be rewritten to justify it. Or possibly everyone would just forget there was ever supposed to be a competition.

Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, is fighting back, warning that if Canada were to choose not to participate in the multinational F-35 project it could not possibly expect Canadian subcontractors to receive the hundreds of millions of dollars in business they had been promised. You might have thought the company would stress the technological superiority and/or cost-effectiveness of its planes, but only if you were wholly unfamiliar with how military procurement decisions are made in this country.

Which is the underlying cause of this whole mess. I’m not qualified to judge which plane — the F-35, the Super Hornet or one of their several European competitors — best meets our military needs, which are themselves open to debate. But what should be clear is that, one, any major purchase of this kind should be put out to competitive tender, and two, the competition should be judged strictly in terms of which plane offers the most military value for money. Yet neither condition seems to apply.

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Indeed, the same could be said for any number of similar procurement fiascos. Even where a competition is held, the criteria are as often political as military: that is, the “industrial and regional benefits” that are attached to every contract, in the form of local content, maintenance contracts and the like. The much-vaunted National Shipbuilding Strategy, now billions of dollars over budget and the subject of vicious inter-regional infighting, is a case in point.

Supposedly this was to be an example of a cleaned-up process, after the controversy surrounding the F-35 purchase, itself following on the EH-101 helicopter calamity, the submarine disaster and countless others. But the very decision to build the ships in Canada, at a time when there was no industry to speak of, rather than buy them off the shelf at half the cost from some other country, was a sign of what was really at work.

This remains the case, notwithstanding the government’s decision to use existing blueprints rather than build the ships from all-new designs. Defending the decision, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote tweeted that the National Shipbuilding Strategy was about bringing “jobs and prosperity to many communities” and “leverag(ing) economic opportunities for (the) Canadian marine sector and economy.” Oh? I thought it was about getting ships for the navy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lockheed Martin Reiterates it will pull $825M in F-35 contracts if Canada buys another jet

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin reiterated its warning to Canada that $825 million in aerospace industrial contracts signed with Canadian companies to build and equip F-35 jets would be moved to other partner nations if the Trudeau government decides to buy a different fighter jet.

Steve Over, the company's director of F-35 international business development, says other countries that have already committed to buying the stealth jet are clamouring for the work.

"It's not really a threat," Over said in an interview with CBC News. "I don't want it perceived as a threat, but we will have no choice, if Canada walks away from F-35, except to relocate work in Canada to other purchasing nations."​

By the end of the year, Over said he expects the value of Canadian parts and sustainment contracts to reach $1 billion, with an anticipated lifetime value of $10 billion or more.

Baloney Meter: Is there a capability gap when it comes to fighter jets?
Liberals cite CF-18 'capability gap' as upgrades in limbo
Liberals miss membership payment to stay in F-35 consortium

The comments mark a sharp escalation in the war of words over the Liberal government's efforts to speed up the replacement of the Royal Canadian Air Force's current fleet of CF-18s fighters.

During the 2015 election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised not to buy the F-35 and instead go with a cheaper alternative. Lockheed Martin remained silent at the time, regarding the comments as campaign rhetoric.

Under questioning this week, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan refused to exclude the notion of a sole-source purchase of brand new Boeing Super Hornet fighters, despite a campaign promise for an open bidding process.

The deputy minister of material at DND, Pat Finn, told a House of Commons committee Thursday that all options, from sole-source to full-blown competition, were being studied by the government, but no decision had been made.

A Change in tone

Earlier in the week, Lockheed Martin officials seemed content to pull their punches when it came to the industrial benefits question, saying only that they would "evaluate their options."

Even going back to 2013, months after the Harper government put the acquisition of the F-35 on hold, company officials were soft-pedalling the consequences, suggesting that if Canada went in a different direction, existing contracts would remain safe but no new work would be offered.

But all of that was tossed aside Friday as Over and other company executives made it clear that existing contracts would be honoured until renewal, and once they expire, they would go to nations participating in the program.

"If, in that most negative scenario where Canada chose to purchase a different airplane, we would have to take those future opportunities that are today envisioned for Canadian industry and we'd have to offer it to countries that are purchasing the airplane," he said.
Losing future contracts

The example he offered was Mississauga, Ont.-based Magellan Aerospace's 20-year, $1.2-billion subcontract from BAE Systems Inc. to build the jet's tail fins.

"So Magellan would just no longer be offered the opportunity to produce horizontal stabilizers," Over said.

A 2006 memorandum setting up Canada's participation in the development of the stealth fighter was signed by the Conservative government with the implicit suggestion the country was in for the long haul.

"The government of Canada and Lockheed committed together that we would put this industrial work in Canada, assuming that Canada bought airplanes, and we can't meet our commitments around the rest of the partnership if Canada doesn't buy the airplane," said Over.

"We want to approach this in a good-faith effort, but Canada is going to have to help us with that."

There are approximately 110 Canadian companies working on the F-35.
Industry warns of lost money, jobs

Unlike other defence procurement contracts, the stealth fighter is unique in that Canadian companies don't get guaranteed work. They are required to compete and work collaboratively to keep costs down.

The Lockheed Martin warning comes one day after an open letter published by Canadian companies involved in the program expressed fears about what would happen to them if the Trudeau government went with another plane.

"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," said the letter.

"Sole-sourcing a legacy aircraft will leave Canadian industry in the unfavourable position of working on 30-year-old technology over a finite period of time, with little opportunity to progress Canada's aerospace capabilities globally. The future landscape of the aerospace and defence industry in Canada will be permanently affected in an adverse manner."

The Liberals have attempted to justify their desire to move quickly — and possibly avoid an open competition — by saying the air force is facing a "capability gap," which means it may not have enough fighters to live up to its domestic and international obligations.

In the Commons Friday, Liberal MP John McKay, the parliamentary secretary for defence, put the blame on the previous Conservative government.

He said only 20 of the air force's 77 CF-18s will be available for service by 2025 if circumstances remain the same.