Thursday, June 7, 2018

RCAF CF-18's Ground-Based Radars are Failing due to Age

By: David Pugliese, Postmedia 

The ground-based radars key to supporting CF-18 fighter jets on domestic and international operations are falling apart and still years away from being replaced, according to documents obtained by Postmedia.

Image result for Canadian tactical control radars,
Canadian Forces members set up a portable TCR in Resolute Bay, Nuvavut. File Photo. CBC. 
Defence industry representatives were briefed in April by Royal Canadian Air Force officers that the tactical control radars, or TCRs, are is a state of disrepair but there is no government approval yet to replace the equipment purchased in 1991. “The new roles and tasks assigned to the radars have resulted in considerable deployment and usage increases, and have caused the TCRs to enter into a never-ending deterioration cycle,” the officials were told, according to the documents.

The radars were supposed to be replaced years ago but the purchase of new equipment, announced with great fanfare by the previous Conservative government, was a dud.

Thales Canada, a subsidiary of the French defence giant, was awarded a contract in 2011 and was supposed to deliver the radars two years later. At the time of the original contract announcement, Thales noted that its award was building on its “40-year track record of providing world-class sensor systems to the Canadian Forces.”

But in 2015, the federal government announced the $55-million contract was being terminated by “mutual consent” between the firm and Canada. Neither Thales nor Public Services and Procurement Canada have said why.

A plan had also been put in place to upgrade the radars, which are used to provide long-range air surveillance and the capability for the military to control air missions. But that upgrade never happened because the equipment was being used so much, the RCAF confirmed.

RCAF spokesman Capt. Steven Dieter said the roles and the missions for the two AN/TPS-70 tactical control radars have increased significantly since their original purchase. The aging radars and the lack of a modern capability has had an impact, the air force admitted. “Over the years, technological advancements and operational developments have limited the tactical control radars’ effectiveness and the RCAF’s interoperability with allies on the modern battlefield,” Dieter said in an email.

The radars are used to support flight training, contributions to NATO and commitments to the North American Aerospace Defence Command, according to the RCAF.

It could still take several years before the federal government purchases new radars.

In the April presentation to industry officials, the RCAF noted it hopes to get the endorsement of the government to put out a request for bids for three new radars, but that is still yet to come. Public Services and Procurement Canada said that request for proposals could be issued later this year.

“We expect about a year to reach contract award, and delivery of the radar equipment approximately two years after contract award,” spokesperson Michèle LaRose stated in an email.

The Liberal government has promised to replace the CF-18 fighter jet fleet with 88 new planes. It is also buying 18 Australian F-18 jets to augment the CF-18s until the new aircraft are acquired.

Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough said last week at the CANSEC military equipment trade show in Ottawa that she expects the first two used Australian F-18s to be delivered in 2019. But Qualtrough said she still doesn’t have a final cost for taxpayers for the 18 used aircraft, spares, weapons and other related equipment. The Liberal government has set aside up to $500 million for the purchase.

Qualtrough said negotiations are ongoing.

Pat Finn, the Department of National Defence’s assistant deputy minister of materiel, recently said he expects a deal by the end of the year with deliveries of the Australian planes to begin next summer. The Liberal government originally planned for the arrival of the first used aircraft in January 2019.

Further Reading: 

By: Daniel Maillet, CAF Distpach 

This is not the first time the RCAF and it's CF-18 Radar system has made the news. Back in November 2017, it was reported by Warzone that Canada's request to purchase the latest Air-To-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the AIM-120D, had been granted by the US State Department. The problem with this purchase was reported that the current fleet of aging CF-18 Hornets would realize little from the missile's most preeminent feature, its greatly enhanced range; because the onboard radar systems have a more limited range than the range of the AIM-120D. You can read the full story, by Tyler Rogoway, here

DND currently pegs the replacement of the Tactical Control Radar systems at a cost between $50 million and $100 Million. The Canadian forces are looking to purchase at least three portable radar systems, with a delivery timetable between 2021-2023. You can follow the procurement project here

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