Further to this post,
someone who knows procurement and who is no fan of the F-35 makes the case:
Liberals face dilemma over F-35 fighter jets
On a hot September Day Justin Trudeau — a month before he would win the election — stood up in front of a crowd of about 800 at Pier 21 in Halifax and promised that a Liberal government would scrap the controversial purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets.
The “tens of billions” of dollars saved by opting to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with a more affordable option [but see: “F-35 and Canadian Election: Liberals Loose With Fighter Costs“] would go to expand and fast-track spending for the Royal Canadian Navy and guarantee the timely fulfillment of the $39-billion national shipbuilding project [but see links at the end of this quote].
Then last week, speaking at an Ottawa conference, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told an audience of experts and industry representatives that the government would not exclude Lockheed Martin’s F-35s from the competition for a new aircraft, but instead would hold an open and transparent process that would focus on obtaining the right aircraft for Canada. It wasn’t the first time he’s hinted at the possibility of leaving the door open for the F-35s [see here], but it was the first time he’s said so point-blank [more here].
Ensuing media coverage framed the statement as a backtrack of the Liberals’ campaign promise, but according to one procurement expert, excluding the F-35 was never an option to begin with.
Alan Williams was the Defence Department’s assistant deputy minister of materiel in 2002 and signed the initial agreement on behalf of Canada to enter into the joint strike fighter program with the Unites States, eight years before the Conservative decision to purchase the planes. Williams has written extensively on the issues with the Conservatives’ sole-source decision to purchase the jets.
But despite their huge price and capabilities many argue are unnecessary, Williams told The Chronicle Herald that the Liberals have little choice but to include the F-35s in the competition.
“When Trudeau made his comments during the campaign they were nonsensical,” he said. “You can’t on the one hand say you’re going to have an open and fair competition and say it’s going to exclude company A or company B. You can’t prevent anyone from bidding.”
Williams said a trade agreement requires the government to run a competition, unless it can argue that the legislation isn’t applicable and a sole-source contract is required. Prejudging the outcome of the competition by explicitly excluding the F-35 would violate this agreement.
What Williams said the government can do is write requirements that put far less importance on the features the F-35 boasts — such as stealth capabilities — and higher value on what it doesn’t.
“Unlike the old requirements that basically ensure that only the F-35 can compete you could say the primary responsibility is ensure proper control over over Canada and its borders and defence of North America, in which case other requirements become much more valuable than the stealth feature,” Williams said [see “F-35 and Canada: Good for “Discretionary” Missions, But…“]. “Then if you decide in an evaluation to put more weight on price, the likelihood of an F-35 winning becomes dramatically reduced.” [However see also: “Who Needs Fifth Generation (Stealth) Fighters? But Escorted Russian Bombers?“.]
But even with a cheaper plane, Williams said it doesn’t mean the government will have extra money to spend on the navy [as these ministers will soon find out: “New Super Cabinet Committee for Canadian Defence Procurement“–because of: “The Great Canadian Shipbuilding Never Never Land: Wild-Ass Guesses=FUBAR“]…