Mark Collins – Canadian Budget: F-35 After All? Surface Combatant Never Never Land

See the latter part of the post for the probable resurrection of the F-35. First from the 2016 budget itself (p. 204 PDF):

Budget 2016 proposes to reallocate funding of $3.716 billion for large-scale capital projects [e.g. new fighters, Canadian Surface Combatants] from the 2015–16 to 2020–21 period to future years. This is not a reduction in National Defence’s budget. This will ensure that funding is available for large-scale capital projects when it is needed. Funding is being shifted into future years to align with the current timing of National Defence’s major equipment acquisitions…

Then a news story:

Military equipment purchases postponed again…

The promised re-equipping of the Canadian military has essentially been postponed until after the next election in a maiden federal Liberal budget that shifts billions of dollars in capital spending to 2020 — or later.

The Trudeau government’s new fiscal plan shoves $3.7 billion in planned defence purchases — ships, planes and vehicles — off into the future, but Finance Minister Bill Morneau insists the move does not represent a cut to military funding.

Morneau said the Liberals need a year to figure out Canada’s defence priorities.

“In order to make sure we have the funds available at the time when they need those funds, we’ve reprofiled some in the fiscal framework,” he told a news conference prior to tabling the budget in the House of Commons.

“So, when we need the money, the money will be in the fiscal framework. So, we believe that is the appropriate action to take to ensure our military has the appropriate equipment, the planes and the ships they need”…

Of course that assumes that money will actually be there five years down the road. In fact the delays to the Canadian Surface Combatant and new fighter projects had already been well-telegraphed although not noticed by our media. See: Canadian Forces’ Major Acquisitions: Big Slippages for CSCs, Fighters…

Further to this April 2015 post,

DND and Canadian Forces 2015-16: “Status Report on Transformational and Major Crown Projects”

Here’s the 2016-17 listing with some pretty shocking “Major Milestones” slides to the right–the webpage is hard to find, buried under “Section III: Supplementary Information“:

Status Report on Transformational and Major Crown Projects

Now with the new fighter not beginning delivery until after FY 2021-22–no money to buy before–and with deliveries continuing through the mid-2020s (the RCAF’s CF-18s are supposed to be kept flying until 2025) that means the Boeing Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon quite likely will no longer be in production during that period–although international orders might just keep the lines going. The Dassault Rafale and SAAB Gripen should still be available but really would be outliers in the RCAF context (and the Rafale could be costly–more on fighters: “F-35 and Canadian Election: Liberals Loose With Fighter Costs“).

So are we effectively left with the F-35 after all as far and away the most probable acquisition? Keep in mind that in the 2020s the aircraft’s bugs should be pretty well worked out and it should be in full production with costs having come down considerably. What’s not to like with what one might describe as an end run to end up with the Joint Strike Fighter after all? And Canadian industry (jobs! jobs! jobs!) would certainly be happy. (One is assuming the fighter competition will be held, as the finance minister suggested, after this year’s defence review is completed and that the competition will take some fairly considerable time.)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


6 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Canadian Budget: F-35 After All? Surface Combatant Never Never Land”

  1. As for working out the bugs:

    ‘Lockheed F-35’s Cybersecurity Flaws Cited by Pentagon Tester

    Cybersecurity weaknesses in Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 are among “many unresolved deficiencies” hobbling the costliest U.S. weapons program as production of the fighter jet ramps up, the Pentagon’s top tester said.

    “The limited and incomplete F-35 cybersecurity testing accomplished to date has nonetheless revealed deficiencies that cannot be ignored,” Michael Gilmore, the director of combat testing, said in a prepared statement for a House Armed Services panel hearing Wednesday.

    Gilmore’s analysis that the F-35 program “is at a critical time” expands on previous reports on the risks inherent in building the planes even as they’re still being developed. A more optimistic assessment of the fighter’s progress will be offered to the House panel by Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, who heads the Defense Department’s F-35 program office. Bogdan, like Defense Secretary Ash Carter, has said that the F-35 is on the right path after surmounting earlier obstacles.

    The F-35 program “is executing well across the entire spectrum of acquisition, to include development and design, flight test, production, fielding and base stand-up, sustainment of fielded aircraft, and building a global sustainment enterprise,” Bogdan said in prepared testimony.
    Mission Software

    “Our most significant technical concern is the development and integration of mission systems software,” as each aircraft has about 8 million lines of code, Bogdan said.

    The aircraft is proving its capabilities, Bogdan said, reaching 50,000 hours of flight last month. He said that included about 26,000 hours for the Air Force’s model, 18,000 for the Marine Corps version and almost 6,000 for the Navy’s, he said.

    While the Marine Corps declared last July that its version of the F-35 had an initial operational capability and the Air Force plans to do so by December, Gilmore said in his statement that the F-35 “remains immature and provides limited combat capability.”

    Gilmore said “the program is working to resolve the many issues it confronts, but my assessment is that the F-35 program will not be ready for” combat testing until mid-2018 at the earliest, about a year later than planned…

    The Air Force, which is buying the biggest share of F-35s, has insisted that the program office and Lockheed fix five of the most severe software deficiencies inherited from the Marine version before it declares an initial operational capability.

    The latest software delivered last month “was so unstable that productive flight testing could not be accomplished” so “the extent to which the significant outstanding deficiencies are being addressed thus far is still to be determined,” Gilmore said…’

    Mark Collins

    1. Costing of Kuwait Typhoon deal–deliveries until 2022:

      The Cabinet approved the purchase of the 28 Eurofighters from Italy for €7.957 billion (US $9.062 billion)…

      The contract involves the production of aircraft in Italy and covers logistics, operational support, and the training of flight crews and ground personnel in cooperation with the Italian Air Force.

      The contract also provides for the upgrade of infrastructure in Kuwait which will be used for Typhoon operations.

      The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the first two Eurofighters will arrive in Kuwait in the fourth quarter of 2019 and final delivery occur by 2022…”

      Mark Collins

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