Mark Collins – Cabinet Committee to Take Sting out of Sole-Sourcing RCAF Super Hornets? CF-18 Life Extension?

Further to these posts,

Things Looking Better For F-35 in Canada: NOT! Super Hornet Buy Leaks

Stephen Saideman – Plane Speculation

the government is still leaking furiously about how it is handling new fighters for the Air Force; one might wish for a bit more true transparency about whether they plan a purchase soon of some number (how many) of sole-sourced new fighters and whether any real competition for the remainder of replacement planes will ever be held. Given the costs of running a mixed fighter fleet it would seem likely that selection of some “interim” Super Hornets could well lead eventually to an all-Boeing force. And will the government even bother to extend the service lives of the CF-18? If not that certainly opens the door for an all Super Hornet fleet sooner rather than later.

1) Cabinet committee deciding on final options to replace Canada’s fighter jets

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

Government officials said the cabinet committee is working to refine the choices that will eventually be put in front of the full cabinet, where there will be a debate before the government makes a final call. The acquisition of the new fighter jets is estimated to cost at least $9-billion [likely more, depending on how many one buys of which aircraft–see “F-35 and Canadian Election: Liberals Loose With Fighter Costs“], plus decades of maintenance and operation costs.

“We may have no bigger or more complex [decision to make] this mandate,” a senior Liberal official said [gosh but they are taking this with great responsibility!].

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

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

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

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

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

[That committee is also in charge of the government’s–inherited–shipbuilding morass (more here, here and here); they sure do have a huge and messy plate.]

Lockheed, for its part, is using the head of its Canadian operation–also a retired RCAF general–to promote the F-35; but how “operational’ it is at this time remains questionable–see near end here (though that is really not relevant to any Canadian acquisition timeframe). Meanwhile Denmark’s acquisition of the F-35A is now official.

2) Liberals cite CF-18 ‘capability gap’ as upgrades in limbo: Upgrades to keep CF-18s flying until 2025 still being studied 2 years after being ordered

A nearly $500-million upgrade to the country’s CF-18 jet fighters, ordered by the Harper government almost two years ago [see from April: “RCAF: Decisions Needed on Extending CF-18 Hornets’ Service to 2025“], is still under study by the military, an evaluation that won’t be completed for another 16 months [good flipping slow grief!].

Capt. Alexandre Munoz, a spokesman for the air force, says the refurbishment, which is meant to keep the 1980s-vintage jets flying until 2025, is still in the “options analysis” phase [so the program “CF-188 Life Extension 2025” is still never never land even though the contract is supposed to be awarded in 2018]…

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

Despite that, Munoz conceded the process of analyzing how the extension would take place and what was required didn’t get underway until September 2015 [blame the Conservatives for that].

International obligations lagging?

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

“As the Department of National Defence (DND) is working on requirements for the life extension of the CF-18s, no request for proposal has been issued [that’s scheduled for 2017] and no contract has been awarded,” said Jean-François Letourneau.

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

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan stuck to that line on Wednesday [June 8], telling the House of Commons that the air force was “risk-managing a gap between our Norad and NATO commitments at this time.”

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

Up until just recently, both Liberal and Conservative governments, in tandem with the head of the air force, have insisted that the situation was under control…

Indeed. So you suddenly uncover that “capability gap” to justify the rushed purchase of “interim” fighters (Super Hornets) that quite probably will end up being the sole permanent fighter type. Hell of a way to run an air force.

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


2 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Cabinet Committee to Take Sting out of Sole-Sourcing RCAF Super Hornets? CF-18 Life Extension?”

  1. Just what one expected–hardball from LoickMart about jobs! jobs! jobs!

    ‘Lockheed may shift F-35 fighter work away from Canada

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

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

    “This is not anything punitive [SURE]. It is just business,” he said in a telephone interview from the Netherlands, where the [Dutch air force] F-35 will fly in its first international air show on Saturday [June 11].

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

    Mark Collins

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