Mark Collins – RFP Finally Issued for RCN Canadian Surface Combatant: “eye-watering” Details Wanted

Further to these posts,

RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant Will be Foreign Design
[Nov. 2015, matter long settled–post lists competitors then]

Irving Halifax Has Lead Evaluating RCN Canadian Surface Combatant Design/Weapons Systems Bids

an announcement is made (an “eye-watering amount of detail is being requested”, see near of the post):

Government launches key warship project without an idea of how many vessels will be built or what they will cost

The Canadian Surface Combatant project has officially kicked off with the request for proposals sent out to industry [official news release here]. The winning ship design is expected to be selected by summer 2017, the government says.

But federal officials still have no clue how many ships will be built. Originally the program was to produce 15 or 16 vessels [15 actually]. That was changed. The phrase now used by government is “up to 15.”

Construction of the first Canadian Surface Combatant is to begin in the early 2020s [but see from March: ‘CANADIAN SURFACE COMBATANT PROJECT…”First Delivery Late 2020s”’]. But no one knows how exactly many ships will be built….nor do government officials seem too concerned. “One of the things we need not do right now is decide the number of ships,” said Patrick Finn, assistant deputy minister, materiel, at the Department of National Defence.

The cost of the project is also not being released….at least for now. It was originally estimated that the surface combatant program would cost $26 billion [see preceding link about 15 ships] but that was way off and the Royal Canadian Navy later figured the final tally would be more than $40 billion. But who knows if that cost estimate will further change? $45 billion? $50 billion? If the number of ships to be built could be reduced then the government could bring its costs down….but then the Royal Canadian Navy might not get enough warships for its missions.

The Canadian Press has written on some of the other issues affecting the Canadian Surface Combatant program. Here is what CP writes [full story here]:

Scratch building from scratch. The Liberal government announced in June that Canada would buy a pre-existing warship design from a foreign company rather than designing one from scratch in Canada [decision in fact made in 2015, see first link at start of post]. The new approach is designed to save time and money [see “Canadian Surface Combatant Procurement Process Re-Float: So What?–in fact “new approach” is combining ship design and weapons system integrator bids]. But it has opened up other problems, including how to ensure Canadian industry benefits from the project. Companies have also pushed back against the government’s demands that it be given unlimited access to the blueprints of whatever design wins. That sets up an important debate between national security and intellectual property rights, which still hasn’t been fully resolved [see “RCN Canadian Surface Combatant: Intellectual Property Brouhaha“].

Rules of the game. The competition to choose a warship design is actually being run by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, which is responsible for ultimately building the vessels. Some potential bidders have quietly alleged that Irving will stack the deck in favour of British company BAE. The fact BAE will be allowed to enter its Type 26 frigate into the competition despite the ship still only being in development has not helped matters. But Irving and the government have pushed back on suggestions they will favour BAE or any other competitor. They say an independent fairness monitor has approved the bidding process, and that the navy will be watching over Irving’s shoulder every step of the way.

More details from a story just before the announcement:

Public Works Minister Judy Foote said last May the government won’t release a cost estimate until there is a signed contract in the program, which is expected to be the largest procurement in Canadian history.

The cone of silence also extends to the draft request for proposals, which prohibits bidders and their subcontractors from talking to the media about the project, unless they receive written approval from Irving.

There’s also an attempt to keep a lid on the cutthroat competition.

“Neither the bidders, nor any of their respective subcontractors, employees or representatives shall make any public comment, respond to questions in a public forum or carry out any activities to either criticize another bidder or any bid — or publicly advertise their qualifications,” said the proposal, obtained by CBC News.

The navy is looking for a warship with the capability of hunting submarines, but also defending against enemy aircraft and missiles. It is expected to be swift enough to keep up with U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups [30 knot speed needed, see link at end of post] and be armed with both a single 127-millimetre gun [current frigates have only a 57mm gun] and surface-to-surface missiles of its own.

The new surface combatants will also carry up to 200 sailors and have the deck space available to allow for the conduct of humanitarian missions, such as the at-sea rescue of migrants [dear me, that really muddies the warship waters]…

Sources, who are close to the file but only able to speak on background, tell CBC News that L-3 Communications Canada has written a letter, supported by some of the other bidders, warning the government no significant Canadian content — radar, sonar and communications — will end up in the surface combatants unless the foreign designers are forced to work with a company from this country.

The evaluation process, however, gives points to companies with higher Canadian content.

The request for proposals demands that each bidder supply an eye-watering amount of detail, including the number of “fasteners” that would be used to build each ship, including all anchors, bolts, nails, nuts, rivets and rods. The government also wants part numbers and descriptions about what tools will be used…

Heaven help us. Here’s an interesting discussion of various contenting designs’ capabilities at, keep scrolling down.

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


5 thoughts on “Mark Collins – RFP Finally Issued for RCN Canadian Surface Combatant: “eye-watering” Details Wanted”

  1. Big gov’t “Oopsie!”:

    “Government backtracks on demand that firms stay silent on Canadian Surface Combatant program”

    And note this on British Type 26 frigate:

    One of the most important decisions the Liberals have made since taking over the program involves insisting on a proven off-the-shelf design.

    However, Finn laid down a subtle, but important qualification on Thursday [Oct. 27], one that could help BAE Systems Inc., one of the pre-qualified bidders.

    The British defence giant, which is already working with Irving on the new Arctic offshore patrol ships, is expected to offer its Type 26 frigate as the warship for Canada.

    It has yet to be constructed…

    Given the number of expected Canadian-driven design changes, [Pat] Finn [retired rear admiral heading the procurement section of National Defence] said every bidder could be seen as offering “paper ships.” The navy, he said, needs a modern ship that has the flexibility to be updated, and whether that ship is already in the water is a lesser consideration.

    “We want to make sure the design is mature,” he said…’

    More on Type 26:

    “No timetable” yet for planned eight RN ships:

    The design is one of three competitors for the new Australian frigate:

    “New Aussie Frigates: Three Designs Shortlisted (cf. RCN CSCs)”

    Recently on Australia working with BAE (and other contenders):

    Mark Collins

  2. More on “Oopsie!” at first comment, missile defence mentioned (last para at quote):

    ‘Public works clarifies gag order as experts warn of chill in warship debate
    Officials say restriction on communication meant to insure bidding not influenced by ‘other information’

    The Public Works Department has attempted to smooth the waters with the defence industry and issued a clarification on its demand that bidders, vying to design the navy’s new warships, refrain from talking about the program in public and attacking each other in the media.

    The Liberal government faced a backlash last week from contractors and business publications over the requirement, which officials insist was meant to ensure an orderly bidding process…

    Normally cut-throat contenders, their subcontractors and employees are not allowed to make “any public comment, respond to questions in a public forum or carry out any activities to either criticize another bidder or any bid — or publicly advertise their qualifications,” according to the leaked draft, dated Oct. 9, 2016.

    The behind-the-scenes response was swift and prompted public works officials to issue a clarification late Friday that the industry is “free to communicate as it sees fit.”

    Debate chill

    Danny Lam, an analyst in environmental engineering and defence issues, says regardless of the government’s “backtracking” the restriction imposes a far-reaching chill over one of the most important military projects in a generation…

    “The chilling effect of this clause effectively means there will be no informed debate in Canada especially on the Canadian specific issues,” said Lam, who cited the politically-sensitive issue of whether the new warships should come equipped with ballistic missile defence against rogue nations such as North Korea…

    I wrote earlier:

    “…perhaps some of the RCN’s planned Canadian Surface Combatants could be given an ABM capability, at least radar tracking if not actual missile firing–NORAD would surely welcome that…”

    Mark Collins

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