Tag Archives: F-35

Mark Collins – Now Likely? Canada to Sole-Source Some Super Hornets for RCAF After All?

Further to this post, keep your eyes open during my blogging break for a week beginning tomorrow, November 22–whole lot of anonymice being sources:

Cabinet could decide fighter jet plan as early as Tuesday [Nov. 22], industry sources say

Industry sources expect the Liberal government to decide as early as Tuesday whether to purchase a new fighter jet without a competition.

Federal cabinet ministers are reportedly considering three options for replacing Canada’s CF-18s, one of which they are expected to pick during their weekly closed-door meeting on Parliament Hill.

The options include holding a competition, buying a new warplane without a competition, or purchasing an “interim” aircraft as a stop-gap measure until a future competition.

The government was eyeing the third option in the spring, with the intention of buying Boeing Super Hornets, until an outcry from industry and the opposition forced them back to the drawing board.

But while Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan held consultations with different industry players in the summer, industry sources say the interim option is back as the preferred choice [i.e. a limited number of Super Hornets–perhaps some of the Growler persuasion (good expeditionarily)?].

Sajjan’s office refused to comment on Monday, with a spokeswoman saying only that a decision still has not been made…

Sajjan would only say that the government had done “a considerable amount of work” on the file.

“We will make a decision on replacing the fighters and will pick a process that will meet the needs of Canada.”..

Perish the thought that the Liberal Party’s political needs might be another consideration.

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


Mark Collins – Canada to Sole-Source Some Super Hornets for RCAF After All?

Further to these posts,

Cabinet Committee to Take Sting out of Sole-Sourcing RCAF Super Hornets? CF-18 Life Extension? [June]

New RCAF Fighter: Consult, Consult, Consult (with industry)–Why Not Just Compete? [July]

here we go again, perhaps–things are getting embarrassingly ridiculous as the government twists desperately to distance itself from the F-35, at least for now:

Liberals again considering sole source purchase of Super Hornet fighter jets to replace CF-18s

A Liberal government proposal to buy Super Hornet fighter jets as a replacement for the air force’s aging CF-18s is back on the table.

But whether it will move ahead is still unclear.

In June [see link at start of post] the government proposed the purchase of Boeing Super Hornets as an interim measure, but that option disappeared as it faced intense criticism from the aerospace industry and opposition MPs.

Aerospace industry officials say they believed the Liberals were moving towards an open competition for a fighter replacement. But the option to buy the Super Hornets on a sole source basis and forgo a competition until around 2030 has again resurfaced [that would be impossibly late with CF-18s supposed to go out of service around 2025], industry sources now say.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, with advice from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, has been pushing the option, despite opposition from some leaders in the Royal Canadian Air Force, sources add.

Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Sajjan, said Thursday [Nov. 17] that no decision has been taken yet on replacing the CF-18s…

The acquisition of an interim fleet of 20 Super Hornets would push off the need to acquire a new fleet of fighter jets for more than a decade [actually just a decade or less if that 2025 date for retiring CF-18s holds–and a decision on the further new fighter would have to be made well before that to get the jets into service in time]…

Oh dear. Relevant:

New RCAF Fighter: Debate on F-35 vs Rest, esp. Super Hornet

RCAF and F-35: New Fighter Requirements, NORAD and Overseas

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

Mark Collins – RCAF and F-35: New Fighter Requirements, NORAD and Overseas

A Canadian Global Affairs Institute tweet of a pro-F-35 piece:

But see from 2014:

F-35 and Canada: Good for “Discretionary” Missions, But…

…its “capabilities…are not a good fit for Canada’s non-discretionary missions.” So writes (near end of link) a recently retired RCAF major-general…

Recent and very relevant, note further links:

F-35 JPO PEO Goes to Ottawa

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

Mark Collins – F-35 JPO PEO Goes to Ottawa

Lt. Gen. Bogdan pays us a visit:

U.S. pitches F-35 jet to Ottawa as Liberals aim to replace fleet

The U.S. Air Force made a last-minute pitch [the general actually represents the whole Pentagon] to the federal government in favour of the Lockheed-Martin F-35, hoping to reassure officials about the long-term viability of the stealth fighter jet that the Liberals promised not to buy in the past election, sources said.

A top American officer who leads the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, based in Virginia, travelled to Ottawa on Oct. 14 to meet with Canadian officials who are working on the purchase of Canada’s next fleet of fighter jets. Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan discussed the ongoing development of the state-of-the-art fighter jet, which has clients around the world but is still facing a series of technological problems, officials said.

The visit from Lt.-Gen. Bogdan came at a crucial time, as a small team of Liberal ministers are set to choose one of three options to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s: launch a full and open competition [see “New RCAF Fighter: Consult, Consult, Consult (with industry)–Why Not Just Compete?”]; buy a small number of fighter jets for an interim fleet [see “Cabinet Committee to Take Sting out of Sole-Sourcing RCAF Super Hornets? CF-18 Life Extension?“]; or purchase an entire fleet of jets through a sole-sourced acquisition [don’t think I’ve seen this possibility made explicit before].

Defence-industry officials expect the cabinet committee on defence procurement to meet on this matter next week. Federal officials declined to comment on the timing of the coming meeting, but said the government does not plan to let the complex file drag on.

There are widespread concerns in the Liberal government about the short-term risks associated with the acquisition of the F-35, which is still in development.

In September, 15 F-35s were grounded over the discovery of faulty insulation in avionics cooling lines in the aircraft’s wings, an issue that should be be fixed by the end of the year [see “Grounded F-35As Expected to Fly Again Soon“].

On a broader level, some Canadian officials were preoccupied by a recent report that raised a number of questions about the ability of the F-35 to achieve its promised capabilities.

Leaked to Bloomberg News over the summer, the report [in fact an  internal Pentagon memo] from the U.S. government’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation warned that the F-35 program was “not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” full capabilities by the scheduled end of its development in 2018 [more here, here and here (Norwegian pilot)].

Lt.-Gen. Bogdan was in Ottawa earlier this month specifically to discuss the Canadian government’s plans to buy new fighter jets.

“The general provided an update on the status of the program and answered questions to help ensure officials had as complete information as possible on the F-35 program, as the Government of Canada considers all of its options to replace their legacy CF-18 fighter fleet,” said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for Lt.-Gen. Bogdan.

Mr. DellaVedova would not give details of what was discussed at the meeting, but provided a statement by Lt.-Gen. Bogdan to dissipate concerns over the report from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation…


New Canadian Fighter: F-35 vs Super Hornet–Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Hit the Fan

New RCAF Fighter: Debate on F-35 vs Rest, esp. Super Hornet

RCAF CF-18 Life Extension: Will Canadian Government Actually Act?

Avions F-35: une manne de 1 milliard au Canada

Sic Itur Ad...?


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

Mark Collins – RCAF CF-18 Life Extension: Will Canadian Government Actually Act?

Further to this 2014 story,

Canada [Conservative government] to funnel money into upgrades to keep CF-18 fighter jets flying 

and to this April post,

RCAF: Decisions Needed on Extending CF-18 Hornets’ Service to 2025

will a blinking decision finally be made?

Canadian military to ask Ottawa to approve up to $500 million in spending for CF-18 upgrades

The Canadian military is hoping to ask the government early next year for approval to spend up to $500 million to modernize its CF-18 fighter jets.

The upgrade would keep the planes flying until 2025, giving the government some breathing room to organize the purchase of replacements and make sure they are delivered before the older jets are taken out of service.
Work has already started to ensure the CF-18s are structurally sound.

Now, the military is analyzing improvement options for communications equipment to deal with changes in civil aviation regulations. There could be other upgrades to weapons and how the CF-18s communicate and operate with Allied fighter jets.

“This project is expected to go for potential government submission early in 2017,” said Ashley Lemire, Department of National Defence spokeswoman.

The options focus “on what is required from a regulatory and interoperability perspective.”

The DND estimates the cost of the modernization at between $250 million and $499 million, depending on the options chosen and what the government accepts, say defence sources.

Military officers say the upgrades will have to be done by 2021 to make financial sense — new fighter jets are expected by 2025. That means decisions on the upgrades must be made and contracts placed by 2018.

Since 2002, Canada has spent $2.6 billion modernizing the CF-18s [more here]. The planes were bought in 1982…

Industry sources say they believe some senior Liberals still hope to revive the Super Hornet sole-source purchase in the near future [see “Cabinet Committee to Take Sting out of Sole-Sourcing RCAF Super Hornets? CF-18 Life Extension?“–that “capability gap” is mentioned at the latter part of the post].

Sajjan has said the Canadian military is facing a “capability gap” since the CF-18 fleet can’t handle the country’s commitments to NATO and the North American Aerospace Defence Command’s needs to protect the continent.

“Between our NORAD and NATO commitments and how many jets are serviceable at one time, we cannot meet both those requirements simultaneously,” he said in July…

As for actually acquiring a new plane…

New RCAF Fighter: Consult, Consult, Consult (with industry)–Why Not Just Compete?

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

Mark Collins – “The Fourth Dimension: The F-35 Program, [Canadian] Defence Procurement, and the Conservative Government, 2006–2015”

Have a look at Vimy Paper 33 by Richard Shimooka (a long-time supporter of the Joint Strike Fighter), at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute; lots of–unattributed–inside stuff, especially interesting is the botched 2014 effort to acquire four USAF F-35As for the RCAF (p. 34 PDF, more here on that from a government that made a policy of being economical with the truth).

More F-35 posts.

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

Mark Collins – Yes, Virginia, There is a Canadian “Cabinet Committee on Defence Procurement”

Further to this excerpt from an earlier post,

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.]..

we have a (modified) tweet today:

The membership is at p. 11 PDF here–foreign affairs minister Dion has been added, presumably to provide a second Quebec member (transport minister Garneau is the other) as he has no other discernible qualifications for inclusion. Good luck to them on the pressing matter of how to go forward in choosing the RCAF’s new fighter.

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

Mark Collins – War Between the Dragon and the Eagle: USN Carriers up to It?

Further to this post (note “Comments”),

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

the carriers’ future capabilities are questioned (both the people quoted are retired naval officers):

The US Navy Is Now Facing Its Greatest Fear: Obsolete Aircraft Carriers?

If the United States Navy is either unwilling or unable to conceptualize a carrier air wing that can fight on the first day of a high-end conflict, then the question becomes: Why should the American taxpayer shell out $13 billion for a Ford-class carrier?

That’s the potent question being raised by naval analysts in Washington—noting that there are many options that the Navy could pursue including a stealthy new long-range, carrier-based unmanned combat aircraft or a much heavier investment in submarines [emphasis added]. However, the current short-range Boeing F/A-18 Hornet-based air wing is not likely to be sufficient in the 2030s even with the addition of the longer ranged Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.

“If these carriers can’t do that first day lethal strike mission inside an A2/AD bubble, why are we paying $13 billion dollars for them?” asks Jerry Hendrix [see here], director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security [see here], during an interview with The National Interest. “There are people making that statement: ‘it’s not our job on day one’—they can say there are all these other missions—presence and show-the-flag—but if that’s where they fit, their price ought to be scaled to that.”

To justify the expense of the carrier, and to keep them relevant, the U.S. Navy needs to revamp the composition of the carrier air wing so that it can participate in countering anti-access/area denial bubbles on the first day of combat, Hendrix said. The Navy must develop a new, long-range, unmanned strike aircraft that can counter those emerging threats, “Otherwise, what’s the point?” Hendrix asked. “If you’re not willing to make the shift in investment to have an asset that can do long-range strike from the carrier, perhaps we need to look at investing elsewhere [see “New US Navy Drones: UCLASS to be Tankers Not Recon/Strike?“].”

Bryan McGrath [see here], managing director of the naval consultancy FerryBridge Group, agreed with Hendrix. “The case for the carrier will suffer if the Navy drags its feet on what comes next in the air wing,” he told The National Interest—also advocating for the development of a new carrier-based long-range unmanned strike aircraft. “Always remember—the carrier doesn’t care what it launches and recovers. It is just a floating airport. The air wing is the key. Get the air wing wrong—or continue to—and yes, the CVN investment makes less sense.”

While many within senior Navy leadership know and understand the problem—the protracted and expensive development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 has left the Navy gun-shy. “The plain truth is that the F-35 acquisition has negatively reinforced learned behavior in naval aviation acquisition. There is real fear in what you hear acquisition officials saying in why they want to slow-roll UCLASS into a tanker/ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platform rather than a rangy, semi-stealthy, striker,” McGrath said. “Of course the tanking and the ISR are important… But they are additive to what is already in the Joint architecture. What the Joint architecture lacks is mobile, semi-stealthy, long-range strike. Utterly lacks it. But the technical challenges are judged to be more difficult than those associated with an ISR/Tanker bird, and there is no appetite or stomach—or any other appropriate noun—within the acquisition community to take on tough technical challenges.”

Not only has the F-35 experience scared the Navy away from developing an unmanned strike aircraft, it is also one of the major factors behind the sea service’s vision for a scaled-down F/A-XX that is little more than a ‘super’ Super Hornet. “They’ve been burned by F-35, and no one wants to get burned again. But this is exactly the wrong lesson to be taken from F-35,” McGrath said. “What should be taken from F-35 is how difficult it is to create a ‘one-size-fits all’ solution to a great variety of missions and conditions. We can, should, and must design and build a largely unmanned semi-stealthy long-range carrier strike aircraft purpose built for carrier aviation.”

However, if the Navy doesn’t embark on developing a long-range penetrating strike aircraft, at a bare minimum, the service needs a stealthy new air-launched cruise missile—ideally with supersonic terminal speeds—with a range of more than 500 nautical miles. That missile would have to fit onto pylons underneath either the Super Hornet or the F-35C—which would carry the weapon the first 600 or so miles before releasing it…

Yet another alternative is to stop building aircraft carriers and focus on building additional submarines—which are extremely stealthy and operate with all but impunity, Hendrix said. The Navy could buy two Ohio Replacement Program (ORP) ballistic missile submarines or four Virginia-class attack submarines for the price of a single Ford-class. That would address the Navy’s pressing need to replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile boomers and start to address the  attack submarine shortfall much more quickly and without breaking the bank. Moreover, given the that future attack submarines will add the Virginia Payload Module, which would allow the vessels to carry 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles, those vessels are expected to deliver an enormous punch…

So maybe subs the way to go.

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

Mark Collins – New RCAF Fighter: Debate on F-35 vs Rest, esp. Super Hornet

Further to this post and “Comments”,

New RCAF Fighter: Consult, Consult, Consult (with industry)–Why Not Just Compete?

the start of two interesting posts by two different people at Milnet.ca, at two sometimes heated topic threads (many service members post at the site):


I’m going to be blunt. The problem isnt that this is an echo chamber…. that would be such a trivial thing if it was. Rather the problem is that the viewpoints expressed by several members here, are not more widely known in the public. the problem is that we have an electorate that frankly do not have the slightest understanding of this issue, and a political class that understands almost as little.

And this is the incisive part. You claim there is another side. I know for a fact that the arguments you put forward here are for the most part wrong. The vast vast vast majority of the reason why we’re here today is not because the F-35 is deficient in capability, cost, or industrial benefits. Actually, for not a single one of those categories can any of the other options claim they are better than the F-35. That was known clearly as far back as 2010, and despite every effort to prove otherwise, it remains true today. And that’s widely known within the bureaucracy, and now within the government.

Rather the reason why we’re here is because on a constant basis we have had two political parties, who despite in possession of the facts of the program, fail to possess political will, or understanding of this issue to actually get things done…


I am not going to jump into this F-35 vs the rest debate.

However, surely we can all agree on one thing: All five aircraft on offer would provide the RCAF with an upgrade on its current fighter force. We can at least take solace in the fact that no matter what aircraft is chosen, it will be an upgrade.

There are other issues which I am more interesting in hearing answers to, but they tend to get lost amongst the noise of “F-35 is awesome because…..” and “F-35 sucks because….” ad nauseum.

1. Purchase cost is a small part of the overall price tag – what about operating costs? Surely that is a far more important figure in the big picture.

2. AAR [air-to-air refueling] – What would the cost be to get new tankers to support the new fighter if the new fighter requires a different system than our current mix of Airbus/Herc? Surely that calculation must be added into the mix? They are not unrelated [see also: “New RCAF Tanker Aircraft Depends on New Fighter Type Selection (when?)“].

3. Are our northern FOLs [forward operating locations–scroll down here to “Royal Canadian Air Force”] compatible with the new fighters? What is the cost to upgrade these sites, including runway extensions if required? Again, that is not an unrelated cost – it must be factored into the decision.

4. What industrial offsets will the five companies offer? LM has been very vocal about the ‘potential’ economic benefits of buying their offering, but as far as I know they are not guaranteeing any industrial offsets – only the opportunity to bid for contracts. (and I am certain someone on here will swiftly correct me if this is incorrect) The other four would no doubt have to offer guaranteed industrial offsets to counter the greater potential value of the LM programme. It will be interesting to see what they offer, and what Canadian companies become involved…

Do jump into both threads.

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

Mark Collins – Canadian-Based Cyber Chispy Sentenced in US

Further to this post,

Cyber Espionage vs US Defence Industry: Chinese Resident of Canada Pleads Guilty

there is of course no connection to anyone official in Dragonland. Right. See what the Chicom media say (at end of quote):

Vancouver businessman sentenced to jail for stealing U.S. military data

A Chinese citizen living in Vancouver who admitted helping Chinese military officers hack into the computer networks of U.S. defence contractors to steal classified information has been sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Su Bin, a 51-year-old multimillionaire businessman working in aviation, was convicted of participating in a years-long conspiracy to steal military technical data, including schematics related to Boeing’s C-17 military transport plane as well as F-22s and F-35s.

According to a plea agreement released by U.S. prosecutors, Mr. Su admitted that he acted as a data scout to access sensitive military data on servers for U.S. defence contractors and sent relevant information to China. He said he was motivated by the prospect of “commercial advantage and private financial gain.”..

“Su Bin’s sentence is a just punishment for his admitted role in a conspiracy with hackers from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to illegally access and steal sensitive U.S. military information,” John Carlin, the assistant attorney-general for U.S. National Security, said in a statement.

The statement also details how Mr. Su, who ran his China-based company Lode-Tech from Vancouver, worked with military officers in China to steal information from U.S. defence contractors, highlighting which files to steal and why the information was important, often translating them before sending them to China.

The sentencing is the first time the U.S. Department of Justice has highlighted allegations that Mr. Su and two co-conspirators e-mailed reports addressed to the headquarters for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, previously reported by The Globe and Mail in February…

Charges against Mr. Su were first announced in 2014, leading to his arrest in Canada on a U.S. warrant. He ultimately waived extradition to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer and to violate the Arms Export Control Act. As part of his plea deal, he negotiated a maximum five-year prison sentence with prosecutors.

When Mr. Su went to the United States, Canadian immigration authorities withdrew a bid launched to revoke his permanent resident status. Government officials could not be reached for comment on whether he will be authorized to return to Canada at the conclusion of his U.S. prison term.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government denied claims that a Canadian man detained in China was charged with espionage as retribution for proceedings against Mr. Su. Kevin Garratt and his wife, Julia, were arrested near the North Korean border, where they ran a coffee shop and did humanitarian work, weeks after Mr. Su’s arrest in Vancouver. Ms. Garratt was released on bail in February, 2015, but has been barred from leaving the country or speaking to the media.

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied any involvement in hacking, but Mr. Su’s cyber-espionage efforts have been lauded by state-controlled media in China.

“On the secret battlefield without gunpowder, China needs special agents to gather secrets from the U.S. As for Su, be he recruited by the Chinese government or driven by economic benefits, we should give him credit for what he is doing for the country,” said a March editorial in the Global Times, a publication with significant ties to the ruling Communist Party…

Lots more at MILNEWS.ca:

Busted! “Owner of B.C. aerospace firm gets prison sentence for stealing information on F-35 fighter”“Vancouver businessman sentenced to jail for stealing US military data”“Chinese Military Spy Sentenced to 46 Months in the Clink”“US jails Chinese thief for stealing military data”“US: Chinese national jailed over military hacking” – “Chinese-Canadian businessman jailed for almost four years, after hacking US defence firms for PLA”..

Then there’s our government’s strong desire to, er, engage more closely with Beijing:

Canadian Government Getting Stealthy About Free Trade with China

Now keep the latest Chinese action in mind:

China Loses South China Sea Arbitration–Calls Decision “political farce”

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