Back to news

June 11, 2019 | Local, Aerospace, Security

Bidding criteria for Canada's $19B fighter jet competition will emphasize strategic attack and ground-strike capabilities — seeming to favour the F-35

David Pugliese

The criteria that will govern the selection of the winning bid to provide Canada's next fleet of fighter jets will prioritize strategic attack and foreign ground-strike capabilities, according to government documents obtained by Postmedia — guidelines that are seen to favour Lockheed Martin's controversial F-35.

In 2010 the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper selected the F-35 to replace the Canadian Forces' aging CF-18s, but later abandoned the plan after concerns about the technology used for the plane and its growing cost. During the 2015 election campaign Justin Trudeau promised that a Liberal government would not purchase the F-35, at the same time vowing to hold an open competition for the purchase of the country's new jet. Once in office, however, the Liberals backed away from their promise to freeze out the F-35 and the aircraft is now seen as a front-runner in the upcoming competition, with many supporters in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Though the Liberal government has highlighted the need to buy new jets to protect Canadian airspace and meet the country's commitments to NORAD, the procurement criteria obtained by Postmedia, currently in draft form, indicate the bidding process will assign additional weight to aircraft that excel at ground attack for overseas operations.

Those criteria are seen to favour Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth jet, say industry representatives allied with Lockheed's rivals in the upcoming $19-billion competition. The evaluation criteria also place less emphasis on sustainability — something else that may play to the advantage of the F-35, which has been dogged by high maintenance bills.

But Pat Finn, the Department of National Defence's procurement chief, says there is such a wide variety of requirements to meet in the competition that while some aircraft might be seen to do well in some areas, they may not excel in others. “Somebody may be better in a high-end scenario but they're worst for cost,” Finn explained. “That's why we say it's the whole piece” that will be considered in the competition.

At this point four aircraft are expected to be considered: two U.S.-built aircraft, the F-35, and the Super Hornet, and two European planes, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Gripen.

Finn said bidding companies must meet mandatory requirements when it comes to long-term sustainment of the planes.

But industry representatives, both from Lockheed Martin rivals and those not directly involved in the competition, point out that beyond the mandatory requirements there is little emphasis on the important area of long-term maintenance and sutainability. So a company with an aircraft that costs relatively little to maintain won't get that recognition in the competition, they claimed.

Finn said discussions are still ongoing with various companies and their feedback is being assessed. The request for proposals, which will outlined the final requirements for the aircraft, is expected to be released around mid-July, he added.

Royal Canadian Air force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger said key capabilities for a new plane are survivability and having an operational advantage. “We are very confident we are actually meeting the requirements of NATO and NORAD,” he said, pointing to the requirements for the new aircraft. “Both of those missions are well represented.”

Canada already changed some of the industrial benefits criteria of the competition in May to satisfy concerns from the U.S. government that the F-35 would be penalized or couldn't be considered because of how that program was set up.

U.S. officials had warned that the F-35 development agreement Canada signed years ago prohibits partner nations from imposing requirements for industrial benefits. Under the F-35 agreement, partner nations such as Canada are prohibited from demanding domestic companies receive contracts for work on the fighter jet, those companies instead having to compete for work. Over the last 12 years, Canadian firms have earned more than $1.3 billion in contracts to build F-35 parts.

The changes made in May would now allow some of those F-35 contracts to be considered when weighing the industrial benefits offered by the planes.

The winning bidder will build 88 jets for Canada, and the first delivery is expected in the mid-2020s with the full capability available in the early 2030s, according to documents produced by the Department of National Defence.

On the same subject

  • Feds going ahead with plan to buy used jets, says Defence minister

    December 18, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    Feds going ahead with plan to buy used jets, says Defence minister

    By Charlie Pinkerton Nothing will make the government reconsider its controversial plan to buy 25 second-hand, 30-year-old fighter jets as a temporary stopgap for its fleet, says Canada's minister of National Defence. “For us, (cancelling the purchase is) not even in the picture at all, because it would be absolutely irresponsible if we don't try to fill this capability gap,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told iPolitics in an interview. “We have to invest.” When they came to power, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals deferred a plan to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets, deciding instead to buy a much smaller number in the interim. They first sought to purchase 18 new Super Hornet jets built by American manufacturer Boeing, before canning that plan about a year ago as trade tensions between the countries boiled over. An announcement followed that Canada was buying 18 used F-18s from Australia to supplement its existing CF-18 fleet, which dates from the early 1980s, and was due for replacement after about 20 years. Over the summer, the government announced it would buy seven jets from Australia for parts. The Liberals had set aside $500 million for this purchase, but the final cost is still unclear. Since the announcement to purchase Australia's old planes, Sajjan has faced harsh criticism from opposition members who call the plan unacceptable, especially after a damning report from the auditor general of Canada less than a month ago. Yet when asked if the purchase could be stopped, Sajjan replied, “Why would you want to stop it?” One answer to that — cherrypicked from the auditor general's report — is that under the current plan, Canada will not meet its commitment to NORAD and NATO, which government officials, including Sajjan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have cited as a major reason for the government's decision to buy the planes. The auditor general also casts doubt on the viability of the government's interim fleet because of a shortage of technicians and pilots capable of maintaining and flying the jets. “National Defence expects to spend almost $3 billion, over and above existing budgets, without a plan to deal with its biggest obstacles to meeting the new operational requirement,” says the report. “We know it's going to take time,” Sajjan said, “but at least we're investing in the problem so we can finally get rid of it.” National Defence doubled down on its current plan following the auditor general's report, saying it's seeking approval of “a number” of upgrades to keep Canada's CF-18 fleet in the air until 2032. It also says it will increase the number of technicians and pilots in the fighter force, even though it identified the shortage as far back as 2016. The first jets to replace the existing CF-18s, and those the government is buying from Australia, will arrive in 2025. A yet-to-be-chosen future fleet of 88 fighter aircraft are supposed to be fully operational by 2031, and last until the year 2060.

  • Forensic Thanatology: A brain gain for Quebec

    October 26, 2018 | Local, Security

    Forensic Thanatology: A brain gain for Quebec

    Top forensic scientist unveiled as Canada 150 Research Chair at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières October 26, 2018 – Trois-Rivières, Quebec Canada is the destination of choice for some of the world's leading scientists and scholars. If we want to build a country that is bold and innovative, we must rely on the breakthroughs of Canadian scientists and their counterparts around the world. Today, at an unveiling ceremony at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, on behalf of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, celebrated Dr. Shari Louise Forbes, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Forensic Thanatology. Dr. Forbes, who comes from the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research, is investigating post-mortem changes in the body to find out how Canada's unique environment affects decomposition rates. Her forensic research will enhance the recovery, identification and repatriation of human remains in cases of missing persons, homicide, mass disasters and war crime. Dr. Forbes is among the 25 newly recruited Canada 150 Research Chairs announced by Minister Duncan earlier this year. Of the 25 chairs, 60% are women and 40% are Canadian researchers choosing to return to Canada to carry out their ambitious research programs. The chairs will have the opportunity to recruit students from Canada and beyond who will help them further their work in disciplines such as chemistry, microbiology, evolutionary genomics and psychology. The Government of Canada has made science a priority, investing $4 billion in basic science through Budget 2018 that will further our capacity to innovate and lead to the jobs of the future. Quotes “Canada supports science and our scientists who work so hard to make Canada a leader in research and innovation. Dr. Forbes' work will further enhance Quebec's reputation on the world stage as a leader in specialized forensic research to help police officials identify the remains of loved ones that died from criminal intent or mass disasters.” – The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities “It is a privilege to celebrate our new Canada 150 Research Chairs, whose contributions to research will help support a stronger economy and a growing middle class. Their arrival also represents a brain gain for our country, a country that is earning its reputation for being open, diverse and welcoming to the scientists and strivers of the world.” – The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport “We believe Canada is truly one of the best places in the world to conduct innovative, cutting-edge research that can harness the power of human ingenuity and creativity to advance our collective goals. Our Canada 150 chairholders are evidence of Canada's success in attracting top international talent, and we are proud that they have chosen Canada as the best place to pursue their groundbreaking research and to mentor and train graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who will become the next generation of leaders in all areas of our society and economy.” –Ted Hewitt, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada “We are very proud to have obtained this prestigious Canada 150 Research Chair. Only 25 chairs of this type have been awarded in Canada, 4 of which are in Quebec, to mark the country's 150th anniversary. We are also thrilled that internationally renowned Dr. Shari Forbes chose to continue her work at UQTR. Our university will therefore continue to build on its reputation in forensics, while establishing new partnerships here and abroad. In addition to training the next generation of forensic scientists, the Chair's team will undoubtedly contribute to the success of police investigations.” – Daniel McMahon, Rector, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Quick facts In Budget 2017, the Government of Canada invested $117.6 million to launch the Canada 150 Research Chairs competition, a one-time funding program designed to boost Canada's brain gain. Funds supporting the Canada 150 Research Chairs come from the three granting agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The chairs are created for seven-year terms and receive either $350,000 per year or $1 million per year depending on their research. The Canada Foundation for Innovation is providing additional investments of over $830,000 to support the Canada 150 Research Chairs. The investment in the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program is aligned with the government's overall support for science, which includes more than $4 billion in funding for basic science. Associated links Canada 150 Research Chairs Program Canada 150 Research Chairholders Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Contacts Follow the Canada 150 Research Chairs on Twitter: @CRC_CRC Nyree St-Denis Communications Advisor Office of the Minister of Science and Sport 343-291-4051 Media Relations Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada 343-291-1777 Ann-Clara Vaillancourt Press Secretary Office of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities 613-697-3778

  • Analysis: New defence chief's main job could be to preside over budget cuts

    September 14, 2020 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Analysis: New defence chief's main job could be to preside over budget cuts

    Premium content David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, Postmedia News ( Published: Sep 11 at 7 a.m. Updated: Sep 11 at 2:01 p.m. Candidates have been interviewed for the country's top military position but whoever is selected will likely have the tough job of presiding over significant cuts to the Canadian Forces as the federal government tries to get its fiscal house in order. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced July 23 that Gen. Jonathan Vance would leave the position as chief of the defence staff, the job he has held since July 2015. Trudeau said he expected a new CDS to be named in the coming months. Defence and government sources say interviews for the position were held this week with a number of candidates. Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross, who is heading into retirement, is considered the front-runner for the job if she wants it. Whitecross still has an office at defence headquarters at Carling Avenue and there is an interest in the Liberal government to have a woman in the job of defence chief for the first time. The view that Whitecross has strong support within the Liberal government was further solidified when Trudeau took the unusual step on July 18 of singling out the lieutenant general on Twitter. He thanked the officer for her three decades of service in the Canadian Forces and for “being a strong voice for gender equality in the military.” Among the other individuals considered to be candidates for the chief of defence staff job are Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, who recently took over as second-in-command of the Canadian Forces, navy commander Vice Adm. Art McDonald, air force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger and army commander Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre. Vice-Admiral Darren Hawco's name has also been mentioned. At least eight individuals were to be interviewed, according to various government sources. But the new CDS is expected to face the challenge of dealing with significant budget cuts because of the financial strain on federal coffers created by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Spending on various emergency relief programs has resulted in Canada's deficit increasing to $343 billion this year, according to the federal government's economic snapshot released in early July. Trudeau has acknowledged that the full economic impact of the pandemic is unknown. A second COVID-19 wave could further worsen the economic situation. Department of National Defence deputy minister Jody Thomas said in a June 5 interview with The Canadian Press that she hasn't seen any indication defence spending, and the government's defence policy called Strong, Secure, Engaged, or SSE, will even be affected at all by COVID-19. There have been no slowdowns and the DND and Canadian Forces has been aggressively pushing forward on implementing SSE, according to Thomas. Behind the scenes, however, there is significant concern within some quarters in the military about the cuts expected in the coming years. Some organizations within National Defence headquarters have already told staff to prepare for a rocky road in the future. The Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence, with the largest source of discretionary funds in the federal government, is a ripe target for cost-cutting. DND's current budget is listed as $21.9 billion. SSE has been billed by the Liberal government and its supporters as “a historical investment in Canada's military” since it promises $497 billion for the Canadian Armed Forces over 20 years. But the policy was always built on shaky foundations, as was the previous Canada First Defence Strategy brought in by the Conservative government and largely undercut by funding reductions at that time. Despite defence analysts' cheerleading on both policies, the fact is that such strategies only promise future spending. There is no guarantee and plans can be jettisoned as fiscal circumstances change. In 1994 the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien embarked on significant cost-cutting measures throughout the federal government as it struggled to deal with the deficit. The Canadian Forces and the DND were a prime target during that period. Equipment was mothballed. Military and civilian staff were cut. The coming years could see a replay of similar cost-reduction measures. Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

All news