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June 3, 2019 | Local, Aerospace

Comment le F-35 est réapparu sur le radar d’Ottawa

Marc Godbout

Justin Trudeau s'était engagé à ne pas acheter le F-35, l'avion de chasse de Lockheed Martin. Pourtant, de récentes manoeuvres rendent de plus en plus probable l'acquisition de l'appareil américain. Une réelle compétition aura-t-elle vraiment lieu pour remplacer les vieux chasseurs des Forces armées canadiennes?

Les jeux de coulisse se sont intensifiés toute la semaine à Ottawa. L'enjeu est énorme : un contrat de 19 milliards de dollars pour 88 avions de combat canadiens.

En toile de fond, le salon canadien des équipements militaires. Non seulement les lobbyistes sont plus actifs que jamais, mais leurs clients ont mis le paquet pour séduire et chercher à influencer le futur acheteur.

Airbus et SAAB ont même fait venir d'Europe, par navire, des répliques de leurs avions de chasse respectifs. Mais au-delà des apparences, l'inquiétude s'est installée.

Après le F-35, le F-35

Après des années d'attente, de dérapages et d'interminables débats, un appel d'offres du gouvernement fédéral doit finalement être lancé d'ici la mi-juillet.

Il le sera juste avant la campagne électorale, près de quatre ans après l'élection des libéraux qui avaient promis d'amorcer le processus immédiatement en arrivant au pouvoir.

Résultat? Le choix du gagnant ne sera annoncé qu'en 2022, et les premiers avions, livrés en 2025, au plus tôt.

Les concurrents potentiels pour la construction des avions de chasse canadiens :

  • Boeing (Super Hornet)
  • Airbus (Typhoon)
  • Saab (Gripen)
  • Lockheed Martin (F-35)

Quatre joueurs souhaiteraient être de la course. Mais le seront-ils tous? Le portrait pourrait très bien changer.

Les pressions exercées par Washington sur Ottawa y sont pour beaucoup. L'administration Trump a obtenu des assouplissements au processus d'évaluation des retombées économiques au Canada pour s'assurer que le F-35 soit de la course.

La politique canadienne d'approvisionnement militaire exige depuis très longtemps que les entreprises dépensent au pays l'équivalent de la valeur d'un contrat afin de renforcer l'industrie canadienne.

Or, le programme du F-35, dont le Canada est l'un des neuf pays partenaires, est structuré autrement. Les entreprises canadiennes ont le droit de soumissionner pour des contrats mondiaux liés à la chaîne d'approvisionnement. Les pays partenaires ne peuvent, par contre, exiger des avantages économiques comme condition préalable à l'achat de l'appareil.

Voilà que la récente révision obtenue par Washington permet à Lockheed Martin et son avion de ne pas être écartés de la compétition quoiqu'ils seraient pénalisés s'ils choisissent un système différent.

On est donc bien loin de la promesse électorale de 2015 de Justin Trudeau, qui s'engageait à ne pas acheter l'avion de Lockheed Martin. Les libéraux ont tout fait pour se distancer du F-35 dans la foulée du fiasco qui collait à la peau des conservateurs. Mais la réalité a fini par rattraper le gouvernement Trudeau.

« Sélectionner un appareil autre que le F-35 pourrait créer des tensions avec les Américains », soutient Justin Massie, professeur de science politique à l'UQAM. « Le F-35 est important pour l'administration Trump, qui veut développer davantage l'industrie militaire américaine. »

Ce revirement a eu l'effet d'une douche froide chez les concurrents. « Il ne serait pas étonnant de voir des joueurs se retirer dès le départ ou en cours de route. Ils sont furieux », a confié à Radio-Canada une source très proche du dossier.

Tant l'américaine Boeing que l'européenne Airbus et la suédoise Saab disent maintenant attendre « l'ensemble des exigences » de l'appel d'offres avant d'annoncer leurs intentions finales.

« Nous sommes sur nos gardes [....] et de plus en plus incertains de vouloir nous lancer », a même indiqué un dirigeant de l'une de ces compagnies, sous le couvert de l'anonymat.

Retour vers le futur

Le temps est-il en train de jouer en faveur du F-35? Possiblement.

« Le volume de production du F-35 entraîne la diminution du coût à l'unité qui est inférieur à celui de ses concurrents qui sont moins avancés sur le plan technologique », expliquait récemment Richard Shimooka dans un rapport de l'Institut Macdonald-Laurier.

Alors que le coût par avion dépassait les 200 millions de dollars américains au début de la production en 2007, il devrait passer sous la barre des 80 millions d'ici 2020, selon le Pentagone.

Plus de 390 appareils ont été livrés dans le monde. Et pas plus tard que cette semaine, le président américain annonçait la vente de 105 avions supplémentaires à l'issue d'un sommet avec le premier ministre japonais.

Les pays qui ont choisi le F-35 :

  • États-Unis
  • Royaume-Uni
  • Italie
  • Pays-Bas
  • Norvège
  • Danemark
  • Belgique
  • Turquie
  • Japon
  • Australie
  • Israël
  • Corée du Sud

Il s'est déjà écoulé neuf ans depuis l'annonce par le gouvernement Harper de l'achat de 65 avions F-35.

« La modernisation de nos vieux F-18 a coûté beaucoup d'argent. Et l'acquisition de chasseurs intérimaires australiens a coûté au bas mot un milliard de dollars de plus aux contribuables canadiens », déplore Justin Massie.

Neuf ans plus tard, le Canada a commencé à recevoir ses premiers F-18 australiens usagés, toujours dans l'attente d'une solution permanente.

Il est quand même plutôt ironique de constater que l'Australie voulait s'en débarrasser pour recevoir ses premiers F-35 tout neufs.

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1173077/canada-avions-chasse-f-35-achat-armee

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  • Analysis: With Canadians tuned out on defence, political parties can safely ignore the topic at election time

    October 8, 2019 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

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But that's a repeat from the 2015 election campaign and many defence analysts point out that the Liberals didn't really deliver on that in their first mandate. There was the Canadian Forces mission to Mali, finished after only a year, and the assignment of a transport aircraft for UN use. But little else. The Liberals have a new promise to use the Canadian military's expertise for climate-related disasters, but again there are few details. They've also resurrected another of their 2015 election promises, which was to reform the defence procurement system. Little was done over the past several years to improve the system to purchase billions of dollars of military equipment. This time around the Liberals are promising to create a Defence Procurement Agency but it is unclear how that would be set up. The Green party has promised stable funding for military equipment and training, deployment of military personnel to deal with climate change disasters and pollution in the Arctic, to sign a treaty to abolish nuclear weapons and to cancel a deal with Saudi Arabia for light armoured vehicles. The NDP stated they would hold a fair competition for new fighter jets, keep shipbuilding procurement on time, stop the privatization of services at military bases and put more focus on peacekeeping. While defence and security issues are important, and can be costly to taxpayers, they don't seem to appear at the forefront of voter concerns. Most of the time they don't even register. Despite the thousands of words written and spoken by politicians and defence analysts about aging fighter jets, Canadians aren't marching in the streets to demand replacements for the RCAF's CF-18s. Scheer's promise to spend $1.5 billion to buy new medical imaging equipment for hospitals across Canada is more directly relevant to the average Canadian – who likely knows someone who has had to wait months for a MRI – than his promise to have Canada join the U.S. missile defence shield. The lack of interest by Canadians on defence matters has not been lost on politicians in power, particularly when they need to cut spending. By realizing that defence issues concerned only a small portion of the electorate, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper – who counted himself as a politician firmly behind the Canadian Forces – was able to chop the military's budget. At the heart of that issue is the lack of connection to and knowledge of the Canadian military by most Canadians. That was illustrated by a July 2018 report commissioned by the Department of National Defence which concluded that, “Awareness of and familiarity with the [Canadian Forces] was generally very low; virtually non-existent among those in the younger age group.” Only 26 per cent of those surveyed had some awareness of what the Canadian Forces had been doing over a year-and-a-half period. They couldn't even name what types of missions the military did at home, despite the high profile responses by the Canadian Forces to natural disasters such as floods and forest fires. Participants in the study were even surprised the learn the Canadian Forces operated in the Arctic. It's a situation that doesn't bode well for the future of the Canadian military. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/with-canadians-tuned-out-on-defence-political-parties-can-safely-ignore-the-topic-at-election-time

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