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June 11, 2021 | Local, Naval

Government to commit to building first three warships despite budget concerns

Government to commit to building first three warships despite budget concerns

The first tranche of the controversial Canadian Surface Combatant project would see three vessels constructed at Irving Shipbuilding on the East Coast.

On the same subject

  • DND denies misjudging supply ship cost even though price tag jumped to $4.1 billion

    July 6, 2020 | Local, Naval

    DND denies misjudging supply ship cost even though price tag jumped to $4.1 billion

    DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN  Updated: July 2, 2020 The defence department denies it ever misjudged the cost of a project to buy new naval ships even though the price tag jumped from $2.3 billion to $4.1 billion in less than two years. And DND admits the cost to taxpayers for the vessels could rise even more in the coming years. The Liberal government acknowledged on June 15 that the cost of the project to buy two Joint Support Ships has increased to $4.1 billion. The vessels are needed by the Royal Canadian Navy as they would provide fuel, ammunition and other supplies to warships at sea. But the $4.1 billion price tag is just the latest in a series of steadily increasing cost figures. In June 2018, the government acknowledged the cost of the ship project had, at that time, jumped from $2.3 billion to $3.4 billion. But Seaspan, the Vancouver shipyard that is to build the vessels, provided a new set of numbers in October 2019 and by February 2020 government approval was received for a new budget of $4.1 billion, DND confirmed in an email to this newspaper. “As with any large-scale procurement project, all project values are best estimates that are based on the data and figures available at the time,” the email added. There has been no misjudging of costs on the JSS project, the department noted. In 2013, the Parliamentary Budget Officer questioned DND’s JSS cost estimates and warned that the project would require $4.13 billion. DND stated in its email to this newspaper that taxpayers can be assured they are getting value for money on JSS and that those working on the shipbuilding project in both the department and Public Services and Procurement Canada are top notch. “The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, along with our counterparts at PSPC, have a first-rate cadre of experienced, professional procurement officers, subject matter experts and financial administrators who take great pride in their work and in their accomplishments,” DND said in an email. “Our team has – and will continue to – ensure that Canadians get value from their investments in the Armed Forces.” But DND also acknowledged costs could continue to rise. “While the total project budget includes contingency funding for these types of reasons, some events may happen unexpectedly and thus excel what the contingency funding allowed for,” the DND email noted. “As a result, it’s possible that cost estimates may change for a variety of reasons that can’t be controlled or predicted.” Conservative MP Kelly McCauley said DND’s claim that project costs weren’t misjudged is “BS.” “I don’t even have faith in their latest cost of $4.1 billion,” added McCauley, who is behind the effort to get the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do a new report looking at JSS. “It’s going to go up.” McCauley said the JSS design is based on the Berlin-class, an existing and proven German Navy ship. But he noted that DND and PSPC keep making changes to the ship, driving up costs and adding delays. DND noted that, “it’s not uncommon for the cost estimate to change throughout the duration of a project, especially for a first-of-class ship.” DND also pointed out the construction contract with Seaspan may be changed throughout the duration of the project but added that does not necessarily mean the project budget will increase. The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates recently passed McCauley’s motion to request the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer undertake a costing analysis of building the JSS in Canada as well as the leasing of Asterix, a commercial ship converted into a supply vessel for the Royal Canadian Navy to use. The PBO report will be presented to the committee by Oct. 15. The Asterix, converted by Davie shipyards in Quebec, was at the centre of the two-year legal battle Vice Adm. Mark Norman found himself in when the RCMP charged him with breach of trust. The police force alleged Norman had tipped off Davie that the Liberal government was planning to delay its Asterix deal. The legal case against Norman collapsed in 2019, forcing the federal government to pay the naval officer an undisclosed financial settlement as well as prompting questions about whether the charge had been politically motivated. The Asterix turned out to be a procurement success and since 2018 has been used to refuel and resupply Royal Canadian Navy and allied warships. The Liberal government tried to derail the Asterix project shortly after being elected in the fall of 2015. The move came after cabinet ministers, including Scott Brison and defence minister Harjit Sajjan, received a letter from the Irving family with a complaint that the Irving proposal for a similar supply ship was not examined properly. Irving has denied any suggestion it was involved in political meddling. But after receiving the letter from the Irvings, the Liberals decided to put Asterix on hold. The government, however, had to back off that plan after news of its decision leaked out to the news media. Shortly after, the RCMP began investigating Norman.

  • New fighter jets ‘can’t arrive quickly enough,’ Canada’s top military commander says

    December 31, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    New fighter jets ‘can’t arrive quickly enough,’ Canada’s top military commander says

    By BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH Ottawa Bureau OTTAWA—A new fighter jet “can’t arrive quickly enough” for Canada’s Air Force as it deals with aging CF-18s that are approaching the end of their useful life, the country’s top military commander says. Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, acknowledged that an old fighter and personnel shortages present challenges for the Air Force. “The F-18 is clearly an aircraft that is one that is coming to the end of its useful life. But it’s not at the end,” Vance told the Star in a year-end interview. “I’m real keen to get the future fighter in place as quickly as possible. Until then we’ve got the F-18. We’re going to have to invest in it to ensure that our aircrew, the RCAF, can continue to ... protect Canada and Canadians and be valued in operations,” he said. A recent report by the federal auditor general’s office put the challenges facing the Air Force into stark focus with its findings that the CF-18s, first delivered in 1982, are increasingly obsolete. But more critically, the report said the bigger challenge was a shortage of technicians to maintain the 76 existing jets and pilots to fly them. Vance said the military is moving to address its personnel shortages. On the pilot front, the problem isn’t attracting new recruits, he said. It’s training them and then keeping them in uniform at a time when civilian airlines are dangling the promise of big paycheques and better quality of life. “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not going to be easy,” Vance said. “There’s no way we’re ever going to be able to compete with private industry. We never have. You don’t join the military for the paycheque,” he said. But he said the Air Force is considering a number of measures, from better compensation and benefits to addressing complaints about postings and desk jobs that contribute to drive pilots from the ranks. Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger, RCAF commander, told the Commons public accounts committee in December that pilots quit because of family challenges, tempo of operations, work-life balance and geographic postings. “My assessment is that it’s going to take us approximately five to seven years to grow the crew force. Again, a lot of the considerations are in the future. We have to stave off the attrition we’re experiencing today. We’re getting at that as a priority in terms of some of the retention ideas we have,” Meinzinger told the committee. A tortured procurement stretching over several governments, with several false starts, has delayed the purchase of new fighters, leaving the Air Force with the CF-18s, which require 24 hours of maintenance for every hour they fly. Jody Thomas, the deputy minister of defence, told the Commons public accounts committee in December the government now expects to release a request for proposals next spring with bids submitted in 2020 and a contract award in 2022. Under that timeline, deliveries of 88 new fighters would occur between 2025 and 2032. “We expect to achieve initial operating capability by 2026 with nine advanced fighters ready to fulfil the NORAD mission,” Thomas said. That still means the CF-18s have to remain airworthy and combat capable for up to 12 more years to help bridge the transition, a tall order for jets that are already three decades old. To help augment the fleet and spread the flying hours, the federal government has purchased 18 used F-18s from Australia. The first of those aircraft is expected to arrive late winter. They will require maintenance checks and some upgrades to make them compatible with existing fleet. National Defence expects to spend almost $3 billion to extend the life of its current fleet and to buy, operate and maintain the interim aircraft. The auditor general’s report noted the CF-18 has not undergone any significant upgrade to its combat capabilities since 2008. That’s because the Air Force thought they would be replaced. Now, analysis is underway on how best to upgrade some of the CF-18s as early as 2020 in the areas of sensors, weapons, self-protection and mission support capabilities. “Those capability upgrades are sufficient ... to keep the aircraft at an acceptable level of combat capability until the future fleet arrives,” Vance said. Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

  • Plus question pour le Canada de se retirer du très coûteux programme des F-35 américains

    January 28, 2019 | Local, Aerospace

    Plus question pour le Canada de se retirer du très coûteux programme des F-35 américains

    Par Stéphane Parent | Le responsable de l’approvisionnement militaire au ministère de la Défense révèle que le Canada, l’un des neuf pays partenaires du programme de mise au point des F-35, n’a pas planifié de s’en retirer. Il semble qu’Ottawa ira de l’avant avec le versement de dizaines de millions de dollars pour le développement de cet avion de chasse F-35, même si le gouvernement fédéral continue d’étudier la pertinence ou non d’acheter ces appareils pour remplacer près d’une centaine de CF-18 qui ont plus de 40 ans d’usure. Le F-35 figure parmi les quatre modèles qui seront évalués à partir du printemps prochain dans un appel d’offres de 19 milliards, qui résultera dans l’acquisition de 88 nouveaux avions de combat. Le Canada a investi plus de 500 millions dans le programme des F-35 au cours des 20 dernières années, dont 54 millions l’an dernier. Son prochain paiement annuel doit être fait ce printemps, et il y en aura sans doute d’autres, étant donné que l’appel d’offres n’est pas censé se conclure avant 2021 ou 2022. Ce versement annuel permet au Canada de demeurer pendant encore un an membre du club des neuf partenaires dans le projet du futur avion de chasse F-35, dont la mise au point connaît des déboires majeurs. La stratégie de rester dans le camp du F-35 Le Canada demeure donc résolument dans le camp de l’aviation militaire américaine avec l’Australie, le Danemark, l’Italie, la Norvège, les Pays-Bas, le Royaume-Uni et la Turquie. Ces pays pourront soumettre des offres pour les contrats de milliards de dollars liés à la fabrication et à l’entretien des avions de chasse, mais aussi bénéficier de rabais s’ils décident d’en acheter. D’autres modèles de rechange proposés sont de conception européenne – le Gripen de Saab, le Typhoon du consortium Eurofighter et le Rafale de Dassault – et Ottawa privilégie une conception

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