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March 30, 2021 | Local, Aerospace

Op-ed: Canada’s next-generation fighter aircraft - Skies Mag

Op-ed: Canada’s next-generation fighter aircraft - Skies Mag

Why the Block III Super Hornet could be the right choice for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the best value for Canadian taxpayers.

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  • Ottawa pushes navy's planned supply ships to the front of the construction queue

    February 6, 2019 | Local, Naval

    Ottawa pushes navy's planned supply ships to the front of the construction queue

    Murray Brewster · CBC News The Liberal government has decided to pull out all the stops on the construction of the navy's planned permanent supply ships — a move that's raised questions about how quickly the Canadian Coast Guard will get a critical oceanographic science vessel. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) issued a statement Tuesday that announced the re-sequencing of the construction schedules for vessels being built at the Vancouver Shipyard, which is owned by Seaspan. The company has already started preliminary construction work on the first of the navy's long-awaited Joint Support Ships and the federal government says the work will continue until the vessel is completed. Under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, Seaspan was suppose to first construct three small fisheries research ships and a larger oceanographic vessel before working on the navy's long-awaited supply ships. Adhering to that plan in the face of repeated organizational delays meant delivery of those supply ships — which are considered critical to allowing the navy to operate beyond Canadian shores — would not happen until 2023 at the earliest. The PSPC statement said that once the first supply ship is finished, Seaspan will turn its attention to the coast guard oceanographic ship and then build the last planned naval supply ship. "Given the complexity of this build, this change in sequencing will ensure focused engineering resources on each of the projects, while allowing for time between construction of the first and second [Joint Support Ship] to incorporate lessons learned," said PSPC spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold in a statement. "Moreover, this allows for uninterrupted work at the shipyard, mitigating the risk of potential layoffs and production gaps between builds." Bujold said additional details on the construction schedule will be released at a later date. The change to the schedule was, according to sources in the defence industry, agreed upon at the recent Trudeau government cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que. Rob Huebert, a defence expert at the University of Calgary, said the decision "leaves most people scratching their heads" because of the difficulty involved in getting a shipyard to switch up construction between different types of vessels. "Why you would interrupt the building of ships by putting another style and class of vessel in the middle completely boggles my mind," said Huebert, a noted expert on the Arctic. "I don't know why you would do it." If anything, he said, the federal government should simply build both naval ships and then move on the coast guard ship. The re-sequencing means the navy could be waiting until the late 2020s for its second supply vessel, which would make the program a multi-decade odyssey. The Liberal government of former prime minister Paul Martin originally ordered the replacement of the auxiliary ships in 2004, but the program was cancelled in 2008 by the Conservatives when cost estimates exceeded the budget envelope. Huebert said Tuesday's announcement also raises questions about when Canadians will see the heavy icebreaker that Seaspan is also slated to build. The PSPC website says the program is under review and "no activities are planned until work on other projects has advanced." The federal government apparently has not yet formally notified Seaspan of the schedule change, although the shipyard has awarded a series of sub-contracts to companies such as INDAL in Mississauga, Ont., and L3 MAPPS in Montreal, for supply ship components. Seaspan is expected to announce another contract on Wednesday with Lockheed Martin Canada related to the supply ships. Ever since the Conservatives cancelled the first iteration of the supply ship project, the federal government has struggled to get it back on track, setting and missing several deadlines. The supply ships were supposed to arrive in 2017. The date was pushed back to 2019, and then to 2022. The absence of a supply ship prompted the Davie shipyard, in Levis, Que., to pitch a converted civilian cargo ship for navy use. That $668 million lease deal is at the centre of the breach-of-trust case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Davie is pitching the federal government on leasing another cargo ship. A spokesman for Davie, Frederik Boisvert, called Tuesday's decision "an insult to taxpayers" and claimed that Seaspan has failed to deliver on the supply ship project and "should be blacklisted by the government and not rewarded for failure." The effect of switching up the schedule means the navy might not need a second supply ship leasing deal. Sources within the coast guard and the defence industry have said that the design and project coordination for the fisheries science vessel is not as far advanced as the navy supply ship program and that is an important factor in the federal government's timing decision.

  • COMMENTARY: Canada should follow Australia’s example in defence, foreign policy

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

    COMMENTARY: Canada should follow Australia’s example in defence, foreign policy

    By Matthew Fisher Special to Global News Posted July 13, 2020 7:00 am  Updated July 13, 2020 11:32 am Those who follow developments in the Indo-Pacific often claim that Australia has a far more robust security posture there than Canada because of geographic necessity. The argument is that Australia must be especially vigilant because China is closer to it than Canada is to China. That perception may partially explain why Australia spends nearly twice as much per capita on defence as Canada does with little public discussion Down Under, let alone complaint. But here’s the thing. It depends where you start measuring from, of course, but the idea that Australia is physically closer to China is hokum. By the most obvious measure, Vancouver is 435 kilometres closer to Beijing (actual distance 8,508 km) than Beijing is to Sydney (8,943 km). By another measure, Sydney is only 1,000 km closer to Shanghai than Vancouver is. Mind you, it must also be said that Australia is far more reliant than Canada on trade moving through the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. Canada has many more shipping lanes to choose from. Despite their similarly resource-oriented export economies, extreme climates and thin populations, there are startling differences in how Canada and Australia have tackled the security challenges of this century. The standard line from Ottawa these days is that the Canadian government cannot possibly consider any other issue at the moment because the government’s entire focus is on coronavirus. Yet faced with the same lethal disease and the horrendous economic fallout and deficits that it’s triggered, Australia has found time to address alarming security concerns in the western Pacific. Pushing the COVID-19 calamity aside for a moment, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared last week that because it was “a more dangerous world,” his country intended to increase defence spending by as much as 40 per cent, or a whopping $255 billion over the next decade. The money will pay for submarines, greatly improved cyber capabilities, and the establishment of military partnerships with smaller nations in the western Pacific, which are constantly bullied by China. The Canadian government has often seemed paralyzed by the COVID-19 crisis and China’s kidnappings of the Two Michaels and has been slow to react to the rapidly changing security environment. This includes not yet banning Huawei’s G5 cellular network, as Australia has done. Nor has Ottawa indicated anything about the future of defence spending in an era when Canada’s national debt has now ballooned to more than $1 trillion. Faced with similar public health and economic challenges as Canada, Australian diplomats, generals and admirals have recently increased military and trade ties with India and are completing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Japan that affords troops from the two countries legal protections and presupposes that they will collaborate more closely with each other in the future. Canberra also inked a deal with Tokyo last week to collaborate on war-fighting in the space domain and closer military ties. Despite complaints of “gross interference” in China’s internal affairs by Beijing’s foreign ministry, Australia has also agreed to let about 14,000 visitors from Hong Kong extend their visas by five years and will offer an accelerated path for Chinese students to obtain Australian citizenship. Perhaps most alarming from Beijing’s point-of-view, the Quad intelligence group, which includes Australia, Japan, India and the U.S., could be about to add a military dimension. Navies from all four countries are expected to take part in joint naval exercises soon in the Indian Ocean. Even before announcing a huge increase, defence spending was already at 1.9 per cent of Australia’s GDP. The defence budget in Canada has remained static near 1 per cent for years, despite a pledge to NATO six years ago by former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and repeated several times since by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that defence spending would soar to 2 per cent. As it is, the Australian Defence Force spends about $15 billion a year more on defence than Canada does. That money buys a lot of kit and capability. The ADF has two new fleets of frontline fighter jets, the Super Hornet and the F-35, has attack helicopters and new maritime surveillance aircraft, is building a dozen French-designed attack submarines, and already has two huge, new assault ships and other new warships. The Canadian Armed Forces are a very poor second to Australia with 40-year old CF-18 fighter jets and surveillance aircraft, 30-year old submarines that seldom put to sea and no assault ships or attack helicopters. Aside from the red herring of geographic proximity, there are other factors that account for the stark differences in how Australia and Canada regard defence spending and the threat posed by an ascendant China. Many Canadians believe that the U.S. will protect them so do not see why should they pay more for their own defence. Australia also has a longstanding all-party consensus that national security is a top priority. The two main political parties in Canada regard procurement as football to be kicked around. Neither of them has a declared foreign policy. A cultural contrast is that Canadians have bought into a peacekeeping myth that has never really been true and is certainly not true today, while largely ignoring the wars its troops fought with great distinction in. Australians remain far more focused on recalling what their troops did in the Boer War, the two World Wars and Korea. As well as finally working on some joint defence procurement projects, Canada and Australia should collaborate with each other and other western nations to prevent China from playing them off against each other in trade. For example, Canadian farmers recently grabbed Australia’s share of the barley market after China banned Australian barley in response to Canberra’s demand for an independent investigation into what Beijing knew and when about COVID-19. The Australians did the same in reverse when Canadian canola was banned by China. Australia has moved to protect what it regards as its national interests by calling out China on human rights and spending much more on defence with little apparent fear as to how China might retaliate. Ottawa has not yet articulated what its interests are and acts as if it is scared at how China might respond if it takes a tougher stance. What must be acknowledged in Ottawa is that the coronavirus has not caused China to abandon or even pause for a moment in pursuit of its goal of shaping a new world order not only in the western Pacific but wherever it can. Australia is seriously upping its game in response. Canada remains silent. Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas

  • Joint Support Ship cost up by $1.1 billion - taxpayers will now spend $3.4 billion on project

    June 11, 2018 | Local, Naval

    Joint Support Ship cost up by $1.1 billion - taxpayers will now spend $3.4 billion on project

    DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN Taxpayers will have to spend $1.1 billion extra on new navy supply ships that are going to be built starting this summer, the Liberal government now acknowledges. Previously the cost of building the two ships at Seaspan shipyards in Vancouver, BC had been pegged at $2.3 billion. But the government ordered a review of that cost figure and in an email to Postmedia, Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office now confirms the cost for the Joint Support Ships, or JSS, is set at $3.4 billion. Pat Finn, the head of procurement at the Department of National Defence, said the new price tag came as the government decided to do an additional analysis of the project and include other items it had not previously included. In some cases equipment for the ship has been purchased so there are better costs available on those items, Finn said in an interview Monday. Also taken into account was new infrastructure and the delays with the program, which, in turn, drove up the price as the cost of material increased over the years. “The build period has changed quite dramatically,” Finn acknowledged. At one point, the first ship was supposed to arrive in 2012. That has been changed a number of times with the government later hoping for a 2018 delivery and then a 2019 arrival for the first vessel. The Department of National Defence is now hoping for the delivery of the first ship in 2022 or 2023. Construction will begin at Seaspan this summer of some initial portions of the vessels, Finn said. The government hopes starting construction on the supply ships in the summer will head off any potential layoffs of skilled employees at Seaspan. Finn said of the $3.4 billion figure, the actual cost of building the two ships accounts for a little more than 60 per cent. Finn said the new costing model for the JSS is more akin to the one used by the parliamentary budget office. That office had an even higher estimate for JSS when it concluded in 2013 that the final tally for taxpayers would be $4.13 billion. The Joint Support Ships are critical for the navy as they provide fuel and supplies for warships at sea. But the Royal Canadian Navy retired its last two aging supply ships years ago. One was damaged beyond repair in a fire. The other was removed from service because of excessive corrosion. The Canadian military had been relying on the Spanish and Chilean navies to provide supply vessels for short periods of time to help fuel up Canadian warships at sea. Because of the delays in the JSS program, the previous Conservative government entered into agreement with Davie Shipyards in Quebec to lease a commercial vessel that had been converted into a refueling and supply ship. That ship, the MV Asterix, is at the heart of federal government’s case against Vice Admiral Mark Norman. Norman has been accused by the RCMP of warning Davie in the fall of 2015 that Liberal cabinet ministers wanted to derail the Asterix project. Word of the Liberal plan leaked out to the news media and the resulting embarrassment forced the Trudeau government to back down on its plans and the conversion of Asterix proceeded. Norman was put under investigation and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau predicted on two occasions the officer would ultimately end up in court. In March, the RCMP charged Norman with a single count of breach of trust. A date for the trial has not yet been set. Norman denies the charge and has said he looks forward to clearing his name. Asterix is considered a rare achievement in Canadian military procurement in that it was delivered on time and on budget. The supply ship is now at sea with Royal Canadian Navy  and is headed to a major military exercise to begin later this month.

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