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May 8, 2019 | Local, Aerospace

Trump may have given Trudeau the excuse he needs to ditch the F-35 once and for all

David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

The defence and aerospace industry is abuzz about the letters the U.S. government sent to Canada over the upcoming competition to acquire a new fleet of fighter jets to replace the RCAF's CF-18s.

In short, the Trump administration has given an ultimatum to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. If Canada insists that industrial and technological benefits must come from the outlay of $19 billion for a new fighter jet fleet then Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth jet is out of the race. Full stop.

The U.S. argument is that because Canada is a partner in the F-35 program it cannot ask Lockheed Martin to meet specific industrial benefits for a Canadian competition if the F-35 is selected. Under the F-35 agreement, partner nations are prohibited from imposing requirements for industrial benefits as the work is determined on the best value basis. In other words, Canadian firms compete and if they are good enough they get work on the F-35 program. Over the last 12 years, Canadian firms have earned $1.3 billion U.S. for their work on building F-35 parts.

The U.S. had boldly stated it cannot offer the F-35 for the Canadian competition if there are requirements to meet for set industrial benefits.

But that ultimatum could seriously backfire on the Trump administration.

Trudeau and the Liberal government has never been keen on the F-35 (Trudeau campaigned against purchasing the jet). There have also been a number of negative headlines over the last year outlining the increasing maintenance costs for the F-35s, not a good selling point for the jet.

The U.S. ultimatum may have just given Trudeau a way out of his F-35 dilemma, particularly if the prime minister can say that it was it was the Americans themselves who decided not to enter the F-35 in the Canadian competition.

Trudeau will also be able to point to the other firms ready and keen to chase the $19 billion contract.

Airbus, a major player in Canada's aerospace industry, says it is open to producing its Eurofighter Typhoon in Canada with the corresponding jobs that will create.

Boeing, which has a significant presence in Canada, will offer the Super Hornet.

Saab has also hinted about building its Gripen fighter in Canada if it were to receive the jet contract.

To be sure, if the U.S. withdraws the F-35 from the competition, retired Canadian military officers and the defence analysts working for think-tanks closely aligned with the Department of National Defence be featured in news reports about how the Royal Canadian Air Force will be severely hindered without the F-35. Some Canadian firms involved in the F-35 program may complain publicly about lost work on the F-35 program but companies tend not criticize governments for fear they won't receive federal contracts or funding in the future.

There will be talk about how U.S.-Canada defence relations will be hurt but then critics will counter that U.S. President Donald Trump used national security provisions to hammer Canada in ongoing trade disputes.

And let's face it. Defence issues are rarely a factor in federal elections or in domestic politics.

The Trump administration, which is not the most popular among Canadians, may have just given Trudeau a political gift.

On the same subject

  • Federal government considering delaying acceptance of bids for new fighter jets

    May 6, 2020 | Local, Aerospace

    Federal government considering delaying acceptance of bids for new fighter jets

    David Pugliese • Ottawa Citizen Publishing date: 21 hours ago • 3 minute read The federal government is looking at once again delaying acceptance of bids on new fighter jets. The bids were originally supposed to be submitted in May 2019 but that was pushed back to March 30 this year. That deadline, in turn, was pushed back to June 30 at the request of the aerospace industry, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced in February. But now the department is once again evaluating a request from industry to further extend that deadline for the proposals, Procurement Canada spokesman Marc-André Charbonneau confirmed in an email to this newspaper. “We remain committed to providing members of the Royal Canadian Air Force with the fighter aircraft they need to do their jobs, and ensuring the best possible value for Canadians,” he added. “This procurement is a once in a generation opportunity to support the growth of Canada's aerospace and defence industries for decades to come.” If that happens it is unclear on how the current timetable for buying the fighter jets, to replace the CF-18 aircraft, might be affected. A winning bidder was to have been chosen in 2022. The first aircraft would have been delivered by 2025, according to the government's schedule. Industry representatives say they expect the bid submissions to be pushed back at least until the end of the summer. The federal government is focused on dealing with its response to the novel coronavirus pandemic and Public Services and Procurement Canada is deeply involved in setting up procurements of protective gear and medical supplies. It has also been difficult for companies to collect and provide the necessary classified information to the federal government that is needed for the bids. Much of that has to be delivered directly to government officials and cannot be transmitted over the internet because of the sensitivity of the information. The fighter jet competition was launched on Dec. 12, 2017 and at this point three aircraft are to be considered. Those include the F-35, the Super Hornet, and the Gripen. The program is expected to cost around $19 billion and will see the purchase of 88 new jets. Information about how Canada intends to evaluate the jets is limited. But Public Services and Procurement Canada has noted that technical merit will make up the bulk of the assessment at 60 per cent. Cost and economic benefits companies can provide to Canada will each be worth 20 per cent. But Canada won't conduct a fly-off between fighter jets competing to become the country's new warplane nor conduct testing to see how such aircraft perform under cold weather conditions, Public Services and Procurement Canada confirmed earlier this year. Concerns have been raised by Lockheed Martin's rivals that the competition has been designed to favour the F-35. This newspaper reported last year the requirements for the new jets put emphasis on strategic attack and striking at ground targets during foreign missions. That criteria is seen to benefit the F-35. In addition, the federal government changed criteria on how it would assess industrial benefits after the U.S. government threatened to pull the F-35 from the competition. The Conservative government had previously selected the F-35 as the air force's new jet but backed away from that plan after concerns about the technology and growing cost. During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau vowed that his government would not purchase the F-35. But at the same time, Trudeau stated his government would hold an open competition for the fighter purchase. The Liberal government backed away from its promise to freeze out the F-35 and the aircraft is now seen as a front-runner in the competition as it has many supporters in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Many of Canada's allies plan to operate the plane. Canada is a partner in the F-35 program and has contributed funding for the aircraft's development over the years. It has already made its latest payment on that program.

  • Canada launches AI project to manage BVLOS search and rescue operations

    June 5, 2020 | Local, Aerospace, Security

    Canada launches AI project to manage BVLOS search and rescue operations

    Public Safety Canada has selected Kongsberg Geospatial, Larus Technologies and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association of Canada (CASARA) to integrate geospatial software, artificial intelligence, and machine vision software to help develop new methods for the use of drones in search and rescue operations in remote communities in Canada. The project will be funded by the Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SARNIF) and has been dubbed OVERSEE – an acronym for “Optical Vision Enhancement and Refinement of Sensor Exploitation Effectiveness”. The OVERSEE project is intended to help address the unique challenges of conducting search and rescue operations in remote areas (such as indigenous communities in the Arctic and their immediate surrounding area) with UAS platforms. OVERSEE will initially employ available search and rescue statistics from the Department of National Defence, CASARA, Transport Canada and other agencies and execute simulations driven by Artificial Intelligence. The AI will use Deep Learning techniques to investigate how BVLOS regulation effects SAR efforts that make use of drones, and how drones have been integrated most effectively in search and rescue operations, particularly for isolated indigenous communities in Canada's North that don't have quick access to Aeronautical search and rescue assets. Ultimately the goal of this research is to help CASARA members and GSAR (Ground Search and Rescue) workers use BVLOS drones more effectively in search and rescue operations. Kongsberg Geospatial will be leading the project, contributing their expertise in precision mapping, Air Traffic Management, and the development of multi-vehicle UAS control stations for BVLOS missions to help develop tools and procedures for the safe, effective use of drones for search and rescue missions in remote areas. They will also be contributing tools and training for machine vision techniques. Larus Technologies specializes in Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems for defence applications, and will be contributing their Total::Perception™ simulation engine and Total::Vision™ computer vision technology to the project. CASARA will be helping to gather drone video from training exercises throughout Canada in cooperation with its volunteers, as well as search and rescue event statistics from community organizations. Upon completion of the project, CASARA membership will help to circulate the SOPs derived from the project to their membership of Civil Air Search and Rescue workers and volunteers across Canada to ensure that everyone has access to the improved UAS SAR guidance. While the project is primarily funded through Public Safety Canada's SARNIF fund, all three partners will be making in-kind contributions in software licenses, technology, and professional services. The OVERSEE project is expected to be completed sometime in 2021.

  • Canadian government quietly signs $2 billion defence contract with General Dynamics

    September 12, 2019 | Local, Land

    Canadian government quietly signs $2 billion defence contract with General Dynamics

    By DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN A $2 billion dollar contract for new armoured vehicles was quietly signed with General Dynamics Land Systems earlier this month. The Liberal government originally announced Aug. 18 that negotiations were underway for the sole source deal to purchase 360 combat support Light Armoured Vehicles from General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada in London, ON. A notice on the federal government's procurement website noted that Public Services and Procurement Canada, on behalf of National Defence, awarded the contract to General Dynamics valued at $2 billion on Sept. 5. That cost includes initial spare parts, technical manuals and training. Public Services and Procurement Canada did not issue a news release about the major award. The department did not respond to a request for comment. The overall project is estimated to cost $3 billion but that includes in-service support, construction of new facilities and other support to the program. The combat support Light Armoured Vehicles was originally announced by the Liberal government with an estimated cost between $500 million and $1.5 billion. The plan was to award the contract in 2023 after a competition between defence firms. But with the federal election looming the deal was fast-tracked by the Liberals, joining a series of recent defence-related funding announcements. A competition was jettisoned, replaced with a sole-source deal with General Dynamics. The deal includes a $650 million repayable loan to General Dynamics. Details have not been released. General Dynamics will provide the new vehicles in eight variants. They will be used as ambulances and in other roles such as vehicle recovery, engineering, mobile repair, electronic warfare and as command posts. The current fleet of armoured support vehicles is comprised of the LAV II Bison and the M113 tracked vehicle. The DND stated the contract was sole-sourced to General Dynamics as the firm builds most other armoured vehicles for the Canadian Forces and having a vehicle based on the same chassis allows for savings in maintenance and training.

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