New Fast Jets for Canada

The Canadian government has released the draft tender for new fighter jets to the manufacturers and asked for feedback.
Ottawa releases draft tender on purchase of new fighter jets | CBC News
The effort to replace the air force's aging fleet of CF-18 fighters took a small step forward Monday when Public Services and Procurement Canada released a draft tender and asked for feedback from the makers of new jets.
The manufacturers will have eight weeks to provide feedback on the draft.
The manufacturers will have about eight weeks to comment on various aspects of the proposed tender before the government finalizes the document.
The final RFP is expected in the new year.
A full-fledged request for proposals is not expected to be released until the new year.
The author speculates that European manufacturers may have the advantage due to the present poor relations with Washington.
Airbus plans to offer its Eurofighter Typhoon. Saab will pitch the latest version of its Gripen, while Dassault has the Rafale.

The European aircraft-makers all privately expressed optimism about the competition last spring at an Ottawa defence industry trade show.
For years, Canada has been seen as favouring U.S. manufacturers because of what the military called "interoperability issues."

But recent trade disputes and political tensions between Ottawa and Washington have given contractors outside of North America a morale boost.
I'm not sure that is a valid conclusion as to why, but the end result may be the same due to separate issues with the two US manufacturers.

The rest of the article provides a brief historical summary of the saga and is worth reading for those who want a refresher on the background.
 
The official government web page on the project has been updated. Replacing and Supplementing Canada's Fighters – Air – Defence Procurement – Buying and Selling – PSPC Services – Home

The update is quoted below:
On October 26, 2018, Canada achieved yet another milestone toward replacing Canada’s fighter fleet, with the release of the draft Request for Proposals to eligible Suppliers for their review and feedback. Suppliers will have about eight weeks to provide feedback. This feedback will be used to refine and finalize the formal Request for Proposals. The entire process is being reviewed by both an independent fairness monitor and an independent third-party reviewer.

Ensuring suppliers have an opportunity to provide input is critical to the overall success of this procurement and for selecting the right fighter aircraft to meet Canada’s needs, while leveraging economic benefits for Canada.

The government is working diligently to ensure this open and transparent competitive process remains on schedule.
 
The following recent speech by the minister of public procurement covers a variety of defence procurement issues, but I will pick a few points out from her comments on fighter jet procurement.
Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s Annual Defence Procurement Conference - Canada.ca

First, she goes over the history of the project up to date. I'll skip that however.

Next, she mentions that the draft RFP would be released to suppliers and the government would work with the suppliers to finalize it. The above posts cover that.

Then she said that the final RPF would be released next spring. No date was given, and I assume that the actual release date would depend upon how many problems were found with the draft and how much work was required to correct them.

Final contract award has been pencilled in for late 2021 or early 2022, and first deliveries of aircraft in 2025. Those dates were earlier identified as tentative, so it is possible they change to some time sooner than that. They are unlikely to change to be pushed further out, due to support issues with the existing planes which we have discussed previously.

The "interim" planes from Australia are expected to start arriving in 2019.

Three is also mention of a new aircrew training program, but not much in the way of detail on it.
 
This page covers the official time line. Future Fighter Capability Project - Air - Defence Procurement - Buying and Selling - PSPC Services - Home

I will skip over the steps up to this point and summarize the remaining ones. Again, keep in mind that the further out the dates are, the less certain they are likely to be. However, it does show what the activities are.

Autumn 2018. As noted above, the draft has been released.
  • Complete review of draft solicitation documents by independent third party
  • Release draft solicitation documents to eligible suppliers
  • Suppliers review draft solicitation documents and provide feedback
  • Eligible suppliers visit Canadian Forces bases

January to February 2019
  • Supplier Engagement to discuss and clarify feedback
  • Integrate Suppliers feedback to solicitation documents and seek clarification, if required

February to May 2019
  • Complete review of Solicitation documents by third-party, fairness monitor and legal services

Spring 2019
  • Finalize solicitation documents
  • Follow-up with eligible suppliers, if necessary (via video teleconference)
  • Release final Solicitation documents to eligible Suppliers

Summer to winter 2019
  • Suppliers develop and submit initial proposals to Canada for evaluation

Winter to late-summer 2020
  • Evaluation of suppliers’ initial proposals

Winter to spring 2021
  • Evaluation of final proposals and selection of proposal that best meets Canada’s needs

Winter 2021 to 2022
  • Contracts/arrangements are awarded
  • Fairness Monitor Report is published

2025
  • Anticipated beginning of aircraft delivery

2026
  • Initial operational capability is achieved
 
The Globe and Mail has the story as well as other major Canadian newspapers, so it seems to be genuine. European fighter-jet manufacturer pulls out of Canadian competition to replace CF-18s

The stock answer in most stories seems to be "security issues" with respect to integrating with NORAD systems. However, the Globe and Mail says that isn't as big of an issue as it may appear at first sight. Dassault just had to propose a solution and give a price and schedule for it. The government was prepared to work with Dassault to come up with a solution.
In a briefing, federal officials said the government was willing to give European bidders additional leeway to meet mandatory requirements related to NORAD. In particular, the requirements for secure communications between Canadian and American aircraft and other military assets were modified to give all potential bidders additional time to meet them.

“We obviously have NATO and NORAD commitments, with NORAD probably being the bigger one, which means we have significant security requirements that are Canada-U.S.,” said Pat Finn, the assistant deputy minister in charge of procurement at the Department of National Defence.

When federal officials will analyze the various bids, he said, they will not automatically disqualify an aircraft that is unable to immediately meet the security requirements.

“We can’t have an aircraft that doesn’t meet it, but what we’ve done is we’ve created the test in a different way. ... If your proposal, your aircraft, cannot meet [a requirement] today, we are not saying automatically that you’re out; but you have to tell us what is your solution to meet it, at what price and what schedule,” he said.
My own suspicions are that Dassault calculated that their chances of winning were not good enough to be worth spending the money and effort on developing a bid and decided they were better off pulling out than openly losing. They were never considered to be one of the leading contenders to begin with.

Dassault would have to integrate with weaponry currently in Canadian stocks, integrate with existing communications systems, and develop industrial partnerships in Canada to meet the "industrial benefits" requirements. All of this would take time, money, and effort from Dassault's management.

Typhoon has a big head start over Rafale in most of these areas. For example the Bombardier-Airbus partnership has given Typhoon a big advantage in the industrial benefits area that wasn't present when this whole process started and this factor will play a major role in any final decision.

Given that Typhoon and Rafale are roughly the same cost to build, it is difficult to see how Dassault could undercut Typhoon on cost without cutting their margins too thin. And I don't see Rafale being chosen over Typhoon without some major advantage in terms of cost or other benefits (e.g. industrial benefits). This is even before taking Boeing or LM competition into account.

I won't be surprised if Saab drops out as well. They have a low price, but the ability of such a small plane to operate at long range is an open question. In addition, earlier I posted an interview here from some years ago where a Saab representative said they were going to use Bombardier as their Canadian partner. It would be a good question as to whether this survived the Bombardier-Airbus deal.

This latest development mirrors what happened in the recent frigate competition. The field narrowed down considerably once things approached the final stages. I suspect the main concern for the Canadian government will be to ensure that at least three competitors remain in the race.

I should point out by the way that not every company goes into a bidding process on a contract with the intention of winning. Sometimes they are just there to raise their profile while they pursue business with other customers.
 
The following story isn't directly related to new jets, but provides an example of the sort of work which L3 MAS do in terms of in service support. They are considered to be a "centre of excellence" for jet fighters in Canada, and so tend to do all of the major overhaul and repair work for Canada. They also do work for other countries as well, and are considered to have developed a great deal of expertise in supporting and upgrading F-18s.
L3 MAS Wins More F/A-18 International Business - Canadian Defence Review | Canadian Defence Review

This is an example of the sorts of relationships which bidders will need to develop with local industry in Canada, which in turn is why preparing a successful bid involves a great deal more work than just writing down price and delivery for 'x' jets.
 
genuine question here: what makes fighter aircraft so expensive? I see figures for the Rafale as about 60 million euros a go. I work on A320s and they sell for between 40 and 60 million each, depending on what options you take and what engines you pick and so on. Now, if an A320 has two CFMs at about 4 million each, has 72 computers, 40% of the airframe is composite, is three times the size of a Rafale, has nearly 200 seats inside, as well as galleys and toilets....where does the money go when you build a fighter?
 
genuine question here: what makes fighter aircraft so expensive? I see figures for the Rafale as about 60 million euros a go. I work on A320s and they sell for between 40 and 60 million each, depending on what options you take and what engines you pick and so on. Now, if an A320 has two CFMs at about 4 million each, has 72 computers, 40% of the airframe is composite, is three times the size of a Rafale, has nearly 200 seats inside, as well as galleys and toilets....where does the money go when you build a fighter?
I'd offer the following factors:

1. You're building much smaller numbers so lose the advantages of economies of scale and often global support.

2. Airliners are exposed to far less physical demands, typically cruising at FL 300-420 (g, thermal heating, structural shock (eg cannon firing), rapid changes in altitude and speed).

3. Combat aircraft have to be able to have an enormous range of sensors, EW systems, defensive aids, weapons, comms and data links integrated, all of which have to enjoy resilience to countermeasures and EMP. An airliner just needs to have a relatively small range of far simpler civilian comms and data links.

4. Combat aircraft have to be able to have near constant avionics and systems upgrades to cater for different theatres, each presenting different threats and electronic environments. That requires a far larger support network to produce the requisite EW data bases etc.

5. Combat aircraft are subject to national and coalition security demands which leads to a wide variety of sub-variants. For instance, I'll guarantee that a USAF F-35A is very different to an Italian or Norwegian F-35A. Similarly, a Saudi F-15C is an entirely different beast to USAF C models.

6. Governments are less financially savvy than airliners which generates further challenges when trying to balance ever shifting financial capacity against those factors mentioned above.

Regards,
MM
 
genuine question here: what makes fighter aircraft so expensive? I see figures for the Rafale as about 60 million euros a go. I work on A320s and they sell for between 40 and 60 million each, depending on what options you take and what engines you pick and so on. Now, if an A320 has two CFMs at about 4 million each, has 72 computers, 40% of the airframe is composite, is three times the size of a Rafale, has nearly 200 seats inside, as well as galleys and toilets....where does the money go when you build a fighter?
Maybe you're comparing a sports car to a people carrier?
 
The SAAB bid would seem to be OK as SAAB already has ties with BAe systems, but I understand that there is a reluctance to have a single engine jet operating over the expanse of Canadian tundra. The quoted range figures for the two aircraft do not appear to be dissimilar, and the SAAB does have certain advantages in being able to operate from unmade strips.
 
The SAAB bid would seem to be OK as SAAB already has ties with BAe systems, but I understand that there is a reluctance to have a single engine jet operating over the expanse of Canadian tundra. The quoted range figures for the two aircraft do not appear to be dissimilar, and the SAAB does have certain advantages in being able to operate from unmade strips.
I don't think the last ability will be all that important for Canada, as they have sufficient airfields to cover their needs & if things reached the point where those were being attacked, other factors would be in play.
 
I don't think the last ability will be all that important for Canada, as they have sufficient airfields to cover their needs & if things reached the point where those were being attacked, other factors would be in play.
I think it's more the point that the Gripen has a well established capability to operate from bare bases (as opposed to 'unmade strips'), in extreme cold weather and with less support than other types. That's compelling from a RCAF perspective. However, the Gripen remains single engine with a limited payload. There are also likely to be additional challenges and cost in integrating it into the US/CAN NORAD environment.

Gripen is an excellent swing-role combat aeroplane with low operating costs. In my view though, it's not well suited to Canada's needs.

Regards,
MM
 
genuine question here: what makes fighter aircraft so expensive? I see figures for the Rafale as about 60 million euros a go. I work on A320s and they sell for between 40 and 60 million each, depending on what options you take and what engines you pick and so on. Now, if an A320 has two CFMs at about 4 million each, has 72 computers, 40% of the airframe is composite, is three times the size of a Rafale, has nearly 200 seats inside, as well as galleys and toilets....where does the money go when you build a fighter?
Look at something like a Bombardier Global 8000. Various sources give costs of around $70 million apiece. It doesn't look like cost scales linearly with dimensions.

A jet fighter will have a lot more high tech electronics and software kit installed, which I suspect is a big part of the overall price tag. I also believe the engines are more complex (can operate at supersonic speed and have afterburners). The plane overall doesn't have any fewer or simpler parts than a larger plane. They don't look any simpler or less labour intensive overall to assemble either.
 
The SAAB bid would seem to be OK as SAAB already has ties with BAe systems, but I understand that there is a reluctance to have a single engine jet operating over the expanse of Canadian tundra. The quoted range figures for the two aircraft do not appear to be dissimilar, and the SAAB does have certain advantages in being able to operate from unmade strips.
Having a single engine doesn't seem to be disqualifying the F-35, so I don't think the Gripen would be ruled out on that basis.

The plane's ability to operate from forward bases with limited support resources and with limited runway lengths is a very attractive feature for Canada, and should be taken into account.

The problem that I see though when talking about combat radius is that we can't be sure whether they are comparing like-for-like in terms of payload, use of external fuel tanks, cruising speed and altitude, and other operational parameters. All of this can make a difference, just like when talking about a car's mileage you have to take into account city versus highway driving.

Leaving questions about range aside though, two things that I could see going against the Gripen are the ability of Saab and Sweden to stay in the fighter business as an independent entity over the long run without more foreign sales, and whether they have the ability to offer a good industrial benefits package. The former is a risk factor that has to be considered when you are looking at long term support and continued development.

The latter factor is something where a larger industrial group with a much wider range of projects that can be participated in has an advantage. And this will be something that has a great deal of weight in the final scoring.
 
Auditor General (AG) Michael Ferguson has tabled a report on Tuesday which includes criticism of the F-18 replacement project. It was not focused solely on this subject, so the depth of detail being reported appears to be limited. I haven't seen the actual report yet, so I may have additional comment when I have.
Auditor general trashes Liberal plan to keep CF-18s flying until 2032 | CBC News

In brief, the problems are as follows:

There is a shortage of personnel, including both pilots and maintenance crew.
As of April 2018, the air force's CF-18 squadrons faced a 22 per cent shortage in technical positions — and a startling number of technicians were not fully qualified to do maintenance.
Fighter pilots are also in short supply. The air force is losing more of them than it is training each year; among those who do remain, almost one third do not get the required 140 hours of flying time per year.
This isn't a great surprise, as the present government's defence plan highlighted this problem when it was issued in 2015. They identified both training and retention as high priorities.
At a news conference following the release of the report, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan conceded that personnel shortages were identified "early on" after the Liberals took over in 2015.
"This is a problem we knew we had," he said, pointing the finger at budget cuts made by the previous Conservative government. "This is what happens when you don't put enough resources into the military."
The AG added that the additional "interim" fighters being purchased won't help with the personnel shortage.
The auditor's report took issue with the Liberal government's strategy to fill the so-called capability gap by buying additional interim aircraft.

The current proposal is to buy used Australian F-18s — of approximately the same vintage as Canada's CF-18s — and convert them for further use until the federal government completes the purchase of brand-new aircraft.

This plan, the auditor's report said, "will not help solve either the personnel shortage or the aging fleet."
He also said that the (now scrapped) plan to buy Super Hornets as an interim jet would have been a worse plan, because it would have taken away people for additional training who are already in short supply.
Ferguson said an earlier, $6.3 billion plan to buy 18 brand new Super Hornet fighter jets on an interim basis would have been even worse — and the government was told so in no uncertain terms by the air force.

"National Defence's analysis showed that buying the Super Hornet alone would not allow the department to meet the new operational requirement," said the audit.

"The department stated that the Super Hornet would initially decrease, not increase, the daily number of aircraft available because technicians and pilots would have to be pulled away from the CF-18s to train on the new aircraft."
In a previous post I had quoted an open letter published by a dozen retired very senior RCAF officers who had stated the Super Hornet was not a good choice as an interim plane because it would not offer the degree of commonality which had been assumed. They recommended that if any "interim" plane was to be bought, then used F-18s similar to those which Canada already has would be a better choice. They specifically mentioned the jets from Australia.

This means that this point should be no real surprise either.

The existing F-18s however will not remain technologically current out to the end of their planned lifetimes. The Super Hornets were supposed to address that issue, but that plan of course has gone by the wayside.
Meanwhile, the auditor is warning that the Liberal government has no plan to upgrade the combat capabilities of the CF-18s to keep them current over the next decade while the air force waits for replacements.
The defence minister said the government is looking at upgrades to the existing planes to address this issue until the new jets are brought into service.
Sajjan said the department is looking at an upgrade to the combat systems.
"We would love to be able to solve this problem immediately," he said.
So all in all, the AG report has not highlighted anything which was not already known and identified as an issue. Plans are in place to address many of these.

What it may do though is to raise the profile of these problems still further, and perhaps inspire some new thinking on how to address them.

The personnel problem though shows that just buying new kit quicker isn't a useful answer. There are plans for a major overhaul of the training program and dealing with issues affecting retention (these were top priorities in the defence plan). Both of these suffered due to defence cuts going back to the beginning of the decade and won't be turned around overnight.

If I can get a copy of the AG report and it includes anything of particular interest I will cover it in another post.

In short though, the personnel issues, the now defunct Super Hornet plan, and the approaching technological obsolescence of the existing F-18s were all known issues which we have discussed here before. The AG report however may bring these problems to the attention of a larger public.
 
The AG report is here: Report 3—Canada’s Fighter Force—National Defence

There is more detail, but no new points which were not already discussed above. If you read the actual report, I want to point out that the implementation dates for the new jets are so far as I am aware, still notional and may change depending upon how the consultation with the potential vendors has come out. They should be taken as "no later than" rather than as actual target dates.

Also take note that plans regarding personnel were progressing while the report was being written, as noted at the end of the report itself, so some of the major conclusions may no longer be relevant.

Finally, some of the shortages being mentioned are with respect to new, higher targets set in the latest defence plan. The additional interim planes with which to implement those plans are not yet in Canada's hands nor ready for service and so some of those shortages reflect future problems which may arise if not addressed.

None the less, I take the reports emphasis on personnel to be an example of how the really difficult problems are not easily solved by just writing a few cheques.
 

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