Does the Defence Acquisition Guide point to a competition?

The Federal Government unveiled its new "Defence Acquisition Guide" on Monday, portraying a roadmap of Canada's military purchases for the next 20 years or so.

You can find the Defence Acquisition Guide here.

There are a few things in the guide worthy of attention, despite the Federal Government stating that it is "not set in stone".

Under "Future Fighter Capability", we have this:

Anticipated Timeline 

  • 2015 to 2017
    • Definition Approval
  • 2017 to 2019
    • Request for Proposal Release
  • 2018 to 2020
    • Implementation Approval
    • Contract Award
  • 2026 to 2035
    • Final Delivery
The "Definition Approval" stage would seem to point to a new look into what Canada needs to replace the CF-18 Hornet, possibly even requiring the RCAF to come up with a new statement of requirements.  A "Request for Proposal" would indicate a competition, as manufacturers are asked for information.  The "Implementation Approval" and "Contract Award" stage seem to suggest a new fighter would not be selected until almost 2020.  

This certainly looks like a plan for a full competition to be held.  

CF-18 Hornet.

Reading between the lines, there are even more hints.  Most obvious are a slew of upgrades, updates, and enhancements planned for the the existing CF-18 fleet.  These include "Training Enhancements" a new "Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite", and a "Follow-on Operation Flight Program".  All together, these CF-18 updates could add up to almost a half-billion dollars.  Needless to say, that's a lot of money to upgrade a fighter due to be replaced in a few years...  But understandable if the CF-18 will need to soldier on for 10 more years or so.  

A few more things grab your attention.

CC-150 Polaris
The "Multi-Role Tanker Transport" program to replace the CC-150 Polaris throws in a line:  "This project is pending the result of the evaluation to replace the CF-188, due to different fuel receiving systems in use by various fighter aircraft."  Given that the F-35A is incompatible with the RCAF's CC-150, yet the other possibilities (Super Hornet, Typhoon, Rafale, and Gripen) all are, this $1.5 billion program could possibly be dropped if Canada chooses a different aircraft other than the JSF.  

IRIS-T WVR Missile
The "Advanced Short Range Missile" for the CF-118 and its replacement looks to replace the existing AIM-9M Sidewinder with a newer WVR missile.  While this would likely lead to a selection of AIM-9X, this could lead to a different selection like the IRIS-T or ASRAAM.  Both missiles have their advantages over the Sidewinder.

MBDA Meteor
The "Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Sustainment" program looks like a simple update to the RCAF's current AMRAAM inventory.  This would probably lead to the AIM-120D, although it could lead to a MBDA Meteor selection.

New to the fold is the "Long Range Air-to-Air Missile" planned for a much later time (2026 to 2035).  This could be a possible implantation for a the MBDA Meteor, even though this is more of a medium-range missile.  It should be noted that both the Meteor and AMRAAM have longer ranged versions planned.  It is unlikely that any of these would fit in the weapons bay of a F-35, however.

MBDA Storm Shadow
Then there is the "Low Collateral Damage Weapon", which seems to describe a Brimstone or AGM-176 Griffin "Mini-Missile".  On the flip-side, there is the proposed "Complex Weapon" which appears to be more of a stand-off cruise missile like the Taurus KEPD 350 or MBDA Storm Shadow.

What is interesting about all these new missile projects is that, except for the "Complex Missile" they are all scheduled for roughly the time frame as the new fighter.  This might suggest a more holistic approach to the fighter selection.  Instead of simply selecting a fighter, then figuring out which weapons to hang off it, the entire weapon system might be considered.  For example:  Would a Typhoon with Meteors be more effective than a F-35 with AMRAAMs?

This could be good news for the RCAF and the rest of the Canadian military.  How the pieces fit together is just as important as what the pieces are.  

There are a few other non-fighter related nuggets in the report.

Fixed-Wind Search and Rescue.  A request for proposal release is planed for this year, with a contract awarded next year.  Deliveries planned from 2021 to 2025.  There is also a "Utility Transport Aircraft" project to replace the CC-138 Twin Otter (which possibly could be amalgamated into this).  This could be good news for Canada's long put-off FWSAR replacement.  

There is a plan to update and eventually replace the CH-146 Griffon.  Similar plans are set for the CT-114 Tutor used by the Snowbirds.  A new Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) indicates the acquisition of UCAV.

CP-140 Aurora
Of interest is a "Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft" looking to replace the CP-140 Aurora.  Instead of merely being a ASW (antisubmarine warfare) aircraft, the Aurora replacement will be more ambitious.  It will combine Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR).  It calls for "long range and loiter times".  This process won't start until the 2020s.

Like the Twin Otter and FWSAR replacement, there is the possibility of an Aurora replacement being amalgamated with the CC-150 replacement.  Both utilizing the Canadian made Bombardier C-Series as a base.

Kicking the can down the road.
Unfortunately, in the end, this Defence Acquisition Guide may be of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.  The majority of the projects are scheduled for years from now, well after the next election.  Any new government may decide to follow the guide at their leisure or throw it out entirely.    Canada's armed forces have long been a political football, with governments often more willing to commit to military action than to military spending.

Let us hope any military commitment will matched with appropriate funding.  Otherwise, what's the point?


  1. Why do I suddenly get the impression that RCAF leadership is far from 100% pro-F35? When viewing the facts regarding the fighter aquisition in the "Defence Aquisition Guide 2014" all seem to point in the direction of something other than the F-35, especially the weaponry plans as shown above. If the RCAF is advocating a European solution a competition is likely to come up.

  2. Although the roadmap seems to vouch for a fair competition, the delay before granting the contract arouses suspicion.
    Why should Canada wait until 2020 ?
    There's a real risk that the assembly lines of the Hornet, the Eagle, the Eurofighter and maybe even the Rafale will have stopped, leaving only... the lame duck 35.

  3. The JAS-39 Gripen E (F) will still be around and i do think this would be a good fit for Canada.
    And since Iris-T Meteor, SDB (and Taurus) is already integrated it would be a quick integration.
    However i think that Sweden and Saab have not enough political power to actually get a sale in Canada due to American pressure.

  4. The competition is the right way to go. But there is politics involved, on one hand you have the people of Canada and the opposition leaders and on the other hand you have the U.S., Foreign vs. Domestic.
    A competition should not take long, they have done all the background leg work, now it is test driving and presentations. If they get on this, we should have a winner by the end of the year.
    KeaTiki could be right...delay decisions until the last one is standing.

  5. The easiest solution for the government is to say that they need to watch the development of the F-35 for now and that it is not ready for service yet and buy the advanced super hornets. Then it looks like you are just upgrading the existing fleet. Nobody would question that and then they could put money into the ship building.

  6. Top ten reasons not to buy the F-35 -- here

  7. How is that for a logical argument … The F-35 is essential to
    the nation’s defense regardless of cost … so we will put off the decision at least
    several more years and continue with our CF-188 fleet. Can’t be that f@#$ing important can it?

  8. Growlers! Sounds as if what ever we choose, we may need em anyways.....

  9. Get portions of the Gripen shipped straight to our homes. We can build them in our living rooms! Seriously, the Gripen is the best interim solution and cost effective to keep around. I'd like a 6 ship Snowbirds with the Ikea Jet!

    This is an interesting series.
    I wish the types of aircraft that Canada was looking at included a Canadianized SU-27/35.
    Imagine that great airframe with western technology?

  11. Serge, I agree. The relevance of buying the best or fifth generation plane is completely overstated and laughable. To my knowledge we have never had any confrontations over Canada that led to violent exchanges. The only active deployments were overseas where we had the choice to go. In other posts I have shown that the CF18's avionics have been in various states of obsolescence for 2/3 of its current lifecycle. Then we send six CF18's to Romania without any weapons, so why send fighter jets at all?
    The whole justification to spend F35 money is just an allusion.

  12. This is my concern as well. In the cable industry they had a word for this "negative option". Shaw used to add channels then add to your subscription and increase prices without getting your permission. It seems like they are working towards a negative option window where most lines are shut down and the Gripen isn't ready yet. So we have a negative option scenario. The request for proposal dates definitely falls in that window.

  13. Don, it that your website? I've done some research on Smedley Butler in the past although I have not read his book in its entirety. We tend to have an arrogance and that our intelligence is greater than Smedley from 1935. However, he exposed the whole conflict in 1935 and the arguments are no different from today. We have accomplished nothing since then.

    The CF18 acquisition budget converted into today's dollars is ~$9billion. So it looks like we are reducing our military from 138 planes to 65 but we are spending the exact some money. We couldn't even afford to go to war with this plane if we started loosing planes.

    Its time for the government to start looking for ways to minimize our investments like with the Gripen, Rafale or Super Hornet or looking at light attach aircraft for patrolling our airspace.

    I think the biggest reason for not buying the F35 is Canadians don't want to buy this plane or spend this kind of tax payer money.

  14. I can see an argument for the F-22, but not the F-35. The F-35 is not worth it at this time.

  15. A few summer ago, over a couple of beers with a neighbor, I said the exact same thing... 65 planes is simply not enough. Replacing them would be impossible during a serious conflict ... hence, we would have to be prepared to purchase a secondary aircraft like the F-16, as it was conceived to back up the F-15.
    And I still say 150 mil will be on the low side.

    So we leave the expensive stuff to the Americans and we provide serious backup, not the best, but affordable (probably Boeing with the 100% offset) and effective backup. All the other aircraft are nothing to piss at. With tactics, new passive tracking, jamming and know-how, they all hold their own.
    Still like the Saab. We could make them here...
    Glad they are putting this off to avoid a bad choice but was really curious about our next jet! Kinda disappointed. Feels like when the baseball players went on strike ... and the Expos got screwed, when Ben Johnson did stereos. When Clinton said he did not have sex ...

  16. I would even consider 12 F-22 and 80 or so F-18s +12 Growlers. Strong force and the 22s to eliminate the unwanted pests.

  17. Dear Serge, forget the F-22s. The assembly line has been stopped, and the US won't sell them to anyone, even secondhand, even downgraded.

  18. But I wonder if our geopolitical similarities would make us good partners and heck if we assemble them here ... make more in times of need without begging, still purchase some Growlers ...

  19. I know. I know. At my age it's called wishful thinking, dementia possibly. I had a moment!

    It only took 4 years to get the Super Hornet in hand, I bet it might be faster now.

  21. The F-22's are and where too expensive. That is why they stopped making them. The joke is on them, they should have made more and bought less F-35's, because it is too expensive. The USAF will not even have the F-22 engage in a fight because it is too expensive. This is why the F-15(expensive) - F-16(in expensive) combination works so well.
    You buy a Porsche and you take the chevy to the store because you are worried about scratches?

  22. Hey Paul, do you mean.....come on the weapons are there but just not telling us? Or, that its a fact they have them? Here is a link where they talk about how Canada and NATO decided not to bring weapons

  23. Watched interviews with Sprey, Wheeler and Fuhr and just blew my mind. Some of it I knew, some I had guessed, some I had no idea, but to hear "experts" slam, and I mean slam, the F-35 makes you wonder.
    Than there is the interview with LM chef pilot who says the complete opposite. These are all intelligent, highly educated people, and somebody is lying.
    Not to mention that I saw a report of the cancelation of the F-22.
    Sprey says the F-16 would shred the F-35 ... heck let them test the idea, see what happens!

  24. There is now evidence that both the MBDA Meteor and the AIM-120D can both fit internally into the F-35. SO that confirms that the F-35 is THE ONE TRUE FIGHTER JET FOR OUR COUNTRY. It also has the ability to carry 12 CUDA MISSILES INTERHNALLY AS WELL. SO KEEP THE CF-35A LIGHTNING II !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Fitting the Meteor into the F-35's bay requires a "clipped" version of the missile. Something that doesn't exist yet outside of a concept. Until funding is approved for such an item, don't get your hopes up.

    Ditto the CUDA missile. Its an interesting concept, but the very idea of a kinetic-kill air-to-air missile has yet to be proven.


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