Wednesday, August 7, 2019

THE CONTEST IS ON... NOW WHAT?



FINALLY.

After years of delays, setbacks, controversies, and false starts; Canada is now on its way to finding a replacement for its aging CF-18 fighters.

There are still doubts as to whether or not the process will be fair.  Both Airbus and Boeing have expressed concerns that the RFP is skewed in favour of the F-35.  The RFP draft was modified after Lockheed Martin complained that its “industrial offset” clause all but disqualified the F-35.  That same modification gave additional points for sustainment, however.  This tilts the contest away from the JSF, as its current sustainment model is an absolute mess.

Of course, with a federal election coming up this fall; things could go sideways yet again.

The Liberal government has taken some flak (rightly so) for its handling of the CF-18 replacement.  After criticizing the previous Conservative government, the right thing to do would have been to immediately start rewriting an RFP and attempt to have a new fighter chosen before the next election.  Instead, the Trudeau government decided to “dither” and start the process over from scratch after reevaluating Canada’s fighter jet requirements.

Almost happened...  Almost.
This led to the decision that Canada was currently experiencing a “capability gap” and that Canada needed more fighters than the 65 F-35s planned for previously.  This decision opened the door for an purchase of 18 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets to fill this gap.

The Super Hornet deal seemed dicey from the start.

The RCAF could have certainly used 18 brand new fighters.  The Super Hornet was also the logical choice given its commonality with the current CF-18 fleet.  This deal would have been a little too “convenient” however, as it allowed the Liberal government to delay a true CF-18 replacement program with simultaneously given the Super Hornet a distinct advantage going into a competition.

Fate and Boeing’s hubris would conspire to torpedo that particular deal.  Not only that, but Boeing seriously hurt its chances moving forward as well.  Boeing’s attempt to squash Bombardier’s new C-Series proved disastrous for itself while simultaneously boosting its largest competitor.

Designed by Canadians, sold by Europeans, built in Alabama.  

Now, instead of brand new Super Hornets, the RCAF will have to make do with used F/A-18 Hornets from the Australia.  Better than nothing...  But Canada’s entire fighter fleet will still be older than most of the pilots flying them by the time they are replaced starting in 2025.

The Conservative Party of Canada has criticized the government’s delays and have promised to “immediately select a new fighter jet through a fair and transparent competition.”.  How they plan to do that when a competition is already in place is unclear. They would either have to simply abide by the current competition (ie: taking credit for a process started by Liberals) or simply choose the same fighter they chose years ago (the F-35). The only other option would be to start the entire process over YET AGAIN.

Please...  no.

Gripen Es.

As for this blog, long time readers have likely notices that post are becoming fewer and further in-between.  The reason for this is two-fold:

Firstly, a dramatic change in my personal life has left me focusing more time on my family and my "day job" for the time being.  There are only so many hours in a day and days in a week...  And there never seems to be enough.

Secondly, there just isn't that much left to say.  After all these years, I still believe that the Saab Gripen E is the "Best Fighter for Canada" with the Eurofighter Typhoon coming in second.  The F-35 is still troubled after all these years and still seems unsuitable for Canada's needs.  It may be better than was, but it still has a long way to go.

I will still be following Canada's fighter procurement process (I've come this far...) and posting the occasional update.  At this point in the process, there is very little else to do.  Canada's fighter jet decision is now in the hands of the manufacturers and whomever judges their bids.  Whatever the outcome, expect some gnashing of teeth among the losing bidders and opposition parties.  This is normal.

Hopefully, Canada's long-running search for a XF-18 replacement is coming to a conclusion.  The next question will be:  "What do we do about our aging CP-140 Auroras?"

The cycle never ends.


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