With fighter jet costs, the sky’s the limit

Documents suggest Ottawa sidestepped its own rules to buy aircraft

With fighter jet costs, the sky's the limit

Paul Weatherman/Lockheed Martin

Night after night, Canadian CF-18 pilots took off from Trapani airbase in Italy for their targets in Libya, at least 575 km away. In an ink-black sky, in a cockpit lit by instruments reflected through their heads-up display, each pilot was aware that a single missile launched by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops could kill him. “You’re sitting in this contraption and all you want is to come back alive,” says Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, second-in-command of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who lived through similar experiences in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

To minimize the risks to pilots, Blondin wants Canada to buy the F-35 aircraft, product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. Versatile, technologically advanced and hard for enemy radar to detect, the F-35 “gives the guys that much better likelihood of coming back,” says this CF-18 pilot with piercing blue eyes. In Libya, anti-aircraft defences weren’t very powerful. “But who knows where Canada will need to intervene down the line?”

The first air strikes in Libya were carried out by American B-2 stealth bombers and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean. “With the F-35, we could have been active from day one attacking their radar,” says Blondin. “It’s the difference between playing a front-line role and a secondary one.” The difference, he adds, between a used Volkswagen with a manual transmission and a brand-new Cadillac with all the options.

The RCAF is convinced that U.S. multinational company Lockheed Martin will keep its promises and that its F-35, presently in the test stage, will live up to its advance billing when it comes off its final assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas, in a few years.

But that hope isn’t shared by everyone in the grey corridors of National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. The F-35 program is four years behind schedule in the U.S. and its total budget there has soared 64 per cent to $382 billion. In Canada, dozens of civilian bean-counters overseeing the project, along with many senior officers of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Navy, are asking whether the largest military purchase in Canada’s history—between $15 billion and $29 billion—will force the government to cut vital spending in other areas. “We’re in a period of budget restraint and we’re buying a plane that isn’t yet in service for a bill we can’t guess at yet,” a senior military officer said on condition he not be named. “The risk is huge.”

In the eyes of Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister responsible for military procurement who supervised the F-35 file in Ottawa until his retirement in 2005, the purchasing process for the jet has become a public administration “fiasco.” He says the government is operating in the dark, noting a person wouldn’t buy a car without knowing its final price, performance or maintenance costs, let alone without even shopping around. “That’s exactly what the Canadian government is doing with the F-35 fighter,” he says. “It’s aberrant.”

The episode raises many questions, not the least of which is: did the feds get ahead of themselves when they announced, in July 2010, their intention to buy 65 F-35s with no tender? The U.K., Turkey, the Netherlands and Denmark were also considering buying the same jet. They are now delaying their final purchase decisions. Even Washington, facing a massive budget deficit, may reduce its order. Will Canada have to reconsider its own decision? And if it does, might it have to start from scratch with a competitive bidding process to replace its aging CF-18s?

An investigation by L’actualité, the sister publication to Maclean’s, over several months shows that Stephen Harper’s government and the RCAF did everything they could to ensure a deal to buy the JSF fighter, from rushing their analyses and sidestepping their normal decision-making process to exaggerating the industrial benefits for Canada.

The JSF program started in 1997. The U.S. was looking for a new plane to replace its aging F-16s and F-18s. To share the cost, Washington invited eight allies to participate in the design process. In return, firms in those countries could obtain contracts during the construction phase. Canada was the first to sign up in 1997, promising to pay $741 million to the U.S. government and to Lockheed Martin over 40 years. (To date it has paid $203.7 million.) Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Britain and Norway followed. There was never any obligation to actually buy the resulting jets. “It was just an industrial agreement,” says Michael Slack, director of the F-35 program at National Defence. “The idea of replacing our F-18s wasn’t on the radar screen yet.”

In 2001, Lockheed Martin, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world, beat its rival Boeing to win the contract for 2,443 fighter aircraft for the U.S. Department of Defense. The Harper government says it relied on that U.S. bidding process to justify its decision not to consider any other fighter craft for Canada. “We do not need another costly bidding process,” says Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino. But that way of thinking is “ridiculous,” says Williams. “The Americans picked a plane according to their criteria, their budget and their missions, which aren’t Canada’s.”

Internal Defence Department correspondence, written from 2001 to 2006 and obtained through the Access to Information Act, confirms Canada intended to launch a bidding process to replace its 79 CF-18s before 2020. But after the Conservatives came to power in 2006, the internal memos no longer make any reference to such a process.

That summer. several internal memos addressed to the chief of the Air Force and to then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor made it clear that the F-35 was the Canadian RCAF’s preferred choice to replace the CF-18. That September, the defence procurement office, directed by assistant deputy minister Dan Ross (Alan Williams’s replacement), recommended that O’Connor proceed with the purchase. “The JSF is the best option to fulfill Canada’s needs and will stay in service for a long time, all with the lowest cost per aircraft,” stated a memo signed Sept. 19, 2006.

But while officials were recommending Canada buy the F-35, a key part of the analysis that goes into all military purchases hadn’t even been written yet. Known as a statement of operational requirement, such a document is like a detailed order form for what the military needs a piece of hardware to accomplish. Yet the document was not completed until June 2010, just one month before the Conservative government announced its plan to buy the F-35. “Recommending a purchase before even writing a statement of operational requirement goes against the criteria of good management,” says Philippe Lagassé, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in military procurement. “Clearly, the choice had been made long before and the statement was written to match the choice.”

Nor were any of Lockheed’s rivals, such as the U.S. firm Boeing, maker of the F-18 Super Hornet (the modern version of Canada’s CF-18s), or Europe’s Eurofighter consortium, which makes the Typhoon, ever contacted before the recommendation was made to go with the F-35 in 2006. Boeing vice-president Kory Mathews says meetings were held in 2008 and 2009, but he calls those discussions “preliminary” because Canada didn’t ask for any classified information about Boeing’s fighter, such as its radar and stealth capabilities. “So it’s impossible to know what we really have to offer,” says Mathews. “I respectfully suggest to Canada that it ask for all the information if it wants to make an informed decision.” Why didn’t Canada do that? “We didn’t feel the need,” says Col. Dave Burt, in charge of buying the new fighters for the RCAF. “We had all the necessary information, and there was too much of a technology gap between aircraft.”

To critics, such statements are evidence that Canada’s decision-making process around the F-35 is flawed. “It’s a cosmetic analysis,” says Yves Bélanger, director of the research group on the military industry and security at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He says the government should have asked tougher questions of RCAF brass as to whether the F-35 truly offered the best quality for the price. “The government obviously had a bias toward the F-35 because Canada had been part of the program since 1997,” he says. “But that’s no reason to let the soldiers pick their favourite piece of equipment.”

Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin doesn’t hide the fact that the wishes of the pilots, who enjoy a special status within the Canadian Forces—on missions they sleep in hotels instead of in tents—weighed heavily in the decision to recommend the Lockheed Martin jet. If some talk about the “arrogance of pilots,” Blondin prefers to talk about the “pride” of a “wolf pack” within which competition is fierce. “The experts, the guys who sit in the cockpit, are the pilots,” he says. “They talk to pilots from other countries. They know the F-35 will be good. The politicians listened to us and we appreciate it.” Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino echoes that view. “It’s natural for [the pilots] to want the best plane. We supported them,” he says.

But it’s also true the U.S. has a lot at stake in seeing countries buy the fighter, which has three main versions with differing capabilities. (Canada is buying the F-35A model). In December 2010, WikiLeaks released memos showing that Washington weighed in strongly when Norway, an F-35 partner like Canada, started to hesitate between the American JSF and the Swedish Gripen fighter in 2008. We must be “cautious not to over-assert our position and thereby potentially affront Norwegian sensibilities on their selection,” stated one cable from the U.S. Embassy in Oslo. “A primary importance of this decision is the impact on the bilateral relationship,” another declared. Once the decision was made to go ahead with the F-35, diplomats congratulated themselves. The “persistent” U.S. pressure had “paid off.”

Did the Harper government face the same pressure? “No, never. We took a decision in the higher interest of the country,” Fantino says. Lockheed Martin’s 10 lobbyists in Ottawa had no influence, he says.

There remains a lot of uncertainty around the F-35—most importantly, the cost. Federal ministers keep saying the bill will be $75 million per plane (or $4.9 billion for 65). But that’s just an estimate, Burt acknowledges. “We have no guarantee,” he says. The real price will be known at the end of 2013, when Canada and the other partner countries will officially make their aircraft order.

Program delays hint at trouble though, says Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank. “Even our Air Force does not know the ultimate price. I fail to understand how Canada can rely on the figures testified to you,” he wrote last January to MPs on the Commons defence committee who asked for his advice. “Real costs, when your government negotiates an actual contract and as the program goes through its life cycle, are sure to be an unpleasant surprise. I can guarantee you that the unit price Canada will pay for a complete, operational F-35A fighter will be well in excess of $70 million.”

Last March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent investigative arm of Congress, estimated that an F-35A with conventional takeoff and landing capabilities will cost $115 million. Because U.S. law forbids the export of military equipment at a price below what Washington pays, Canada must expect to pay $2.6 billion more than the figure it has been quoting.

And that bill could keep growing, says parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page. Last March he estimated the average cost of Canadian F-35s at $128 million. “The capabilities of the aircraft remain uncertain given its current state of development, the [regional and industrial benefit] remains unclear and the acquisition and long-term sustainment costs have not been determined,” his report said.

And development delays have made it impossible to count on volume discounts: the first F-35s will be rolling off the assembly lines at the moment Canada makes its first purchases, in 2016. Production, once expected to peak in 2015, will now do so in 2018 or 2019, according to a Pentagon report released a year ago. That could make the unit cost of Canada’s first 12 F-35s rise to $148 million, Page says. What’s more, the Harper government’s price estimate is based on a minimum total production of 3,100 aircraft. So if participating countries—especially the U.S., the largest buyer—cut their orders, the unit cost will rise even further. Buying fewer than 65 planes to save money is not an option. “That’s the floor to fulfill our needs and maintain current capacity,” Blondin says.

Maintenance costs are also a major preoccupation. The official estimate for keeping Canada’s fleet of F-35s in the air is $5.7 billion over two decades. Defence sources call that number “much too low.” The GAO puts the actual maintenance cost at 2.5 times the purchase cost, which would work out to $18.7 billion for Canada. Page pegs it at $19.6 billion, but over 30 years instead of 20. It’s an area where the F-35’s advanced technology works against it. Maintenance costs for the fighter will be 33 per cent higher than with F-16s or CF-18s. “No fighter has ever carried as many lines of computer code as the F-35,” Williams says. “And its composite structure will be delicate to maintain.”

There are also questions about the project’s industrial benefits for Canada, too. In the House of Commons the government repeatedly argues Canadian companies can obtain up to $12 billion in manufacturing contracts for the F-35. However, this estimate, furnished by Lockheed Martin and one of its big subcontractors, Pratt & Whitney, has not been confirmed by any independent analysis.

In fact, the Pentagon contradicts it. In a 2003 report it estimated potential benefits for Canadian business at $3.9 billion. Ottawa wasn’t much more optimistic, putting the potential industrial benefit at between $4.4 billion and $6.3 billion.

Up to now, 65 Canadian companies have signed contracts for a total value of $370 million with Lockheed Martin. Fantino calls the $12-billion figure “a potential. We’re talking about a program that will last 30 years.”

Williams is convinced Canada could have got more from a proper bidding process. “Real competition forces suppliers to bring their A game to win. A country always gets more for its money,” he says. “The F-35 will fly in the end, but the real question is when and at what cost—and whether Canada needs a next-generation stealth fighter to meet its needs.” The only way to know the answer to those questions is with a bidding process that is open and transparent.




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With fighter jet costs, the sky’s the limit

  1. Will someone please answer the question: “What military threat to Canadian sovereignty can 65 F35s counter?”. 

    Can anyone keep a straight face and say that Canada or, for that matter, North America is likely to come under attack by a massive wave of bombers – therefore we need F35s . I don’t think so. Sounds to much like 1960 Cold war thinking. The world has evolved way past that!

    Why would we, in support of Nato, be buying an aircraft capable of attacking third world nations. That makes no sense! 

    There is no credible threat that could be countered by our few F35s. Rather, we need to counter the economic threat to our Arctic, protect our coastal fisheries, deal with internal unrest, root out terrorist cells, and, most importantly, we need to keep our country financially viable! Scrap this program before it cripples our fiscal ability to meet legitimate military needs.

    • You don’t know what threats we will face in the future.  Britain was happily downsizing its military in the late 1920′s and early 1930′s because there wasn’t any threat at the moment that justified a large military.  1 billion dollars a year over the next 30 years is not too big an expense to retain a credible air force. 

      • You are right – none of us know what the threat will be. We do, however, know that there is no amount of money available that would allow us to have a “credible air force” that could defend this massive land mass against an insane attack. in that regard I refer you to the FT Ward comment: “Even if you could dream up a
        threat to Canada we couldn’t spend enough on defence to stop it and 
        would destroy our economy trying.” I couldn’t have said it better!

        If that is not true then let us start wildly thinking “outside the box” and order up a fleet of Starship Enterprise type vehicles for our military.

        We are NOT a super power. Let us concentrate on what we can do best. In that regard, we must ensure that the USA is never threatened by activities that occur or originate in this country. That will allow them to handle the “big stuff”. In that regard, they always have. To say otherwise is to be kidding ourselves about our own importance!

  2. It is the Fascists way of doing business.

  3. The F-35s aren’t for defending Canada. They are for tagging along on US expeditions, making pilots feel happy and filling the coffers of defence companies.

    F-35s are a fighter bomber designed for first strikes. Since anyone capable of attacking North America has nuclear weapons the thought of a conventional first strike on them is preposterous.

    Contrary to the pilot’s quote we don’t need to intervene anywhere. Bombing people who lack air defence systems (the only people we would attack) does nothing but waste our money.

    Including interest (which is always forgotten) the F-35 will cost us about $ 100 billion over 30 years. That’s quite a lot to let pilots kill people from 10,000 feet at a tiny percentage less risk than now so that pols like Peter MacKay can get invites to conferences in Brussels.

  4. Great aircraft, the type of kit we need for the RCAF.

    Because if you want Peace, be prepare for War.

    • Isn’t that how Amercia bankrupted Russia?

      • No, the ‘Soviet Union’ system bankrupted itself mostly with unsustainable social, pension and infrastructure related demands under an unsustainable political system which alienated itself from necessary foreign investment and an incompatible economic system which could not efficiently use investment and private enterprise.

        • And Ronnie Raygun driving down the price of oil so they couldn’t finance it didn’t hurt either.

    • Nonsense. Prepare for Peace

    • If we had doubled our defence spending during the Cold War would the USSR have collapsed earlier?

      If we had doubled our defence spending in the 1930′s would Germany have not invaded Poland?

      The point is Canadian defence spending (even if you believe preparing for war prevents it        and World Wars 1 & 2 would seem to disprove the notion) has no deterrent value. Even if you could dream up a threat to Canada we couldn’t spend enough on defence to stop it and would destroy our economy trying.

      Fighters of any kind do nothing to protect Canada. We got our first jet fighters when Soviet bombers were a threat but those days are long gone. NORAD is more of a habit than necessity and “defending” Canadian soviergnty is cover for the air forces desire to have the newest planes on the block. Here’s a clue- the air force has no permanent air bases in the north. It doesn’t really believe it’s defending Canada either.

      Someone no doubt will respond about watching the arctic for trespassers etc. Fine use small propeller driven planes based in the north that can stay on station for hours and be used for other purposes- dropping supplies, medical evacuation or SAR.

    • You should read the article.

    • “If you want Peace, be prepare for War”.
      How is buying 65 F-35s “preparing for war”???  

      I don’t believe there’s a single nation anywhere on Earth that is capable of posing an existential threat to Canada that would even be slowed down much by 65 F-35s.  F-35s will be great if Russia or China attacks us, but if Russia or China attacks us then one HUNDRED and sixty-five F-35s won’t stop them.

  5. Perhaps Peter McKay and his flat-footed friend would let us know whether we are buying these things for attack or defense.  Presuming it’s the latter, maybe our modern Buzz Beurlings would be interested in the following comparison:

                                            (All specs from Wikipedia)                                    

                                          F-35A………..Euro. Typhoon

    Speed (max)                 1200 mph……….1550 mph      

    Range                           1200 miles………1840 miles   

    Weight (Empty)              29,300 lbs………24,250 lbs    

    Thrust (dry)                 1 x 28,000 lbs……2 x 13,500 lbs

    Thrust/Weight                   .87……………….1.15

    Wing Loading               446 kg/m2……….312 kg/m2       

    Service ceiling                60,000 ft……….65,000 ft

    Rate of Climb               classified…………62,000 fpm
                                      (surprised?)

    Pierre Sprey: designer F-16 and Warthog
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQB4W8C0rZI

    Winslow Wheeler: Swiss Army Knife

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kssZua8MVc

    • Stop quoting facts! It confuses and annoys Ottawa and they respond by spending three times as much on an orgy of committees, panels, inquiries, studies, and fact finding missions to luxury resorts. Simply paying too much for a second rate product may be the best strategy.

  6. Perhaps Peter McKay and his flat-footed friend would let us know whether we are buying these things for attack or defense.  Presuming it’s the latter, maybe our modern Buzz Beurlings would be interested in the following comparison:

                                            (All specs from Wikipedia)                                    

                                          F-35A………..Euro. Typhoon

    Speed (max)                 1200 mph……….1550 mph      

    Range                           1200 miles………1840 miles   

    Weight (Empty)              29,300 lbs………24,250 lbs    

    Thrust (dry)                 1 x 28,000 lbs……2 x 13,500 lbs

    Thrust/Weight                   .87……………….1.15

    Wing Loading               446 kg/m2……….312 kg/m2       

    Service ceiling                60,000 ft……….65,000 ft

    Rate of Climb               classified…………62,000 fpm
                                      (surprised?)

    Pierre Sprey: designer F-16 and Warthog
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQB4W8C0rZI

    Winslow Wheeler: Swiss Army Knife

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kssZua8MVc

    • How about this plane? It beats or nears the F-35 in several specs too:

      Maximum speed: Mach 1.98 (1,307 mph, 2,104 km/h) with Mach 2+ potential

      Combat radius: 410 mi (660 km)

      Empty weight: 49,040 lb (22,245 kg)

      Dry thrust: 2 x 12,500 lbs (55.6 kN)

      Thrust/weight: 0.825 at loaded weight

      Wing loading: 226.9 kg/m²

      Service ceiling: 58,500 ft

      Rate of climb: 11,364 ft/min

      It’s the Avril CF-105 Arrow in 1958. Thanks Diefenbaker Conservatives.

      • Could Peter McKay be the real long lost son of Diefenbaker?

  7. One of the problems not addressed is that as soon as one falls to the Chinese or the Russians (who already have superior aircraft capable of taking on the better F-22) they will have the code and Canada’s technology for the fighters can be used against it. Suddenly, all western airforces have a problem and for many it is the only near competitive plane they have. Somehow at five planes for each province and territory we are looking a little thin on the ground and remember, the Americans have the superior F-22 and in eight years have never found a use for it in any battlefield application. Very expensive book-ends.

    • Sadly, it’s probably not even required to capture an F-35 to have all of the software code used to run the things. A while ago a colleague in an online chat about top secret clearance complained it was given out like candy at Halloween among defense contractors. His words were (approximately): “I work on US missile guidance software with several contracted Chinese national programmers who only speak Mandarin in the lab and all have top secret clearance. They got these guys cheap so security seems to be secondary to costs. Tell me that every line of code isn’t sent to Beijing each evening.” 

  8. The issue is not about ‘which current aerial threats’ exist to Canadian sovereignty today which should justify the purchase of 65 F-35s – a nonsensical premise on which to base such decisions – but rather, which next-gen tactical platform would provide the most reliable and cost-effective replacement for the near-obsolete and near-end-of-lifespan CF-18.  On this account, schedule, reliability and fairly-known costs to operate and sustain should be paramount to the decision made… not pre-conceived, highly-promoted industrial-driven decision making based on advertisements and expectations which are just not (and never were) realistic.

    This quote from the above article nails it perfectly:  

    “In the eyes of Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister responsible for military procurement who supervised the F-35 file in Ottawa until his retirement in 2005, the purchasing process for the jet has become a public administration “fiasco.” He says the government is operating in the dark, noting a person wouldn’t buy a car without knowing its final price, performance or maintenance costs, let alone without even shopping around. “That’s exactly what the Canadian government is doing with the F-35 fighter,” he says. “It’s aberrant.””

    • You’d almost think Lockheed Martin had some kind of Karlheinz Schrieber person greasing palms in Ottawa…

  9. When thinking of “future” possible military threats let me remind you that the interception of the odd Russian aircraft just outside our territorial borders has been going on since the 70s. The intercepts were done with CF101s and now with CF18s. The Russian aircraft presented no threat then and they present no threat now. As I see it, the real threat to our sovereignty is an economic threat. The Russians and Chinese want and need our resources. It is not in their interest to bomb us. Rather, they are buying our country.For our part, the threat is that unaffordable actions by our government will bankrupt our country and compromise our ability to do what is necessary to defend against the real threat. To defend our “sovereignty” I say again that we need to counter the economic threat to our Arctic, protect our coastal fisheries, deal with internal unrest, root out terrorist cells, and, most importantly, keep our country financially viable.In support of our most important ally and neighbour to the south, since we are not a super power, we must ensure that they are never threatened by activities that occur or originate in this country. That will allow them to handle the “big stuff”. In that regard, they always have. To say otherwise is to be kidding ourselves about our own importance!

    • Again, replacing the CF-18 with a most reliable and cost-effective platform option coming from RCAF budget allocations is the point deserving new debate, not how Navy budgets and Govt foreign and commerce policy should be allocated.  Therefore, future RCAF budgets being allocated to this recapitalization agenda is not the threat to Gov not being able to simultaneously make prudent foreign policy in the interests of overall economic sovereignty.  These are mutually exclusive budgets and policy making interests.  And to the contrary, if nothing is to replace CF-18 (in the tactical class) when they retire, then it would be to the net detriment of Canada’s aggregate capacity to operate a credible deterrence, contribute potential support to allies under a highly complex and uncertain future threat matrix and enforce sovereignty as required.  Simply, the CF-18 has indeed added to this total capacity for supporting sovereignty over the decades, and hence, so will the Hornet’s replacement.

  10. All I can say is that CANADA needs to stop spending money on Warfare and copying the United States.

  11. We do not need Killing Machines

  12. The point is Canadian defence spending (even if you believe preparing
    for war prevents it and World Wars 1 & 2 would seem to
    disprove the notion) has no deterrent value. Even if you could dream up a
    threat to Canada we couldn’t spend enough on defence to stop it and
    would destroy our economy trying.

    Fighters of any kind do nothing to protect Canada. We got our first jet
    fighters when Soviet bombers were a threat but those days are long gone.
    NORAD is more of a habit than necessity and “defending” Canadian sovereignty is cover for the air forces desire to have the newest planes
    on the block. Here’s a clue- the air force has no permanent air bases in
    the north. It doesn’t really believe it’s defending Canada either.

    Someone no doubt will respond about watching the arctic for trespassers
    etc. Fine use small propeller driven planes based in the north that can
    stay on station for hours and be used for other purposes- dropping
    supplies, medical evacuation or SAR.

  13. The longer this debate goes on the question of why we are replacing the F-18s should increase.

    Apart from giving pilots the ability to join in the bombing of some hapless third world state for their own amusement at slightly lower risk I’d ask what are they for? Shooting down errant Air Canada planes is apparently now an acceptable mission for NORAD but air marshals seems a cheaper alternative to keeping a pair of F35s on ramp alert outside of every major metropolitan area.

    I can think of no less cost effective manner of keeping an eye on things in the north than using a fighter bomber that will come in at $150 million a pop and require millions in maintenance every year.

    But what if our allies (read the US) asks us to help bomb someone? We managed not to deploy fighters to Afghanistan so I expect the US can get over not having our six fighters tag along.

  14. Even if you’re gung-ho for the military you should be against F-35.The O&M costs for these planes will suck every last penny out of DND. Remember that the Tories will eventually be replaced and defence spending, already about to decrease, will go down more- probably just as the last of the new fighters arrive. The F-35s and the CH-47Fs will consume such a huge portion of DND’s budget that there will be little left for anyone else. See the US where cuts in rates of increase in defence spending is leading to cutting 90,000 troops. We’ll have real cuts on top of a huge waste of cash on the new fighters.

    • Agreed that CF-18′s replacement programme should be opened to a selection process with the objective of identifying the most reliable and cost-effective modern platform.  I personally don’t buy the idea that the F-35 is the ideal choice either.  The F-35 was first posed as the hands-down favourite long-ago when it was being advertised as an F-16 priced aircraft and an Canadian industrial gold mine.

  15. My company can make a superior offer to the F-35.
    This stealth battleship in the sky offfers faster-than-light transport by capturing the warp envelope in a transporter field and beaming it ahead of the ship thereby increasing the speed in which it travels by several multiples of “C”. Further, munitions can be materialized at target from continental distances without risk to the pilot. We’re still writing billions of lines of ode and final assembly is years away but trust us on a cost of $69 million a copy.

  16. I don’t suppose there’s any chance the readers will be able to read said documents, right?  And if you say, “oh, but all ATIP requests are made public after release”, then is someone going to share the request number so people who want more of the context can read the documents?

    Just sayin’ ….

  17. “The first air strikes in Libya were carried out by American B-2 stealth bombers and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean. ”
    No, the first strikes were carried out by the French Air Force equipped with Rafales.

    • And what a rush that must have been for those fighter pilots flying the Rafales. Rolling in on a defenceless third world target with no fear of fire from the ground and dropping live bombs. That would be great fun! Yeee Hawwwwww….

      Meanwhile, the Tomahawks were eliminating any possible sources of resistance. 

  18. “The only way to know the answer to those questions is with a bidding process that is open and transparent.”  With the current government wishing for open and transparent is incredibly naive.  It’s hard to know whether their stubbornness on this is due to stupidity, or just due to their Reform based wish to “starve the beast” by using up government resources so they can justify cancelling programs in other areas they don’t like.  The only certain thing is that when we finally see the outcome we won’t like it.

  19. This comment was deleted.

  20. I do hope every single Canadian remembers this when the next election comes along. This fiasco alone could balance a budget and reduce the national debt in a significant manner. We need a government that will cancel this order.

    It is absolutely clear the conservative capitalists circumvented every known process for sound business practice by blindly ordering these unknown and unproven aircraft. “It looks good on paper” is not an acceptable business decision!

    If Canadian pilots are at risk I suggest the Canadian government stop supporting foreign attempts at colonization by taking part in illegal invasions of foreign countries and save their assets for declared war.

  21. It’s too late for a competition. The statement of requirement would be written by the air force and written for F-35s. The only way to run a competition would be to use the SOR for the F18s with upgrades we have. They are more than enough plane and the only reason we’re buying F-35s is because the air force says the F-18s are coming to the end of their flying lives. The competition would then be the cheapest plane as good as what we have.

    The F-18s we have are probably flyable for much longer than the air force claims so the best bet is to stop all fighter replacement activates and see which of the competitors- F-18E/F, F-15, Euro fighter is the cheapest once the dust settles from all the pending defence cuts. Lots of air forces will have extra planes bought an d paid for they don’t want and manufacturers will have unsold inventory.In the mean time time air force can be told to plan for no new fighters for a decade.

    • Actually, the CF-18s are in fact, yes, nearing the end of their designed life-span.  A few of the hornets have had a centre barrel replaced already and such life-extending upgrades (which are expensive themselves) would need to be conducted on the remaining CF-18 if said jets would be expected to operate effectively beyond 2020.  Even then, by around 2025 these life-extended and upgraded hornets would likely be exhausted as upkeep and maintenance costs would become a losing battle.  (unless you’re proposing a complete strip down and rebuild with all new parts and skins and engines).

      But I’ll concur with you that some further near-term upgrades – at a cost – will be feasible for the CF-18 fleet in order to maintain their competitive credibility as modern systems through at least 2020.  They are a good jet today and can be sufficiently upgraded to remain competitive for the mid-term, true.  I will disagree with you in that a ‘competition’ can’t be held sooner than some think.  A ‘mature’ alternative model could only need 3 or maybe 3.5 yrs between time of order and delivery.  An evaluation and brief competition can be held by summer, 2014 with orders placed at end of 2014 and deliveries starting early 2018.  The first new operational squadron could achieve IOC by 2020 replacing the first retiring CF-18 squadron.  Either way, this schedule it out of whack and is delayed and will cost Canada additionally in the end for miscalculating.

      • I think it’s too late not because of a lack of time but because the air force would rig the competition and the Tories would allow them to do it.

  22. “Real competition forces suppliers to bring their A game to win. A country always gets more for its money.”

    Unfortunately, not all suppliers like real competition.  Or even competition, period.

    • Of course they don’t like competition, but they’re not in control  of our procurement, or are they?

  23.  All that matters is that the jet is the best one available on the market.  I don’t think we want to go and buy f-18 superhornets, it’s based on a jet that was made in the 1970s.  We need modern aircraft because we don’t know what kind of challenges we will be facing in the next 30 years.  People that argue against this purchase based on the fact that they don’t see any need for it at the moment are missing the point.  It’s like health insurance, it’s a good idea to buy it even if you’re healthy.  The cost is not that big a deal, $30 billion spread out over 30 years may sound like a lot but it’s peanuts if you ask me.  Canada as a country spends around $185 billion on healthcare each and every year.  If current budgets hold, we would spend more on the CBC over the next 30 years than these planes.  Get some perspective, and don’t think that just because we don’t need them now we won’t need them later.

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