Editor’s Corner article

Daylight Savings Time for the CF-18 Replacement
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Jan 15, 2013

As tired as I am of hearing about the F-35, I have to admit the entire country (save a select few) is relieved that we are turning the clocks back to the pre-sole-sourcing days of the CF-18 replacement. Whoever made the decision to sole-source this program (many possibilities come to mind) was completely out of touch with the sentiments of the people of Canada.

Maybe the F-35 is the best aircraft, but we absolutely did not want that decision made without a fair competition based specifically on Canada’s needs. Additionally, Canadians have been repeatedly calling on the ­government to assess exactly why we need fast jets in the future. The answer might be found in a National Defence Policy, if we had one.

Concerns of the how and the why were ignored – an example of dangerous arrogance and disregard for the electorate, the citizens of Canada. Was the PM pressured by the US? Probably. Was MND pressured by the Air Force? Most ­definitely. Were Public Works and Industry Canada too readily persuaded to get on board? Looks like it. And communications? Completely inept.

It took a lot of sustained effort to make them admit the error of their ways and realize they could not possibly dig themselves out of this mess without the one thing that we all expected from the get-go – put simply: a fair competition for the Next Generation Fighter Capability (NGFC). The huge challenge will be in comparing apples to apples, such as one engine vs. two.

Despite paying $551M for R&D funding for the F-35 (part of the MOU signed in 2006), Canada was never obligated to purchase the aircraft (although it did seem a likely outcome). The push back from sole-sourcing this program has finally forced decision-makers to step back, effectively pushing the proverbial “reset button” to look at other available options for the NGFC. This really was the ONLY way forward; why did it take so long? That “reset button” was apparently a good purchase, because it is getting a lot of use of late: CCV, CFDS, NGFC... we just hope the NSPS escapes.

As recently announced by Tom Ring, Assistant Deputy Minister at Public Works, an independent team of “experts”, including a former CF-18 fighter pilot turned government bureaucrat, will soon convene to begin that process. Each of the likely contenders (BAE Typhoon, Boeing Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, and Saab Gripen) will receive formal notification that an official request for costing will be forthcoming (hopefully early 2013).

Once the options analysis work is completed, a decision will be made as to whether there are sufficient options to compete this program. I suspect the answer will be yes. There was no estimate as to how long that analysis might take, but several months was mentioned by the government representatives.

The clocks have been set back and it is now “game on”.

Since the world didn’t end as predicted, maybe everything can get on track for 2013!

© FrontLine Defence 2013