In August 2013, L-3 Communications’ MAS division in Mirabel, PQ received a 5-7 year, C$ 683 million / $669 million continuation of their 2012 complete in-service support (ISS) contract for Canada’s 5 CC-150 Polaris aircraft. The full amount will only be realized if the 2-year option is exercised. L-3 MAS will be responsible for overall program management, materiel management, engineering support, flightline maintenance, and heavy maintenance, plus component maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.
Latest updates[?]: After sensationally backing out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Canadian government will not exclude the jet from the renewed CF-18 replacement competition. Canadian minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan said at the annual Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) that once the government determines its needs, and capabilities are specified, potential contractors will be allowed to bid, including Lockheed Martin with its F-35. The announcement marks the first time that Sajjan has explicitly said that the F-35 could still be in the running, after weeks of hinting at the possibility.
Liberal versus Conservative politics are dominating the coverage of Canadian self examination of their defense procurement process. Conservatives came to power criticizing a broken and opaque process run by the Liberals, and now the Liberals are enjoying throwing similar barbs at the majority party. But in the fray, several interesting analyses have surfaced that the defense establishment is taking seriously.
The Harper government insists that a defense procurement overhaul conducted last year has yet to toll, and that patience is needed to prove that things have improved. By far, the largest effect is exerted by the major fighter and ship programs, which evolve in year and decade timescales.
As to the actual content of the report, much blame is placed at the cutting of procurement staff levels, which have been halved over the past 20 years. Also unpopular among the procurement officials are rafts of the new reporting requirements – reportedly up by about 50 percent – that are part of the Harper governments reforms.
Separately, the objectives of major defense procurement projects have also been called into question. Because the F-35 has greatest advantage in the objective of overpowering a state with top anti-air resources, Canadian officials are now questioning whether this is something relevant to Canada, especially in the face of a lopsided price disadvantage versus other fighters. Reportedly, the only other fighter contending still against the F-35 is Boeing’s Super Hornet. This analysis, a product of the 2012 decision to delay what was to be a $45 billion purchase of F-35s, did not draw a conclusive recommendation, although it did note that the likelihood of requiring a mission profile uniquely suited to the F-35 was low.
The F-35 program has been controversial in Canada, even more so than in other countries, complete with alleged plots to conduct secret initial procurement of four fighters to be delivered in 2015, with a commitment for 9 more two years later. Internal pressures led the Harper administration to develop a more explicit offset seeking program, called the Value Proposition Guide, as in show-us-what-industrial-value-we-can-bank domestically.
February 26/16: After sensationally backing out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Canadian government will not exclude the jet from the renewed CF-18 replacement competition. Canadian minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan said at the annual Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) that once the government determines its needs, and capabilities are specified, potential contractors will be allowed to bid, including Lockheed Martin with its F-35. The announcement marks the first time that Sajjan has explicitly said that the F-35 could still be in the running, after weeks of hinting at the possibility.
February 23/16: Major defense purchases through Canada’s problem-plagued procurement process is to be guided by a cabinet-level committee. The committee will have direct access to support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and is tasked with seeing that billion dollar sales, which include all aircraft purchases, will not be held up in federal bureaucracy. While details of the committee have not been disclosed, it will include high ranking members of the Liberal government including Procurement Minister Judy Foote, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Scott Brison, the president of the Treasury Board.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin's Space Fence system has passed an Air Force Critical Design Review, according to a company press release. Passing the CDR now means that the full-scale Space Fence System radar and facilities can be constructed on Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. Designed to serve as a second-generation space surveillance radar system, the Space Fence will allow the Air Force to track satellites and space debris.
Space Fence concept
Space is big. Objects in space are very dangerous to each other. Countries that intend to launch objects into space need to know what’s out there, in order to avoid disasters like the 2009 collision of 2 orbital satellites. All they need to do is track many thousands of man-made space objects, traveling at about 9 times the speed of a bullet, and residing in a search area that’s 220,000 times the volume of Earth’s oceans.
The US Air Force Materiel Command’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts leads the USA’s Space Fence project. It’s intended to improve space situational awareness by tracking more and smaller objects, while replacing legacy systems in the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) as they retire. With a total anticipated value of around $6.1 billion over its lifetime, Space Fence will deliver a system of 2-3 geographically dispersed ground-based radars to provide timely assessment of space objects, events, and debris. International cooperation will supplement it, as part of overall Space Situational Awareness efforts. Failure is not an option. Or is it?
Latest updates[?]: Canada is planning a major mid-life extension program for its fleet of Victoria-class subs. Various options are being considered, with a report expected by June. The project is expected to be worth between $1.2 and $2.5 billion, with the aim of extending the boats' life by six to eighteen years. Lacking an indigenous submarine industry, the Canadians will have to look to foreign suppliers in order to fulfill modernization requirements.
Canada’s aging fleet of Oberon class submarines had become simply too old to put in the water. In July 2000, their de facto retirement became official. The question was: what, if anything, would replace them? With long coastlines, and a significant portion of its iced-in northern seas used as running grounds for foreign submarines, Canada’s military believed that giving up its submarine capability was not a viable option for a country that wished to maintain its sovereignty.
Unfortunately, the country’s purchase of 4 second-hand diesel-electric Upholder Class submarines from Britain ran into controversy almost from its inception. In early 2008, controversy flared again as the submarines’ C$ 1.5 billion Victoria Class In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) became an issue. Subsequent revelations concerning spiraling costs, boats in poor condition, and few to no actual submarines in service have kept the fleet controversial to the present day.
In fall 2012, the Canadian government began planning in earnest to replace its current fleet of Coast Guard helicopters: 14 MBB Bo-105s and 3 Bell 206L LongRangers at the light end, supported by 6 Bell 212 twin-Hueys. The replacement buy has been structured as 2 competitions: one for 16 light helicopters, and one for 4-8 ‘medium’ helicopters. A 3rd buy may add 2-3 different helicopters for use aboard Canada’s new Icebreaker after 2017.
Unfortunately, the competition has followed the same template as almost every major Canadian defense buy over the last decade: a show of competition, masking a pre-selected winner. That has become a political issue in Canada, now that the government has announced its intent to sole-source a light helicopter award worth up to C$ 1 billion over 20 years.
It’s time to modernize New Zealand’s only serious combat ships. New Zealand bought 2 ANZAC frigates in the 1990s, as a cooperative venture with Australia using the MEKO 100 German design. F77 Te Kaha was commissioned in 1996, and F111 Te Mana was commissioned in 1997. At the time, the ships were adequate low-end frigates, but 20 years later, they’re simply obsolete. New Zealand has long realized that changes were required, and has been planning and funding a whole series of changes since 2006.
By the time 2005 drew to a close, Canada was pursuing UAV deployments on 3 fronts. The RQ-11 Raven’s early performance in Afghanistan led to purchases of soldier-portable mini-UAVs, which would be joined by older Sperwer tactical UAVs already in inventory. Canada’s Air Force was also crafting a multimillion-dollar plan to purchase the Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS), for fielding around 2010.
Canada’s defense procurement system rivals India’s for inefficiency, so it isn’t completely surprising that nearly a decade of effort has produced essentially nothing.
The CP-140 Aurora is a ‘Canadianized’ variant of the P-3 Orion aircraft used in the maritime surveillance role by the USA and many other countries. Like their fellow P-3s around the world, however, the Auroras have flown very long hours under very tough conditions. How to keep them flying at an affordable cost?
The question became even more urgent after Canada looked at the expected price tag to replace their 18-plane Aurora fleet with the 737-based P-8A Poseidon. Canada has the world’s longest coastline, and persistent issues with both economic zone enforcement and human smuggling by sea. Clearly, something had to be done…
The Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program began in 1995, and it has taken a very long time. Its MoU was late, its contract will be both late and smaller in scope, and it won’t meet even a revised 2012 – 2014 fielding window. At long last, however, one can be assured that it will exist. This is DID’s in-depth FOCUS Article covering the AGS program, from its platforms to its program structure to its long-awaited contracts.
The original AGS plan involved an Airbus A321 counterpart to Northrop Grumman’s E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS), a Boeing 707 derivative whose powerful ground-looking Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) offers American commanders combat-changing battlefield surveillance and communications. AGS would be a pooled NATO asset, adding 7 RQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs and dedicated ground stations to complement the manned planes. It has since been reduced to just 5 RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk UAVs and dedicated ground stations, but could expand again if countries decide to make some of their national surveillance assets part of the program.
The US military has been coming to the realization that its aging aircraft fleet will begin posing serious challenges in the coming years. Canada is experiencing similar problems. In 2005, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier said that:
“Our [CC-130 E/H] Hercules fleet right now is rapidly going downhill. We know that three years and a little bit more than that, the fleet starts to become almost completely inoperational and we will have to stop supporting operations – or else, not be able to start them.”
This Spotlight article offers additional details regarding the Canadian CC-130 recapitalization program, and the thinking behind it; some background that points up the parallels between the issues faced by the Canadians, and the experiences of other air services; and some insight into why the buy took so long, after the C-130J was declared Canada’s preferred choice in an “expedited” process. Canada has begun using the new planes on operations, and is preparing to accept the last “CC-130J.” This will shift its focus to issues of long-term support costs.