National Fighter Procurement
Next Generation Fighter Capability
Public Services and Procurement Canada announced December 1, 2021 that that Boeing's F/A-18E/F had been disqualified from the competition to replace the CF-18 fleet with up to 88 new fighters. The decision left the Lockheed Martin F-35A Block 4 and Saab Gripen E in contention, with the later the presumptive favorite.
In a notice posted online 26 October 2018, Ottawa listed five suppliers eligible to replace its fighter fleet with 88 advanced jets: Dassault Aviation, maker of the Rafale; Saab, maker of the JAS 39 Gripen; Airbus Defense, a major partner in the Eurofighter joint venture, which makes the Typhoon; Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-16 and F-35; and Boeing, maker of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle. A contract is anticipated to be awarded during the winter months of 2021-2022. Canada wanted initial aircraft to be delivered in 2025, with initial operational capability achieved by 2026. The government wanted all aircraft delivered by 2031 or 2032, at which time the CF-18 fleet will be retired.
Dassault Aviation decided in November 2018 not to submit a final bid for a Canadian order of 88 fighter jets, effectively withdrawing the Rafale from the competition. The company cited interoperability requirements, leaving Canada to choose from the Boeing Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen. Dassault Aviation took the Rafale out of the running because of technical requirements tied to Canada's membership in the "Five Eyes" signals intelligence sharing group of nations that the company could not meet.
In late May, Ottawa dropped a demand that bidders must guarantee to give Canadian businesses 100% of the value of the deal in economic benefits. Such legally watertight commitments, which Boeing, Airbus and Saab AB had already agreed to, contradicted rules of the F-35 consortium. The government’s move allowed Lockheed Martin to stay in the competition. Airbus announced 30 August 2019 Friday that it was withdrawing from the project. “NORAD security requirements continue to place too significant of a cost on platforms whose manufacture and repair chains sit outside the United States (and) Canada,” Airbus said. Additionally, "the significant recent revision of industrial technological benefits (ITB) obligations does not sufficiently value the binding commitments the Typhoon Canada package was willing to make, and which were one of its major points of focus," the statement said.
By June 2016 the Liberal government was set to buy Super Hornet fighter jets before making a final decision on F-35s. Rather than a full replacement of the air force’s aging CF-18 fighter fleet, it’s believed the purchase will be labelled an interim measure to fill what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had warned is a pending “gap” in Canada’s military capabilities. There is precedent for purchasing Super Hornets on an interim basis; Australia bought 24 of the aircraft about five years ago for $2.5 billion, to replace that country’s antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready.
The multi-role CF-18 entered service in 1982 with an original Estimated Life Expectancy (ELE) of 2003. Aggressive fatigue management and structural repair programs have extended the current ELE to the 2017-2020 timeframe. Concurrently, a comprehensive CF-18 modernization programme has ensured the aircraft would remain survivable and operationally relevant in both the Counter-Air and Counter-Surface roles throughout this extended lifetime. No other platform within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) inventory is capable of fulfilling all CF-18 mandated roles. With the retirement of the CF-18, the CAF would lose its capability to contribute to aerospace/land/maritime effects in the domestic, continental and international domains unless a suitable capability replacement is introduced into service.
Canada has an operational requirement to replace the existing fleet of CF-18s with a fighter aircraft capable of delivering aerospace capabilities in support of CAF operations. Canada's mission needs were captured in the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) announced on May 12, 2008, which specifies three roles and six missions for the Canadian Armed Forces. The CFDS is the Government of Canada's policy foundation for the evaluation of options.
The purpose of the Industry Engagement Request (IER) is to support the completion of one key element of the Government's Seven-Point Plan: that the Department of National Defence continue to evaluate options to sustain a Canadian Armed Forces fighter capability well into the 21st century. The evaluation of options would review and assess all available fighter aircraft and would result in a comprehensive report with the best available information on the capabilities, costs and risks of each option, including bridging, extending the CF-18 and mixed-fleet options.
As part of the evaluation of options, a market analysis would be informed by way of this IER, which would be anchored in the principles of openness, due diligence and third party oversight. The market analysis would be led by the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat (NFPS) in collaboration with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF), Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and Industry Canada (IC). The purpose of the IER is to provide companies with a full and fair opportunity to present information on their fighter aircraft to support the Government of Canada in making its decision on a replacement aircraft for Canada's fleet of CF-18s.
On December 12, 2012, the Government of Canada released several key documents further to its Seven-Point Plan on the replacement of Canada's fighter jets. The Government of Canada announced that it is hitting "reset" and ensuring a thorough evaluation of options to replace Canada's fleet of CF-18s.
The five identified companies would have aircraft in production over this period being engaged—The Boeing Company, Dassault Aviation, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin and Saab Group — were asked to provide comments on the form and content of the draft questionnaire. The draft questionnaire seeks detailed information on technical capabilities of fighter aircraft in production or scheduled to be in production. After feedback from the companies is reviewed and incorporated, a final questionnaire was sent to the companies for completion.
In 2008, National Defence undertook an options analysis of three contender aircraft against the high-level mandatory capabilities. These included the F-35, which was still under development at the time. This analysis concluded that, while all three aircraft could meet the high-level mandatory capabilities, the F-35 offered the “best value” because it provided “exceptional capability at the lowest cost and unparalleled benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry.” This analysis became pivotal to the decision-making process.
Expeditionary missions are conducted on a case-by-case basis in two senses. Firstly, unlike missions involving the protection of Canadian air space, the Government is not obliged to undertake such a mission. For example, Canada declined to participate in the 2003 Iraq War, but was actively involved in Afghanistan. The Government also decided to participate in the 2011 air campaign in Libya, but to date has been poised to provide only political but not military support to potential action in Syria.
Secondly, the Government has choices regarding the type, degree and duration of Canada’s involvement in, and contribution to, an expeditionary mission. The Government can decide whether, and to what extent, it would participate through aircraft, naval assets, or troops on the ground. In an expeditionary situation, while Canadian fighter aircraft could often be useful, they would sometimes not be essential for the purposes of the mission. In ungoverned spaces, for instance, Canada and its allies would have few airborne threats with which to contend. Given that a coalition force would establish air superiority in such situations, the focus of the fighter aircraft would largely shift to delivering the desired effects on surface targets. In these cases, and where the situation allows for ground forces to be deployed, the coalition would have access to other systems, such as artillery, that could also be able to conduct these missions.
Justin Trudeau, who led his Liberal Party to a commanding victory in 19 October 2015 parliamentary elections, campaigned on a platform that stated "We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber. We will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft. The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability. We will reduce the procurement budget for replacing the CF-18s, and will instead purchase one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defence needs."
On 12 December 2017 the Government of Canada announced that acquiring the aircraft that Canada’s military needs to help ensure the safety and security of Canadians, while ensuring economic benefits for Canada, was a top priority for the Government of Canada.
As outlined in the Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy, Canada will purchase 88 advanced fighter aircraft. This is the most significant investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force in more than 30 years, and is essential for protecting the safety and security of Canadians, and meeting international defence obligations.
Through this competition, the Government of Canada will ensure it gets the right aircraft at the right price, and maximizes economic benefits for Canadians. The government will ensure that the Canadian aerospace and defence industries and manufacturers are consulted and engaged in this process.
Proposals will be rigorously assessed on cost, technical requirements and industrial, technological and economic benefits. As it is important to do business with trusted partners, the evaluation of bids will also include an assessment of bidders’ impact on Canada’s economic interests.
When bids are assessed, any bidder responsible for harm to Canada’s economic interests [such as Boeing] will be at a distinct disadvantage. This new assessment, as well as guidelines for its application as an ongoing procurement tool, will be developed through appropriate consultations.
Extensive planning and stakeholder engagement will take place throughout 2018 and 2019. A contract award is anticipated in 2022 and the first replacement aircraft delivered in 2025. The government will engage with foreign governments, fighter aircraft manufacturers and the Canadian aerospace and defence industries to ensure they are well-positioned to participate. The purchase of 88 aircraft represents an increase in fleet size of more than a third of what was planned prior to the Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy (65 aircraft). On December 12, 2017 the Government of Canada launched an open and transparent competition for the permanent replacement of Canada’s fighter fleet and posted a notice on Buyandsell.gc.ca inviting foreign governments and their fighter aircraft manufacturers together to demonstrate their suitability to participate in this process. On February 22, 2018 The Government of Canada posted the Suppliers List:
- Gouvernement de la République Française - Dassault Aviation (with Thales DMS France SAS and Safran Aircraft Engines)
- United States Government - Lockheed Martin Corporation (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)
- United States Government - The Boeing Company
- Swedish Government - SAAB AB (publ) - Aeronautics
- Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - Airbus Defense and Space GmbH
The Suppliers List Invitation (SLI) is a process for the creation of a Suppliers List. This SLI is not an invitation to submit proposals for the FFCP procurement process. No contract or bilateral/ multilateral government agreement for the provision of advanced aircraft and associated elements will be awarded as a result of the activities under the SLI phase.
Canada's project for the replacement of the aging fighter fleet is called the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP). Canadas current intention for the FFCP is to procure a solution that may include 88 advanced fighter aircraft and associated equipment, training, maintenance and engineering, materiel support, initial weapons, expendables, ammunition, required infrastructure changes, sustainment set-up to enable achievement of full operational capability of the new fleet, and a potential period of sustainment for the new fleet. Canadas Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy, including the Value Proposition and the requirement for suppliers to place investment in Canada equal to the value of the contract(s), will apply to the FFCP.
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