If I understood what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and others said yesterday afternoon, the government has decided to augment the existing CF-18 fleet with 18 new Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet jet fighters to meet what it says are the urgent needs of the air force. “It would,” CBC News says, “stand as a partial replacement for the country’s aging fleet of CF-18s and comes with a pledge to hold an open competition to buy the rest at a later date.” Next it will conduct a fair and open competition which will include the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, assuming that the company wants to compete despite the government’s promise that it would not buy their aircraft. The competition, alone, will take five years! Finally, it will buy a long term replacement aircraft.
This is, I think, about as “good” as the government can do, despite:
- Being unable to square the circle of a real competition but not buying the F-35; and
- Punting the actual decision into the next mandate ~ five years from now ~ and creating a very, very large/expensive procurement “bow wave” unless the Boeing F/A-18E/F wins the competition.
There are suspicions that “the fix is in” and Boeing will have the inside track in the competition by virtue of the interim buy of Super Hornets ~ that would allow Boeing to be most competitive on price and, thereby, deny Lockheed Martin any real chance to compete on a level paying field.
The five year competition is, in my opinion, a smokescreen designed, solely, to defer defence spending. Nothing has changed in the operational requirements and nothing has changed in the aircraft that might be offered: 30 months should be long enough to cal for bide and for for a “tiger team” of good engineers to evaluate what is out there. The industrial benefits drivel from Minister Bains is just that: drivel. There are no such things as “freebies.” Canada will pay, usually at a rate of 105%+ for any “industrial benefit” it receives.