There is a story by Lee Berthiaume of the Canadian Press on National Newswatch that says that “The long effort to replace Canada’s aging fighter jets took another surprise twist on Tuesday, as multiple sources revealed that French fighter-jet maker Dassault is pulling out of the multibillion-dollar competition.“
“The decision comes just over a week after the federal government published the military’s requirements for a replacement for Canada’s CF-18s as well as a draft process by which a winning supplier will be chosen,” Mr Berthiaume writes and he says that “Dassault had repeatedly pitched its Rafale aircraft to Canada over the years as successive governments in Ottawa have wrestled with selecting a new fighter jet. Dassault’s pitch included significant promises, including that it would assemble the planes in Canada.“
His sources told The Canadian Press that “Dassault’s decision to withdraw was related to the fact France is not a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which counts the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as members. The five members have very specific requirements for how their equipment works together.” I am a tiny bit sceptical; there is, indeed, a “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing agreement and it does have certain (doubtless very strict) communications security standards for exchanging information but I’m not sure that a French fighter jet using NATO standard communications links would be non-compliant. David Pugliese, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, says that “Dassault Aviation has officially confirmed to Agence France-Presse that the firm has pulled out of Canada’s future fighter program. The company had planned to offer the Rafale but decided against competing the aircraft because of the extensive Canadian requirements for interoperability with U.S. forces.” That suggests that communications and sensor technology standards may be at issue, but another report, in Air Force Technology, says that “The communications suite on the Rafale uses the Saturn onboard very/ultra-high frequency (V/UHF) radio, which is a second-generation, anti-jam tactical UHF radio for NATO. Saturn provides voice encryption in fast-frequency hopping mode … [and] … The aircraft is also equipped with fixed-frequency VHF / UHF radio for communications with civil air traffic control. A multifunction information distribution system (MIDS) terminal provides secure, high-data-rate tactical data exchange with NATO C2 stations, AWACS aircraft or naval ships.” There is a lot of open-source information about MIDS systems, using NATO Link 16, on the internet.
If Dassault is pulling the Rafale out over US interface standards concerns then one wonders how well the SAAB Gripen can fare. One assumes that the Eurofighter Typhoon, being partially a UK project, might have less problems fitting and using communications and information technology that will meet US requirements.
It makes me wonder if we have a two-horse race to replace our ageing CF-18 Hornets. Is it the Lockheed-Martin Lightning II, the jet Justin Trudeau said he would not buy because it does work, vs the European Typhoon? It also begs the questions: how many do we really need? and how many can we afford? and do we want to use defence procurement to realign our trading relationships away from the USA, to punish Trump’s America for
NAFTA USMCA and aluminium and steel tariffs, and towards Europe, to prove that the CETA works?
Or, one might also wonder, did Dassault just realize that since Team Trudeau has allowed Lockheed-Martin into the competition that will, since it’s being run by civil servants, likely be fair and honest, the Rafale is not likely to win and there is little point in spending all that money ~ and entering a bidding process for a multi-billion dollar contract is an expensive business in its own right ~ with little hope of return was going to be a waste?