Report: Canada dropped competition plan before F-35 buy

Political debate over the F-35 continues growing in Canada. Only a few days after top government officials defended the 16 July decision to award sole-source contract after 2013 for 65 F-35s, Canadian journalist David Pugliese today reports that newly-obtained internal documents show the air force last year planned to launch a competitive procurement. With Boeing, Eurofighter and Saab once hoping to bid on the contract, the opposition party has seized on the sole-source decision as a key political issue. Pugliese writes:

Canada won’t be required to sign a contract committing it to purchasing the fighters until 2013, opening the door for any future government to back away from the proposed deal if needed.

According to [Defence Minister David] MacKay, the government had to move on the F-35 purchase to avoid any gap between the arrival of a new plane and the phasing out of the current fleet of CF-18 fighter jets.

But the fighter replacement timeline, obtained by the Citizen through the Access to Information law, suggested there would be no issues with a gap. According to that timeline, running a competitive process this year would allow for a contract to be signed in 2012, with aircraft delivered in 2015-2016. Those planes would become operational between 2018 and 2023, according to the document.

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7 Responses to Report: Canada dropped competition plan before F-35 buy

  1. Dave 20 September, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    Unfortunately, even with that competition they’d made up their minds long before to buy the JSF. The Harper govt just formalized the the deal… that much can be confirmed by people speaking off the record.

  2. Atomic Walrus 20 September, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Some questions Pugliese didn’t address:

    1) How much would the competition have cost to run?
    2) Would the competition have yielded a different result? (For example, requirement: low observability design. OK, F-35 it is…)
    3) Was the competition ever intended to yield a different result, or merely provide political cover for picking the F-35?
    4) Was the fighter replacement timeline realistic? Politically, it’s far too easy to push back selection of a replacement aircraft, especially with elections looming. It’s also naive to expect that the selection process would be respected with a change in governments. Canada’s previous experience with its frigate ASW helicopter program ought to have provided a clear case study in political interference. A newly elected government cancelled the contract for EH-101 purportedly as a cost-cutting measure (actually an easy political swipe at the previous government,) They then dithered on the replacement for the better part of a decade, changing the requirements several times because the EH-101 kept coming to the top of the selection list. They finally issued a contract for Sikorsky S-92s, which still aren’t expected to enter service for several years because of contractor problems. In the meantime, a successor government issued a series of sole-source contracts for C-17s, C-130Js, and CH-47s that have already entered service.

  3. Burnzy8 21 September, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    Given the vast and hostile climate that these planes must operate in, does anyone think that Boeing’s proposed upgrade to the Super Hornet might be considered? I know the current E/F model has short legs but the prospect of conformal tanks with two engines might make more sense for Canada. I’m not really advocating for them to switch but they might save some money and have better availability with good enough performance to make it worthwhile to consider. Goodnight.

  4. alloycowboy 21 September, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    The F-35 is so far ahead of its revivals that it’s pointless to even consider a competition especially when you take in account that some of them have technology that was designed using a slide rule.

  5. JR 22 September, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Here’s a comment about the F-35:

    Lockheed Martin’s taxpayer funded F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—at $184 million apiece, the most expensive weapons system ever built—is, according to arms analysts Pierre Sprey and Winslow Wheeler, an overweight, underpowered turkey that is so complex it will likely spend most of its time in the repair shop. Lockheed Martin is already taking orders from foreign buyers.

    And we already bought this turkey?

  6. Atomic Walrus 22 September, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    Pierre Sprey and Winslow Wheeler made the same arguments against the F-15 and F-16 about 30 years ago. I guess they figure that with the ever-increasing complexity of technology, they’re bound to be right sometime.

  7. Jack Pratt 23 September, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    You have to understand Canadian politics over the last century. The Canadian forces have never gotten what they really need, usually some kind of hashed nonsense put together by a bunch of lawyers–sound familiar?? I was surprised that they got the new C-17′s 130′s and CH-47′s–REALLY!! Jack

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