Thursday, 28 March 2013

Translating the "Draft Industry Engagement Request".

How the jets are scored.

The Canadian government has handed over the decision pick a "next generation fighter" to the Ministry of Public Works.  So how is the Ministry of Public Works going to pick a fighter?  Clues may be found in the "Draft Industry Engagement Request" sent to Lockheed, Boeing, Eurofighter, Dassault, and Saab.  This document basically asks manufacturers to brag up their products' capabilities and performance.   A second request will be sent later to ascertain pricing and economic benefits.

Reading through this request is challenge.  In typical government fashion, it is a very dry read full of redundancies and buzzwords.  I've taken the liberty of making a rough translation concentrating on the "selling points" listed.  I've also added my own comments, in italics.

Section A:

"Blah blah blah blah..."

Section B:

  1. How good is your jet against:  a) Air, b) Ground, c) Sea based targets?
  2. What type of radar does it use, how good is it, and what is the range?
  3. What sort of infrared or other sensors does it use for fighter and missile sized targets?  (The Rhino's kludgy IRST may put it at a disadvantage here)
  4. What weapons do they use and how good are they against:  a) Air, b) Ground, c) Sea based targets?
  5. Describe the electronic warfare suite and its effectiveness.
  6. Describe the jamming system and its effectiveness.
  7. What sort of infrared protection is in place?
  8. What sort of countermeasures does it use and how much?
  9. What sort datalink does it use?  What's its range, security, compatibility, etc?
  10. What sort of voice communication does it use?  Does it work beyond line of sight?   (i.e. Satellite)
  11. What's the pilot interface?  (HOTAS, voice command, night vision, HMD, etc?)
  12. Does it have sensor fusion?
  13. What's its RF (radar) signature.
  14. What's its IR (infrared) signature?
  15. How can it reduce or conceal its RF and IR emissions and does this reduce performance?
  16. a)  List the engine's thrust-to-weight ratio (T/W) with air-to-air and air-to-ground load-outs with full and 50% fuel.  b) What's the wing loading?  c)What's the turn rate, both instantaneous and sustained at sea level, 15,000ft and 30,000ft?
  17. What is it's combat radius, ferry range, and endurance (time on station)?
  18. List any other capability not listed here.
  • Procurement.  a)When does the assembly line shut down?  b)What is the production capacity?  c)How much more development needs to be done?  (a) hurts the Super Hornet, since it is near the end of its life, b) hurts the F-35 since it is still far from being ready.
  1. What is the structural life in hours, years, take-off and landing cycles, etc?
  2. How reliable are the weapon systems?
  3. What are the future software upgrades?
  4. What security requirements are needed?  (this hurts the F-35)
  5. Describe the maintenance and weapons system support.
  6. When does this support expire (this could hurt the Super Hornet if production is cut and it gets replaced by the F-35 or F/A-XX)
  7. What simulators are needed.
  8. List the cleared air-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-surface (sea) weapons.  (this hurts the F-35 and the Rafale most of all)
  9. What are the requirements for self-sufficient operations in deployed locations (this would highly favor the Gripen)
  10. How well does it comply with other weapons (NATO, etc).
  11. How is the all-weather performance, including the arctic?  (again, the Gripen scores well here).
  12. Connectivity?
  13. Bandwidth?
  14. Limitations?
  1. Describe the upgrade approach.
  2. What is the potential for future upgrades?  How much space is available, how open is the architecture, etc?
  3. List additional upgradeable features.
  • What is the fuel type?  Does it support aerial refueling?  etc...
  • Are there export restrictions?
  • Is it sold through foreign military sales or direct commercial sales?  (direct commercial sales are likely to have less restrictions).


  1. I think the paper is disorganized and no clear priorities are set. Here is just one example:

    "Defensive Counter Air (DCA)
    Airborne measures taken to defend friendly airborne and surface-based forces against threats/attacks by opposing aerospace/airborne forces;

    Offensive Counter Air (OCA)
    Airborne measures taken to destroy, disrupt, or neutralize the source of an adversary's aerospace force, including warning and control facilities, aerospace bases, launch facilities, and adversary aircraft or targets of opportunity;"

    It is not clear whether offensive counter air merely relates to air-to-air combat. Both "aerospace bases" and "launching facilities" are vague terms. Are AWACS "aerospace bases" are does this term relate to an airfield? Are bombers "launching facilities" or does launching facilities relate to SAM-batteries?

    In my opinion, the over-all mission air-to-air combat is clear and understandable.

    "Strategic Attack

    Close Air Support (CAS)

    Land Strike"

    Problem: Strategic support, close air support and land strike are all - well land strikes.

    "Tactical Support to Maritime Operations (TASMO)

    Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)

    Instead, I would have chosen:

    1. Air-to-Air combat
    2. Land Strike
    3. Maritime Strike
    4. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

    What are your priorities? Is Intelligence a top priority for a fighter or don't you think small unmanned aircraft should do the job in the future? ... In my opinion, these are the primary roles of the aircraft and priority should be given to 1, 2 and 3, in this sequence. For Canada long range interception should be of prime importance in the air-to-air role. This is not even mentioned.

    Then, you should define what capabilities are necessary in order to succeed in these roles. Sure, awareness, survivability, reach, lethality are all important. But, these capabilities mean completely different things depending on the mission of the aircraft... In a ground attack role, survivability relates to surviving enemy SAMs and enemy fire. Awareness relates to detecting ground targets. Lethality relates to the precision guided bombs, ground attack missiles, ...

    The competitors are going to patch together their best advertisement brochures and check whether all these points are addressed.

    1. I don't think there are any really big surprises here. Basically, they want something that's flexible, lethal, and adaptable to future threats via upgrades. There is also a bit in there about how mature the jet is. Is it near the end of its life? Is it not quite done yet?

      What's more telling is what ISN'T in the draft request. There seems to be no preference to one or two engines, a dedicated EW variant (i.e. Growler) or two-seat cockpit.

      The questions don't seem to place any particular priority to any feature over another, this is likely a conscious decision to defend their choice later. "Fighter B won us over on its superior _____ compared to the others."

    2. "The questions don't seem to place any particular priority to any feature over another, this is likely a conscious decision to defend their choice later. "Fighter B won us over on its superior _____ compared to the others."

      That's exactly what I think. Again, this is not a transparent contest and you could basically chose any plane you want, if you don't set your priorities right. Therefore, the Canadian government should be urged to state their priorities in this competition. These priorities should relate to the capabilities of the aircraft in different roles and not on how these capabilites are achieved. For example, it shouldn't matter whether survivability in certain circumstances is achieved through electronic warfare or stealth. The final result should matter.


    The Swedish experience in operation Unified Protector by Robert Egnell (PhD Georgetown University, SCSS), should answer some of the questions in the request.

    1. That is a fantastic link, thank you Johan!

      I hope you don't mind, but I shared it with the Facebook group and I'll add it to the link list here. There's some great information on how well the Gripen operated and the Swedish military in general.

      Thanks again.

    2. You're welcome to share the paper Doug. It's a great piece of writing and the information about operation Karakal is outstanding!

      I think that Lt. Gen. Bouchard that's quoted is involved in the Canadian re-evolution of the decision for the next generation fighter.

  3. Interesting read.

    Page 16: "The JAS 39C Gripen is a Swedish-built, lightweight multi-role fighter, comparable in capabilities to advanced versions of the slightly larger F-16."

    That's pretty much what I have said all along.

  4. Doug, a question; why has the Gripen for Canada facbook group been turned into a closed group?..

    & btw, about making SAAB notice the interest for Gripen in Canada, I think that Saab 39 Gripen fb group is probably a good place to make your voice heard..

    1. I changed the Facebook group to "closed" to reduce the amount of times it was popping up in friends' news feeds. I was getting several complaints...

      It's still open for everybody to join! Almost at 100 members now!