Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Does the Defence Acquisition Guide point to a competition?

The Federal Government unveiled its new "Defence Acquisition Guide" on Monday, portraying a roadmap of Canada's military purchases for the next 20 years or so.

You can find the Defence Acquisition Guide here.

There are a few things in the guide worthy of attention, despite the Federal Government stating that it is "not set in stone".

Under "Future Fighter Capability", we have this:

Anticipated Timeline 

  • 2015 to 2017
    • Definition Approval
  • 2017 to 2019
    • Request for Proposal Release
  • 2018 to 2020
    • Implementation Approval
    • Contract Award
  • 2026 to 2035
    • Final Delivery
The "Definition Approval" stage would seem to point to a new look into what Canada needs to replace the CF-18 Hornet, possibly even requiring the RCAF to come up with a new statement of requirements.  A "Request for Proposal" would indicate a competition, as manufacturers are asked for information.  The "Implementation Approval" and "Contract Award" stage seem to suggest a new fighter would not be selected until almost 2020.  

This certainly looks like a plan for a full competition to be held.  

CF-18 Hornet.

Reading between the lines, there are even more hints.  Most obvious are a slew of upgrades, updates, and enhancements planned for the the existing CF-18 fleet.  These include "Training Enhancements" a new "Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite", and a "Follow-on Operation Flight Program".  All together, these CF-18 updates could add up to almost a half-billion dollars.  Needless to say, that's a lot of money to upgrade a fighter due to be replaced in a few years...  But understandable if the CF-18 will need to soldier on for 10 more years or so.  

A few more things grab your attention.

CC-150 Polaris
The "Multi-Role Tanker Transport" program to replace the CC-150 Polaris throws in a line:  "This project is pending the result of the evaluation to replace the CF-188, due to different fuel receiving systems in use by various fighter aircraft."  Given that the F-35A is incompatible with the RCAF's CC-150, yet the other possibilities (Super Hornet, Typhoon, Rafale, and Gripen) all are, this $1.5 billion program could possibly be dropped if Canada chooses a different aircraft other than the JSF. 

IRIS-T WVR Missile
The "Advanced Short Range Missile" for the CF-118 and its replacement looks to replace the existing AIM-9M Sidewinder with a newer WVR missile.  While this would likely lead to a selection of AIM-9X, this could lead to a different selection like the IRIS-T or ASRAAM.  Both missiles have their advantages over the Sidewinder.

MBDA Meteor
The "Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Sustainment" program looks like a simple update to the RCAF's current AMRAAM inventory.  This would probably lead to the AIM-120D, although it could lead to a MBDA Meteor selection.

New to the fold is the "Long Range Air-to-Air Missile" planned for a much later time (2026 to 2035).  This could be a possible implantation for a the MBDA Meteor, even though this is more of a medium-range missile.  It should be noted that both the Meteor and AMRAAM have longer ranged versions planned.  It is unlikely that any of these would fit in the weapons bay of a F-35, however.

MBDA Storm Shadow
Then there is the "Low Collateral Damage Weapon", which seems to describe a Brimstone or AGM-176 Griffin "Mini-Missile".  On the flip-side, there is the proposed "Complex Weapon" which appears to be more of a stand-off cruise missile like the Taurus KEPD 350 or MBDA Storm Shadow.

What is interesting about all these new missile projects is that, except for the "Complex Missile" they are all scheduled for roughly the time frame as the new fighter.  This might suggest a more holistic approach to the fighter selection.  Instead of simply selecting a fighter, then figuring out which weapons to hang off it, the entire weapon system might be considered.  For example:  Would a Typhoon with Meteors be more effective than a F-35 with AMRAAMs?

This could be good news for the RCAF and the rest of the Canadian military.  How the pieces fit together is just as important as what the pieces are.  

There are a few other non-fighter related nuggets in the report.

Fixed-Wind Search and Rescue.  A request for proposal release is planed for this year, with a contract awarded next year.  Deliveries planned from 2021 to 2025.  There is also a "Utility Transport Aircraft" project to replace the CC-138 Twin Otter (which possibly could be amalgamated into this).  This could be good news for Canada's long put-off FWSAR replacement.  

There is a plan to update and eventually replace the CH-146 Griffon.  Similar plans are set for the CT-114 Tutor used by the Snowbirds.  A new Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) indicates the acquisition of UCAV.

CP-140 Aurora
Of interest is a "Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft" looking to replace the CP-140 Aurora.  Instead of merely being a ASW (antisubmarine warfare) aircraft, the Aurora replacement will be more ambitious.  It will combine Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR).  It calls for "long range and loiter times".  This process won't start until the 2020s.

Like the Twin Otter and FWSAR replacement, there is the possibility of an Aurora replacement being amalgamated with the CC-150 replacement.  Both utilizing the Canadian made Bombardier C-Series as a base.

Kicking the can down the road.
Unfortunately, in the end, this Defence Acquisition Guide may be of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.  The majority of the projects are scheduled for years from now, well after the next election.  Any new government may decide to follow the guide at their leisure or throw it out entirely.    Canada's armed forces have long been a political football, with governments often more willing to commit to military action than to military spending.

Let us hope any military commitment will matched with appropriate funding.  Otherwise, what's the point?

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