David Pugliese reviews some of the projects that will be vying for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s attention at CANSEC 2017. Among this year’s hot topics of discussion are the controversial issue of replacing the fleet of CF-18s, the recent FWSAR contract announcement, communications satellites, trainers and radar systems.
If there is one topic that is destined to dominate the area of Royal Canadian Air Force requirements at CANSEC 2017 it would have to be the controversial issue of the replacement of the CF-18 fighter jets.
Just months before the start of CANSEC 2017, the Liberal government announced its timetable on both the purchase of interim Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing and the permanent replacement for the CF-18 fleet.
The Liberal government plans to request bids for a new fleet of fighter jets as early as 2019, which would coincide with the next federal election.
Public Services and Procurement Canada also noted the Canadian government expects a deal in place by the end of 2017 or early 2018 to acquire the 18 Boeing Super Hornets as an interim stopgap measure.
Expect to see both programs front and centre at CANSEC 2017, which will be held on May 31 and June 1 at its usual location at the EY Centre, near Ottawa’s international airport.
The Liberals have reversed their position, somewhat, on the F-35 fighter jet. They now say they will hold an open competition for the permanent fleet of fighter jets and that Lockheed Martin is welcome to bid the F-35.
Lockheed Martin Canada has highlighted the F-35 at previous CANSECs and this year’s event is expected to be no different. The aircraft’s supporters point out that things have been looking up lately for the stealth fighter; the cost of the plane has been dropping and the aircraft has been deployed, such as during a recent exercise by the U.S. Marines in South Korea. In addition, the U.S. is now considering sales of the aircraft to Taiwan.
Boeing has also conducted a marketing push on its Super Hornets, which it is also expected to offer for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s permanent fighter jet fleet.
Boeing has successfully brushed aside criticism from 13 retired RCAF generals who raised concerns about the interim Super Hornet deal. The officers, some with connections to Boeing’s rivals, want the Liberal government to scuttle the Super Hornet purchase. But that won’t be happening as the procurement continues to proceed on schedule.
It addition to its fighter jet, Boeing also has the success of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite system to promote at CANSEC. One of these U.S. military satellites, partially funded by Canada, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 18. Representatives from the RCAF and Department of National Defence were on hand at Cape Canaveral to watch the launch of the ninth WGS satellite.
Canada contributed $340-million to the development of the satellite, the largest financial contribution of the five project partner nations, according to the DND. The spacecraft will aid in meeting Canadian military strategic satellite communications requirements, according to the DND.
Rico Attanasio, executive director, Boeing Department of Defense/Civil Satellite Programs, called the system a “unique international collaboration (which) increases military interoperability and expands affordable high-data-rate communications for U.S. and allied partners around the globe.”
WGS-9 launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. Boeing is on contract for 10 WGS satellites, the last of which is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2018.
The Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Project will also be another highlight at CANSEC. The Liberal government announced December 8, 2016 that it had selected the Airbus C295W aircraft as its new FWSAR plane. Between 2019 and 2022 all 16 C295Ws will be delivered as replacements for the RCAF’s current SAR fleet, which consists of six CC-115 Buffalos and 13 CC-130H Hercules.
The contract worth $2.4-billion (with a potential increase of $2.3-billion should the government option further support contracts) also includes in-service support (ISS) for the life of the program, which will be provided by AirPro, a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and PAL Aerospace of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The C295W features substantial Canadian content, Airbus has pointed out. Every C295 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprop engines driving a pair of Hamilton Standard 586-F six-bladed propellers. Pilots and technicians will be trained at a new facility developed by CAE in Comox, B.C. L3 WESCAM of Burlington, Ontario, will provide the electro-optical systems for the aircraft.
The federal government noted that additional industry partners will contribute to maintain the FWSAR capability and include Heroux-Devtek to repair landing gear; Hope Aero to repair propellers; Sonovision for technical publications; CLS Lexi-Tech for translation of publications; and Precision Aero to repair component parts on the aircraft.
But the program also brings intrigue to CANSEC 2017 as Airbus rival, Leonardo, has gone to federal court in an attempt to overturn the contract decision. Leonardo’s Team Spartan is alleging that the selected airplane is “unfit to safely perform certain key search and rescue tasks and missions required by Canada and should have been, therefore, disqualified.”
Airbus denies that and states that its C295W aircraft meets all the Canadian requirements.
Other companies are also going into CANSEC 2017 with new federal contracts.
Magellan Aerospace announced February 3 that it had received a contract award from Public Services and Procurement Canada for engine repair and overhaul and fleet management services on the F404 engine, which powers Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 Hornet aircraft. The contract commenced in January 2017 and work will be carried out until the terms expire at the end of March 2021.
A preliminary funding amount of $45-million has been approved to launch the multi-year agreement, the firm noted. The contract includes options to extend the duration of the agreement beyond 2021, based on performance.
Magellan will service the F404 engines at its facility in Mississauga, Ontario and at Royal Canadian Air Force bases located in Bagotville, Quebec and Cold Lake, Alberta.
Under the terms of the contract, Magellan will provide repair and overhaul (R&O) services, engineering and field support services, technical and publication management services, and supply chain management services for the F404-GE-400 engines and CF-18A/B secondary power systems, the company pointed out in a news release.
“Magellan Aerospace is an approved source for F404 and J85 engine repair and has been the RCAF’s choice for F404 engine R&O service for 35 years,” Phil Underwood, president and CEO of Magellan Aerospace, said in a statement. “We are pleased to continue this relationship with Canada’s air force, which demonstrates confidence in Magellan’s world-class technical experience and value in terms of competitive pricing.”
Another aviation contract that will soon be announced is for the $1.5-billion Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) Project. The winning bidder was supposed to be selected in December 2016, but that has been delayed somewhat. Will the winner be announced at CANSEC 2017? If that were the case, it would be a good public relations move for the Liberal government, and some much-needed good news in the area of defence procurement.
Discovery Air Defence from Montreal has been providing such services for the Canadian military since 2005. It has also expanded in operations internationally and was recently hired to provide similar services to Germany.
Discovery is up against CAE, which has allied itself with Draken, a U.S. firm. Both firms promoted their CATS solutions at last year’s CANSEC and are expected to do the same this year.
In the period leading up to the CATS selection, Discovery Air Defence has made a number of announcements of wins in the training world or new teaming arrangements for international competitions. It has joined forces with Inzpire Ltd. to bid for the UK Ministry of Defence’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) Program. The two companies will combine their capabilities in the live air training environment to deliver what they hope is a winning solution.
“The combined strengths of our two companies are uniquely suited to meet the ASDOT requirements and to serve the British Armed Forces’ evolving live-fly, tactical training needs well into the mid-2030s,” Paul Bouchard, president of Discovery Air Defence, said in a recent statement.
Inzpire already provides an independent exercise management team to the RAF’s Air Battlespace Training Centre, as well as supplying expertise within the RAF’s Air Warfare Centre through the management of large-scale live training exercises. Inzpire’s qualified helicopter flying instructors instruct the British Army Apache attack helicopter and Wildcat helicopter conversion-to-type and conversion-to-role courses, according to the company.
In March, Discovery Air Defence also announced it had been awarded a two-year trial contract by the Royal Australian Air Force to provide Red Air and fighter support to the Australian Defence Force. The “Jet Air Support – Fast Jet Trial” consists of three highly advanced Alpha Jets based at RAAF Base Williamtown, the firm noted. These upgraded jets feature dual touch screens, new radios and GPS receivers for enhanced precision and safety. Air Affairs Australia will be working closely with Discovery Air Defence for the Fast Jet Trial.
Discovery Air Defence will provide Red Air and fighter support to the RAAF as well as Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training to the Australian Army, and anti-surface training for the Royal Australian Navy. The trial will begin in the third quarter of this year.
In the area of NATO Flight Training in Canada (NFTC), Field Aviation has been awarded a contract by CAE to upgrade the Harvard trainer aircraft used in the program. Twenty-two CF-156 Harvards will be upgraded. A Traffic Advisory System (TAS) and an Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS–B) transponder system will be installed on the planes.
TAS improves pilot situational awareness of other nearby aircraft by providing traffic detection and alerting appropriate for military flight training operations, according to Field Aviation. A Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) GPS receiver will also be installed with the ADS–B transponder system, allowing the aircraft to accurately determine and broadcast its position information to air traffic control.
Various other firms will also highlight at CANSEC 2017 their solutions for other future RCAF or international programs.
L3 Mission Integration recently unveiled its reconfigurable multi-mission aircraft (MMA). Built on Bombardier’s Q400 platform, the MMA has the speed, power, range and endurance for various missions, according to the company. L3 Mission Integration worked closely with Cascade to come up with the solution to a maritime MMA with a low operating cost.
Work began in early 2013 to convert a standard commercial Bombardier Q400 to a multi-mission aircraft. The conversion consisted of an auxiliary fuel tank system for extended range, interior reconfiguration to provide the foundation of the integration of mission systems and equipment, and a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) increase for the aircraft, the firms noted.
In addition, the modifications are compliant with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulations, giving the companies more flexibility in the international marketplace. All prototype integration work has been completed at Cascade’s facilities in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
The RCAF will also be on the hunt for a new Tactical Control Radar System. The federal government recently issued a letter of interest for the purchase of three transportable 3D Long-Range Air Defence Tactical Control Radar systems. The deal will also include infrastructure design, spare parts, training, and in-service support. The closing date on the letter of interest was April 25 and a request for proposals is expected in late August. Equipment demonstration would take place in mid-March 2018 and a contact awarded in October 2018.