By David Pugliese
The Abbotsford International Air Show in British Columbia was a fitting backdrop for the ongoing rivalry between the Super Hornet and the F-35 in the quest to provide the Royal Canadian Air Force with a new fighter jet.
Lockheed Martin highlighted its offer to the Liberal government of the F-35 as an “interim” fighter aircraft for the RCAF. The air show featured one F-35 from the Royal Netherlands Air Force on static display. A United States Air Force F-35 flew in the “Heritage Flight” performance that also included the P-51, F-16 and F-86 Sabre.
In addition, the USAF displayed other F-35 elements, such as the sophisticated helmet used by the aircraft’s pilots.
Boeing’s Super Hornet also performed aerial displays at the show, which took place in Abbotsford, BC over the weekend of August 11–13. It was also a crowd pleaser on the ground, with large numbers of individuals standing in line to get a look into the aircraft’s cockpit.
Last year, the Liberal government announced a proposal to buy 18 interim fighter jets from Boeing to deal with a capability gap facing the RCAF’s fleet of fighter aircraft, the CF-18. But that multi-billion-dollar plan to acquire Super Hornet jets has been thrown into limbo after Boeing filed a trade complaint in the U.S. against Bombardier of Quebec.
The Liberal government broke off direct discussions with Boeing on the Super Hornet but they continue talks with the U.S. government on the acquisition of the jets.
Boeing officials weren’t talking to journalists, preferring to let the process continue and see what the end result will be. However, Boeing representatives have pointed out in the past that the issue with Bombardier is a separate one on the commercial front and should not be linked to its defence capabilities and offerings to Canada. They have also noted that Boeing has had a long history in Canada and contributes around $3-billion U.S. annually to the country’s economy through direct employment at its Winnipeg plant and other facilities, as well as purchase of equipment and services from Canadian firms. In total, Boeing supports more than 17,000 jobs across Canada.
Lockheed Martin has seen opportunity in the dispute to officially offer its F-35 as an interim aircraft to supplement the RCAF’s aging CF-18 jets. Lockheed has long contended the F-35 is more cost effective and more advanced than the Super Hornet.
Lockheed Martin says its F-35 fighter aircraft fleet recently exceeded 100,000 flight hours while the F-35 Integrated Test Force teams are completing the remaining requirements in the program’s System Development and Demonstration phase.
Jack Crisler, vice president of F-35 business development, told Esprit de Corps that the offer of the F-35 as an interim fighter jet was made on June 2. Canada could acquire the jets for $80-million U.S. to $85-million U.S. each, he noted. “We left it up to them to determine,” Crisler said when asked how many jets Lockheed Martin offered to Canada.
Asked about the Lockheed Martin offer, Matthew Luloff, a spokesman with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office, responded that the federal government continues “to explore many options to provide an interim solution to supplement the CF-18s until the permanent replacement is fully operational.”
“We have not yet made a decision,” he added in an email. “Discussions must demonstrate that the interim fleet is appropriately capable and can be obtained at a cost, schedule, and economic value that are acceptable to Canadians.”
Meanwhile, at the Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo, also held at Abbotsford, Sajjan announced that he expects a request for proposals for the full competition for a jet to replace the CF-18 fleet to be issued next spring. That competition is separate from the interim jet purchase.
The Brazilian Air Force is in the process of receiving the C-295 aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space. This aircraft has a similar configuration to the C-295W that will replace the RCAF’s six CC-115 Buffalos and legacy CC-130H Hercules, the RCAF pointed out in a news release.
Construction began in June for Canada’s C-295W aircraft and first delivery is expected in late 2019, according to the RCAF.
The C-295 crew visiting Canada included members of the Brazilian Air Force undergoing familiarization training, Airbus pilots who are supporting their training, and select members of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement Project Management Office.
The visit, organized in part by Airbus Defence and Space, allowed members of the RCAF’s search and rescue (SAR) teams, including aircrew and maintenance technicians, the chance to see and ask questions about the new aircraft. There was no time, however, to visit 14 Wing Greenwood. Airbus staff was on hand to provide personnel with an update on the progress of the procurement of the C-295W for use in the CAF.
Vancouver Shipyards recently announced the appointment of Jim Corr as Vice President – Planning & Estimating in June 2017 after joining the yard in January 2017 as a consultant. In his new role, Corr will be responsible for providing leadership and direction on network planning, detail planning and production control, as well as estimating for new ship construction.
He has over 37 years’ experience in the shipbuilding industry. He joined the company from General Dynamics BIW, where he worked on the U.S. Navy’s DDG-1000 and DDG-51 destroyer programs.
The former HMCS Preserver was transported to Marine Recycling Corporation’s facility in Sydport Industrial Park, Nova Scotia, on August 2 to be dismantled. On June 8, a contract valued at $12.6-million was awarded to Marine Recycling Corporation from Port Colbourne, Ontario, for the disposal of both the Royal Canadian Navy’s former HMCS Preserver and Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Quest.
The Canadian government will purchase 1,148 new C6A1 FLEX general purpose machine guns from Colt Canada.
The current C6 machine guns were procured over 30 years ago. Some have been removed from service due to wear and tear and others are reaching the end of their service life, according to the Canadian military.
The new C6A1 FLEX (flexible) is designed to be carried by soldiers or attached to vehicles such as the new Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) produced by Textron. The new machine gun will feature a durable polymer butt stock instead of the current wooden style, according to the Canadian Forces. Additionally, soldiers will be able to attach pointing devices and optical sighting systems to the new weapon to help increase their operational effectiveness.
First deliveries of the new C6 are anticipated for September 2018 with final deliveries anticipated for June 2019. The value of the contract is $32.1-million (taxes included).
The procurement includes related equipment such as a cleaning and repair kit, spare parts, and sling to carry the weapon.
L-3 MAS, a subsidiary of L3 Technologies, has issued an order for CAE to continue providing a range of in-service support solutions for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 aircraft. CAE will provide avionics software upgrades, integrated logistics support and data management services. L-3 MAS has been the prime contractor on the CF-18 in-service support program since 1986, and CAE has been performing systems engineering support services for the CF-18 fleet for over 30 years.