1) Further to this post,
F-35: Canadian Fighter Review Ends, Danish One Starts
the minister in charge (and various “source” minions) deals with next steps in this explosive matter:
F-35 remains top military replacement option
Ottawa is considering two main options for its plans to commit $45-billion to controversial new fighter jets – and both point back to the Lockheed-Martin F35 as the clear front-runner, sources said.
The future of the single biggest military procurement in Canadian history gained more urgency on Thursday [April 17] as the government announced the file is being sent back to cabinet...
Nearly 18 months ago, Ottawa vowed to start from scratch after it received a damning audit of its plans for the sole-sourced purchase of new fighter jets, promising to scour the world market for rival jets.
Government and outside sources said the process is nearing completion, and the government is facing two main options: continue with its sole-source plans to buy a fleet of 65 F-35 Lighting IIs, orlaunch a competition that, based on technical and financial data obtained by the government, would lead to the selection of the same aircraft [emphasis added, hmmm--but see below].
A third option would entail starting over – including rewriting the government’s specs – but the process would take years and is facing resistance from the Canadian Forces…
Public Works Minister Diane Finley confirmed on Thursday that the government will soon be in a position to make a final decision, with the matter expected to go to cabinet in June [italics added, we'll see].
Sources said the options that will be presented to ministers remain in flux…
In the context of the story above, this in November 2012from Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson (Air Force) is, er, interesting:
F-35 not only jet that meets stealth needs, top general says
…Rona Ambrose’s Public Works Department was put in charge of the fighter jet procurement process [National Fighter Procurement Secretariat (NFPS)].
Part of that review includes evaluating alternatives to the F-35. The military’s original statement of requirements for the purchase included some level of stealth capability, but not a particular, “necessary” element of stealth, Lawson said.
Lawson said that while other fighter jets offer an “element” of stealth capability, the F-35 is “better.”
But when asked by Liberal defence critic John McKay whether there is only one airplane that can meet the standard of stealth set out in the Canadian military’s requirements, Lawson said “no.”
“All options are on the table,” Lawson told MPs[emphasis added, one would like to see quite a bit more detail about what resulted from our review]…
There is a bright side to this procurement SNAFU: if the government had placed a firm order for F-35s in 2013 as it had planned, with first deliveries in 2016, the price of early delivery planes would have been outrageous.
And for some real fun look at the F-35 IOC dates at p. 8 of this November 2010 DND PowerPoint–Canada supposed to be in 2017. What a hoot, eh?
2) Whilst down south the public reports continue to flow (wish we had similar regular ones here, link to SAR text below):
DoD Says F-35 Costs Drop But Hill Aide Predicts Rise; PEO Slams Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney got a public drubbing from the sharp-tongued head of the F-35fighter program, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, when the Pentagon released a new cost estimate for the military’s biggest weapons program.
“Pratt’s not meeting their commitment, it’s as simple as that,” he told reporters this afternoon [April 17] at the Joint Program Office’s headquarters here. “They told us years ago that theengine was going to come down at a certain rate in terms of price and they haven’t met it. Not good. Not good at all.”
But the three-star general’s harsh words for the jet engine maker — undoubtedly designed in part to pressure Pratt in ongoing negotiations for the next two lots of F135 engines — were his one negative note in an otherwise upbeat briefing on the F-35′s Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) for 2013. The question is whether the good news numbers actually hold up…
F-35 2013 SAR
…the dip in the life costs masks a slight increase in the estimated cost to develop, build, and field the fifth-generation fighter. They rose 1.4 percent — $4.5 billion — from $319.4 billion to $323.5 billion (in 2012 dollars). That increase is driven less by Pratt & Whitney’s problems than by rising labor costs, which are in part a result of the global economic recovery. Also, schedule delays, caused not by the program’s internal troubles but by budget cuts in both the US and foreign partners, also play a role [see here for partners]…
Bogdan admitted there are plenty of unknowns left. “We’re only about 55 percent done with the flight test program,” he told reporters today. (The Pentagon’s top procurement official once called thisconcurrency of testing and production “acquisition malpractice“). That means there are undoubtedly more problems to find and more fixes to make.
Just recently, for example, the program had to redesign the nitrogen injection system that keeps the gas tanks from exploding when the plane is struck by gunfire or lightning. The next lot of aircraft to be built, LRIP 7, will have a more powerful nitrogen system, but the ones already built and currently under construction do not, he said: “Some day, they’re going to have to come back and get that retrofitted so they can fly in lightning.”
Then there’s the Pratt & Whitney problem…
The Navy now plans to buy 33 fewer aircraft in the current Future Year Defense Plan (FYDP), the Air Force to buy four, and, if Congress does not grant the president’s request for significant spending above the current sequestered budget caps, another 16 or 17 US planes are going to go away. Meanwhile Turkey, Canada, Holland, and Italyhave all slowed or reduced their purchases of F-35s [more on production plans here and here (more hoots)]…
See 1) above. More SAR stories here, here, here and here Relevant:
JSF and US: “Three Reports on the F-35: One of Them Informative”
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds