Author Topic: F-35 not only jet that meets stealth needs, top general says  (Read 2362 times)

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Mike Blais

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F-35 not only jet that meets stealth needs, top general says
« on: November 30, 2012, 06:30:30 PM »

F-35 not only jet that meets stealth needs, top general says
Chief of defence staff contradicts defence minister in Commons committee testimony
CBC News
Posted: Nov 30, 2012 2:24 PM ET

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Canada's new chief of defence staff has contradicted Defence Minister Peter MacKay by suggesting that other fighter jets do offer some of the stealth capabilities the military needs.

Tom Lawson said during testimony Thursday before the Commons defence committee about the planned $25-billion purchase that most fighter jets offer some degree of stealth capability, including Canada's aging fleet of CF-18s.

Boeing's Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon have been suggested as alternatives to Lockheed Martin's F-35, which until now appeared to be the only fighter jet Canada was considering.
Canada's new chief of defence staff, Gen. Tom Lawson, has been on the job for only a month. The former fighter pilot told MPs on Thursday that not only the F-35, but also other fighter jets offer some of the stealth capabilities the military needs.Canada's new chief of defence staff, Gen. Tom Lawson, has been on the job for only a month. The former fighter pilot told MPs on Thursday that not only the F-35, but also other fighter jets offer some of the stealth capabilities the military needs. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"It's the only fifth-generation, stealth aircraft that meets Canada's needs," MacKay told reporters as recently as last March.

"There are countries around the world flying the [other aircraft with stealth capabilities] to great success these days," Lawson told MPs on Thursday.

Lawson, himself a former fighter pilot, downplayed the importance of Canada buying a so-called "fifth generation" aircraft. The marketing classification "fifth generation" is used in the United States to signify aircraft with the latest technology as of 2012, including advanced stealth capabilities.

"Fourth and fifth generation is not a very helpful way of looking at that aircraft," Lawson told reporters in a scrum after his testimony.
Public Works Department now in charge

The purchase of 65 F-35 aircraft was first announced in 2010. But the costs have risen significantly from the $9-billion price tag offered at the time.

After first Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page and then Auditor General Michael Ferguson sounded the alarm over discrepancies in the calculated costs, Rona Ambrose's Public Works Department was put in charge of the fighter jet procurement process.

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.

That appears to put him at odds with MacKay's claim that only the F-35 meets the requirements to replace the CF-18.

"It is the only plane that can fill the requirement laid out in Canada First Defence Strategy," MacKay told the defence committee in September 2010.

In question period Friday, Ambrose's parliamentary secretary, Jacques Gourde, was taking the opposition's questions on the F-35 procurement.

Speaking in French, he maintained that the seven-point plan being implemented by Public Works for the procurement includes an analysis of "all the options to replace the CF-18."

The defence minister's spokesman, Jay Paxton, says this seven-point plan "includes an analysis of all options to replace the CF-18 that will not be constrained by the [military's earlier] statement of requirements."

"The options analysis is a full evaluation of choices, not simply a refresh of the work that was done before," Paxton says.

Gourde said the Public Works Department is "taking time to do things correctly" and would not say when KPMG, which won a contract worth more than $600,000 to study the cost of the F-35, will finish its work and issue its report.


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Ex-general Bouchard bows out of panel looking for F-35 fighter-jet alternatives


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Dec. 12 2012, 1:00 PM EST

Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 12 2012, 2:17 PM EST

The Harper government has redrawn the list of independent monitors who will oversee a hunt for alternatives to the F-35 Lightning fighter after retired general Charles Bouchard bowed out.

The Conservatives are announcing panelists Wednesday to vet the federal government’s new search for a warplane in the face of ballooning cost estimates for the jet Ottawa picked in 2010.

The monitors’ task will be to ensure Canada is conducting a rigorous rethink of this procurement and these appointees will be putting their reputations and credibility on the line as a result.

The panelists include:

    * James Mitchell of the consulting group Sussex Circle, a former senior civil servant who has served cabinet and Treasury Board;
    *  former Communications Security Establishment chief Keith Coulter, a former fighter pilot;
    *  Former federal comptroller-general Rod Monette, who also served as a senior bureaucrat in National Defence;
    *  University of Ottawa professor Philippe Lagassé, an outspoken critic of the jet procurement.

The list was supposed to include retired Lieutenant-General Bouchard, who led the NATO mission in Libya.

But sources on Wednesday said Mr. Bouchard informed the government that he was too busy to take on the task.

The Harper government is going shopping for alternatives to the controversial F-35 in the most significant demonstration yet that it is prepared to walk away from its first choice for a new warplane.

It’s releasing new independent cost estimates Wednesday that show the full lifetime cost of the jets will exceed $45-billion.

In an attempt to head off public skepticism that Ottawa’s “options analysis” is something less than a rigorous rethink of which jet is best, the government is enlisting four independent monitors to vet the process.

The Conservatives, who have been heavily criticized for selecting the F-35 without due regard for price and availability, are launching this effort to repair their credibility as stewards of public money.

The Conservatives announced in July, 2010, they had decided to buy the F-35 without any competition, and for more than a year and a half, described the jet purchase as a $9-billion acquisition. But in April, 2012, Auditor-General John Ferguson revealed it would cost $25-billion for the first 20 years alone.

To demonstrate that they are restarting the procurement process from scratch, Canadian officials will collect information from other plane manufacturers, including U.S.-based Boeing, maker of the Super-Hornet, and the consortium behind the Eurofighter Typhoon. They may also contact Sweden’s Saab, manufacturer of the Gripen, and France’s Dassault, maker of the Rafale.

The ballooning lifetime cost of the F-35 fighter and Ottawa’s decision to shop around for alternatives are creating panic among Canadian companies betting on supply contracts for the Lockheed Martin plane, sources have said.

The government will start this process Wednesday by releasing National Defence’s updated cost estimates for buying 65 F-35 fighters, and an independent review by KPMG of the forecast price for keeping the jets flying for their full lifespan. The planes are expected to last 36 years, and they should be ‘costed’ as such, the Auditor-General suggested in his April report.

Sources say the full price of ownership for the F-35 would add up to more than $45-billion when all costs, including fuel and upgrades, are included – or more than $1-billion a year over the F-35s’ lifespan.

This price, however, will not include the cost of extra planes to be bought for spare parts. The Auditor-General suggested in April that Canada would need 14 extra F-35s over 36 years, but sources say Ottawa believes it will more likely require only seven to 10 extra planes.

The government aims to complete this reappraisal of what the fighter aircraft market can offer Canada as expeditiously as possible in 2013. The government is requesting answers to questions, including: what kind of plane does Canada need? How long can Ottawa keep its aging CF-18s keep flying? Which jet makers can meet Canada’s budget and requirements in a timely fashion? Do other jets need to be purchased as a stop-gap? Is the best plane still the F-35?

The terms of reference for this options analysis, which will also be released next week, say Ottawa will “review and assess fighter aircraft currently in production and scheduled for production.” This will include the F-35.

Government sources say Ottawa has not decided whether to call for competitive bids to supply a plane and will await the results of the options analysis.

Canada has signed no contract to buy F-35s, and while it has signalled to Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, that it wants 65, it has no obligation to buy them. It did sign a memorandum of understanding in 2006 that set the terms by which a country would buy the aircraft and also enabled domestic companies to compete for supply contracts for the plane.