CF-18 Lives On, Stake in F-35 Maintained
The federal government is keeping all its options open for the future of the RCAF’s fighter fleet.
The government announced earlier this week that it will spend the money needed to get another five years out of its 80 or so remaining CF-18 Hornets, extending their service life to 2025. Assuming some of them make it that far, Canada will have operated CF-18s for 45 years by then.
The government has also reportedly made a $25-$30 million payment to maintain its stake in the development of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The payment ensures Canada will get a slightly discounted price on F-35s if and when they are purchased but the most important impact in this election year is that maintaining the partnership will allow Canadian companies to continue to build parts for the aircraft. About 40 Canadian companies have about $600 million worth of contracts with Lockheed Martin, supplying everything from software to the nose cone bulkhead.
The CF-18 announcement likely means that any decision on a replacement for the Hornet will be delayed until after the election, which is scheduled to happen a year from now but could also be delayed.
Pundits seem to agree that all this political posturing is pointless and that Canada will buy F-35s. What remains to be decided is the process and the timeline.
If the Conservatives win the next election convincingly, they are likely to resume the sole-contract process for acquiring the fighters and just get on with it. The alternative will be to go through an open bidding process in which the F-35 will be the clear front runner and it will be chosen from among four or five contenders.
If the Liberals or NDP win the next election, it’s not clear what will happen with the fighter purchase.
Decision on ISIS Deployment Looms
Canada would likely send CF-18 fighters and CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol and surveillance aircraft to the Middle East if the country commits more resources to the fight against the Islamic State.
Those two aircraft are the only platforms (besides light helicopters) that carry weapons but it’s unlikely the Auroras would carry torpedoes.
The patrol aircraft would be employed in target identification and surveillance tasks using a powerful suite of sensors and gear that is well respected in the surveillance community. Canada has 14 Auroras, 10 of which are based at CFB Greenwood, NS.
The role of the CF-18s is less clear. While they can carry many modern munitions, their interoperability with the aircraft of other countries is questionable.
Cabinet has been discussing the potential escalation of Canadian involvement and an announcement is expected this week.
Lancaster Safely At Home
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster VeRA landed at its base in Hamilton last Sunday after a triumphant and dramatic tour of the U.K.
The aircraft flew in formation with the RAF’s Battle of Britain Lancaster Thumper at air shows and in flypasts all over the U.K. during its six-week tour.
The two Lancs also flew in formation with an Avro stablemate, the world’s only flying Vulcan bomber.
The Canadian Lancaster left RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire last week and took a leisurely trip home with stops in Iceland, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec.
CWH CEO David Rohrer was at the controls on the last leg of the trip into Hamilton and he said it was a happy homecoming for the crew after a tremendously successful tour.
The trip was marred by an engine failure in the middle of the tour. Although the Lancaster returned to the air within a few days with a loaner engine from the RAF, the damaged engine will have to be rebuilt at a cost of $180,000.
The museum has started fundraising to fix the engine and Rohrer said he wasn’t worried about getting it done.
“We’ll find a way. We always do,” he said.
A $338,000 Flight Home
When a meeting ran late last week, as a good host Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his guests a ride home.
Taxpayers will foot a $338,000 bill for the polite gesture in which he ordered his RCAF Polaris transport to fly European Union leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso back to Brussels on Friday night so they could attend a reception in Toronto.
Going to the party meant missing a commercial flight back to Europe and skipping another meeting they had scheduled for Saturday so the PMO called in the Air Force.
PMO spokesman Jason MacDonald told the Canadian Press that the ride home was offered as a courtesy to ensure “no elements” of their visit was missed.
The two men were in Ottawa to sign a Canada-EU trade agreement. The CBC came up with the cost of the trip based on figures released by the government and said no one in the PMO quibbled about the estimate.
“Friday’s Summit allowed business leaders to meet and discuss the opportunities Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement present,” MacDonald said in an email to the CBC. “The Airbus was offered as a courtesy to our European Union guests.”
NavCanada Staff Win Awards
Karen Walker, the company’s director of operational analysis won the David J. Hurley Memorial Award for Aviation Traffic Management for her work in making the system efficient domestically and within the global airspace system.
Flight Service Specialist Glenn Hamilton was named ATCA Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year for his exemplary and extraordinary service to ATC.
Patrick Bureau, a systems engineer, won the ATCA Life Cycle Management Award for creating new systems or gear to improve ATC.
“It is a triple honour for Nav Canada that these three dedicated individuals have been duly recognized for their exemplary performance by ATCA,” said Nav Canada President and CEO John Crichton.