Ottawa Citizen

Last year Norway committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its new future multi-role fighter but Canada is still no closer to a decision.

At the same time Denmark has decided to wait until next year before deciding on what future aircraft to purchase. Like the Canadian Air Force, it is considering the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet as well as the Gripen.

Canada’s Defence Department continues to insist that no decision has been made on what aircraft which become Canada’s next generation fighter, nor the procurement strategy that DND will follow.

“The Department of National Defence anticipates that the Next Generation Fighter Capability project will be advanced to government in due course,” DND spokeswoman Annie Arcand has told Defense Watch several times.

But DND has not defined what “due course” means and that same statement has been used by the department for at least the last six months.

Aerospace industry sources say a plan to sole source a Canadian purchase of JSF is no longer on the table but that the Harper government is also no closer to announcing that a competition will be held.

Some Air Force officers worry that any competition to proceed on the replacement for the CF-18 would be delayed by a federal election or at least threats of a federal election. No government wants to be announcing a multi-billion project to buy new fighter jets when the public is focused on health care, unemployment and other concerns, they noted.

The Canadian Air Force’s timetable to obtain a Next Generation Fighter in time for replacement of the CF-18 fleet by 2015/2016 requires a competition to be run no later than next year, according to Air Force documents obtained by Defence Watch.

According to a Sept. 25, 2008 Air Force briefing on the Next Generation Fighter Capability, the timetable for the purchase calls for a competition to be run next year and a contract with the winning aircraft manufacturer to be signed by 2012.

According to the timetable obtained by Defence Watch, initial deliveries of the Next Generation Fighter would take place in 2015/2016 with the initial operating capability in 2018, according to the timetable. Full operating capability would be achieved by 2023.

In May 2008, the Canadian government announced as part of the Canada First Defence Strategy it intended to replace the CF-18 fleet with a Next Generation Fighter Capability. Since that time the Department of National Defence has investigated various options to deliver that capability, although it notes that deliveries of the new aircraft would start in 2017.

In contrast to the delays in Canada on how to proceed, Norway last year moved ahead of schedule on its JSF decision.

Norwegian Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen released a statement in November 2008 that the JSF was “the only candidate” that met the country’s operational requirements. She noted that JSF manufacturer offered the aircraft at a “lower price than the Gripen NG.”

Like Canada, Norway formed an organization –the Project Future Combat Aircraft Capability Committee — which selected the winning candidate. Unlike Canada, however, the work of that committee was supervised by independent and external auditors.

No specific details on how much the JSF will cost Norway has yet been released but defence analysts are indicating it will cost about $52 million U.S. per plane.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:



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