Posts Tagged ‘FWSAR’

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN: GETTING A LAUGH ABOUT A $3 BILLION CANADIAN FORCES SEARCH AND RESCUE AIRCRAFT PROJECT

April 15, 2010

By David Pugliese

Defence Watch

At a meeting with Air Force officers and defence industry representatives in Ottawa last week the extent of the paralysis that plagues the $3 billion Fixed Wing Search and Rescue project was front and centre.

An Air Force officer was running through the various equipment projects on the go while images were projected on to a screen.

When the slide came for FWSAR, the screen was filled with a giant question mark.

The defence industry representatives laughed but a number told Defense Watch that the incident was truly indicative of the state of the program. “The Air Force doesn’t know where it is going on this one,” said one industry representative.

The official line from the government is that it is studying a National Research Council report on the FWSAR project.

The NRC report was sought by the Department of National Defence, Public Works and Industry Canada as an independent view of what the minimal standards for the aircraft should be. That report came after allegations were made that the requirements for the fixed-wing search-and-rescue ((FWSAR) project had been rigged by the Air Force to favor Alenia’s C-27J.s

“A recommendation to Government on a proposed solution to acquire FWSAR is planned for Spring 2010,” DND stated in January. “The DND project office, with their counterparts at PWGSC and IC, is currently formulating the recommendation that will be advanced for Government approval.”

A spring 2010 “solution” appears highly unlikely now; thus the question mark when it came to the FWSAR slide in the Air Force equipment briefing.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has not indicated if the government would follow the NRC recommendations to redo the requirements.

FWSAR was originally launched in the spring of 2004 as the top priority for the Air Force but it quickly became bogged down amid allegations from industry representatives about the favoritism towards the Alenia plane. In December 2008 MacKay said he was going to fast-track the project but again that quickly derailed amid the similar favoritism allegations made in the House of Commons and among industry.

At an industry day for the project, held last summer, company representatives were told the Defence Department would require all deliveries of aircraft to be completed within 60 months of a contract being awarded.  However, the department did not provide details on a timeline for the procurement, nor the number of planes needed, say industry officials.

At that time Canada said it was looking for an aircraft that could conduct search and rescue maneuvers equivalent to those currently performed as well as able to fly from one of four current bases to conduct a search for a minimum of an hour before returning to an airfield. According to a 14-page power point presentation from Public Works and Government Services Canada, presented at the industry day the aircraft must have a cargo compartment of sufficient height and width to allow search and rescue technicians to perform all necessary tasks and cockpit visibility to allow the crew to safely conduct maneuvers.

The FWSAR statement of requirements has never been formally released.

START OVER ON CANADIAN FORCES FIXED WING SEARCH AND RESCUE, REPORT SUGGESTS

February 12, 2010

BY DAVID PUGLIESE

OTTAWA CITIZEN

There are indications that a draft report produced by the National Research Council on the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue project is recommending that the government and Canadian Forces start afresh on how they approach the $3 billion procurement.

The Defence Department, Public Works and Industry Canada brought in the National Research Council to look at the FWSAR issue and make recommendations on what is needed in an aircraft. In turn, NRC has brought in some researchers from various universities to help out.

Sources tell Defence Watch that the NRC is recommending starting over on the FWSAR procurement. But it is unclear whether such a recommendation would be accepted and sources point out that the report is at this point only a draft.

The air force has had specific ideas on what it wanted in a FWSAR aircraft right from the beginning. But those specifications have sparked claims that the competition was designed to favor the Alenia C-27J, allegations that have been hotly denied by the air force.

Among the criteria the air force wanted was a minimum aircraft speed of 273 knots/505 km/h and a flying range of 1,699 nautical miles/3,147 km, according to the FSWAR High Level Mandatory Capabilities outline produced last year and obtained by Defence Watch.

Still, the allegations of favoritism, political squabbling and intense lobbying from some domestic firms opposed to the specifications, has resulted in the program being delayed for years.

During the industry day held last year for the FWSAR project, other details were provided. Industry representatives were told that Canada was looking for an aircraft that could conduct search and rescue maneuvers equivalent to those currently performed as well as able to fly from one of four current bases to conduct a search for a minimum of an hour before returning to an airfield.

The 14-page power point presentation from Public Works and Government Services Canada, presented at the industry day, also noted that the aircraft must have a cargo compartment of sufficient height and width to allow search and rescue technicians to perform all necessary tasks and cockpit visibility to allow the crew to safely conduct maneuvers.

The new aircraft would replace both the Buffalo and the C-130 Hercules now used in search and rescue.

A recommendation to Government on a proposed solution to acquire FWSAR is planned for Spring 2010, according to Defence Department spokeswoman Lianne LeBel. “The DND project office, with their counterparts at PWGSC and IC (Industry Canada), is currently formulating the recommendation that will be advanced for Government approval,” she added.

FWSAR was originally launched in the spring of 2004 as the top priority for the air force but quickly became sidetracked.

In December 2008 Defence Minister Peter MacKay said he was going to fast-track the project, purchasing a plane in the spring of 2009 but that also went no where.

Besides the C-27J, Airbus Military is proposing the C-295.

Viking Air has proposed that it provide new production DHC-5 Buffalo aircraft, with the work being done in manufacturing facilities in Victoria, BC and in Calgary, Alberta. The Buffalo is currently used by the Canadian Forces for fixed-wing search and rescue.

Bombardier of Montreal is interested in  offering its turboprop Q400 series aircraft for the program, said Bombardier spokeswoman Sylvie Gauthier.

In early 2008 the Canadian Forces announced it would be flying the current fleet of Buffalo search-and-rescue aircraft until 2014 or 2015.

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN COMMENTARY: MOVEMENT ON A NEW CANADIAN FORCES SEARCH AND RESCUE AIRCRAFT BY THE SPRING?

February 8, 2010

DEFENCE WATCH ANALYSIS

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The official word from the Defence Department on the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue aircraft project is that the various government players will be ready in the “spring” to make a recommendation on how to proceed on the program.

And the unofficial response from the aerospace industry? Don’t hold your breath.

Most people in the aerospace and defence community remember Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s boast in December 2008 that he was going to buy a new FWSAR aircraft fleet by the spring of 2009. Yes, buy.

“As Minister MacKay has noted, these aircraft are a critical component of Canada’s home guard and, simply put, we need to have them,” Jay Paxton, the minister’s press secretary, told Defence Watch on Dec. 17, 2008. “The minister’s goal is to procure FWSAR early in the new year. Beyond that, it is premature to speculate on the exact nature of the aircraft.”

It also appears it was a little premature of MacKay to claim that the government would buy a FWSAR aircraft in the spring of 2009.

So now the project will be moving forward in the spring of 2010.

But then again, DND can’t even give a specific date or define what the term “spring” means.

Would that be April, May or even June?

Asked what month in the “spring” that DND expects to make its recommendation on the way forward on FWSAR, Defence Department spokeswoman Lianne LeBel responded, “Spring.” (You have to feel sorry for some of these public affairs officials who are sent out with five or six printed “media response lines” that say nothing. The FWSAR project office is too scared to put someone up front to deal with the news media since they would be facing some tough/embarrassing questions, such as how come it is taking so long to buy an aircraft?….so they shove Ms. LeBel into the fray)

That aside, LeBel did give Defence Watch a rundown on the official government “media response” on what is happening with FWSAR.

“In July 2009, the Government of Canada requested industry’s feedback on the proposed requirements and key considerations detailed during the FWSAR Industry Day,” LeBel pointed out. “Industry was given 60 days to comment. The submission period concluded on September 15 and the Department of National Defence (DND), Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), and Industry Canada (IC) have reviewed the submissions from industry. Industry’s feedback will complement the work already done by DND to ensure the new aircraft is the best possible solution for Canada’s complex SAR environment. A recommendation to Government on a proposed solution to acquire FWSAR is planned for Spring 2010. The DND project office, with their counterparts at PWGSC and IC, is currently formulating the recommendation that will be advanced for Government approval.”

“Don’t buy into that DND line for the media,” one aerospace industry veteran told Defence Watch. “This program is moving at a snail’s pace. Don’t expect any fast action, spring or summer.”

Added another long-time FWSAR observer: “They told you it would be ready in the spring? Well, at least that’s an improvement over their usual the program will be moving forward ‘soon’.”

The Defence Department, Public Works and Industry Canada have brought in the National Research Council to look at search and rescue in the country and make recommendations on what is needed in an aircraft. In turn, NRC has brought in some researchers from various universities to help out. The report is due March 5 but could be delivered as early as Feb. 15, according to some observers.

DND does have some breathing room on FWSAR. The Buffalo will continue to fly until 2014/2015 or even perhaps beyond that date.

C-130s could also be used to contribute to SAR coverage as they do already. With the arrival of new C-130Js, older C-130s used for SAR could be replaced with “younger” C-130s now currently in the transport fleet. The only problem is that it the C-130 is an expensive aircraft to operate for SAR, air force officers acknowledge.