This is Part III of an ongoing Western Standard feature examining leaked F-18 fighter replacement program documents.
The public line from the federal government is that the CF-18 fighter replacement program is coming along just fine, and that defence bureaucrats are conducting an open and fair competition.
This is called into question by 800 pages of leaked documents obtained by the Western Standard showing that defence bureaucrats are defying their political orders by inflating the replacement program requirements in favour of the F-35, the most expensive option by far. At stake are Canada’s air defence capabilities, and billions of dollars in federal taxpayer funds.
The strike scenarios in the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) draft RFP all involve a hypothetical war between a Western NATO equipped “Blueland” and an aggressive “Redland” armed with the latest Russian weapons. This is standard jargon for wargames.
Scenario 3 is laughable, as it reads like a subtle insult to the Prime Minister for his 2015 promise to spend more on the navy. In this scenario, Redland sends a state-of-the-art Russian S-400-armed frigate down an unnamed Blueland river (that looks like the St. Lawrence) to attack a Blueland port (that looks like Quebec City). The Blueland navy is nowhere to be found, thus leaving the Air Force to save the day. When I shared this scenario with a naval expert, he said that this scenario sounds like a job for Canada’s new Type-26 Frigates: the ships Trudeau promised to spend more money on instead of buying the F-35. Only a naval warship can perform a blockade, intercept another ship, and deescalate a conflict.
Instead, two fighters are asked to sink six small fast boats and disable the frigate. Weapon configurations are not dictated, but the requirement to sink 6 small boats and only temporarily disable the frigate’s S-400 system, suggest the mission should be flown using small weapons that fit inside an F-35. The Gripen gains little to no advantage for supporting the new Saab RBS15 Odin’s Spear anti-ship missile, one of the more advanced large anti-ship weapons in NATO’s arsenal. A weapon that is also supported on the made-in-Canada Saab/Bombardier Swordfish: the leading contender to replace our aging CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft.
Scenario 4 is a combination of defensive and offensive counter air missions against a Redland defended by S-400 Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS), and a mix of Su-57 and Su-35 fighters. While unlikely, it is not entirely unreasonable to assume that sometime in the next 30 years NATO nations may be called upon to bomb a dictator who possess some of these impressive Russian weapons. However, the way the strike is designed represents a departure from how coalition forces have historically neutralized modern IADS and from how Canada participated with the CF-18.
In the First Gulf War and Libyan campaign, IADS were targeted for destruction in the opening salvo of naval cruise missiles, American stealth strikes (F-117 over Iraq, B-2 over Libya), and coalition air launched cruise missiles. Surviving SAM sties were then ruthlessly hunted by specialized SEAD fighters. In both conflicts, the CF-18s transitioned from defensive counter air, to offensive counter air, to bombing missions only as the enemy’s air defences were significantly weakened. If these are the future weapons the RCAF will be up against, then we should ensure that the Royal Canadian Navy’s Type 26 Frigates have enough money in the budget to be armed with modern long-range cruise missiles.
While the Saab Gripen-E, armed with meteor missiles, should prove capable of performing the offensive counter air mission as written, the method points are awarded gives an unfair advantage to the F-35. Only the F-35 is likely to earn the maximum points for getting close to the S-400 system and for threatening the enemy A-50 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
Points in every scenario can be deducted by the Department of National Defence’s (DND’s) evaluators based on a risk factor. The strike scenarios allow for bias to significantly influence that risk factor. If DND evaluators accept Lockheed Martin’s claims that the F-35’s systems will perform perfectly, then it will receive a “low risk” factor and earn full points. If DND evaluators decide that the Gripen’s systems will fail miserably, then they can assign the “very high risk” factor and deduct sixty percent of Saab’s points. This presents a worrisome opportunity for principal-agent mischief and should demand checks and balances like those under the New Fighter Aircraft (NFA) program that selected the affordable CF-18 over the considerably more expensive F-15 that RCAF leadership preferred at the time.
The Scenario 5 strike missions include close air support (CAS), coordinating a naval missile strike on an S-400 system, and engaging moving targets while minimizing collateral damage. All are reasonable air-to-ground missions that would have to be flown during a coalition bombing campaign. That said, the tasks involving the S-400 are biased to benefit the F-35. These types of missions are far beyond the capabilities of the CF-18 and have historically been left to the Americans.
History has shown that affordable light fighters can make valuable contributions to coalition campaigns. By flying the US Navy defensive counter air mission on day 1 of the First Gulf War, Canada’s CF-18s freed up more advanced US Navy assets to fly missions over Iraq and earned Canadian pilots praise from US Navy controllers. Swedish Gripen-C jets flew 570 armed recon missions over Libya, earning Swedish officers a guest seat at Five Eyes intelligence meetings and praise from the NATO commander, Canadian Lt-General Bouchard: “The Gripens have a strategic importance for the operation. They have a spectacular capability.” French Mirage 2000 light fighters successfully flew numerous missions over Libya, destroyed many Libyan tanks, and bombed Gaddafi’s convoy.
Scenario 6 demands capabilities so far beyond what the RCAF has ever possessed that even the F-35 may be hard pressed to deliver. In a major coalition conflict, it is likely that none of these strike missions would be performed as written in the RFP. The Americans would go in first using the full breadth of their arsenal including stealth drones, an overwhelming naval cruise missile strike, and the future B-21 next-generation stealth bomber. The last stealth bombing mission ordered over Libya by President Obama involved a pair of B-2 stealth bombers, carrying 160 JDAM precision guided bombs. It would have required 80 F-35s to carry that many bombs in stealth mode.
Canadian taxpayers would be right to ask why the RCAF needs such an expensive first strike capability, especially given how it will inflate the costs of performing our NORAD and NATO air policing missions by over $10 billion. Scenario 6 should be discarded, and the associated points distributed to the two NORAD Arctic scenarios.
With COVID-19 related deficits placing a huge financial burden on future taxpayers, there will be significant pressure to keep military spending to a minimum.. Canadian Gripen-E jets would be made in Canada, with full technology transfer, and full industrial offsets. The Gripen is the only jet in the competition that costs less per flight hour than Canada currently spends on the CF-18.
When Pierre Trudeau purchased the CF-18, it was the least expensive jet in the competition that fulfilled reasonable mission requirements. Respect for the taxpayer and respect for the military are not mutually exclusive concepts in Sweden. The Gripen-E is the right jet to replace the CF-18.
Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist with the Western Standard and a Canadian military analyst
McCOLL: Canada’s airforce replacement program getting it half right, half wrong
Alex McColl on how the very mixed bag of Canada’s airforce replacement programs.
On June 6, the Department of National Defence (DND) announced that the two oldest 1980s-era Bombardier VIP jets (the Challenger 601) would be replaced with a pair of new sole-sourced Bombardier Challenger 650 jets. The old Challengers no longer meet international civil aviation standards nor could they be affordably upgraded.
While some have criticized the Challenger fleet, Canadians should be proud of how much money the affordable Challengers have saved the taxpayer.
The United States Air Force (USAF) spends more on a single 8-hour Air Force One (a Boeing 747) flight than the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) spent on the governor general’s 109 Challenger flights between April 2011 and February 2014. That said, the Liberal government has taken a step backwards on the VIP jet file by missing an opportunity.
The Bombardier Global VIP jet can carry more people, can fly farther (over 11,000 km), and is a proven military platform. Finland is currently evaluating the new Bombardier/Saab GlobalEye as a component of Saab’s bid to replace Finland’s F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets. The Global is also the basis for the Bombardier/Saab Swordfish maritime patrol jet that is the leading contender to replace Canada’s aging CP-140 aircraft.
Canada needs to keep RCAF operating costs affordable while adding capabilities. A proven way to save money is to reduce the variety of jets in service. It would be better to replace all four Challengers with new sole-sourced Bombardier Global jets and six Bombarder/Saab GlobalEye airborne radar jets. The government should also announce that the CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft will be replaced in the 2030s by Bombardier/Saab Swordfish jets. This would both enhance our military capabilities while reassuring potential export customers that militarized Global jets are a safe investment.
On Tuesday June 16, the United States Government announced the approval of a foreign military sale to Canada of approximately $862.3 million (USD) worth of CF-18 upgrades and weapons. Phase one of Canada’s Hornet Extension Project will upgrade avionics and mission systems to extend the life of up to 94 CF-18s until 2032. Phase two will use the upgrades to enhance the combat capabilities of up to 36 CF-18s.
The upgrades quote includes fifty of the latest AIM-9X sidewinder missiles, twenty AGM-154C glide bombs, thirty-eight APG-79(v)4 AESA radars, thirty Improved Tactical Air Launched Decoys (ITALD), and a host of other upgrades to bring Canada’s CF-18A jets to an equivalent standard with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) F/A-18C Hornets. The Marines plan to upgrade 98 of their Hornets – 7 squadrons worth – with these systems between 2020 and 2022. The new radar is nearly identical to the APG-79 AESA radar found in the Super Hornet.
Phase one and the addition of the AIM-9X missile should be considered the bare minimum required to keep the CF-18 fleet flying to 2032, when Canada’s next fighter is scheduled to reach full operational capability. Phase two will offer significantly enhanced combat capabilities and give RCAF pilots some valuable experience with modern radars. The Department of National Defence (DND) released a budget estimate of $500 million for phase one of the Hornet Extension Project and a total cost – including phase two – of $1.3 billion.
All four of the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada have promised to increase military spending. During the June 18th leadership debate, Dr. Lewis – the only candidate to not commit to a 2 per cent of GDP spending target – questioned the commitment of MacKay and O’Toole by pointing out that the Harper Government didn’t get it done despite its own commitment.
Even proponents of sole sourcing the F-35 – like Peter MacKay – should support the CF-18 phase two upgrade. The May 2020 United States Government Accountability Office report on the F-35 outlined issues and cost overruns that have delayed the availability of fully capable Block 4 F-35s until 2026.
This delay – combined with the fact that allied nations are already in the order queue – casts serious doubts on if Lockheed Martin could even meet Canada’s CF-18 replacement timelines. Lockheed Martin could deliver Block 3 aircraft, but that would impose considerable future upgrade costs on Canadian taxpayers. The rational course of action would be to delay an F-35 purchase until Block 4 jets are available.
If Conservatives are serious about rearming the RCAF and reaching Canada’s NATO spending targets, then they should demand that phase two of the Hornet Extension Project is fully funded and delivered on time. Conservatives should also push the Liberals to do more and replace the aging Challenger and CP-140 aircraft with a combined fleet of Bombardier Global based VIP, airborne radar, and maritime patrol jets.
Canada’s airforce fleet replacements – and the fighter replacement in particular – have been a morass of bureaucrat inertia and political interference, but the there is finally a glimmer of hope that they might get it right.
Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist with the Western Standard and a Canadian military analyst
Inside Seattle’s CHAZ – where warlords rule and vegan food is in short supply
At the heart of the CHAZ, is a Seattle police precinct, abandoned by officers and now being used by protesters, oh, and warlords.
As a strategy for American urban renewal, it’s certainly an interesting experiment.
Thousands of protesters – many hailing from the far-left ANTIFA terrorist organization – have taken over a six-square block area of Seattle – now dubbed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) – where no police officers are allowed.
Just 24 hours a day of protesting, music, dancing and communing without a cop in sight, they have already run out of food, putting out a plea for “vegan meat alternatives” and other soy-based food donations.
At the heart of the CHAZ is a Seattle police precinct, abandoned by officers and now being used by gun-tooting warlords who have established themselves as the new keepers of law and order.
They have a list of demands, including the “abolition” of the Seattle Police Department and its attached court system, free college for all people in the state, as well as “the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking, but especially the abolition of both youth prisons and privately-owned, for-profit prisons.”
The streets are apparently controlled by a hip hop artist-turned-warlord by the name of Raz Simone, who has established an armed private police force that does not hesitate to dole out beatings to communal scofflaws.
Another video shows Raz and friends confronting a man for making unauthorized graffiti on Raz’s turf, which results in the “police” stealing the man’s phone, breaking his glasses, and reportedly repeatedly kicking him in the head.
“We are the police of this community here now,” the man is told before the beating.
The video reveals Raz’s gang telling the man, “For your own safety, you need to go,” and “You might need a little love tap” before seeming to assault him.
The vandal is then ordered to hand over his phone as tribute to Raz, under the threat of more violence. “You just broke my glasses! I’m blind! You just broke my glasses and stole my phone!” the man pleads, before being told, “Yeah, we should have broken your face.”
“Don’t be making no threats … I’ll blow your brains out,” Raz says.
In other sections of CHAZ, there are tents with supplies for volunteer medics as well as food donated by local restaurants, along with fruit, snacks and water bottles.
“The scene here is peaceful as hell,” said a demonstrator who identified herself as Jahtia B.
“This is our city. I was born and raised in this city. Let’s give it to the people, the people who live in Seattle and have been thriving here,” she told AFP news agency.
Seattle City Councillor Kshama Sawant disputed accounts of violence or intimidation by protesters within the area and said it was more like a street fair with political discussions and a drum circle.
“The right wing has been spreading rumours that there is some sort of lawlessness and crime taking place at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, but it is exactly the opposite of that,” said Sawant,
An African American demonstrator, Rich Brown, told reporters he was scared Sunday when police used tear gas and flash-bangs in an attempt to clear the area.
“Today I feel supported, welcomed,” he said.
“We’re able to speak, it’s what we’ve been wanting to do this whole time, without intimidation, without fear.”
U.S President Donald Trump and Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan are currently engaged in a war of words over the Zone.
“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump warned Durkan and Washington state governor Jay Inslee – both Democrats – in a tweet late on Wednesday, calling the protesters “domestic terrorists” who have taken over Seattle.
“This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped (sic) IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST,” he said in another tweet.
Durkan replied, telling Trump to “go back to his bunker” a reference to when Trump sheltered in the White House bunker after D.C protests and riots got too close.
Inslee tweeted: “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. ‘Stoop’ tweeting.”
In a Thursday press conference, Durkan said it would be unconstitutional and “illegal” for Trump to send military forces there to clear protesters occupying part of the city.
But, at the same news conference, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said the protesters could not remain camped behind barricades in the city’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood.
“You should know, leaving the precinct was not my decision,” Best said in a video addressed to the members of the department.
Assistant Police Chief Deanna Nollette told reporters police had received reports that protesters allegedly set up barricades, “with some armed individuals running them as checkpoints into the neighborhood.
“While they have a constitutionally-protected right to bear arms, and while Washington is an open carry state, there is no legal right for those arms to be used to intimidate community members. No one at these checkpoints has the legal authority to demand identification from anyone,” Nollette said.
Nollette also said police have “heard anecdotally” of residents and businesses being asked to pay a fee if they want to operate in the area.
“This is the crime of extortion,” Nollette said.
Officials say there is no indication the occupied area is being coordinated by left-wing groups under the umbrella of Antifa.
The U.S. has been wracked with violent riots since the death almost three weeks ago of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Wexit Saskatchewan ramps up for its first election
With a fall election around the corner, the new Wexit Saskatchewan Party is preparing for its first big fight.
The new Wexit Saskatchewan party is quickly preparing for its first election coming up this October. The party’s interim leader, Jake Wall says he is excited as prospective candidates for the permanent job step forward and they gear up for their first ever convention.
“I’m getting calls from people saying, ‘Listen, I want to help buy some memberships. What can I do? So the numbers are starting to pick up.”
If Wexit Saskatchewan has grown quickly, it’s because the party had little choice. On January 23, the Saskatchewan Party and NDP both agreed to change the requirements for new political parties to be established. It meant that Wexit had to collect 2,500 signatures by March 26 – much sooner than the fall deadline the party expected.
As it was, Wexit handed in 3,599 signatures on March 10, becoming just the seventh registered party in Saskatchewan.
Harry Frank estimates that he collected 500 of those signatures in 70 hours of work, canvassing Regina, Moose Jaw, Pilot Butte, and Balgonie.
“The response was overwhelming,” Frank said. “Trudeau got in again and you saw what happened. Things just exploded.”
Frank said the decision of establishment parties to make it more difficult for Wexit to gain status only made people even more eager to add their name.
“Our party is young but it’s growing,” Wall says. “We will definitely be a force in October come the election date. I know the Sask Party is worried about us.”
Wall says Wexit is picking up disillusioned voters from across the political spectrum.
“We’re getting people who are disgusted with the NDP because they have gone so far left – probably 20 per cent of people who contact us. Those who had leaned towards Sask Party but don’t like [Premier] Moe would comprise of about 50 or 60 per cent. And then others who have never voted before would be the last 20 per cent of those people.”
Wall says Moe has lost support because of high debt levels, the expenses of putting transgender bathrooms in schools, and the shut down of the provincial bus company.
Another controversy arose when the emergency wards of 12 rural hospitals were shut down for weeks due to the pandemic. The premise was to make physical changes to the facilities and to train staff on protocols. Some felt the closures were made too quickly, were poorly communicated, and left people an hour from a hospital if they needed help. The Facebook group, “Citizens concerned about rural health care” was formed in response and now has 2,300 members.
Wall says Moe and his Saskatchewan Party refused to let the people vote on whether they supported Saskatchewan independence, and were clearly warned that if they refused, Wexit supporters would form a party.
“Why do you think Moe doesn’t want to have the plebiscite? He doesn’t want to hear the answer. If the answer comes back, 75 to 80 per cent of people want to have a [binding independence] referendum – he doesn’t want to hear that answer.”
“But we know and you know and so does everybody that reads this article, Ottawa will never respond to those demands, because if they did they’d be foolish. When you own the keys and get the gas given to you, you don’t give away the car.”
Wexit has sent out candidate application forms as people step forward to become candidates. Harry Frank wants to be one, as does Constance Maffenbeier, a former RCMP officer who ranches between Humboldt and Watrous.
“We’re just being so treated unfair[ly] you know. We’re just like the ugly stepsister,” Maffenbeier says of how Ottawa treats the West.
“Even if we do have a different federal party in there, they’re never going to give the West the representation that they deserve. So this is one way that maybe we can wake the East up as to how exactly how important Western Canada is to confederation and Canada.”
The party will be reviewing the applications for the potential candidates and hammer out its policies in July during its inaugural convention. The party will also pick its first permanent leader to carry the its banner into the election coming a few months later.
“I hear this all the time,” Wall says, “’You’re going to split the vote.’ Even if we did split half of the Sask Party vote, they have 51 seats. That’d mean one of us would have 26, one would have 25, the NDP would have 10. But we’ve got so many educated voters, I don’t think they’re even going to get 10.”
Wall hopes the party will run a full slate of candidates and get 30 per cent of the vote.
“We don’t have any seats at this point. So our goal at this point is to have our voice in Regina, and maybe make Ottawa stand up and take notice. And also to show that the western separation movement is alive and well and growing.”
Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Affairs Columnist for the Western Standard. He is also a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and is the former Saskatchewan Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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