The RCAF comes full circle turn: Lockheed Martin F-35 firming as favorite for Canada’s future fighter capability project (FFCP)

Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II (Photo Courtesy Lockheed Martin)

Canada wants to buy 88 aircraft to replace its existing CF-18 Hornets as part of Future fighter capability project (FFCP). Canada began its investment in the F-35 program in 1997 under the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien, but on October 19, Canada experienced a political sea change when the Liberal party won national elections and ended the Conservative party’s nine-year grip on power.

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Canada decided not to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 but remained as a industrial partner as Canada has been exempted from the US ITAR restriction. Canadian firms have received CAD1.3 billion ($980 million) in F-35 work over the last 12 years, and Lockheed argues that opportunities will increase as F-35 fleets around the world grow in size.

The F-35 stealth fighter is one of four warplanes in the $19 billion contest, which was formally launched with a request for proposals by the Liberal government.

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Earlier this summer, the Department of National Defence caused a stir by allowing the Lockheed Martin-built jet to take part in an airshow at the RCAF’s principal fighter base in Eastern Canada in Bagotville, Que.

Lockheed Martin F-35

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The federal government of Canada released a formal request for proposals to purchase 88 new fighters. The request invited Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab to submit proposals for their Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Saab Gripen, in a competition that will assess the bids under a points system, assigning 60% for technical merit, 20% for cost and 20% for industrial benefits to Canada. The winner is expected to be announced in 2022 and first deliveries in 2025.

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The proposed FFCP also takes into account the addition of a much-needed Airborne Early Warning and Command System aircraft such as Boeing’s E-7 Wedge Tail. Also, NORAD lays out three key points required for a fighter aircraft to receive their seal of approval. These points are the ability to interconnect with other weapons and reconnaissance platforms, the ability to operate as a command platform, and a high rate of survivability.

F-35 Buyers

Airbus pulled the Eurofighter Typhoon from the competition last year, citing the industrial benefits policy changes and additional costs that would have been incurred due to NORAD security requirements.  Dassault withdrew its Rafale fighter last year. Saab’s Gripen E fighter and Boeing’s Super Hornet Block III are also in the running, but the 4.5 generation aircraft would have a challenging time ahead to meet the technical requirements when compared against fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35.

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Economic Impact (Turkey is evicted from the F-35 program from January 2020.)

Boeing is offering a multibillion-dollar industrial benefits package as part of its fighter jet pitch to Canada in hopes that support for the domestic industry will give the company an edge in the competition.  The contractor says Canadian companies could receive up to CAD30 billion ($22.5 billion) in work if Ottawa selects the F/A-18 Super Hornet as its next fighter.

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Boeing’s more direct industrial benefits package will certainly boost to the company’s offering, but economic benefits only make up 20-percent of the bid evaluation.  The cost will make up another 20-percent.  Lockheed has been gradually bringing down the cost of F-35 ; Each plane now costs an estimated $US85 million per plane in 2019 which makes the cost equal to Saab Gripen E.  The remaining 60-percent of the bid evaluation will be based on technical merit.  Critics have argued that the technical portion of the program favors the F-35, as the solicitation places an emphasis on strategic attack, advanced battlefield awareness, cutting-edge software, electronic attack capability and ground attack munitions.

The polite Canadian may misappreciate concept of low observability, but in realty, the F-35 has proven it’s superiority and survivability over Syrian conflict when Israeli F-35I “Adir” jammed Russian-made Nebo-M early warning radar of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

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The combination of Stealth technology and AN/ASQ-239 electronic warfare, the F-35 is the ultimate war-fighting machine. Considering the technical merits of F-35 against Super Hornet and Gripen, it’s most likely that the Lockheed Martin F-35 comes full circle and win the hearts and minds of Canadian again. The action had been one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign pledges.

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