Canadian Force Procurement – Opinion Piece – Politics &
Procurement – Oct 2010
Whither Aircraft Procurement: Canadian Civilian and Service Politics, the Directorate of Aerospace Requirements,
and 'The Waiting Game'
Op-Ed: On the state of select DND aircraft procurement programs
by Steve Daly, CD
Politics and Procurement An Overview of what Underlies Buying New Military Aircraft
With the contentious decision to purchase the Lockheed Martin F-35 for Canada's Air Force, the current realities of
defence procurement become apparent. The first is that DND and the governing Harper Conservatives have different
approaches to procurement and, in the case of high-profile purchases, the Government will have its way. 
Less high-profile requirements tend to fade away. For an example, see replacing the CP-140 Aurora maritime
patrol fleet. Air Force planners placed great urgency on buying P-8A Poseidons or the like. But nothing has
been heard of replacing the Auroras for years. On the political side, an example is the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Project. FWSAR has been
touted as the Air Force's top priority time and again. Yet that project remains in limbo –
FWSAR being neither part of a real public debate nor making any notable headway through the labyrinth of defence
Low-profile aircraft requirements fare even less well. Government is content to save money by
ignoring such requirements. This is compounded when the requirement fills a role of little interest to the Air
Force – an example being Northern utility aircraft. While there are obvious possibilities to enhance
Canadian Arctic sovereignty with a CC-138 Twin
Otter replacement, neither DND nor the Air Force will act.
The Federal Government might actually welcome a chance to claim credit for a simple improvement on Arctic
sovereignty assertion combined with direct benefits to Canada's aircraft industry – for example,
through the purchase of new Viking Twin
Otters. But DND prefers to bundle its CC-138 replacement into an expanded FWSAR Project (despite not being
close to putting a single aircraft onto the ramp) and the Air Force would happily avoid permanent basing in the
Arctic if at all possible.
Sussing Out SARP – What's Behind the Delayed Snowbird Aircraft Replacement Project?
One Air Force requirement has fared particularly badly – the Snowbird Aircraft Replacement Project. Depending upon how fortune is favouring the Snowbirds
Demonstration Team's fleet of aged trainers, SARP either has no profile at all or it is front-page news. Neither
government nor DND want tragedy or catastrophe in the headlines. So, how did SARP drop off the radar?
The Snowbirds' current mounts are the CF's last Canadair CT-114 Tutors. These aircraft were delivered to the
RCAF between 1963 and 1966. The ancient Tutors were replaced as training aircraft in 2000 by the CT-155
Hawk. So, these 45-year old aircraft have not the prestige of being up-to- date trainers nor even
of being current CF service aircraft outside of the Snowbirds themselves. [ Ed: AETE at CFB Cold Lake also
has at least one CT-114 Tutor in service.]
By definition, an air demonstration team is highly visible to the public. Should Canada's famed Snowbirds find
themselves without aircraft to fly, the public outcry can be imagined. So why does the Air Force place so little
emphasis on re-equipping its premier air display unit ? One possibility is that Air Force staff know
that they can use any political pressure that emerges.
If misfortune places the Snowbirds on the front-pages once again, the Air Force knows that the government of
the day will fund the needed aircraft and get them in service as rapidly as possible. Any financial considerations
will take a back seat to short-term political expediency.
Why push matters to this extreme position? As always with Air Force procurement, the great difficulty is with the
expense of purchasing the desired aircraft. In the case of SARP, the Air Force prefers the BAE Hawk
jet trainer to the exclusion of all other aircraft types. The SARP challenge is compounded by the fact
that the CF's in-service CT-155 Hawks aren't owned by DND – these are contractor-provided,
leased aircraft used exclusively in the training role.
Potential alternate solutions have been part of the public debate. This has included purchase of other jet
trainers as well as propeller-driven trainers like the CT-156 Harvard II. I presented one such
possibility – a 'CF-156B
Harvard II' for SARP while a similar aircraft filled the CF's COIN/light attack role. The current
Harvard II fleet may lack the prestige of Hawk jet-trainers but the Harvard II is still
capable of performing multiple missions for the Canadian Forces. 
The Pride of Ownership — DND, the Canadian Forces, and the Alternative Delivery System
Another 'prestige' aspect to SARP is the desirability of owning the aircraft flown by the nation's most
famous air demonstration team. Being a tactical aircraft, the 'CF-156B' would have to be owned by Canada.
Adding a small number of aircraft earmarked for the Snowbirds would not add major expense to such a purchase. A
similar case cannot be made for ownership of additional Hawk trainers. If the Snowbirds were to be re-equipped
with Hawks, the logically-consistant course would be to lease the new aircraft in the same way as other
CF-operated examples of the type.
As it is, the Air Force would prefer there to be no public debate on SARP. When the need for Snowbirds replacement
aircraft become politically sensitive, government will find the needed funds. As a bonus from the planners
point of view, that same political urgency will leave little time for alternatives to be sought. Political expediency
substantially increases the possibility of the Air Force's preferred choice of aircraft as the only viable course in
the time available. In other words, waiting out the government is actually beneficial to Air Force planners'
Procurement politics aside, there is no reason for the Snowbird Aircraft Replacement Project to be
relegated to the back-burner at NDHQ as 'more pressing' requirements are met. Suitable aircraft are
available for purchase or lease and at comparatively reasonable prices. Service personnel
understand that they are putting their lives on the line. But, even ignoring the cost in human lives, what internal
political wrangling could possibly warrant needlessly risking the lives of those most highly-skilled pilots of
the Snowbirds Demonstration Team ?
 In the case of the CF-18 replacement, both DND and the Air Force were preparing for their particular style
of 'competition' that is, pitting industry submissions against one another for a requirement written
around the desired F-35. It was assumed that competitors in this contest would be the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet,
Saab JAS 39 Gripen, and Eurofighter Typhoon.
 The USAF and Royal Australian Air Force fly similar aircraft ( the T-6 Texan II and Pilatus PC-9)
with both air demonstration teams and combat missions (T-6B on COIN, PC-9 on FAC ).