Canadian Defence Procurement – December
Auditing the Upgrades to the CF-18 Fighter Aircraft
The Auditor-General reviews the CF-18
Incremental Modernization Project
CF-18 Incremental Modernization Project – Management of Individual Projects
The auditors found three of the five CF-18 IMP projects that they reviewed
to be on schedule. The on-time projects were the CF-18 mission computers, operational flight program (whose software
runs the new mission computer), and the ECP-583 equipment all of which was being installed simultaneously by the
National Defence is receiving CF-18s with the ECP-583, the operational
flight program, and the mission computer work completed according to schedule from the contractor. As a result, [DND]
has been able to meet its own target to deliver two squadrons of Phase 1 upgraded aircraft that are capable of
performing North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) roles. At the time of our audit, the contractor had
delivered 33 aircraft, upgraded to the Department's satisfaction and on time.
There were difficulties, including the delayed delivery of an upgraded CF-18 to act as an ECP-583 installation prototype.
The impact of this delay on installation testing was minimal. This the auditors attributed mainly to the efforts of
DND's Combined Test Force (made up of a mix or operational and technical test staff).
The two out of five projects which fell behind schedule were the multi-purpose colour cockpit displays (which DND has
now pushed into Phase 2) and the new training simulators (which were delayed by contracting problems). Both of these
delayed projects are critical to the overall integration of the CF-18 IMP. Oddly, on the cockpit displays, officials
from DND are said to have reported "that the delay will have no operational impact" although how this could
be is hard to fathom.
It was delays to the Advanced Distributed Combat Training System pilot
training simulators that greatly concerned the auditors. The ADCTS project began in late 1999 and these simulators were
to be in use by April 2003. Instead, ADCTS "fell behind schedule when it went before a series of departmental
project committees, each with its own mandate and review processes, for approvals".
Funding was approved in May 2002 for the $200M purchase of 10 desktop 'part- task trainers' and 6
'ACE' pilot simulators with full cockpit and image generators. Yet the contract (by now $270M) was not
awarded until March 2004. As a result, the desktop PTT would not arrive until September 2004, the first simulators a
full year later – "more than two years after pilots began flying modernized CF-18s".
ADCTS is part of a network concept called Distributed Mission Training. This is important to DND because it should
allow pilots to 'fly' missions with simulators in other parts of the country and with allied pilots. Since
integrated missions with allies in 'real-time' largely drove the CF-18 IMP, the OAG auditors' concern
over the interminable delays imposed by DND's acquisition process is fully justified.
For its part, DND "has targeted the lengthy acquisition process for reform".
A 1998 department study revealed that most capital equipment projects
took, on average, 16 years from concept to project completion. [DND] acknowledged that this is an unacceptable length
of time and committed to shortening the process by at least 30 percent – to 11 years. In [late 2003 DND]
developed a new project approval process to reduce internal approval times and in 2004 was working on an implementation plan.
If that time can be cut by one-third, one wonders why it has taken them so long.