New maritime choppers: Cyclone not blowing very fiercely/F-35 slowing Upperdate

Posted November 23rd, 2010 in Canada, International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

Further to this post,

Helicopters: “Auditor General on CH-148 and CH-47F acquisitions (plus lessons/risks for F-35?)”

Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s fire is not directed at either the Liberal or Conservative governments–though the politicians certainly weren’t exactly on the ball (and it’s a pity none of them no almost anything about things military). The CF in particular have a lot to answer for…

the CH-148 Cyclone acquisition just gets worser and worser:

Plan to replace aging Sea Kings hits new snag

Ottawa’s plans to get new helicopters to replace the decades-old Sea Kings have hit another round of delays, less than a month after the Auditor-General criticized the purchase for other problems.

This will be the third time that Sikorsky has fallen short of its promises in the $5.7-billion contract to provide 28 Cyclone helicopters to the Canadian Forces.

According to the original contract, Sikorsky was supposed to start delivering fully compliant helicopters in late 2008. However, shortly before the deadline, the government and the company agreed to a major contract amendment under which fully compliant helicopters would start being delivered in 2012.

To allow the Canadian Forces to begin training its helicopter crews, the government agreed at the time to start taking the delivery of a few “interim” aircraft on Nov. 30 of this year. The helicopters would not meet all the requirements for military missions, particularly in terms of flight endurance, but would be adequate for testing and evaluation.

On June 30, Sikorsky signed another deal with the government in which it was agreed the actual interim helicopter to be delivered on Nov. 30 would fall short on a number of otherpoints as well. In particular, the government and Sikorsky agreed the interim helicopters would not include all mission system software and would lack the ability to exchange tactical data with its accompanying ship.

Officials and experts have told The Globe and Mail that the Nov. 30 deadline will not be met despite the recently watered-down requirements for the interim aircraft. Sources said that the biggest obstacle to the first delivery is related to the certification of the aircraft, which might have been delayed by mechanical problems.

Sikorsky declined to comment about the latest delay…

Although the planned F-35 purchase is a different kettle of, er, fish (the CH-148 was a non-existent paper aircraft when we agreed to buy it and so far Canada is the only customer), does anyone honestly expect our Lightning II program to proceed on time and budget–and with the mouth-watering industrial benefits our government never stops touting (more here, and here and here from the government itself still spinning that $12 billion dream)?

Update: A comment at on the Cyclone:

Geez, for the interim aircraft, they’ve gone with lesser engines, no mission system software and no Link-11.  Sounds like they’ve slapped a main and tail rotor onto a box containing a couple of radios.   ;D

Upperdate: If the government still thinks we will start taking delivery of F-35s in 2016, when it looks increasingly certain the USAF will not be getting theirs operational that year (same version as for our Air Force, the “A”), then they are assuredly in cloud cuckoo land–otherwise they are being severely economical with the truth:

US Air Force concerned about F-35 delivery delay
* Software, production issues could slow deliveries
* Air Force could upgrade F-16s to cover any fighter gap

The U.S. Air Force’s top general said on Tuesday he was concerned that software development and production issues could delay the service’s plan to start using new F-35 fighter jets in April 2016.

General Norton Schwartz said the Air Force variant of the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) fighter jet was doing better in testing and development than the Navy and Marine Corps’ versions, but it was not clear whether software issues would delay the start of their use in combat.

Vice Admiral David Venlet, the defense official in charge of the F-35 program, briefed Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter and other senior defense officials at a three-hour meeting on Monday about the preliminary findings of his months-long comprehensive review of the program.

The Pentagon earlier this year restructured the $382 billion fighter program, adding 13 months to the development phase. Venlet’s review is pointing to a further possible delay of up to three years and added costs of up to $5 billion, sources familiar with the program said earlier this month…


Media out! Of Afghanistan/People’s Daily Online Update

Posted November 12th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

One particular reason why moving the Canadian military mission to Kabul will be a Good Thing: without the prospect of fairly frequent deaths and ramp ceremonies to obsess over (which coverage has only undermined support for the mission), and with the much greater costs of being based in Kabul, the Canadian major media will rapidly lose interest in what the Canadian Forces are doing in Afghanistan.  The media will then bring almost all their people home.

That indeed can only be a Good Thing.  Those media, television above all and it has by far the greatest public impact, have done a generally miserable job reporting and explaining the Kandahar mission and all its aspects (though there have been some exceptions, most notably Matthew Fisher and Brian Hutchinson of Postmedia News).

Besides which our media’s almost exclusive focus on the CF and Kandahar has left Canadians miserably ill-informed about the war, and the country, as a whole.

In the name of God, go!  Without you the public, politicians, and punditocracy will rapidly lose interest in the mission.  Leaving the forces just to get on with their work. As was the case for by far the greater part of the CF’s some twelve years deployed in various major Balkan missions, first under the UN, then NATO.

Update: Once again our media media not on the job; as far as I can see none of them bothered to run this CP (AP) story rather relevant to extending our military mission:

Dutch government to investigate possibility of new Afghanistan mission

Now why might that be? Hell, the People’s Daily Online covered the news. How bizarre, and sad, that the controlled Chinese Communist media do a better job than ours on this.

Upperdate: By the way, the Dutch had attack helicopters in Afstan, a type that our Air Force does not possess useful though they might be–and is most unlikely to get given the pressures on the defence budget:

Adieu Apaches

Uppestdate: Please see Thucydides’ comment (he served at Kandahar) which is very revealing about our media’s general approach.


Afstan: I’ll bet you didn’t know…

Posted November 3rd, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

…about this American military contract for helicopter services to a Canadian company (will our major media notice?).  From Defense Industry Daily:

Allies Absent in Afghanistan – Helicopters Hired
Contracts to firms in Canada, Colombia, and the USA. (Nov 1/10)

Afghanistan is shaping up as a test of the NATO alliance. Thus far, the report is mixed. While a number of allied countries have committed troops, very few of the NATO countries’ available helicopters have been committed, despite promises made and commanders’ requests from the field. At the moment, Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA still contribute most of the combat helicopter support in theater, alongside some CH-47s from non-NATO partner Australia. They are supplemented by helicopters from some east bloc countries like Poland and the Czech Republic (Mi-8/17s), and the very recent addition of a few CH-47D Chinooks and Bell 412ERs [those are CH-146 Griffons to us] from Canada [see Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing, there are also "six Mi8 medium-lift helicopters chartered with their crews and ground staff from Sky Link Aviation of Toronto"]. The sizable helicopter fleets belonging to NATO members like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have seen some use in Afghanistan, but the bulk of their use has been in areas away from the serious fighting in the south.

That is creating political tensions within the alliance, especially when set against the backdrop of European shortfalls in meeting NATO ISAF commitments…Over the longer, term, however, a 2-track solution has emerged. Track one involves keeping up the pressure, and some members of NATO have responded. Track 2 has involved stanching the wound by chartering private helicopter support that can take care of more routine missions in theater, freeing the military helicopters for other tasks…

Contracts and Key Events

Nov 1/10: Canadian Commercial Corp. in Ottawa, Canada wins a $65.7 million option year modification modification for helicopters and their associated personnel, equipment, tools, material, and maintenance to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan [oddly, nothing in the CCC Newsroom, could the government be trying not to draw attention to the deal?].

Canadian Commercial Corp. is an agency of the Canadian federal government, and is frequently listed as the contracting firm in place of Canadian firms like CHC. Canadian Helicopters, Ltd. is a firm that provides helicopter services for use in oil & gas, mining and forestry, emergency medical services, police support, and other tasks that include support for the Canadian Forces’ North Warning System…Canadian Helicopters operates a diverse fleet of Bell Textron, Eurocopter, and Sikorsky platforms. They also operate the Canadian Helicopters School of Advanced Flight Training, which trains elite military and police pilots as part of their customer base. According to the firm, the Commander of the US Navy Helicopter Special Warfare Squadron describes this training as “best in the world”.

The contract will run until Oct 31/11. This contract was a competitive acquisition with 13 bids [emphasis added] received by U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-10-D-R025) [more here]…

So Canadian civilians will be helping the US military–and probably the Afghan Air Corps–chopper effort after the government pulls out most of the CF. Nice. And nastily ironic given that the government refuses to keep our Air Wing, or part of it, at Kandahar.  The Americans for their part have noticed our Air Force’s coming departure. From the Update at this post yesterday:

Filling the hole left by departing Canadian Forces was “a great concern,” [Brig.-Gen. Fred] Hodges said. “It is not just the battle group, with a squadron of tanks, but all the enablers. They are a big chunk of our aviation. They have some of the best ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) collection capabilities…


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Talk about high-level sole sourcing!/Khadr Update

Posted November 1st, 2010 in Canada, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

But it just might make sense:

Canadian Forces eye Obama’s chopper cast-offs
Cancelled presidential helicopters could supply spare parts for Cormorants

Preliminary discussions are underway on the possible sale of the US101 helicopters to Canada. The aircraft, which were to form the new fleet of “Marine One” presidential helicopters, are similar to Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant search-and-rescue choppers [both based on the EH101] which, at times, have been grounded because of a lack of spare parts …

The Obama administration pulled the plug on the US101, also known as the VH-71, after the projected cost of the aircraft doubled from $6.5 billion to $13 billion U.S [more from Defense Industry Daily]…

Canada originally bought 15 Cormorants but one has since crashed. The Cormorant helicopter fleet has faced a series of problems, including cracked windscreens and cracks in the tail rotor area. The aircraft have been hindered in their operations by the lack of spare parts…

Here’s our Air Force’s CH-149 Cormorant site, and a photo: topic thread on the Cormorant’s long-continuing problems here (the government certainly can’t afford to buy more new ones), and an earlier post on the Air Force’s other chopper adventures:

Helicopters: “Auditor General on CH-148 and CH-47F acquisitions (plus lessons/risks for F-35?)”

Update: If Canada ends up accepting back Omar Khadr, maybe President Obama should just give us the helicopters out of gratitude for taking the fellow off his hands.


Helicopters: “Auditor General on CH-148 and CH-47F acquisitions (plus lessons/risks for F-35?)”

Posted October 27th, 2010 in Canada, International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s fire is not directed at either the Liberal or Conservative governments–though the politicians certainly weren’t exactly on the ball (and it’s a pity none of them no almost anything about things military).  The CF in particular have a lot to answer for.  A post at

AG’s very damning report is hereCyclone was sold by DND as off-the-shelf when in fact it was a completely new aircraft.  Won’t have operational version until 2012.  Chinooks also supposedly off-the-shelf but turned, because of “Canadianization”, into effectively a completely new version, won’t be delivered until 2013.  Acquisition risks and capital costs of both greatly underestimated, and in-service support costs way off.

AG’s summary:

The total project cost of 28 Cyclone helicopters, together with initial set-up, training, provision of spare parts and long-term maintenance, is now estimated at $5.7 billion. Delivery of the first fully capable Cyclone, initially expected in 2005, was delayed to 2008 and is now expected to occur in 2012. The total project cost of 15 Chinook helicopters, together with initial set-up, training, and long-term maintenance, is now estimated at more than $4.9 billion. The first fully capable helicopter is scheduled for delivery in 2013, five years later than planned…

* National Defence underestimated and understated the complexity and developmental nature of the helicopters that it intended to buy. Both helicopters were described to internal decision makers and the Treasury Board as non-developmental, using “off the shelf” technologies. On that basis, overall project risks were assessed as low to medium. In each case, however, significant modifications were made to the basic models. For the maritime helicopter, this will result in an aircraft that never existed before. For the medium- to heavy-lift helicopter, this will result in a new variant of the Chinook. Ultimately, these modifications led to schedule delays and cost increases beyond original plans.

* The medium- to heavy-lift helicopter acquisition was a directed procurement using an advance contract award notice (ACAN). National Defence had initially planned to proceed rapidly to contract award by spring 2007; however, its needs and priorities were not precisely defined at the outset, evolved over the course of the acquisition, and were not finalized until 2009. The manner in which Public Works and Government Services Canada used the ACAN did not comply with the letter or intent of the applicable regulations and policies and, consequently, the contract award process was not fair, open, and transparent.

* National Defence did not develop full life-cycle plans and costs for these helicopters in a complete or timely way. In addition, total estimated costs were not disclosed to decision makers at key decision points. Some costs have yet to be completely estimated and some elements needed for the capability are not in place. Without adequate cost information, National Defence cannot plan to have sufficient funds available for long-term operation and support of the helicopters. Moreover, without sufficient funds, National Defence may have to curtail planned training and operations.

* National Defence did not fully comply with the oversight and approval framework established in its Project Approval Guide. For the maritime helicopter project, boards provided appropriate oversight at the preliminary project and effective project approval stages. However, neither the Senior Review Board nor the Program Management Board met to challenge and approve the information in the 2008 revised effective project approval that was related to the contract amendment approval of $262 million. For the medium- to heavy-lift helicopter, there was an absence of timely meetings, challenge, and approvals by senior boards at all key decision points in the acquisition process and before seeking Treasury Board approvals.

The entities have responded. The entities agree with all of our recommendations. Their detailed responses follow the recommendations throughout the chapter.

The ACAN sole-sourcing of the Chinook Foxtrot is criticized, though not that sternly.  Mainly for technical abuse of details in the ACAN process itself.

As for the F-35, a piece by the National Post’s John Ivison:

Helicopter shenanigans increase doubts on F-35 purchase

This kind of Sir Humphrey Appleton-like manipulation of the politicians by public servants still has the power to shock. Ms. Fraser called the deliberate understatement of risk as “totally inappropriate”. But amid the mendacity, there was evidence of old-fashioned incompetence…

None of this inspires confidence in procurement at a department that is currently making the biggest military purchase in Canadian history. The Opposition is entitled to demand that the entire process for the new jets be laid bare before Parliament, not only to ensure that the Conservatives have been open and transparent but also to check the Department of National Defence has been giving the government the real goods this time. As Ms. Fraser said in her press conference: “Let’s hope nobody is assessing them [the F-35s] as low risk [emphasis added]…”

More on the F-35:

On CBC News Network’s “Power and Politics” National Defence Parliamentary Secretary Laurie Hawn just said [Oct. 26] that $5 to $5.5 billion of the F-35′s $9 billion acquisition cost will be for the aircraft themselves ($70-$75 million per plane), with the other costs being for associated equipment, munitions, facilities, training etc. (I’m expanding somewhat on his explanation of these costs).

Nice price if we can get it when a contract is actually signed.

Remember the F-35–all three versions–is still in flight testing and no-one knows what the actual production price will be.


The Globe and Mail’s stinking agenda, Congo section

Posted October 21st, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

In a story he clearly worked hard to create, ace agenda-ist Geoffrey York in Johannesburg singles out Canada for not helping the UN peacekeeping force with helicopters.  What about the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden etc., etc., etc.? Then there’s Portugal, eh?  None of them seems to want to anwer the call either:

UN’s plea for helicopters in Congo going unheard

Struggling to contain a horrifying epidemic of mass rapes and murders, United Nations peacekeepers in Congo say they desperately need one thing above all: helicopters. But more than 50 countries – including Canada – have failed to help…

The Foreign Affairs Department said in a statement Tuesday that Canada deplores the violence against civilians, particularly the ongoing sexual violence against women and children, and continues to strongly support efforts to strengthen the rule of law to promote accountability for such crimes.

Canada carefully considers any formal requests from the UN to provide support to specific peace operations on a case-by-case basis, it added. Unfortunately, Canada was not in a position to support this particular request due to other operational commitments, it said…

In 2008, the UN Security Council authorized an additional 18 helicopters to be deployed to Congo. More than 50 countries, including Canada, were contacted by senior UN officials to see whether they could provide helicopters, according to a UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Only two countries – Bangladesh and Uruguay – answered the call. They provided three helicopters, leaving the UN with a shortfall of 15 aircraft. That shortfall will increase dramatically as one of the biggest contributors, India, has already withdrawn nine helicopters since June and is set to withdraw another 10 by early next year…

As for “other operational commitments” see Task Force SILVER DART, engaged in another mission mandated by the UN Security Council:

Why ain’t that commitment to the UN good enough for Mr York? I mean the CF are pretty stretched, and the Air Force’s support for the force in Afstan is getting rather more difficult (imagine how easy it would be also to support a few choppers in the heart of darkness).

Meanwhile the NY Times has aimed its Congo fire at the right target–the UN itself:

UN Peacekeeping: The Gray Lady’s outrage


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