Monday, March 27, 2017

FWSAR C296W Considered a "Game Changer"

By: Ken Pole, Frontline Defence Magazine 
© 2017 FrontLine Defence (Vol 14, No 1)

The expressions “game changer” and “paradigm shift” tend to be thrown around like gravel on any remote airstrip. Clich├ęd or not, they truly do apply to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s new fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) platform and how it will be used to good effect in one of the largest and arguably most challenging SAR environments in the world.

The government of Canada has ordered 16 Airbus C295Ws, with first delivery by Airbus Defence and Space (D&S) expected in 2019. Like its forerunner, the venerable and still capable deHavilland DHC-5A – which first entered service with the RCAF as the C-115 Buffalo in 1965 – the C295W is a short take off and landing (STOL) high-tailed utility transport with twin turboprops on a high wing.

There’s no denying the aircraft’s solid performance worldwide but, over a decade ago, when the program was in the requirements identification phase, the Alenia C­27J Spartan had been considered the RCAF’s preferred platform. However, Leonardo (formerly Alenia-Aermacchi) evidently could not beat the Airbus bid.

Canada’s decision boosted total C295 orders, including earlier variants, to 185 aircraft for 25 countries, a development which Airbus Military Aircraft Head Fernando Alonso says is not only “a clear sign that the C295’s robustness, reliability and cost-effectiveness will ensure that it remains the market leader”, but also demonstrates that Airbus is “on the right path with our strategy of rapidly developing and adapting versions of our aircraft to address emerging market requirements.”

In addition to replacing the remaining Buffalos, all stationed at Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island, the Airbus platform will replace four-engined H-model Lockheed Martin CC-130s, some of which also have been in RCAF service since 1974 at SAR squadrons in Winnipeg, Trenton, and Greenwood.

Manufactured at the sprawling Airbus facility in Seville, Spain, abutting San Pablo International Airport, the C295W, which first flew in 1998, is fundamentally a stretched version of a Spanish-Indonesian light transport, the CASA/IPTN CN-235, first flown in 1983.

While the basic configuration is much the same, that’s where the similarity to the Buffalo ends. The ‘W’ refers to now-standard winglets. These aerodynamic enhancements were part of a 2013 design evolution that also saw, among other things, beefier landing gear, external hardpoints, an integrated tactical system, and the introduction of uprated 2,645-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turbines driving six-bladed Hamilton Standard 586-F propellors. Another key element is the electro-optical/infrared turret system designed by L-3 WESCAM, headquartered in Burlington, Ontario.

So far, other Airbus partners in the FWSAR program include landing gear overhaul by Heroux Devtekof Longeuil, Quebec, and propellers from Hope Aero of Missisauga, Ontario. Sonovision, which has facilities in seven countries including Canada, is on board to provide the technical publications.

The C295W can cruise faster and further than the legacy aircraft and, while it has a narrower wingspan, a more modern wing profile gives it enhanced manoeuverability in confined mountainous terrain – where “low-and-slow” can be key to a successful search.

It also weighs less and can carry more, which presumably results in fuel savings. Also, thanks to automated load-handling, it requires an aircrew of two rather than the Buffalo’s three (its third crew member is a Flight Engineer who also performs the loadmaster role). The number of others on a SAR mission varies.

Simon Jacques, Airbus Head in Canada, points out that some 20% of the aircraft content is Canadian, a result of global product mandates. “It already serves as a global ambassador for the skills, innovation and expertise of Canadians,” he says. “Now it will get to serve them directly.”

Evidently the Embraer C-390 jet didn’t meet the certification deadline and was deemed non-compliant, so personnel from the RCAF’s Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) in Cold Lake and the FWSAR Project Management Office flew the other two competitor aircraft, the Airbus C295W and the Leonardo C-27J Spartan turboprop. According to a Department of National Defence spokes­person, they are prevented from discussing their hands-on experience by confidentiality agreements as well as the “integrity” of the FWSAR evaluation process.

“What we can tell you is that we’re purchasing a state-of-the-art, sensor-equipped aircraft,” he told FrontLine. “It will have a new communication systems to improve interoperability with key partners, and it is a modern, agile aircraft that will be effective day and night, in all-weather conditions.”

The contract with Airbus also includes “robust, comprehensive, well-integrated, low-risk in-service support which will significantly improve aircraft availability” as well as general infrastructure and set-up such as training and engineering and a new simulator-equipped training centre in Comox from the specialists at CAE.

In-service support (ISS) will be provided by AirPro, a joint venture between Airbus D&S and PAL Aerospace of St. John’s, Newfoundland, which has decades of experience with customers worldwide.

Mexican Air Force C295W toured across Canada this past summer. This photo was taken near Kassabonika, Ontario.

After the first few C295s are delivered, they will be operated in parallel with the Buffalos and Hercs as the RCAF transitions to a single FWSAR platform and the older aircraft are retired. The ISS element will kick in once the final aircraft is delivered in 2022.

Public Works and Procurement Canada (PSPC) says the contract for the initial 11 years, including taxes, is worth more than $2.5 billion. It also includes the prospect of extensions, in increments of one to three years, for up to a possible additional 15 years – potentially pushing the value to nearly $5 billion by 2043.

“With the opportunity to earn contract extensions based on its performance, the company is motivated to provide highly reliable aircraft, services and spare parts,” PSPC says. “This will also provide more efficient government contract management, since it means not renegotiating ­contracts every year.”

The contract also includes the prospect of a 2% performance bonus, but the other side of that coin is that Airbus could face a penalty of up to 10% if its performance is not in accordance with the contract requirements. Moreover, “payment will only be made after milestones have been met and accepted by Canada.”

The route toward the contract award (December 2016) had been tortuous and dogged by controversy. When the initial Statement of Operational Requirements (SOR) went out, DND was accused of tailoring it specifically to the Spartan instead of the mission. After many years, the increasingly heated debate eventually forced the government to ask the National Research Council Flight Research Laboratory in Ottawa to review the document.

NRC’s test pilots and engineers concluded, in their exhaustive 2010 report, that the SOR had effectively limited the RCAF’s options by, among other things, specifying an “off the shelf” aircraft which might require extensive modifications. Nor did they like the SOR’s specification of an unrefueled range of 1,699 nautical miles, which they said was “inconsistent with the stated core objective of […] maintaining or improving the SAR level of service.” So program managers went back to the drawing board, eventually producing a Letter of Interest in July 2013, coupled with a plan to begin “sharing elements” of a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) that summer in preparation for a fall workshop for potential bidders.

Air-to-air refueling.

The procurement process shakedown continued until January 2016, when PSPC confirmed that there had been three bidders but, as a matter of policy, did not name them, leaving confirmation to the original equipment manufacturers.

Bids were evaluated on three fundamentals totalling 100 points: overall capability of the aircraft, its systems and the ISS (65 points); long-term operational capability and the maintenance and support services benefits for Canada (25 points); and the Industrial and Technological Benefits and value proposition (10 points).

As expected, the two turboprops were judged to be compliant. Judy Foote, the Minister of PSPC, said “it came down to the cost.”

The evaluation – which was subjected to an independent third-party review and included the aforementioned flight tests as well as a computer-aided assessment of how each aircraft would have responded to more than 7,000 SAR incidents in the past five years – set the stage for the contract announcement in a 424 Transport and Rescue Sqn hangar at 8 Wing in Trenton in early December, attended by, among others, Fernando Alonso, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, PSPC Minister Judy Foote, and RCAF Commander LGen Mike Hood.

Alonso, who had been involved in early cold-weather testing in Canada, professed that he had only 48 hours’ notice that Airbus had won the contract. “Until this morning, I was saying ‘it’s not really true,’” the burly aerospace engineer said. “Now I am starting to believe it.”

Hood admitted that he had even less notice, a reflection of how closely the program management team had guarded their conclusions. “I only found out yesterday,” he said, saying that the C295W’s ability to track up to 200 objects simultaneously in poor light and weather conditions and to share real-time data with other SAR participants “will fundamentally change the SAR paradigm for us.”

Airbus D&S demonstrated some of its capability recently by air-to-air hose-and-drogue refueling between two C295Ws and then using one to top up an Airbus Helicopter H225M Caracal. There’s also an airborne early warning and control variant and, while that isn’t on the RCAF’s shopping list, the tanker option would arguably be desirable.

In Trenton, Sajjan called the C295W a “game changer” which represented “a great technological improvement of our capabilities for the future.”

However, less than a month after the contract was announced, Leonardo introduced another potential ‘game changer’ by asking the Federal Court on January 6th for a judicial revocation of the contract in favour of its C-27J. “Team Spartan’s main allegation is that the selected airplane is unfit to safely perform certain key Search and Rescue tasks and missions required by Canada and should have been, therefore, disqualified,” it says in its statement.

It insists that the C-27J is “the only aircraft in its class with the speed and range to respond to SAR incidents across Canada’s entire area of responsibility while operating from Canada’s existing base structure.” Leonardo used the opportunity to reiterate its maneuverability, short take-off and landing capabilities (characteristics it shares with the C295W), as well as its higher cabin height and faster cruising speed.

When the Federal Court will issue a ruling is unknown. However, among the things it will have to consider is the AETE/PMO conclusions, potentially setting up this 14-year old contest for a countersuit by Airbus as well as, more critically, an even longer delay in replacing aircraft that should have been pensioned off long ago and are incurring considerable maintenance costs.

UN Mission Still Possible in 2017: PM Trudeau

By: The Canadian Press - National Post 

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not ruling out sending troops to a peacekeeping mission this year, even though Canada has not yet told the United Nations what it is up to.

“We have a difficult history in Africa as peacekeepers and we need to make sure that when we embark on any . . . military mission, we make the right decisions about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it, and the kind of impact we’re going to have on the ground and on Canadians,” Trudeau said Saturday.

“That’s a decision we’re not going to fast-track. We’re making it responsibly and thoughtfully.”

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian PressPrime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 20, 2017.

The Liberal government pledged last summer to allot up to 600 troops and 150 police officers for UN peacekeeping operations, plus $450 million over three years on peace and stability projects.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan originally promised to reveal where they were headed by the end of last year. Military officials and Canadian diplomats put some work into figuring out where Canadian troops could make an impact, but an announcement has yet to be made.

The Liberals ended up stalling their plans — including a request from the UN to lead the peacekeeping mission in Mali — as the federal government tried to figure out the priorities of U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration.

Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Sajjan, confirmed Saturday that Canada has not provided the UN with formal notice of its specific contributions, saying “it would be inappropriate” to do so before the government has decided what that would be.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian PressDefence Minister Harjit Sajjan holds a press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 6, 2017.

Asked Saturday morning whether that means Canada will not be sending more blue helmets out in the world by the end of the year, Trudeau said he would not draw that conclusion.

“We continue to look very carefully at ways to move forward on the strong commitment we made on peacekeeping,” Trudeau said.

“We know that Canada has to play a strong and effective role on the world stage in ways that suit our capacities and we’re looking to make sure that that happens right,” he said.

Herve Ladsous, the outgoing UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said Friday that he had been “very eager” when Canada made its peacekeeping promise.
MCpl. Frank Hudec/Canadian Forces Combat CameraCanadian peacekeepers prepare auto atropine injectors during chemical defence refresher training at Camp Ziouani in the Golan Heights in 2002.
“Well, so far, it hasn’t materialized,” he said. “I hope it will.”

Trudeau also stood firm on the Canadian line that its contribution to NATO should not be measured by that fact that it spend about one per cent of its GDP on defence, which falls short of the agreed-upon target of two per cent.

“Lots of different countries in NATO measure their contributions in different ways. Canada measures its contribution by the amount of times and ways that we step up concretely on issues that matter,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau is on Parliament Hill for a rare weekend Liberal caucus meeting, where MPs are discussing the budget and how to make the most of their remaining time in Ottawa before they head home for the summer.

National Post View: Which branch of the military, exactly, do the Liberals plan to gut this time?
Terry Glavin: Canada is here to help, Justin Trudeau says. Just not by actually doing anything
Michael Den Tandt: Undramatic it may be, but calm response to Trump is right for Canada

Liberal MPs who sit on the backbenches have recently been exercising the freedom Trudeau promised them with more free votes, such as when a majority of them voted earlier this month in favour of a bill that would bar health and life insurance companies from forcing clients to disclose the results of genetic testing. That happened even though cabinet voted against it and Trudeau said it was unconstitutional.

However, the prime minister said Saturday that his caucus is more united than ever.

“I’ve been around the Liberal party an awfully long time, as you all know, and I’ve never seen a caucus as strongly united in our approach and our values,” Trudeau said on his way into the second day of the meeting.

“One of the great strengths of the Liberal party is there is always a range of perspectives that allow us to represent the range of perspectives of Canadians,” he said.

Canada Must Make Tough Decisions on Defence Spending: Former NATO Envoy

By Monique Scotti, National Online Journalist, Politics Global News

Canada’s former ambassador to NATO says Ottawa has “to make some decisions” on defence spending given the global security situation and a recent budget that pledged almost no new money for the military.

Speaking with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend, Yves Brodeuremphasized that Canada is hardly the biggest laggard in the 28-member alliance, contributing to international missions like the one in Latvia.
Screen Grap of Global News "The West Block" 
But he also acknowledged that the recent federal budget is unlikely to impress Canada’s allies, many of whom are actively working toward NATO’s established benchmark of spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

“I’m sure that the NATO leadership … would very much wish to see our numbers go up,” Brodeur said.

“In terms of Canada specifically, I think that we’re gong to be under pressure from our friends down south (in the United States) to try and do better.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he will expect to see more money flowing in from America’s NATO allies, and has even threatened to pull out of the alliance. Canada currently spends just under 1% of GDP on defence, the fifth smallest proportion among NATO members.

NATO estimates that Canada set aside $20.3 billion for defence in 2016. The 2017 budget offered no additional money to move the needle, however, drawing loud criticism from the Opposition benches in the House of Commons.

“I think that we have to make some decisions, just looking at what’s happening in the world right now,” Brodeur said.

READ MORE: Lack of defence spending in the federal budget draws fire

He added that there are “several ways” of looking at the numbers. For instance, Canada currently ranks 9th out of all NATO nations when it comes to defence spending per capita.

“So not necessarily the top five, but not the bottom. So it’s not actually that bad.”

Still, money for new equipment and training will be critical in the coming years, said the veteran diplomat.

“That is really key for us, especially as we commit to do more military operations. I think we owe it to our military forces to have the best equipment they can count on if we’re going to put them in harm’s way.”

RCAF CF-18's to Deploy to Iceland and Romania in 2017

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

A flight of six CF-18 jet fighters will soon depart for Iceland in one of two overseas missions this year in a show of solidarity with NATO allies.

Coming out of last year's Warsaw Summit, the Trudeau government committed to deploying an air task force as part of a range of measures meant to check Russian ambitions in Eastern Europe.

It has not, until now, confirmed any details.

Canada's aging CF-18s will conduct unarmed patrols out of Iceland for several weeks, beginning in late May. That will be followed in September by another air policing mission in Romania, defence officials confirmed to CBC News. 

Keflavik, Iceland, 5 April 2013 – CF-18 jets fly over Iceland during Operation IGNITION 2013. (photo by Corporal Pierre Habib, 3 Wing Bagotville)
Majority of CF-18s will fly beyond 'certified safe life': internal report
Air force warned readiness of fighter fleet was declining back in 2014

The deployments are the first major overseas missions since the Liberal government raised alarm last spring about what they described as a "capability gap" within the fighter fleet.

They are concerned about the air force having enough serviceable fighters to conduct both NATO and Norad (North American Aerospace Defence Command) missions concurrently.

A spokesperson for the military's strategic joint staff says the situation is in hand.

"The RCAF is actively risk-managing the capability gap to simultaneously meet our Norad and NATO commitments," said Capt. Patricia Brunelle.

The deployment also comes after the release of internal documents showing the military was concerned as far back as three years ago that the combat readiness of its front-line fighter fleet was declining because of fewer training hours and lean maintenance budgets under the former Conservative government.
Russia and NATO

The fact the Liberal government has chosen to conduct back-to-back fighter deployments speaks volumes, a defence expert said.

Dave Perry, an analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said it could be a sign that the Liberal government is more concerned about the strategic threat posed by Russia than it lets on.

There is also the possibility it is a post-budget signal for the Trump administration, which has demanded NATO allies meet the alliance's two per cent gross domestic product spending target.

"You could look at this and say it's part of the government walking the talk about how we don't spend a lot but we do contribute operationally," said Perry.

"I think there is a strategic threat and we should be reinforcing the alliance. Whether or not it is politics, I can't say."
Iceland has no air force

The Liberal government's recent budget offered only a slight increase in operational spending for the military but withdrew $8.4 billion in planned capital spending — money that is supposed to be put back at a later date.

Brunelle says the department will make a formal announcement soon about the size and scope of the deployment. But defence sources told CBC News it will involve six fighters and up to 160 personnel, which is similar to the contingent that deployed on the same missions in 2011 and 2013.

Since 2008, NATO allies have taken turns flying fighters for two month stints out of Iceland, a country of just over 300,000 people which does not have an air force. The patrols are co-ordinated with the Icelandic coast guard.

The Italian air force is currently conducting flight operations out of Keflavik Air Base, outside Reykjavik, with six Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

The U.S. has been conducting anti-submarine patrols out of the same base since last year at the same time experts had warned that Russian undersea activity in the North Atlantic had hit levels not seen since the Cold War.
Canada's NATO contributions

There will be no overlap between the missions in Iceland and Romania, said Brunelle.

"The missions will be one after the other and not concurrently," she said.

"There will be several months of gap between the two missions that aims to conduct periodic surveillance and air policing operations in NATO areas of responsibility and participate in joint training activities with other nations."

Canadian fighters have conducted at least two deployments to Romania — in 2014 and 2016 — following an increase in tension related to Russia's annexation of Crimea. They have also conducted air policing missions in the Baltic region, where the army is preparing to deploy 450 soldiers to lead a NATO battle group.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Canadian Forces, Security get Short Shrift in Budget 2017

By: Amanda Connolly, iPolitics 

Anyone hoping that Budget 2017 would provide insight into how the government plans to exercise soft or hard power abroad is going to be disappointed – as are any who hoped for a ballpark estimate of the costs of ambitious new programs like enhanced pre-clearance or the national security committee of parliamentarians.

This year’s budget offers little – and in many cases, nothing – in the way of plans to support the Canadian Forces or domestic security agencies. It also offers no insight into how, or if, the government plans to address pressure from the Trump administration to meet the two-per-cent of GDP target set by NATO allies for defence spending.

Budget 2017 includes no new money for the Department of National Defence, although the department is scheduled to get a bit of pocket money in the form of $134 million that kicks in this year under the escalator increase put in place by the former Conservative government in Budget 2015.

Until the long-awaited Defence Policy Review is completed, officials said Wednesday, the government will not be releasing any information about planned costing measures for the military.

The terms for the panel of experts advising Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on the Defence Policy Review were extended last month to run until April 28. Although the listing on the Privy Council Office website stated the terms were extended so the panel could help finalize the report, a spokesperson for the minister said shouldn’t be taken as a timeline for the report’s release.

“We know how important it is to play our role internationally … we also know how important defence is to our economy,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau in a press conference Wednesday, noting the pending release of the Defence Policy Review. “That will show our level of ambition.”

Budget 2017 does clarify the ongoing cost of renewing Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, which decreases from $32 million per year in 2015 and 2016 to $29 million over the next two years.

Officials say that decrease reflects the start-up costs of the mission and not a reduction in the work Canadian soldiers are doing on the ground in Ukraine, given that the mission mandate is unchanged.

The government also adjusted the total amount of money allocated for large-scale capital projects – funding that was punted forward by about 30 years in Budget 2016.

While that budget set a total of $84.3 billion for deferred spending on military procurements the department isn’t ready to complete, Budget 2017 puts that figure closer to $83 billion.

The only new spending more-or-less related to defence is $13 million over five years to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, which Canada is set to join this year.

On the security front, the budget news is equally thin.

Despite suggestions that the government could have the planned new national security committee of parliamentarians in place by the end of the year, the budget allocates no new money for the committee’s secretariat, or for the reported $500,000 needed for renovations to upgrade existing meeting facilities to house the committee.

The same goes for plans to enhance pre-clearance efforts on both sides of the border under C-23.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Transport Canada and the RCMP will get an operational top-up of $125 million; CATSA and Transport Canada will get roughly $600,000 each from that envelope to support existing security screening measures for airport staff.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service will share $1.25 million with Public Safety Canada to keep screening foreign investors for potential threats to Canadian national security – but there is no new money for CSIS’s operating budget or oversight, or for its sister signals intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment.

However, the government is recognizing the unfailing creativity of those who would like to blow up public spaces by giving $8.7 million over five years to Natural Resources Canada to expand the list of regulated chemicals to include those that could be used to create homemade explosives.

That list has not yet been finalized, officials said.

Public Safety Canada will get $1.37 million this year for its Regional Resilience Assessment Program and the Virtual Risk Analysis Cell, which together work to conduct site assessments of critical infrastructure facilities and share that information with those who operate critical infrastructure.

Community organizations looking for help in setting up security equipment like cameras for their facilities will be able to access $5 million that will be rolled out over five years through Public Safety Canada’s Security Infrastructure Program.

The only area seeing substantial new money this year appears to be the asylum system, which will get $62.9 million over five years and $11.5 million each year after that to provide better legal aid to asylum seekers.

Budget 2017 also includes $29 million over five years, with $5.8 million each year after, to allow officials with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to intervene in asylum hearings to verify the information being provided in the applicant’s claim.

Yazidi refugee resettlement efforts will also get $27.7 million over three years, although there is no indication of how the government may adjust the soon-to-be-reevaluated mission against ISIS in Iraq.

The $167 million over three years that was announced in Budget 2016 for that mission continues and does not appear to have been changed.