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WS EXCLUSIVE: Defence bureaucrats are inflating the fighter replacement program requirements, and it could cost taxpayers billions.

Defence bureaucrats are defying their political orders by inflating the replacement program requirements in favour of the F-35, the most expensive option by far.

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This is Part II of an ongoing Western Standard feature examining leaked F-18 fighter replacement program documents.

The public line from the federal government is that the F-18 fighter replacement program is coming along just fine, and that defence bureaucrats are conducting an open and fair competition. 

This is questioned by 800 pages of leaked documents obtained by the Western Standard showing that defence bureaucrats are defying their political orders by inflating the replacement program requirements in favour of the F-35, the most expensive option by far. At stake are Canada’s air defence capabilities, and billions of dollars in federal taxpayer funds. 

The technical requirements in the request for proposal (RFP) are littered with odd requirements that raise serious questions of bias. For example, a small number of points are available in the technical criteria section for jets equipped “with an arrestor hook or drag chute or both.” The F-35 has – and desperately needs – both to operate safely at Canada’s 6000 ft. Arctic Forward Operating Location runways. The Saab Gripen, on the other hand, was designed for Swedish Arctic bases with 3000 ft. of runway and uses its canards as integrated air brakes. If the Gripen doesn’t get full points on this requirement, then that should be a red flag of pro F-35 evaluator bias.

The Saab Gripen is a high-speed delta-wing fighter with canards – hence the “Euro-Canard” nickname – and in many ways resembles the high-flying, high-speed Avro Arrow interceptor. This design is optimized for speed and high altitude, both critical for winning in air-to-air combat and beneficial for minimizing drag on external stores during cruise. The Euro-Canards have service ceilings over 50,000 ft and are known to regularly fly over 40,000 ft., whereas Lockheed Martin recommends a cruise altitude of 30,000 ft for optimal F-35 performance. 

Saab Gripen-E fighter (source: Saab)

While ferry legs in the RFP are allowed at the bidder’s optimal altitude, multiple scenarios mandate flying at, or below, 30,000 ft. 

A CF-18 pilot I spoke with off-the-record estimates that the Gripen would earn more points if allowed to fly at over 40,000 ft. This is especially true of the NORAD Dash profile that mandates ten minutes at Mach 1.1 at 30,000 ft., with additional points for being able to sustain Mach 1.35 or greater. This requirement puts all three of the Euro-Canards at a disadvantage for no legitimate reason. I stress this point as the other two Euro-Canards – the Rafale and Eurofighter – have both pulled out of the contest citing pro American and pro F-35 bias.

Scenario Two in the RFP involves a World War III, Cold War style Russian attack with air-launched conventional or nuclear cruise missiles. Intercepting Russian cruise missiles during a World War III scenario is a legitimate mission for our next fighter and for Canada continuing to pull our weight in the NORAD partnership. That said, there are some eyebrow raising requirements to this mission. The fighters need to take-off from Inuvik in their NORAD Transit configuration. This is no issue for the tankless F-35 but places an odd penalty for the other jets. This is especially true for the Gripen, as it was designed so that Swedish ground crews could quickly swap armaments in Swedish arctic conditions exactly like those in the Canadian arctic, and against the same potential threats. 

In Scenario Three, two Royal Canadian Air force (RCAF) future fighters must engage sixteen cruise missiles with full points for destroying at least fifteen of them. American F-22s from Alaska are available to assist with the remaining missiles provided the future fighter relays targeting information to the F-22s. Two F-35s will eventually be able to fly with eight missiles each in a relatively clean configuration (two Sidewinders are carried on the wings, six internal AIM-120s are on the roadmap but only four are supported today). I wouldn’t be surprised if the F-35 earns full points on this scenario while the Gripen is forced to call in the F-22s after killing only eight of the sixteen cruise missiles.  

Dropping empty fuel tanks for more speed is prohibited, and thus an advantage for the F-35. Engaging the slow un-boosted turbofan-powered Russian cruise missiles with guns is also prohibited. This is a strange political trade-off: allowing Canadian cities and industry to be destroyed in exchange for protecting a hypothetical polar bear from being crushed by an empty drop tank. 

It’s worth noting that the Gripen’s operating cost advantage over the F-35 is so substantial that sending three Gripens on this mission would cost the Canadian taxpayer less than sending two F-35s. With the ability to swap the centre fuel tank for three additional missiles in Inuvik, three Gripen-Es could carry two external tanks, two sidewinders and five AIM-120s each; enough to take on up to twenty-one Russian cruise missiles. 

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. perform an aerial refueling mission with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron from March ARB, Calif., May 14, 2013 off the coast of Northwest Florida. The 33rd Fighter Wing is a joint graduate flying and maintenance training wing that trains Air Force, Marine, Navy and international partner operators and maintainers of the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/Released)

The evaluation and weights summary document also raised more questions than it answered. Twenty per cent of the points are available for lifecycle costs but split evenly between “Acquisition” and “Sustainment” (the WS did not receive the appendices that contained more details). 

The Gripen should get the maximum score as it is by far the least expensive jet in the competition. The F-35’s relatively low future flyaway cost could be used to give it a higher score than its astronomical sustainment costs would allow if the 20 per cent was awarded exclusively based on total cost of ownership.

Twenty per cent is awarded for industrial offsets: 14 per cent for acquisition, and 6 per cent for sustainment. I reached out to an off-the-record source who said that the F-35 would receive only half the potential points for non-guaranteed offset work. My source argued that this was still unfair because Lockheed could claim 100 per cent offsets and earn half points while having no intention of ever delivering on those offsets. 

This is no baseless concern. In 2017, the head of Italy’s aerospace and defence industry association said that the Americans “had not honoured promises” and lamented that Italy had only received 44 per cent of the promised work on European F-35s.

The NORAD transit scenario also demonstrates some F-35 bias. As pointed out earlier this summer in a Macdonald Laurier Institute paper, the transit profile in the RFP is just outside the range of the block 2 Boeing Super Hornet. Only President Trump’s decision to fund the block 3 Super Hornet conformal fuel tank upgrade has saved the Super Hornet from being disqualified. 

The CF-18s can’t meet this transit requirement and need mid-air refueling to divert to Alaska, so this requirement is an upgraded capability being demanded. One can argue that being able to divert without tanker fuel is a reasonable enhanced requirement, but Boeing no doubt would have argued that the 170 kilometers closer, newly paved runway at Dawson City, Yukon would be the obvious choice for a diversion. Does a flight profile just within the range of the F-35, and just outside the range of the Super Hornet, sound like a fair requirement when there’s another Canadian runway within the range of the Super Hornet?

The long distances in the Arctic should highlight the need for Canada to pave more runways to cover our expanding Air Defence Identification Zone. There are numerous gravel runways that serve Inuit communities in the Arctic that, once paved, could become useful Forward Operating Locations. With gravel rated 737s being retired from service and there being no new affordable gravel rated cargo jets to replace them, paving those runways should be a priority for the Canadian Government as a form of reconciliation with Inuit communities regardless of the military benefits. It’s a shame that justifying the need for an expensive jet requires the military to downplay the benefits of paving more runways.

What fighter the RCAF ultimately ends up with isn’t altogether clear, but the bureaucrats clearly have their hearts set of the F-35, to the potential great cost of Canada’s air defence network, and taxpayers. 

This is Part II of an ongoing Western Standard feature examining leaked F-18 fighter replacement program documents.

Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist for the Western Standard. He has a Masters of Public Policy degree from the University of Calgary where he wrote his capstone thesis ‘CF-39 Arrow II: A Swedish Solution to the CF-18 Replacement Problem’ on the CF-18 replacement procurement.

Features

Timeline of Kenney’s seesaw COVID-19 protocols

Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier that Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events.

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On the heels of new lockdown measures in Alberta, The Western Standard reviews Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s seesaw approach to dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

March 20, 2020 – Four days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Alberta cities including Calgary declared local states of emergency and shut down most non-essential businesses and serviced. Alberta also declared a provincial public state of emergency and closed all schools.

May 13, 2020 – Alberta enters a Stage 1 re-opening plan allowing businesses, like restaurants and retailers, to reopen with social distancing restrictions.

June 12, 2020 – Stage 2 is introduced earlier than expected, allowing theatres, massage therapists and hair salons as well as libraries to open. Alberta’s state of emergency ends after nearly three months.

August 4, 2020 – The province mandates back-to-school mask use for students in grades four to 12.

October 26, 2020 – Alberta introduces a limit of no more than 15 people for social gatherings.

November 12, 2020 – Tighter restrictions are introduced in restaurants and bars, including an earlier last call for alcohol.

November 24, 2020 – The province announces new and even tighter restrictions banning social gatherings, limits attendance numbers in churches and funerals and closes Alberta high schools.

November 25, 2020 – A Facebook post from Kenney states “We decided not to proceed with a lockdown because of the profound damage it would cause to Albertans, thereby deepening the mental health crisis and leaving many to despair. We will not let political pressure or ideological approaches cause indiscriminate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

December 8, 2020 – Despite Kenney’s announcement less than two weeks earlier, the province is plunged into another full lockdown. All indoor and outdoor social gatherings are banned and non-essential businesses are forced to close including restaurants.

January 14, 2021 – Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are eased and personal service businesses, including massage and hair salons, are allowed to reopen.

January 29, 2021 – Premier Jason Kenney announces “The Path Forward” framework, allowing for an incremental easing of restrictions over three stages. Benchmark metrics were set based on hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and a minimum wait period of three weeks between each phase.

February 8, 2021 – “Step 1” of The Path Forward plan begins with Alberta easing some restrictions on restaurants, kids sports and indoor fitness.

March 1, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 2” phasing in low-intensity fitness classes; however, earlier benchmarks were ignored and the remainder of Phase 2 was delayed until March 8 when libraries, retailers, banquets, etc. were permitted to resume at varied levels of capacity. Sports programs were also allowed to resume with limits on participants and social-distancing measures.

March 22, 2021 – Again ignoring previously-set benchmarks, the province announces, due to a surge in COVID cases brought on by variants of concern, “Step 3” would be paused until COVID patients are under 300 and declining.

April 6, 2021 – Premier Kenney rolls Alberta back to “Step 1” until further notice moving the goalposts yet again, stating restaurants in the province were only allowed to offer outdoor dining service.

April 29, 2021 – Kenney announces targeted heath measures specific to regions where there were higher numbers of COVID cases. Schools in those regions were to switch to online learning, indoor gyms were to close and all indoor sports activity were to be suspended. This would last for two weeks.

May 4, 2021 – New restrictions are announced again province-wide. All schools including post-secondary institutions were moved to online learning, indoor recreation activities were shut down and in-person dining was prohibited as of May 10. In those areas with high case counts, gatherings were limited to 5, retail stores went to 10% capacity, personal care services were closed and outdoor gatherings were limited to immediate family members only. 

May 25, 2021 – Students were permitted to return to in-person learning. The next day, Kenney announced he was replacing his “Plan Forward” strategy with the “Open for Summer” plan, based on vaccination progress and hospitalization numbers.

June 18, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 3” would be implemented July 1.

July 1, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta is “Open for Summer” and nearly all remaining public heath orders are lifted including mask mandates, self-isolation requirements, scaled back testing and contact tracing.

July, 2021 – Kenney, while attending a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast, is recorded saying he swears to God the province is “open for good.”

July 29, 2021 – The province announces major changes to the COVID-19 protocols on testing, self-isolation and contact tracing. Testing would now only be for the symptomatic; self-isolating is no longer mandatory and AHS would stop close-contact contact tracing.

Sept 4, 2021 – Alberta brings back mandatory masking for all indoor public spaces and work places. Restaurants are ordered to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.

Sept 15, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events. As of September 20, restaurants will have to shut their dining rooms and only provide service on their patios or take-out meals until they have a vaccine passport system in place which will then offer them exemptions. The province will also continue a curfew of 10 p.m. for liquor sales. Forced social distancing returns and it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend social functions in homes. Vaccinated families can have friends come over from one other vaccinated house to a total of 10 people. Along with other restrictions, mandatory work from home orders are also back in place.

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Features

MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

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Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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Features

Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

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A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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