Canadian Govt pledges 13 billion to the Forces

February 25th, 2005  

Topic: Canadian Govt pledges 13 billion to the Forces

Chris Wattie
National Post

Monday, February 21, 2005

A government promise of $300-million for the purchase of new search and rescue aircraft in last year's budget is stuck in the defence procurement process despite a pledge to fast-track the program.

And critics say that speaks volumes about the sincerity of Liberal promises to increase defence spending in this week's budget, reportedly by $750-million.

"It's a favourite trick," said Dr. David Bercuson, the director of the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. "They make a promise and then they spin it out over several years.... It makes you wonder about the promises they're going to make this year, doesn't it?"

In his budget last April, Ralph Goodale, the Finance Minister, promised $300-million to the Canadian Forces to allow them to purchase 15 aircraft "within 12 to 18 months" to replace ageing CC-130 Hercules and CC-150 Buffalos now used for search and rescue duties.

But the air force now says it could be quite a bit longer before new planes are finally delivered to its squadrons.

Captain Jim Hutcheson, a spokesman for the air force, said that for the past year, the project has been stalled in its initial stages, awaiting its "statement of requirement," a technical document listing the performance and other needs that the aircraft must fulfill -- from speed and maximum altitude to cargo capacity and maintenance requirements.

"That part is basically done, pending whatever happens in the defence policy review," he said.

He said the purchase cannot begin to move forward until the Defence Minister introduces a defence policy paper outlining the future direction of the Canadian military, expected sometime next month.

And Capt. Hutcheson acknowledged the prediction in last year's budget that the new aircraft could be bought within a year to 18 months was a bit optimistic. "Yes, it's turning out that way," he said.

"We definitely want it in place by 2010 ... that's when the Buffalo, as it's currently planned, will cease flying. But I know that they want to have it in place before then, because it's a high-priority project and they want to complete it as quickly as possible."

But military analysts say the rescue plane program is symptomatic of an overly complicated purchasing system and time- consuming bureaucracy in the Department of National Defence.

"The procurement process in this country is so drawn-out and convoluted that it's almost impossible for anyone to tell what's going on with any given project at any given time," Dr. Bercuson said.

"The procurement process is broken ... [and] until that's fixed, you cannot do anything to improve the state of our military."

Capt. Hutcheson said once the statement of requirement is completed and approved, a call for bids from aircraft manufacturers will be issued and a contract tendering process will begin, a process that could take more than a year.

After that, the winning company must still build the 15 aircraft and have them tested and accepted by the air force.

Capt. Hutcheson said the entire process is "perfectly do-able by 2010," but could not predict whether the new planes could be delivered earlier or how much earlier.

But Alain Pellerin, the director of the defence lobby group Conference of Defence Associations, said the delays to the project are denying air force pilots of a badly needed new plane.

"Historically in Canada, these large capital projects take 10 to 15 years," he said. "In the meantime, there's more and more pressure on the Hercules fleet. Fewer of them are serviceable every year."

The project is also being slowed by an air force study into how best to meet its cargo and troop-carrying needs in the future. Senior air force officers have reportedly been pushing for the government to purchase new, large cargo aircraft such as the Boeing C-17 Globemaster to replace the Hercules, so far with little success.

However, the new search and rescue aircraft could play a role in supplanting the Hercules for smaller loads and shorter distances.

"It is going to primarily, if not entirely, address search and rescue ... but in addition to doing [that] job, it will have to fit in to the overall airlift solution that the forces is going to have to put into place," Capt. Hutcheson said.

"Whatever aircraft is selected will have to be the appropriate piece in the puzzle in addition to fitting in with other airlift resources, whether it's Herc replacements or whatever."

The fixed-wing search and rescue project has been the top priority for the air force for the past two years, since new aircraft would free up Hercules transport planes that must now be on standby for rescues.

That would reduce the strain on the fleet of 40-year-old cargo planes, which are spending increasing amounts of time in hangars being repaired because of their age and high rate of use.

The search and rescue planes are needed to answer distress calls over 15.5 million square kilometres inside Canadian air space.

The Buffalos went into service in the mid-1960s and were to be phased out in 2002, but their life expectancy was extended. They are currently available only about half the time they are needed.

The Hercules were to be replaced by 2010, but the air force is considering keeping them flying until as late as 2038, when they would be well over 70 years old.

National Post 2005
February 25th, 2005  
A Can of Man
Canada to scrap F-18s?
February 25th, 2005  
this is probly the better source actually

CBC News Online | Feb. 23, 2005

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale delivered the Liberals' eighth straight balanced budget Wednesday, with promises to spend billions of dollars on military, national day care and cities, as well as offering some measure of tax relief.

Here are some highlights:
$12.8 billion over the next five years for Canada's military, the biggest increase in defence spending in two decades. About $3 billion will go to boosting the strength of the Canadian Forces by 5,000 troops and the reserves by 3,000 soldiers and another $3.2 billion to bolster training, improve medical care, cover supply and repair shortages, and repair infrastructure.