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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

million dollar space pen or a lead pencil? the CF35 debate

Defence department procurement has always been a hot potato for each government of the day.

During the space race NASA was tasked with developing a "space pen" that could write in a zero g environment.  They ended up spending 12 million dollars and achieved their goal.  The Russians looked at the same situation and decided on a lead pencil.

In Canada our aging fleet of CF 18's need to be replaced.  As a tier level partner in the CF - 35 Lightning program we have access to make certain parts of the aircraft and systems.  This has led one company to ask just that from the federal government.

First what is the role of the federal government in DND purchases and what kind of industrial regional benefits should or should not be included in the purchase of the fighters?

Lets use two examples of what not to do.

The Marine Helicopter Purchase.

One can look at the government request, announcement, cancellation and announcement (of a different type of Helicopter) and eventual purchase of the Cyclone of what can happen when politics gets in the way of procurement.  Instead of decisions about the right aircraft for the right job you end up with the all too familiar example of the best trucks for jobs (insert riding here) instead of the best truck for troops on the ground, pilots in the air or sailors on the water. eventually a decision was made to purchase the Cyclone but after how many millions in wasted maintenance  costs, man hours, equipment required and training hours to keep the Sea king alive?  

The same argument falls for the CF 18.... what is the cost....?

CF18 Crash in Lethbridge
L-3 is an aerospace company based in Montreal.
"L-3 has experience with everything from CF-18 maintenance and would like a larger role in the Cf-35 development and support role.
CF-35 Lightning II
The high price of the CF-35 can be mitigated in many ways with these kinds of government contracts.  The reason that L3 and other aerospace companies are so adamant that we push for these types of contracts is the recent fast track purchase of the CC-17 Globemaster from Boeing that did not include Canadian companies on the contact for in service support.L-3 MAS is lobbying the Canadian government to negotiate a greater role on the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme.  Concerned about the level of industrial participation on the Joint Strike Fighter, company president Sylvain Bédard pressed the case during a visit on 1 September by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to L-3's factory in Mirabel, Quebec.
"I think this country has to protect its sovereignty," Bédard says. "It's important that this aircraft must be maintained in Canada."
Stephen Trimble

The LSVW is an example (there are many others) of the problems in procurement and the policies directed by the civilian DND staff, bureaucrats at all levels, politics and a CF that at times does not understand their own wants and or needs.Second the LSVW project:
Light Support Wheeled Vehicle (Western Star Trucks hopes to fulfill DND's LSVW requirement with the IVECO (Fiat) Model 40.10 built by Western Star under Licensing Agreement with IVECO.)
The Light Support Vehicle Wheeled (LSVW) Project which will replace Mobile Command's geriatric fleet of 2,800 rusting, 5/4 ton Chevrolet cargo trucks has entered into the evaluation phase with the submission of four bids to the Military Operational Support Trucks Programme Management Office (MOST PMO). Competing for the contract to supply up to 3,300 vehicles in five configurations are Freightliner of Canada Ltd./Mercedes Benz Trucks; Invar Manufacturing Ltd. of Batawa, Ontario with Chrysler Canada; UTDC Inc. of Kingston, Ontario teamed with Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG of Austria; and Western Star Trucks Inc. in Kelowna, British Columbia associated with IVECO of Italy. The winning bid was from Western Star Trucks, they hope to fulfill DND's LSVW requirement with the IVECO (Fiat) Model 40.10 built by Western Star under Licensing Agreement with IVECO.

All sounds good on paper.
Till one looks at the requirements and then realize that the requirements were changed as the vehicle was unable to preform within those tasks.  
The industrial and regional benefits (IRB) commitment of Western Star Trucks Inc. includes direct in-vehicle  Canadian Content totalling approximately $103.5 million (1991 dollars) distributed as follows:
Atlantic Region 3.9
Quebec Region 6.4
Ontario Region 32.2
Western Region 61.0
Achievements: to March 31,1996, the achievements are as follows:
• direct IRB’s $127.4 million
• Indirect IRB’s $79.3 million

The Canadian Forces have a off road/ road LSVW ambulance that is unable to go faster than 80 km/hr. That requires a pony engine to be started prior to the main engine start, as the oil and coolent needs to be warmed up for several minutes (like a chain saw motor). It requires constant fuel filter checks as it was desinged to use premium dieasel fuel and the CF fuel supply tends to be farm fuel (of a lesser quality), The LSVW when add on armour is placed on the vehicle the top speed is approx 60 km/hr.  The extra weight is too much for the four wheel drive system, transmission and the electronics to operate in anything but a cold environment.  In certain situations the vehicle is so top heavy that it just falls on its side.

Some might  argue that even the issue of being operationally acceptable is debatable. The vehicle problems

associated with the recent LSVW project are considered by many to be a clear example of IRB issues taking precedence over operational capability.

SENATE OF CANADA  Proceedings of the Standing, Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

One might recognize the vehicle that is being used on exercises and training throughout Canada is a "green" version of the Chevy Silverado. Considering that the LSVW are between 1993 and 1996 vehicles and are already ending their service life due to non use and poor design it is no surprise that they were not allowed to go overseas with Canadian troops in an all but behind the wire tasking. The vehicle used overseas that full fills this same role is the Mercedes G Wagen which has had tremendous success.  The armour on the G Wagen although, has proven too light and the CF has moved to heavy armoured vehicles for its missions in Kandahar.
The G Wagon will be used by operationally tasked field units and training establishments, and will be used by both the Regular and Reserve units to provide tactical transport in the fields of command and control, liaison, reconnaissance and military police.
Are we prepared to "make do" for our pilots and the missions they fly?
Are we prepared to purchase something because it provides a economic benefit to an area of Canada?
BOMARC Nuclear tipped missile
What is the role of DND procurement?
SAAB  Gripen
Is it to provide the best equipment for our sailors, soldiers and aircrew or is it something else?
Maybe a space pen is not a bad thing........

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