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Canada's defence policy - "Strong, Secure, Engaged" - outlines plans to purchase 88 advanced fighter aircraft to "...contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and to meet Canada's international obligations."

The new fighter jet fleet will replace the aging CF-18 Hornet, and will be used to defend Canada and Canadian sovereignty and will contribute to NORAD and NATO commitments.

But, Canada's Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) - and previous iterations thereof - has a long and colorful past, and it's one that has been mired in politics. The program was restarted on 12 December 2017 when the Government launched an "open and transparent" competition for the permanent replacement of Canada's fighter fleet.

The Government of Canada has stated an estimated cost of $15-19 billion for the acquisition of the aircraft, associated equipment and setup to enable entry into service. The acquisition will include associated equipment, weapons, and sustainment set-up and services to ensure an uninterrupted Canadian Fighter capability, and will be designed to leverage Canadian industry capabilities and contribute to economic growth and jobs.

According to the Government, Canada's Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) policy will be applied to this procurement. Needless to say, the cost of the program is likely to increase with time, and does not include the cost of sustainment throughout the life of the new fleet.

Over recent years, five fighter jet OEMs have expressed interest in competing for this lucrative contract:

Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet); Dassault (Rafale); Eurofighter (Typhoon); Lockheed Martin (F-35 Lightning II); Saab (Gripen E/F). All of these aircraft are multi-role and NATO interoperable, and all of them can be NORAD interoperable.


CDR has always maintained that the Canadian Government should leverage FFCP to the greatest extent possible for the benefit of Canada's aerospace industry and that is in line with pronouncements from the Government as well, however we are frankly surprised, that the Canadian Government has, at least not thus far, mandated final assembly (at least) of the new fighter aircraft in-country. Nor does it currently appear that tangible credit would be applied to OEMs who are prepared to build in Canada--we believe that is a gross oversight.

With the capital expenditure required for this project, we ask the question, why not take the opportunity to expand Canada's aerospace industry? Think about how the NSS program is all about building and sustaining Canada's shipbuilding industry for decades to come. Canada will build its own state-of-the-art warships here in this country, so why not a fighter jet too?

There is certainly a precedent for building in Canada and while we realize this is a completely different era, history shows that most of the RCAF's CL-13 Sabre, CF-104 Starfighter, and CF-5 Freedom Fighter aircraft were built in Canada. The FFCP therefore, presents an amazing opportunity for Canada to push for transfer of technology which would in turn, boost what is becoming an increasingly stagnant domestic aerospace industry.

In fact, there are a number of current examples of modern fighter aircraft being built outside their home countries. For example, Lockheed Martin and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) have partnered together to stand up a Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility for the F-35 Lightning II in Nagoya, Japan. The Japanese FACO facility will perform the final assembly and check-out of 38 F-35 Lightning II aircraft to be delivered to the JASDF.


Another example is Brazil, which selected the next generation Saab Gripen E/F as their future fighter. In this case, Saab has partnered with Embraer in Brazil as part of the Gripen transfer of technology program which aims to provide the Brazilian aerospace industry with the technology and knowledge needed to maintain and develop Gripen for Brazil.

Final assembly of a number of aircraft will occur in Brazil, with Embraer also collaborating with Saab in the design of the two-seat Gripen F variant. Additionally, Brazilian technology and equipment will be incorporated into their jets thus, helping to further develop that country's own aerospace industry, with export potential for these new products.

Elsewhere, countries like India are pushing an initiative dubbed, "Make in India" which encourages both multinational and domestic companies to manufacture in-country and this includes the large requirement for modern fighter aircraft. In this case, fighter OEMs are encouraged to partner with Indian aerospace industry and build within the country. Indian Air Force, Vice Chief Air Marshal Shirish Baban Deo, has said India desires that acquisition money "stays in the country" and that "investments are in the country".

The current requirement for 88 fighters is not a trivial number by any means, so Canada MUST consider all the above factors for the benefit of our country's economy as well as our national security. So, we hope and expect that the Government of Canada will take all these factors into consideration as it formulates its strategy for a Future Fighter acquisition.


On 22 January 2018 the Government of Canada hosted an FFCP Industry Day. The objective of the event was to present foreign governments and industry with the information required for them to make an informed decision about participating in the procurement. In addition, the event provided an opportunity for Canadian industry to network with foreign governments and fighter aircraft manufacturers.

In March 2018 formal supplier engagement began with Future Fighter Capability Project representatives conducting meetings with parties on the Suppliers List to discuss the procurement approach, sustainment requirements, infrastructure requirements, aircraft and associated system requirements, and Industrial and Technological Benefits, among other topics.

The next stage in the process will be the release of a draft RFP sometime in 2019. As it stands today, a contract award is expected in 2021/2022, with the first aircraft anticipated in 2025, and the fleet continuing in service to 2060 and likely longer.

So, with all that said, CDR has put together a capsule update on what each of the prospective bidders will be offering and bear in mind that, for this report, we reached out to all the OEMs for the very latest information on their offerings. Here are the potential contenders for Canada's FFCP:


The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is the principal front line multi-role fighter for the United States Navy, on its own, one of the largest 'air force's' in the world. Two versions of the Super Hornet--the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model--are able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defences, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.

The Block II is the current standard in service with the U.S. Navy today, and is the variant in service with the Royal Australian Air Force, which acquired 24 Super Hornets, and 12 E/A-18G Growlers - an electronic attack variant of the Super Hornet. Kuwait has also selected the Super Hornet, and will receive their first aircraft in 2019. According to Boeing, the U.S. Navy's program of record calls for 574 F/A-18E/F fighters.

The U.S. Navy's fiscal year 2018 budget funded a new Block III variant of the Super Hornet. "The Block III Super Hornet is fully funded as a program of record with the U.S. Navy, so we're off and running executing the program," Dan Gillian, vice-president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs at Boeing, told CDR. He explained, "As an example, the conformal fuel tanks will fly later this Fall, and the Advanced Cockpit System will fly early this Spring. All the development items that make up the Block III are on track and performing well, and we'll deliver our first Block III airplanes to the U.S. Navy in 2020, and then every airplane thereafter will be a Block III Super Hornet."

There are 110 Block III Super Hornets in the FY19 budget. In addition, Boeing is working with the U.S. Navy to convert their Block II Super Hornets to the Block III configuration through the Service Life Modification Program. In order to do this, Boeing will establish Service Life Modification lines in St. Louis and in San Antonio.

Together, the three production streams will deliver Block III Super Hornets to the U.S. Navy, with deliveries continuing into the 2030's. "The Navy's funding of Block III and the acquisition of 110 airplanes has certainly given the international market confidence in the platform. We think we have a very compelling offering for many international markets, and we have ongoing campaigns in Finland, Switzerland, Germany, India and Canada," said Gillian.

Key attributes of the Block III Super Hornet include conformal fuel tanks which are 'shoulder mounted' tanks providing 3,500 pounds of fuel, which will deliver approximately 120 nautical miles of extended range. The Advanced Cockpit System (ACS) is a 10x19 inch large area display, which is best conceptualized as a giant Ipad for the jet. "The ACS will change the way the aircrew interfaces with the airplane and all the sensors available. It's a next-gen user interface, so the Block III when fielded will be the most advanced and sophisticated in the world," said Gillian.

The "brains" of the Block III Super Hornet will come from the open architecture Distributed Targeting Processor Networked (DTPN) and the Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT), which is a very large computer and a large data pipe, respectively. Together these systems are referred to as Advanced Digital Infrastructure, and will take all the information gathered by the aircraft, including systems like the Infrared Search and Track System (IRST) and the AESA radar, and will fuse that together and be able to share it with the carrier air wing or other air force assets. "It is the big change in the Block III Super Hornet, making it a smart node on the Navy's or an Air Force's network," said Gillian. "I should point out that both the DTPN and TTNT are Growler program of record that we're pulling over into the Super Hornet. Development is underway for both platforms, and we'll implement in 2020 when we start delivering planes to the U.S. Navy."

In addition to those three main changes, Gillian states that Boeing will also make the Super Hornet more stealthy: "As you know, Super Hornet is a very stealthy airplane today. We can do just a little bit more to get some extra stealth performance out of the platform."

The other major change to the Block III Super Hornet is increasing the service life of the aircraft to 10,000 hours. Boeing also keenly states that the Super Hornet is the lowest cost per flight hour aircraft when compared to all U.S. Air Force or Navy platforms.

"The bigger story of Block III is all next-gen airplanes need to be networked and survivable. Survivability is often linked with stealth, and stealth is an attribute of survivability, but long range sensors like Infrared Search and Track sensor carried by the Super Hornet, and other various sensors out there, have diminished the value of just having stealth, so a balanced approach to survivability is essential," said Gillian.

Boeing plans to compete the Block III Super Hornet for Canada's FFCP.


The Rafale was designed by Dassault to replace all types of fighters and attack aircraft in the French Air Force and French Navy with a single "Omni role" frontline advanced fighter providing air policing and defensive/offensive air superiority; air-to-ground and air-to-surface (sea) attack; close air support; Air Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR); Suppression/destruction of enemy air defences; and in-flight refueling.

The Rafale is fully combat-proven through many deployments for all its roles, having been in action in Afghanistan, Libya (first day, first in), Mali, Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria. These missions have covered long distances, vast expanses of air, land and sea, from austere forward bases in extreme heat and cold and very short runways with no need for drag chutes.

It has demonstrated full interoperability in dense, complex air environments in countless NATO and U.S.-led coalition missions. The Rafale has also demonstrated interoperability with U.S. aircraft and is the only non-U.S. fighter fully qualified to fly from U.S. aircraft carriers, as demonstrated yet again this past summer.

According to Dassault, the Rafale's suite of advanced multi-source active and passive sensors and Optronics, its full multispectral electronic warfare suite (called SPECTRA), its advanced, high-secure networked operations and communications, and its advanced multi-sensor data fusion, provide 360-degree battle space awareness, protection and control and a seamless ability to switch back and forth between missions or conduct multiple missions simultaneously.

The twin-engine Rafale demonstrates extremely high survivability with low observability, integration of stealth technologies and a reduced radar cross section (RCS). The Rafale is able to carry 2.5 times its empty weight in weapons and fuel--more than any other fighter--which makes the Rafale a force multiplier. According to the French Air Force, two Rafale fighters can do the same work of five legacy fighters--that being self-escort, engaging multiple air and ground targets at the same time, and doing real-time post-battle damage assessment.

In addition to France, customers in the last couple of years include India, Egypt and Qatar. These contracts guarantee production to 2040 and beyond, with support for decades beyond that. Known acquisition and in-service support costs at the highest tempo of combat operations, also provides certainty for Rafale operators or prospective customers. In addition, maintenance processes were completely redesigned for the Rafale to facilitate forward deployments by way of a high degree of modularity and the elimination of depot-level maintenance for airframe and engine overhaul, which means the aircraft don't leave the base for maintenance.

In 2017, the French Ministry of Defence approved the development of the "F4 Standard" of the Rafale to be delivered in 2024/2025. The new standard will include a new generation of sensors and weapons, next-generation secure communications equipment, new cockpit displays, enhanced radar capabilities and upgraded electronic warfare / self-protection to stay ahead of the most lethal threats deployed by enemies around the world, and a Helmet Mounted Display System which is already developed for an export customer (India).

The main companies currently contributing to the manufacture of Rafale include Dassault Aviation (airframe and avionics), Thales (advanced electronics, sensors and electronic warfare suite), and Safran (engines, power systems, brakes and landing gear, precision guided weapons). These companies, together with the Government of France, qualified for the Supplier List Invitation (SLI) to engage with the Canadian Government for the Future Fighter competition.

Dassault and the Rafale team are believed to be carefully evaluating the opportunity in Canada however they are not putting forward any public declarations of intent as of this time. Should they decide to bid, it is expected they would put forward a formidable offer with 100% in-service support in Canada, extensive transfer of technology and intellectual property (IP), and considerable work for Canadian

companies over the life of the aircraft. All three OEMs already have a strong record of investment, technology transfer, job creation, research & development and more.


The Eurofighter Typhoon is built by a consortium of companies from England, Germany, Spain, and Italy. The Typhoon has become the backbone of the Air Forces in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The aircraft has conducted multiple and ongoing deployments, and has served for Baltic Air Policing duties with Spanish, German, UK and Italian air forces.

In December 2017, the governments of Qatar and the United Kingdom together with BAE Systems signed a contract for the acquisition of 24 Typhoon fighters. The Qatari contract for jets and a significant support and training package became formally effective on 18 September.

Deliveries under the earlier Royal Omani Air Force contract are already underway, while deliveries to Kuwait will commence in 2020, and to Qatar in 2022. Including Qatar, there are now orders for 647 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. Over 540 have been delivered, with these aircraft having flown more than 450,000 flying hours.

The Eurofighter consortium continues to equip the Typhoon with new capabilities which are delivered through a structured development program known as the Phased Enhancements Program. The Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) are in service and have delivered a range of improvements to the aircraft including the integration of the Paveway IV precision guided bomb.

Other improvements include enhanced computing power, weapons systems integration advancements and improved sensor suites making Typhoon even more potent whether tasked with air-to-air work, air-to-surface or a combination of both during a single mission.

Phase 2 Enhancements (P2E) builds upon P1E and includes the integration of the Storm Shadow long range deep strike weapon and the Meteor Beyond Visual Range missile. The Typhoon having already performed dual-firing of the Meteor missile. Signed contracts are already in place for Meteor, Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles.

Phase 3 Enhancements (P3E) widen Typhoon's capabilities even further with the addition of the Dual Mode Brimstone 2 missile, providing pilots with the ability to target fast moving ground vehicles. P3E also includes the Captor-E electronically scanned radar.

The Royal Air Force officer responsible for the Eurofighter program within the UK Ministry of Defence, Air Commodore Linc Taylor said, "The Project CENTURION upgrades, which will enter service by December 2018, will see Eurofighter become one of the world's foremost multi-role fighters with the Storm Shadow, Brimstone and Meteor weapons entering Royal Air Force service. We plan to continue to develop the aircraft in an ever-more agile and responsive fashion; drawing on advanced sensors, including an electronically-scanned radar and advanced reprogramming techniques." The Typhoon will also provide a bridge to the UK's planned Future Combat Air System fighter after 2035.

Following the announcement by the Canadian Government of its list of eligible suppliers for Canada's FFCP, Airbus confirms that it will be the lead industrial partner of the Eurofighter consortium in offering the Eurofighter Typhoon in the competition. Airbus will partner with the Government of the United Kingdom which will act as the lead nation in bidding for the contract.

These decisions recognize Airbus' established position as a supplier to Canada, the high value of its industrial sourcing in the country, and the strong links that it is forging as the result of its acquisition of a majority stake of the A220 airliner program (formerly the Bombardier C Series). At the same time, they reflect the UK's long-standing relationship with Canada in matters of national security.

Simon Jacques, President of Airbus Defence and Space, told CDR, "By choosing Eurofighter Typhoon, Canada will get a combat-proven fighter which fully meets the requirements of all the RCAF's envisaged missions and has a future capability evolution path which will ensure its supremacy for decades to come. In the United Kingdom it will have a national partner that it can trust implicitly and which itself has a cast-iron commitment to operating and enhancing the Typhoon while improving still further its cost-effectiveness."

He added, "And with Airbus, a company which has already taken the remarkable step of making Canada its fifth home country, the nation will benefit from unprecedented investment in both financial and technological terms from one of the world's leading aerospace undertakings. So I'm confident that as Airbus we have a tremendous amount of value to offer Canada and we are greatly looking forward to telling that story when the formal request for proposals is issued."

Airbus also pointed to its successful track record in building a winning team for Canada's FWSAR competition, and, when asked about potential Canadian partners offered, "Naturally Bombardier is one of the companies that we are considering as a possible partner."


The Lockheed Martin F-35 is a 5th Generation stealth fighter which first flew in 2006. Canada has been a partner in the F-35 program from the beginning and has contributed money during the program's System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. As a partner, Canadian industry has received more than $1 billion in industrial opportunities to date flowing from the F-35 program.

F-35s are manufactured at Lockheed's Ft. Worth production facility, and at Final Assembly and Check-Out facilities in Nagoya, Japan, and Cameri, Italy. F-35s coming off the production line today are in Block 3F configuration which provides 100% of the software required for full warfighting capability, including but not limited to, data link imagery, full weapons and embedded training.

Over 300 F-35s have been built to date, with aircraft delivered to the United States, Australia, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Norway, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

The United States Marine Corps declared F-35 Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2015, followed by the U.S. Air Force which declared IOC in 2016. Since then, Marine Corps F-35s have deployed to Japan, and are conducting their first operational cruises aboard USS Wasp and USS Essex.

The Israeli Air Force was the first service to use the F-35 for operational missions and the first to employ it in combat. In late September, the United States Marine Corps conducted their first strike mission with the F-35 over Afghanistan.

Greg Ulmer, Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 program for Lockheed Martin, told CDR, "What we're finding as we're beginning to operate the airframe in the different theatres around the world is that the airplane is doing everything that it's designed to do, and more. In particular, the interconnectivity and the battlefield management aspect of things, the F-35 is really I think doing a lot more than the customers really envisioned it would be capable to do, so we're seeing some very strong support when the airplanes go into theatre."

Recent developments for the program include Lockheed selecting Raytheon to develop and provide the next generation Distributed Aperture System (DAS) for the F-35. This will enhance capability and reduce cost. "The supply chain competition for the next generation F-35 Distributed Aperture System resulted in significant cost savings, reliability and performance improvements," said Ulmer.

He added, "We are aggressively pursuing cost reduction across the F-35 enterprise and this initiative is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities for the warfighter." The Raytheon-built DAS will be integrated into F-35 aircraft starting with Lot 15 aircraft, expected to begin deliveries in 2023.

Lockheed has also selected Harris Corporation to develop and deliver the next generation Integrated Core Processor (ICP) for the F-35. The F-35's ICP acts as the brains of the F-35, processing data for the aircraft's communications, sensors, electronic warfare, guidance and control, cockpit and helmet displays.

A significant announcement also came at the end of September when the U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin finalized an $11.5 billion contract for LRIP 11 which calls for the production and delivery of 141 F-35 aircraft at the lowest per aircraft price in program history. According to the announcement, the cost of an F-35A was lowered for the eleventh consecutive year with the F-35A unit price (including aircraft, engine and fee) now at $89.2 million USD.

"As production ramps up, and we implement additional cost savings initiatives, we are on track to reduce the cost of the F-35A to $80 million by 2020, which is equal to or less than legacy aircraft, while providing a major leap in capability," said Ulmer.


Gripen E is designed by Saab which is under contract with the Swedish Air Force to provide Sweden's next generation fighter. Gripen E's mission will be to defend against sophisticated air, land and sea threats in harsh Arctic conditions. The aircraft was also selected by Brazil for their Air Force in a competition that included Boeing's Super Hornet, Eurofighter's Typhoon and Dassault's Rafale. The Gripen E is the newest fighter, with the first customer delivery in 2019, and that has allowed Saab to take advantage of the latest, state of the art, sophisticated systems and sensors.

Saab has highlighted the revolutionary design of Gripen E's avionics architecture which ensures that the aircraft sustains its computational edge over adversaries in the modern battle space. The company states that Gripen E's handling of data to and from on-board and networked sources and the intelligent fusing, processing and presentation of it will be a defining performance advantage. The aircraft also brings the traditional Swedish emphasis on operating in austere climatic conditions, and doing so with a low logistical and maintenance footprint to ensure maximum aircraft availability.

One aspect Sweden has long emphasized has been that of Electronic Warfare (EW) and data-linking. This means both for defending and attacking a numerically larger opponent, which may also places great emphasis on EW. The exterior design of Gripen E hints at the importance Saab has placed in a powerful, 360 degree coverage suite of EW technology, whilst ensuring optimal datalink performance in an interoperable / coalition environment.

In terms of recent milestones on the program, Saab announced in July that the Gripen E has undertaken its first flight equipped with an IRIS-T air to air missile on each wingtip, and four pylons under the wings and the centre pylon on the fuselage. These are a continuation of expanding the flight test program, which is expected to move into further trials involving carriage and release of missiles, drop tanks and other external stores. This will include the longest range air to air missile, Meteor, which first went operational with the current Gripen C in 2016.

Also in July, Saab unveiled the new anti-ship missile system called RBS15 Gungnir that is destined for Gripen E. With its 300 km sea skimming capability, the Gungnir Mk4 missile combined with Meteor will give Gripen E the means to strike targets at extreme ranges, with a commensurate benefit in eliminating or minimizing exposure to hostile air defences.

Meanwhile the first production Gripen E for Brazil is entering the final phase of production in Sweden whilst progress is also being made with the design of Gripen F, the two seat version that is being designed with Embraer in Brazil as part of the technology transfer program. Gripen F could be used for training, Combat Readiness training, Combat Missions with an Electronic Warfare Officer, Mission Commander or Weapon System Officer in the rear seat.

Saab, Sweden and Brazil are committed to manufacturing Gripen E and F in Brazil with a technology and knowledge transfer program. Brazilian engineers and technicians are in Sweden for an extended period of time getting involved in the production of the initial deliveries in preparation for domestic production back in Brazil. This ensures Brazil is gaining the required knowledge to build, support and sustain the fighter capability domestically.

Patrick Palmer, Executive Vice President, Head of Saab Canada, told CDR, "The breadth and depth of the technology, knowledge, Intellectual Property and industrial cooperation at the heart of the Brazilian contract is indicative of what could be on offer for Canadian industrial participation, including full domestic production of a Canadian Gripen E built in Canada by Canadians."


Joetey Attariwala is CDR's Senior Staff Writer & Aviation Editor
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Title Annotation:DEFENCE PROGRAMS; Future Fighter Capability Project
Author:Attariwala, Joetey
Publication:Canadian Defence Review
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 1, 2018
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