Backgrounder - National Fighter Procurement Secretariat Update

Replacing Canada’s aging fighter aircraft

  • The Royal Canadian Air Force acquired 138 CF-18 Hornet aircraft between 1982 and 1988, with an original life expectancy until 2003. There are currently 77 left in the fleet.
  • Through modernization programs, the life expectancy of Canada’s CF-18’s has been extended to 2017-2020, at which point the fleet will be gradually retired from service.
  • For nearly three decades the CF-18 has been the backbone of Canada’s air defences, a fundamental part of our contribution to the defence of North America and a valuable element of Canadian support to international missions.
  • Canada has been a participant in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program since 1997 along with the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Australia.
  • The 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy identified that the Canadian Forces require a next-generation fighter capability to carry out its core missions at home and abroad.
  • In July 2010, the Government of Canada announced its intent to acquire 65 Joint Strike Fighter F-35’s, to replace the CF-18 fleet.

The 2012 Auditor General report and the seven-point action plan

  • The Auditor General Spring 2012 report on replacing Canada’s fighter jets was critical of how Canada’s acquisition of 65 F-35’s has been managed to date.
  • The Government agreed with the recommendation and conclusions and put in place a seven-point action plan on April 3, 2012 that improves governance, strengthens due diligence and commits to greater transparency.
  • The action plan aims to ensure that Canada acquires the fighter aircraft it needs for the RCAF to complete its core missions and to ensure public confidence in an open and transparent acquisition process.
  • The National Fighter Procurement Secretariat was established in June 2012 and is responsible for the coordination and implementation of the action plan.
  • The action plan must be completed before the Government will proceed with the purchase of any replacement aircraft for the CF-18.

Canada’s current commitment

  • The funding for the acquisition of the 65 F-35’s is frozen, though Canada remains a partner in the JSF program through a Memorandum of Understanding with eight partner countries.
  • Canada’s participation in the JSF program brings significant economic benefits for Canadian industry.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding does not commit Canada to buy the F-35s. In order to keep the F-35 option open, Canada will maintain its involvement in the project as it implements the seven-point action plan.
  • The action plan calls on the DND to “continue to evaluate options to sustain a fighter capability well into the 21st century.” Evaluating options means reviewing choices and considering the advantages and disadvantages of each choice, including any associated risks.

Implementing the seven-point action plan

  • The Secretariat is focused on completing all parts of the action plan. The main effort now is the independent review of the DND project assumptions and costing figures, developing a costing framework going forward, and tabling a first annual update.
  • The Secretariat recommended, and the Government agreed – as an exception this year – to table the DND annual update on the JSF project in Parliament in Fall 2012. This additional time was necessary to complete an independent review of DND’s acquisition and sustainment project assumptions and potential costs for the F-35.
  • Once all aspects of the action plan are completed including reviews of cost, the acquisition process and options, the DMGC will present its conclusions to the Government for decision. In its role in implementing the action plan, the NFPS will aim to ensure work is completed as comprehensively and as quickly as practically possible.
  • We are targeting late Fall 2012 to make public the DND annual update, the KPMG cost review study, an industrial participation report, and a report on the status of work to implement the action plan.