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The federal government is asking the Canadian aerospace industry for input on sustaining a future fleet of fighter aircraft.
On July 20, the government issued a letter of interest (LOI) in an effort to better understand “Canadian industrial capabilities” and to what extent companies could provide sustainment services not assigned to
Royal Canadian Air Force maintenance technicians, in concert with the eventual aircraft manufacturer.
Companies have until Aug. 17 to respond.
In-service support was identified as one of six Canadian key industrial capabilities (KICs) in a 2013 report prepared for the Conservative government on leveraging defence procurement to increase economic activity.
The Liberals have continued to promote KICs, especially sustainment and training systems, as a way to ensure small and medium-sized Canadian businesses are included in large multinational defence acquisition projects, from upgrading the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter fleet, to the new CC-295W fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, to the future fighter capability project (FFCP).
“Sustainment is a significant area of focus providing many high value opportunities for Canadian firms, and Canada is seeking feedback to help finalize the overall sustainment approach for the FFCP,” according to the LOI.
Information gathered as part of the process will also be used to develop a framework to evaluate Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITBs) that must be included as part of an eventual bidder’s value proposition.
Under the ITB policy, the winning supplier must make investments in Canada equal to the value of the contract. The policy is intended to promote investment in Canadian industry, support research and development, and expand export opportunities.
“In line with these objectives, the sustainment of the future Canadian fighter fleet is a key area of opportunity that Canada is seeking to maximize,” the LOI stated.
The government has committed to acquiring 88 advanced fighter jets to replace a legacy fleet of 30-year-old CF-188 Hornets, the largest procurement project for the Royal Canadian Air Force in decades and potentially one of the largest sustainment contracts as well.
Following an invitation in January 2018 to join a suppliers list, five aircraft manufacturers and their national governments were selected to participate in the process: the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and Boeing Super Hornet, both from the United States; the Dassault Aviation Rafale of France, with support from Thales and Safran Aircraft Engines; Sweden’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen; and the United Kingdom- and Northern Ireland-backed Eurofighter Typhoon.
The government said all five had “demonstrated their ability to meet Canada’s eligibility criteria,” and would be the only ones “invited to participate in subsequent formal engagement activities and to submit proposals in the competition.”
In the lead-up to the LOI, the government has hosted an industry day and regional consultations with Canadian companies to explain the process and gather feedback on the planned approach for industrial participation. Over 250 Canadian companies and 50 universities and research institutions attended the regional forums.
The LOI itself contains a list of notional areas of sustainment responsibility companies should be able to meet, broken into three phases: sustainment set-up, sustainment transition and sustainment steady state.
The LOI noted while in-service support would be awarded to the winning bidder, that manufacturer could, “in turn, contract some or all of this work to Canadian industry.”
“Depending on the winning supplier’s proposal, some or all of steady-state sustainment may be included in the contract(s)/arrangement(s) that Canada will sign as a result of the FFCP competition or it may be competed separately by Canada in the future,” the LOI added.
To assuage industry concerns about sufficient access to intellectual property to fully develop domestic sustainment capabilities, the government said it would aim to “acquire sufficient rights to intellectual property and access to technical data to ensure Canadian industry can conduct the work assigned to them.”