Auditor General Trashes Liberal Plan to Keep CF-18s Flying Until 2032 (excerpt)
(Source: CBC News; posted Nov 20, 2018)
By Murray Brewster
Canada's auditor general has shot down the Liberal government's handling of the air force's aging CF-18s in a blistering report that raises questions about national security, and even long-term safety, regarding the viability of the country's frontline fighter jets.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson's fall report, tabled Tuesday, methodically picks apart the recent policy change at the Department of National Defence, which requires the military to have enough warplanes to meet Canada's commitments to both NORAD and NATO at the same time.
From the get-go the policy was a non-starter, and the federal government knew it, said Ferguson.
"The fighter force could not meet the requirement because National Defence was already experiencing a shortage in personnel, and the CF-18 was old and increasingly hard to maintain," said the audit.
As of April 2018, the air force's CF-18 squadrons faced a 22 per cent shortage in technical positions — and a startling number of technicians were not fully qualified to do maintenance.
Fighter pilots are also in short supply. The air force is losing more of them than it is training each year; among those who do remain, almost one third do not get the required 140 hours of flying time per year. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the CBC News website.
Report 3—Canada’s Fighter Force—National Defence: Overall Message
(Source: Auditor General of Canada; issued Nov. 20, 2018)
In 2016, the Government of Canada directed National Defence to have enough fighter aircraft available every day to meet the highest NORAD alert level and Canada’s NATO commitment at the same time. This direction would require National Defence to increase the number of fighter aircraft available for operations by 23%.
The new operational requirement came at a time when the Royal Canadian Air Force faced a growing shortage of trained and experienced pilots and technicians. Furthermore, the current fleet of CF-18 aircraft are already over 30 years old, the CF-18 will continue to become more vulnerable, and there are no plans to improve its combat capability.
To have the number of aircraft needed to meet the new operational requirement, the government focused efforts on increasing the number of aircraft. The government’s original plan was to buy 18 new Super Hornet fighter aircraft, even though National Defence’s analysis indicated that this plan would not help the Royal Canadian Air Force meet the new operational requirement and would make the personnel shortage worse.
The government is now planning to buy used fighter aircraft from Australia that are the same age and have the same operational limitations as the CF-18s that the Royal Canadian Air Force are currently flying.
Over and above existing budgets, National Defence expects to spend almost $3 billion on extending the life of the current fleet and to buy, operate, and maintain the interim aircraft, without a plan to deal with its biggest obstacles to meeting the new operational requirement: a shortage of pilots and the declining combat capability of its aircraft.
Although National Defence has plans to address some risks, these investment decisions will not be enough to ensure that it can have the number of aircraft available daily to meet the highest NORAD alert level and Canada’s NATO commitment at the same time.
Click here for the full report (html format) on the AGC website.
Minister of National Defence’s Response to the Auditor General of Canada’s Report on Canada’s Fighter Force
(Source: Canadian Department of National Defence; issued Nov 20, 2018)
OTTAWA, Ontario --- Following the tabling of the Auditor General of Canada’s report on Canada’s fighter force, the Minister of National Defence, Harjit S. Sajjan, issued the following statement:
"As articulated in the Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy, our Government is committed to providing the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) with the investments and equipment it needs to carry out the missions we ask of them.
I welcome the Auditor General’s report on our fighter force. It affirms what I have said consistently – that despite their tireless efforts, the RCAF needs more to meet both its NORAD and NATO commitments without risk-managing one or the other.
The Government of Canada takes these findings extremely seriously. We are taking several steps to address both the Auditor General’s recommendations, and our broader concerns around the fighter force:
-- We will launch new efforts to recruit and retain pilots and technicians. Some initiatives – including the Fighter Capability Renewal Initiative, which will make use of contracted second-line maintenance to return over 200 technicians to front-line squadrons – are already underway. Others will be implemented by fall 2019.
-- We are upgrading the CF-18s to meet regulatory and interoperability requirements, and ensure they can operate within North American and international airspace past 2025.
-- The RCAF is assessing necessary combat systems upgrades for the CF-18 fleet that could be implemented to address evolving threats.
-- We have signed an agreement to purchase 18 Australian F-18 aircraft, with spare parts, to help mitigate the transition to the future fighter aircraft.
-- As affirmed in Strong, Secure, Engaged, we are proceeding with the procurement of 88 advanced fighters to provide the RCAF with the right quantity and quality of aircraft to meet Canada’s airpower needs for multiple decades.
I want to be clear with Canadians that an enduring solution to the CAF’s fighter capability will not be achieved until we have both procured a future fighter and increased the number of skilled and experienced technicians and pilots that will allow the RCAF to generate sufficient numbers of mission-ready aircraft. While there is tremendous attention being paid to these efforts, it will take time to realize the full results of our current and future personnel initiatives alone – a timeline that, by design, coincides with the expected arrival of the future fighter.
In the meantime, Canadians can rest assured that – thanks to the incredible efforts of our RCAF aviators – our CF-18s will continue to capably conduct missions in defence of Canadian airspace until the future fighter is fully operational.