Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cyclones: It's all Jean's fault/New maritime patrol aircraft

This really is partisanship at its stupid worst:
Today's Canadian Forces are feeling the effects of former prime minister Jean Chrétien's "flippant and callous" 1993 decision to cancel the $4.8-billion contract to replace the military's aging fleet of Sea King helicopters, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said yesterday.

In an interview with the Citizen, Mr. MacKay blamed delays in delivering the first in a new fleet of Sikorsky Cyclone ship-borne helicopters squarely at the feet of previous Liberal governments.

One of Mr. Chrétien's first acts as prime minister in 1993 was to cancel the previous Conservative government's EH-101 contract to replace the Sea Kings, after deriding the Cormorant chopper as a "Cadillac" and a waste of taxpayers' money during the federal election campaign that brought him to power [actually it was the EH101 CH-148 Petrel naval helicopter that was cancelled along with the EH101 CH-149 Chimo, a simpler search and rescue version; the Cormorant is the new name for the SAR version that the Liberals finally did buy--note the delicate wording at the link].

The Sea King replacement was a political albatross for Mr. Chrétien during his 10 years in power. It wasn't until his successor, Paul Martin, announced the $5-billion Sikorsky contract in 2004 that it looked like the air force would finally get new maritime helicopters to replace the 1960s-era fleet that has become prone to breakdowns and a periodic embarrassment to the military.

The first new Sikorsky aircraft was due in November [January, actually--see Upperdate], but that deadline has come and gone, sparking reports that the delivery is now three years behind schedule.

Mr. MacKay said the delay has been more like nine to 11 months [emphasis added], but that, he said, is still not acceptable.

"It's a tremendous, tremendous disappointment to see once again this vital piece of equipment may be delayed. And it can all go back to a single, solitary decision and a flippant and callous stroke of the pen," Mr. MacKay said by telephone from Victoria, referring to Mr. Chrétien's cancellation of the Cormorant contract shortly after he was sworn in as prime minister...

The government is assessing whether it is prudent to start seeking financial penalties from Sikorsky for late delivery, MacKay said. His priority is to push Sikorsky to get "back on schedule," and perhaps add choppers to the one-a-month delivery schedule specified by the contract.

"We're going to continue working with Sikorsky. We're going to try to pin them down a little bit further on what the timelines are. There are penalties and clauses that will kick in."..
I agree that M. Chrétien's cancellation of the EH101 contract was utter political callousness; but that has zero to do with the current Cyclone delay. Zero. The government had better come clean very soon indeed about what exactly the problem(s?) is and how long the delays will be.

Note this fascinating tidbit:
MacKay disclosed the Defence Department is in the initial stages of looking at "about a half a dozen possible replacement" options [emphasis added] for eight of 18 old Aurora coastal patrol planes.

The air force is going ahead with structural upgrades of remaining Auroras...
Interesting that the Chief of the Air Staff has said that only two possible replacements had been examined previously. Suggestions for the "half a dozen" candidates now? Maybe UAVs are among them. More here.

Update: More on the Cyclone fly-by-wire issue as the possible reason for the delay.


Blogger Cameron Campbell said...

This is one of the reasons why I come to this blog, you are fair to everyone of all political stripes.


8:22 p.m., January 12, 2008  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

"Truth, Duty, Valour" (see end of link--I have no experience with the last)".


8:39 p.m., January 12, 2008  
Blogger Glen - Scarberia said...

Somebody please tell Sikorsky (CH-148 link,9602,CLI1_DIV69_ETI1583,00.html )and National Defence - Material Group ( ) of the delayed delivery. I was aware of the 5&1/2 week strike in 2006 which should push the delivery out to Jan 2009. I didn't realize 1st flight had also been delayed by so much time. I can just see the CF/government taking delivery of a bare airframe and installing mission equipment later just to avoid admitting that the CF has been spectating rather than being a paying customer by demanding completion on time & budget.

3:46 p.m., January 13, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am very curious as to why you feel that the cancelation of the original contract awarded to EH Industries (now AgustaWestland) in 93 has nothing to do with the current delays being experienced. I ask you to consider the following before responding; 1998 the new contract was awarded , again with A.W. (this was clearly embarrassing for the gov't). The gov’t altered the contract specifications to make it so the aircraft and the defence/mission suite would have to be “sold separately”. They did this to ensure that the contract would not be awarded to A.W. they cancelled on years prior- the reason they gave is that part of this contract must remain Canadian-this did not seem to be a problem the first time around, EH Ind. is a British company . So years later, still no choppers and a major cause of the delay is due to the fact that there is an entirely new element involved in the Maritime Helicopter Project and that would be integration. General Dynamics, a civilian company, is now working to integrate aircraft and mission suite. I know for a fact that there are some highly educated people working within the company, however not enough of them have military experience and the knowledge of what is actually required. So if the government would not have embarrassed themselves to terribly they would not have felt it necessary to stick their nose where it does not belong in a bid to save face, which in effect back fired terribly- we paid off EH Ind, which probably let the gov’t off knowing that we would still be looking for replacements eventually. At the end of all of this I am wondering how it is possible for the gov’t to get away with altering the specifications of the contract when it had already been awarded, but they can’t allow us to award a contract to a British company that must have been the best opportunity for Canadians- they won the contract twice. At the end of the day we have no delivery of the aircrafts, a 478.3 million dollars down the drain (cancelation cost) a lawsuit that was filed in 2000 and we think we are in any position to start looking for compensation.

1:17 p.m., November 10, 2008  

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