Monday, March 09, 2009

"Helicopter Procurement : Open Process Needed"

Excerpts from a piece at FrontLine magazine:
What is with Canada’s helicopter programs? Why have the Cormorant, Cyclone and Chinook programs – not to mention the late, lamented EH101 – all run into problems? Is it the nature of the equipment, or is it the procurement process that causes things to run awry?..

....a contract for the 16 CH47F Chinook helicopters has not yet been signed – despite the $4.7 billion project being announced in mid-2006, sole-sourced, and rated as a top priority. The cause of the delay appears to revolve around the amount of unique modification that Canada is requesting for this off-the-shelf aircraft, and the amount of money that Boeing wants in order to undertake those modifications.

While there are varied reasons for each of the programs’ stumbles, there are a couple of common threads. First, the military. Too used to long periods between acquisition programs, it tries to maximize the platform’s inherent versatility by cramming each with as much current (and future) multi-role capability as possible. This not only complicates and draws out upfront negotiations, but also increases the risk (and cost) and often places Canada in the unenviable position of being either the first or the only customer for a particular variant.

The second recurring thread is that the procurement process, despite government assurances to the contrary, is not open and transparent. Decisions are made which, in addition to appearing arbitrary, opportunistic and unrelated to military requirements, can be the cause of program delays and missteps. For example, consider the following questions:

• What was behind the decision to prevent the original equipment manufacturer from bidding on the Cormorant’s ISS contract?
• How is it possible to choose a maritime helicopter still under development when the guidelines clearly state that the military should aim for an off-the-shelf buy?
• If “off-the-shelf” is a key selection criteria, what is the limit on the amount of Canadianization allowed?
• When opting to sole-source, what aircraft are considered and rejected? What mandatory requirements are a reasonable trade-off for tying the government’s hands when it is negotiating a directed contract?

Canada is not the only country having problems with its helicopter procurement programs, but that doesn’t mean the situation is acceptable – or unfixable. It’s clear that reasonable expectations and a more open process could go a long way to providing the military with the equipment it needs, when it needs it, with an efficient in-service support arrangement.

Sharon Hobson is the Canadian Correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly.
This post might be read in connection with the above:
Continuing Cyclone shenanigans


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't understand why they can't get a chopper contract signed . . . the helicopter situation is a mystery.

On the other hand, the got 4 C17s on the ramp in very short order, despite a major political campaign to buy the A400 (almost an) airplane.

"EADS has admitted that delays to the first flight of the Airbus Military A400M could lead to orders being cancelled next month, but considers a contract termination "unlikely".

In a statement issued ahead of its annual results briefing, EADS acknowledges that "as the A400M will not perform its first flight before the end of March 2009" the customer - OCCAR - has a contractual right to claim termination of the entire contract as of 1 April."

9:17 a.m., March 10, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home