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It’s Boeing – No Surprise!

As was noted briefly in this space in the Summer issue of HELICOPTERS, Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor in late June announced a number of major military procurements...


July 5, 2007
By Richard Purser

As was noted briefly in this space in the Summer issue of HELICOPTERS,
Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor in late June announced a number of
major military procurements, including $4.7 billion for the purchase
and 20-year support of 16 new medium- to heavy-lift helicopters.

Now
for the details. The contractor selected to supply the helicopters
would have to meet the following minimum mandatory capabilities for
Canadian Forces acceptance:

Internal Lift – Cabin space to
accommodate an infantry platoon (30 soldiers) with full combat
equipment including weapons, body armour, rucksacks, rations and
communications (4,763 kg).

External Lift – Lift multiple loads, including a lightweight field howitzer and associated equipment (minimum 5,443 kg).

Range
– Flying endurance to ensure a relevant radius of operation (mimimum
100 km) with either the above internal or external load.

Temperature
and Altitude – Power and endurance to accomplish the above lift and
range found in the most likely CF theatre of operations (1,220 m ASL
and 35 degrees C).

This helicopter capability, the DND explains,
“will allow the Canadian Forces to reach remote locations in a wider
range of geographic areas and challenging environments inaccessible by
groundbased transport or fixed-wing aircraft. With the Canadian Forces’
increasing focus on joint operations and expeditionary forces, this
capability will serve as a paramount asset in responding to disaster
situations and terrorist attacks, both at home and around the world.”

Canadian
Forces does not have a military helicopter to meet this role. It has to
date relied on allied or coalition forces for this type of helicopter
transport while deployed, limiting its ability to conduct independent
operations. When this transport is unavailable, troops must opt for
ground transportation, increasing their vulnerability to ambushes, land
mines and improvised explosive devices. Total project cost for the
aircraft acquisition is estimated at $2 billion. Cost of the 20-year
in-service support contract is estimated at $2.7 billion. This separate
contract will be put to competition by the prime helicopter
manufacturer through an RFP.

As for selecting the prime
helicopter manufacturer, the government said it would use the ACAN, or
Advance Contract Award Notice, process. This permits it to identify an
intended contract award recipient based on the mandatory capabilities
and detailed market research conducted by the DND.

Here’s how
the department explained what was to happen next: “Industry is then
given the opportunity to respond, should they feel they have an
aircraft that meets this (sic) criteria. If no supplier submits a
statement of capabilities that meets the requirements set out in the
ACAN during its posting period of 30 calendar days, then the
competitive requirements of the government’s contracting policy have
been met.”

The DND went on to say that “this method of
procurement fosters industry competition, ensures fairness and
transparency, and increases the efficiency of procurement timelines.”

But
a more obvious conclusion might be that the DND already knew damn well
which helicopter it wanted, and intended to get it. And sure enough, it
took exactly one week after O’Connor’s initial announcement for Public
Works and Government Services Canada to state that “preliminary
industry research indicates that the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter is
likely the only known aircraft currently capable of delivering … in a
timely manner.” Of course, the government issued an ACAN to other
“interested suppliers,” but to all intents and purposes the decision
was taken, and was taken before O’Connor first opened his mouth.

This
writer has no problem with that. The Canadian Forces has people who
really know helicopters, and it would be strange if they didn’t know
which model was best for them.

Politics is a cynical business,
and of course cynicism immediately raised its head. Opposition defence
critic Ujjal Dosanjh weighed in, noting that Prime Minister Stephen
Harper was about to meet with President George Bush: “It’s an
irresponsible way for the government to move forward and they’re simply
doing it to please Mr. Bush. It’s going to be a very expensive
handshake that Mr. Harper will have with Mr. Bush.”

The inanity
of this is so instantly obvious that one shudders to recall that
Dosanjh once rose so high as to be the premier of a major province. I
won’t embarrass that province by naming it.


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