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23 April 2021

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"What's really amazing is that no one seems to have considered the possibility that Airbus would want to enter that market segment."

It's that super long (not) DC memory. Airbus first went in on the KC-46 bid, what 20 years ago? And lost on price? The proof is now in the KC-46 pudding and the pudding is a poomoji. Why wouldn't Airbus make a bid - could they do worse on another tanker project than has Boeing? Weren't DC's hometown band the Bad Brains writing/singing about the Boeing tanker project office back in '83? How low could Boeing get? Those guys were always ahead of the times.

I didn't mean to rip off
I thought it was a get off in mine
I tried to make the scence off
The plan was doomed to set off on time
The time that I was wastin'
I spent on only chasin in the pits
And now I pay the price
To make the sacrifice of the fool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo0kE9Ov2-U

I am pretty surprised anyone can consider the Gripen E as the least costly of the entrants in Canada's Future Fighter Capability Project. The Gripen is more expensive to acquire on a per unit basis before considering the additional two eyes intelligence requirements that must be met and subsequent modifications made to the airframe/avionics, something the F-18E and F-35A will not have to do.

Additionally life of type costs are also not well understood. While Gripen E may have a reported lower per hour cost than the F-18E or F-35A it is also the least capable of the three in range, payload and sensor capability. You literally need more Gripen E to complete the same missions you would use an F-18 or F-35A to complete. That negates the cost per hour savings and that is before you also factor in the likely better survivability of the F-18E and especially the F-35A in contested environments. Canada would also require significantly more extensive mid life upgrades to maintain the Gripen E airframe against evolving and projected threats. Even CDIs unclassified assessments make this point.

Irrespective of the above, if you follow the competition to date the withdrawal of Airbus and Dassault was based on expected costs meeting the specific two eyes requirements. Boeing's absurd moves against Bombardier haven't improved the Gripen's chances, it has just reduced the F-18Es chances. Interestingly unlike the tanker competition the Canadian Govt hasn't rejected the Boeing fighter bid, nor for that matter the LM bid despite Trudeau's comments of six years ago. It should signal more about what the RCAF wants from a fighter jet, and a tanker for that matter, than what the Canadian Govt thinks is good defence acquisition policy.

"John"—this is a great comment. Thanks. I will follow up in a day or so with my thoughts back.

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  • James Hasik is a senior fellow at the Center for Government Contracting in the School of Business at George Mason University, and a senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center on Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. Since September 2001, he has been studying global security challenges and the economic enterprises that provide the tools to address them.

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