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Next Generation Fighter Aircraft Project

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The Next Generation Fighter Aircraft Project is a Canadian Forces procurement program to buy a replacement for the CF-188 Hornet. The program started on The NGFA was ended with the selection of the Eurofighter Typhoon in 2010. The Canadian government would end up purchasing 168 Eurofighter Typhoons and 12 EA-18G Growlers.


Knowing this, CF Air Command boss Angus Watt, backstopped by Forces Chief of Staff General Peter Ryan, asks parliament to begin a program to replace the Hornet. Considering the pricey acquisitions of the Maritime Command projects and the CF-190, money concerns become immediately apparent. Watt is asked whether increasing the purchases of the Crossbow would fit the needs, but Watt points out that the Hornet is meant as a dogfighter aircraft, not a strike weapon like the Crossbow. Watt proposes leasing the American F/A-18E Super Hornet as a replacement until the country buys news fighters between 2012 and 2014, as proposed in the Defense plans. The Reform Party likes that plan, but some others advocate that while Canada has money to spend and. with defense contractors hurting, Canada will be able to get a very good deal on aircraft. These people were partially vindicated by India's MRCA plan (which was decided in favor of the MiG-35 in September 2008 - after the July 2008 war, (India was not keen on buying Western aircraft), and they also pointed out that even if the aircraft were not started to be paid for until 2011 or 2012, they could still get a deal if they began looking.

Hearing that such a plan was in the works, the idea of new CF fighters was blown wide open by a front-page story on the National Post on August 11, which said that Canada was looking for up to 180 aircraft to replace the aging CF-188 fleet. In reality Canada wasn't looking for that many aircraft, but they stated publicly that they were starting to look for options to replace the CF-18 Hornet.

Sure enough, the world's defense contractors jumped on that like sharks smelling blood in the water. On August 16, Lockheed Martin jumped in first, offering Canada the latest F-16 Fighting Falcon model, and the next day both BAE Systems/Saab and Boeing IDS jumped in, offering the JAS 39 Gripen and F/A-18 Super Hornet respectively. On August 20 and 21, the Europeans also committed the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale to the bid. Russian aircraft were pretty much out of the question due to the 2008 war, but Mikoyan nonetheless offered up the MiG-35 to the CF.

Sensing the intense interest, on August 27, Canada officially opened the bidding. The plan included the purchase of up to 180 aircraft, and the Forces made it clear that carrier-capable aircraft and twin engines were preferred - this gave an advantage to the Super Hornet, Rafale and Eurofighter, though a carrier-capable of the Gripen NG, dubbed the Gripen CA, was proposed as well.

Sensing that it was losing out, Lockheed Martin made a proposal that in many ways resembled a Hail Mary play. They immediately invited several Canadian firms, including Research in Motion, Western Electric and Vektris Engineering, to join the Joint Strike Fighter project, and stated that Lockheed Martin would lobby for Canada being able to purchase any aircraft they make - specifically mentioning the awesome F-22 Raptor. The company also offered to base its carrier entry off the F-16XL design proposal that General Dynamics had done in the 1980s. GD signed onto the effort, and also designed a serious landing gear rework for the F-16 to allow it to work better on carrier. Lockheed also proposed that the Canadian airplanes be fitted with the Orenda PS.14 Haida engines being developed for the Crossbow. The variant, named the F-16CA, was the wildest proposal of the bunch.

Knowing the density of Lockheed Martin's play, everybody else upped the plans as well. Dassault proposed having the aircraft manufactured almost entirely in Canada, while the Eurofighter consortium quickly did the same, though they wanted the engines made in Europe. General Electric also proposed a Eurofighter powered by the GE engines of the Super Hornet to counter this.

Four of the five proposals - Boeing F/A-18E/F, Dassault Rafale M, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen NG - came to Canada in October 2009 for first testing. CF pilots absolutely loved the Super Hornet, noting its similarities but higher performance to the old CF-18. The Gripen's incredible range of movement also impressed many, with virtually all the pilots saying the Swedish light fighter could outdice any of the others and would be vast step up on the CF-18. The Rafale had much the same response, and the Eurofighter was also given high marks for agility, as well as its surprisingly small radar cross section - the Eurofighter is not a real stealth aircraft, but its cross section is very small, giving high marks in that regard. All four were ranked as aircraft which are "highly suitable for service in the Canadian Forces." The F-16CA was highly awaited however.

When the contract came out, Lockheed Martin quickly re-obtained its F-16XL aircraft from NASA, outfitted it with the latest GE engine and the conformal fuel tanks of Israeli and later export versions and sent it out to demonstrate its capabilities, with it showing off to the CF in November 2009 at CFB Bagotville. At the same time, General Dynamics showed off a design of its carrier-landing gear for the F-16CA, which they said could also be used on the CF-184C. Lockheed Martin also showed off a design with canards that looked very similar to those on the Gripen, and also showed off a prototype thrust vectoring system, which would allow the fighter to be supermaneuverable, able to do maneuvers that the others could not. The F-16CA had a scarcely-believable 21 hardpoints, and the addition of conformal fuel tanks gave the airplane incredible range. The debate went on through 2009 and into 2010, but most of the CF agreed that if Lockheed Martin could deliver, the F-16CA could be one hell of a weapon for both the Air Command and the Navy, and many figured that even with the F-35, who development Canada was in on, the F-16CA would still have lots of usage - for starters, it could easily replace the aging CF-187 Corsairs in CF service, if not anything else.

In 2010, the battle to replace the CF-188 Hornet (and perhaps the Corsair, which is what Lockheed Martin was banking on), the battle was really down to three aircraft - the French Dassault Rafale, the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the European Eurofighter Typhoon. Lockheed Martin's F-16 variant was aiming to replace the CA-187 Corsair attack aircraft the CF had used since the early 1980s. The Rafale was on the back foot by now, as it had less performance than the CF desired and was outgunned in terms of power and agility. Dassault responded to those criticisms by offering to have Snecma and Canadian makers develop a more powerful variant of the M88 turbofan from the Rafale. The Eurofighter outmaneuvered the Super Hornet, but the Super Hornet's substantially lower unit cost and more advanced electronics worked in its favor. Saab and EADS were still hoping to sell the very small, very maneuverable Gripen to the CF, though it appeared that the CF wanted to use the same aircraft on carriers that it did on land and the CF tended to prefer twin-engined aircraft.

The Forces, not wanting to offend everybody, took the same route it had taken in the Boeing-Airbus aircraft war in the 1990s. The CF chose the Eurofighter RN.4, but demanded that the Canadian Eurofighters be able to use the Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles of the current fleet. Boeing wasn't out in the cold, however - the CF at the same time ordered twelve of its newly-developed EA-18G Growlers, which were based on the Super Hornet.

But Boeing was not pleased, and its Canadian subsidiary filed suit in Canadian courts, saying that there was bias in the selection of the Eurofighter and demanding the contract be rebid. The opposition Conservatives jumped on this, saying that the CF was constantly leaning towards European products and accusing senior politicians of corruption. While the Conservatives had forgotten the scandal between Charest and Airbus which saw them turfed from power in 2004, the Liberals and NDP hadn't, and both pointed that out to the Conservatives. Conservative leader Peter MacKay shot back saying that it was not him personally who had been responsible, and most of his shadow cabinet had no involvement in the myriad scandals of the 1990s and 2000s, which was for the most part true.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled against Boeing on September 23, 2010, and said that the decision had been fair. Boeing turned around and demanded that the Canadians be tossed from the F-35 project, which drew nothing short of furious indignation from Lockheed Martin. The situation didn't lay off until November, when rumors of Boeing's blasting potentially costing them a 747-8 order in favor of the Airbus A380 began to appear - with Air Canada being government-owned, Boeing knew that losing Air Canada, who had been a long-time Boeing customer for its long-distance jets, would hurt - and as a result, Boeing's objections gradually stopped. Boeing eventually did agree to the export of the Growler, and the first Growler, a US Navy unit diverted to Canada, arrived on December 10 at CFB Esquimalt.

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