Canada’s Future Fighter Capability: Supplier teams are visiting two Air Force fighter Bases

December 6, 2019 - Defence Stories

Author: Stéphanie Poulin, communications advisor, FFCP / Ottawa

3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake are the Royal Canadian Air Force’s two busy fighter bases, supporting Canada’s domestic needs and international commitments. These are our two main operating bases, or MOB if you want to learn the jargon. Our current fighter fleet is stationed at these two MOBs, and is where our 88 future fighters will be housed. Every time our government makes a decision to send a fighter in support of NATO, NORAD, or a global coalition, one, or both, of these locations sends them off. This means that jets have to be ready at any time, all the time. Efficient workspace becomes crucial to making this happen.

Ideally located for this responsibility, these two high-alert Wings will continue to be the cornerstones of Canada’s air defence. This makes these two locations a key part of the current future fighter capability project and of the bids eligible suppliers are currently preparing.

While Supplier teams are still working on their bids, the three contenders, Sweden-Saab (Gripen E), US-The Boeing Company (F/A-18 Super Hornet) and US-Lockheed Martin (F-35 Lightning II), were invited to visit Bagotville and Cold Lake.

The goal of this visit is for the supplier teams to gain a better understanding of how we operate and sustain our current aircraft, so they can frame their proposals in the Canadian context. The teams are also looking at our current facilities to evaluate future needs should their aircraft be selected. The outcome of the visit won’t decide what infrastructure we will need, but rather allow the three Supplier teams to include how we can make use of Canada’s current fighter infrastructure and if any new or expanded facilities would be required.

This visit is the second occurring within the FFCP process. The first was in November 2018, with the same purpose of providing Suppliers an equal opportunity to understand how we in Canada operate.

Is it too early to think of infrastructure? New aircraft mean new needs for space, training, maintenance, supply, and operations. And fighter jets are among the most complex and advanced equipment in the military that need to be maintained from the moment they are received. Although we have yet to identify our future fighter, it’s necessary to get started on infrastructure planning now, to be ready by the time the first aircraft arrive.

Other RCAF operating locations may also need to be altered to support the new fighters. Bagotville and Cold Lake will remain the permanent homes of our jets, however.

We’ll keep working on all these pieces, while waiting for Suppliers’ proposals, this coming March.

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