The Boeing Poseidon P-8A that Canada is considering buying has failed in recent years by sitting too long in the workshop, a US government report reveals. Its conclusions encourage the opposition in the Commons to demand a formal tender, as Bombardier already requests in order to submit a bid.
At least 5 billion are at stake as part of this contract which could be granted over the counter to the American giant. Bombardier questions this way of doing things. The Quebec company is not claiming to be awarded the contract. It does, however, want a chance to promote its domestically-built private planes that can be converted to perform surveillance missions.
“If Boeing aircraft do not meet US Navy maintenance standards, why would the Government of Canada jump on these aircraft? asks curator Pierre Paul-Hus. There is a problem. »
This ex-reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces believes that a call for tenders is “essential” since Bombardier would be able to participate and that the Poseidon is not a “unique product”.
The report in question comes from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, an independent body responsible for monitoring the programs and activities of the United States military. According to this 60-page document released in the spring of 2021, the availability rate of the Poseidon fluctuated between 53% and 70% from October 2018 to March 2020, while the United States Navy requires that its squadrons display a performance of at least 80%. .
An availability rate corresponds to the percentage of aircraft capable of carrying out missions and which are not in a maintenance centre.
According to the report, it is not the design of the P-8A – which is akin to Boeing’s 737 family of aircraft and can drop torpedoes – that is problematic, but rather the infrastructure that must ensure its proper functioning. functioning.
“Squadron maintenance personnel experienced delays in identifying and receiving spare parts,” the report said, adding that the misfires occurred while the aircraft was in the field.
In addition, it would have taken time to correct the situation, which contributed to prolonging the disturbances. Several sections of the report that relate to findings have been redacted. It was therefore not possible to have an idea of all the glitches detected.
About two weeks ago, Canada, which is due to replace its CP-140 Auroras commissioned in 1980, requested information from Washington for the purchase of up to 16 Poseidon aircraft.
Ottawa says this does not constitute a firm order, but observers consulted by La Presse believe otherwise. In a statement, Public Services and Procurement Canada said the Boeing aircraft was “the only one currently offered that meets all operational requirements” of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
If it materializes, this scenario would constitute a “high betrayal of aerospace in Quebec,” said Bloc Québécois MP Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay. This sector is “strategic”, but for “this to continue, it must be recognized”, he adds.
“We have all the components to assemble an aircraft from A to Z, underlines the deputy. And to offer an untendered contract to an American company for planes that do not meet the maintenance criteria is downright shooting yourself in the foot. I find that outrageous. »
The story is similar to the New Democratic Party, where the deputy leader of the political party Alexandre Boulerice has already expressed his opposition to an over-the-counter contract with Boeing.
At the request of La Presse, Thomas Hughes, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International and Defense Policy at Queen’s University, read through the report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense. In his opinion, the document testifies to the difficulties surrounding the integration of a new aircraft.
“It’s not like leaving your old car at the dealership and driving away with a new one,” says the expert. Canada will need to pay particular attention to all maintenance infrastructure logistics. »
Hughes points out that no device can achieve 100% uptime.
The stakes will be similar if Bombardier wins the contract. The Quebec aircraft manufacturer has started delivering Globals to the US military. There has yet to be a report to document the aircraft’s reliability.
For its part, the Ministry of National Defense claims to have read the report concerning the Poseidon. In an email, its spokesperson, Jessica Lamirande, says “independent research” has been conducted into the strategies deployed in Australia, the UK, Norway as well as New Zealand – where the Poseidon is in service. .
“This research has established that the P-8A can be effectively sustained and ready to meet Canada’s diverse mission requirements,” she wrote, without giving further details.
Boeing has delivered 158 of its US-assembled surveillance aircraft. The American aircraft manufacturer currently has 183 orders. To continue, production will depend on a “sufficient number of orders”, the multinational has already said.
Along with what is happening in Canada, Boeing is relying on the US military to be able to continue producing Poseidon P-8As. The specialized site Politico reports that Boeing has just asked Washington to buy 10 copies of its aircraft, at an estimated cost of 1.8 billion US, even if the US Navy does not need these planes. According to Politico, this would allow Boeing to continue assembling the P-8A while waiting for new orders. Recently, Bombardier President and CEO Eric Martel claimed that Canada was being seduced by an “end-of-life” aircraft by considering buying Boeing’s aircraft.