RCAF Commander’s Statement on the November 20 Auditor General’s report

News Article / November 20, 2018

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From Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger
Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force

On November 20, 2018, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) released a report on Canada’s Fighter Force. It highlighted key points regarding the recruitment and retention of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Fighter Force technicians and pilots, as well as the need for an in-depth analysis of upgrades required for the CF-18 Hornet fleet to remain operationally relevant until 2032.

The RCAF has proudly served Canada and Canadians for 94 years and has defended the skies over North America, through NORAD, for the last 60 years. There is no question that Canada needs a relevant and capable Fighter Force that enables us to continue delivering on operational missions at home and abroad. In that regard, I welcome the Auditor General’s report and take its findings seriously.

Our proud and dedicated aviators are the lifeblood of the RCAF and the foundation of everything we do. I know first-hand your can-do drive and dedication, having grown up in operational squadrons, experiencing this key quality within the RCAF. As your commander, over the last six months I continue to be inspired by the members of our great team, visiting wings and units and engaging and listening to all perspectives.  I was recently with our deployed CF-18 Air Task Force in Romania on Operation REASSURANCE and witnessed first-hand the vital work they are carrying out to safeguard the integrity of NATO airspace with our Romanian Air Force partners and their contributions to the reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence.  

It is abundantly clear that to ensure continued success, we must constantly work to ensure we have the right people in the right positions with the right training to enable our continued success. Given that we remain laser-focussed on delivering a future fighter fleet of 88 aircraft, it is clear we must continue to invest in our personnel. As we move forward, we will continue to take necessary steps to increase the number of skilled and experienced pilots and technicians in the Fighter Force in order to meet our operational demands and prepare for our transition to the future fighter fleet.

These steps include the continuation of the Fighter Capability Maintenance Renewal initiative, which will see further use of contracted support for second-line maintenance, enabling us to bring additional technicians to front-line squadrons.

The Fighter Capability Action Team will continue to lead enhancements to the production, absorption, sustainment, and retention of fighter personnel.

In addition, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), Canada’s Defence Policy, includes a vitally important initiative to increase the Fighter Force by an additional 200 positions in the coming years.

The experience possessed by RCAF personnel, including fighter pilots and technicians, is critical. We value their knowledge and capabilities, and rely on this cohort to transmit this knowledge to more junior members, thereby bolstering the strength of the squadrons. This knowledge transfer across all RCAF units is what sustains us as an institution.

This is why retaining our personnel is vitally important to us. We have listened to our members as they look for enhancements related to quality of life, quality of service and the reduction of the effect of military life on our families. We are committed to positive change moving ahead.  In addition to other Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) initiatives, such as Seamless Canada and the CAF retention strategy, the RCAF is looking at initiatives to make living and working in our organization the best it can be.

I recognize that it is not enough to put initiatives in place. Additionally, the senior leadership of the RCAF is committed to ensuring that our people be informed of developments that affect them, their careers and their families—which can be a challenge in our information-saturated world. To this end, I welcome initiatives such as our professional development newsletters and journal that invite open discussion of meaningful topics and the recently-inaugurated “PERSpectives” newsletter that contains human resource information of use to both our military and civilian personnel. I actively encourage our personnel to use these relatively low-tech but accessible platforms to information and ideas sharing.  

While retention is essential to a capable and relevant RCAF, we must take other factors into account in preparing for the future. We have advanced rapidly the Future Aircrew Training program to support the training activities needed to produce select aircrew. By improving training methods and delivery models, as well as optimizing training programs, the new Future Aircrew Training program will offer the RCAF greater flexibility to better meet future personnel demands.

In addition to well-led, robust, healthy, and inclusive squadrons, our personnel require the necessary capabilities to do their job. The Government of Canada has made a defined commitment to the RCAF through SSE and made it clear that an advanced future fighter is the only long-term solution to Canada’s fighter capability needs. This project is moving ahead with contract award anticipated in the late 2021 or early 2022 timeframe.

To ease the transition to the future fighter, the RCAF is pursuing several regulatory and interoperability upgrades to the CF-18 Hornet fleet. We are also conducting an analysis of core capability upgrades focused on sensors, weapons, and self-protection systems to address the growing challenges presented by evolving threats. This will help ensure our CF-18s remain operationally relevant until the future fighter fleet is fully operational. Canada has also signed an agreement with Australia for the purchase of 18 F-18 aircraft, plus additional aircraft for spare parts. By adding these interim fighters, we will add flexibility to our current fleet, and better enable the RCAF to operate these aircraft until a future fighter has reached full operational capability.

As we move forward, the airmen and airwomen of the RCAF will continue to deliver operational excellence at home and abroad. Moreover, I am confident that the many initiatives we have in the works will make positive strides to enhancing the RCAF’s “bench strength”, while also ensuring our CF-18 fleet continues to provide valuable air power on behalf of Canadians and our Allies.

I thank the Auditor General and all those involved in this comprehensive review for their diligence and collaboration over the last several months. These independent reviews help strengthen our organization and we remain committed to delivering air and space power on behalf of Canada and Canadians.

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