The company that makes the embattled F-35 fighter jet has hired Charles Bouchard, who was a lieutenant general in the Canadian Forces, for a top job.
Lockheed Martin Canada announced Tuesday it has hired Bouchard, effective immediately. Bouchard will report to the executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin International, Pat Dewar, the company said in a news release.
"Bouchard will assume leadership of the portfolio of Lockheed Martin activities in Canada and will be the corporation's lead representative in the country," according to the release.
"Bouchard's appointment is a result of Lockheed Martin International's focus on providing customers with direct access to the company's broad range of products and solutions."
Bouchard retired from the Canadian Forces in April 2012, after leading what many considered to be a successful NATO mission in Libya. The Libya mission provided air cover to protect civilians and allow rebel forces to overthrow long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi — a mission in which fighter jets played a massive role.
"We added a tremendous leader to our organization today. Charles will facilitate access to Lockheed Martin's broad portfolio of products and technologies to help Canada address its security and citizen service challenges," said Dewar. "We highly value our customers in Canada and we're investing for long-term partnership and growth."
Bouchard retired in April 2012 after more than 37 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force. His military career includes many senior leadership roles that illustrate a strong understanding of national security and stakeholder relations. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and most recently served as commander of the combined joint task force that led NATO operations in Libya.
Prior to that, Bouchard was deputy commander of NATO joint force command in Naples, Italy, the base from which the mission over Libya was conducted. He started his military career as a helicopter pilot.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper lauded Bouchard and the mission in Libya in an elaborate ceremony on Parliament Hill in November 2011, including a 21-gun salute and a flypast over the Hill with seven CF-18 fighter jets and a massive Globemaster aircraft.
Bouchard was given the meritorious service cross, a recognition for an outstandingly professional military activity "that brings considerable benefit or great honour to the Canadian Forces," according to the Canadian Forces website.
Lockheed's F-35 fighter jet has had a rough couple of years. While the Conservative government initially committed publicly to buying the jet and denied repeated reports that production problems were running up the cost, they finally announced in 2012 that they were going to review the program to replace Canada's aging CF-18s. Those jets are nearing the end of their 40-year lifespan.
F-35 under fire over cost
Critics say the government hasn't made the case for a stealth fighter — one of the main selling points of the F-35 — that the plane is costly and that it hasn't been adequately tested.
A 2012 report by the auditor general backed up criticism by then-parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page that the government wasn't being honest about the true cost of the F-35.
Nine partner countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Italy and the Netherlands, have contributed to the design costs of the F-35, but some are scaling back orders or discussing other options. If too many countries limit their orders, the cost to Canada to build the plane will increase. Canada had been banking on buying its F-35s later in the production run to save money, though officials have for a year now been looking at options other than the F-35 to replace the CF-18s.
The Dutch government said last week that it wanted to buy F-35s, but proposed less than half of the initial order. Lockheed is also looking to sell F-35s to Denmark, with program vice-president Steve O'Bryan telling Bloomberg last week, "The F-35 is well on its way to becoming the next NATO fighter just like the F-16."
Canada bought the F-18 instead.
The news release from Lockheed about Bouchard says the company is proud of its work on the Canadian navy's combat systems on its Halifax class frigates.
"We look forward to delivering a fifth-generation fighter, expanding our business in cyberspace and security, and continuing our role as combat systems provider through the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy," Dewar said in the release, referring to the F-35 and to ships being designed by Canadian suppliers.