23

Canada’s new fighter, the F-35: What the government is and isn’t saying

It’s blowing a whole lot of smoke and chugging back a whole bunch of jet fuel on this one.  Our media have not been providing much elucidation either.

Let’s start with an impressive looking but fake aircraft:

http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/00769/fighter17nw1_jpg_769564gm-a.jpg

The government’s claim:


“Contrary to Liberal myths, this was a competitive process. Canada participated in an extensive and rigorous competitive process where two bidders developed and competed prototype aircraft,” said a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Indeed. The US government conducted a prototype competition, that ended in 2001, to select a strike–optimized for ground attack–fighter for the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

Canada did have a limited role in that competition:


Canada’s participation began in 1997, when it gained the status of informed partner upon making a US$10 million commitment to Phase 1, the Concept Demonstration Phase. Unlike the United Kingdom, Canada did not announce plans to buy the JSF…

But now it would now appear to be the government’s position that a nine-year old competition that did not commit Canada to any acquisition, by foreign governments working with their own criteria, to choose a new, primarily ground attack fighter, is suddenly a completely sound basis on which to purchase a new fighter for our Air Force.  That is certainly a rousing assertion of Canadian sovereignty.  In future let’s just buy whatever the US, or UK, choose after a competition if the Canadian Forces need a somewhat similar piece of kit.

Moreover, Minister MacKay was saying something different in the House of Commons on May 27 this year:

…I just want to be very clear on the record that the reference to the next generation of fighter aircraft does not preclude a competition, and an open and transparent one…

One wonders what happened so rapidly that did preclude any competition.

Mr MacKay also said this in the House on July 14:

…What is ironic and what is lost on the member opposite is that in fact, it was his party when in government which, in 2002, entered into this 10-year, $10 billion contract…

That is a whopping economy with the truth. These are the facts; there was no “$10 billion contract”:


Cabinet approval paved the way for the negotiation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Canada and the United States concerning Canadian participation in the SDD phase as a Level 3 partner. The MOU was signed on 7 February 2002…Under the MOU, the Department of National Defence will contribute US$100 million as its share of the project costs while providing the resources of any Canadian test and evaluation facilities that might be used, as well as some personnel to the JSF Program Office. Technology Partnerships Canada will also provide US$50 million in funding for contracts, while the Canadian Commercial Corporation will make its services available. The Department of National Defence can withdraw from the MOU if it decides that the level of Canadian industrial participation in the project is not satisfactory…

In fact until just recently the government was maintaining that Canada had no commitment to buy the F-35. This is from the cached version of the Industry Canada webpage on the Joint Strike Fighter–note the name–project (the page itself has suddenly gone blank, how odd):


Participation in JSF does not commit Canada to future purchases of the F35 aircraft…

But, it is worth noting, the Air Force itself has really wanted the plane for some time. From a 2007 Air Force article:

…Canada is participating in the development of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter, along with a number of other nations.

Although no commitment to purchase has been made, the JSF appears to be the most cost-attractive option for Canada…

The government is being very cagey about costs. From a NY Times story:


Mr. MacKay would not say how much Canada would pay for each jet. Although he did indicate that the 9 billion Canadian dollar figure includes other costs like training, improvements to airbases as well as simulators.

A Canadian procurement official, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said that the government was assuming that it would pay 90 million Canadian dollars for each F-35 although it anticipated that the final cost would be much lower [how the heck was that conclusion reached?].

Tom Burbage, a top Lockheed manager for the program, said the company expected to sell the planes to Canada for $60 million to $65 million each, not accounting for maintenance, parts or inflation…

Those costs however are very uncertain in reality (same story):


The American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, recently revamped the F-35 program and removed the general in charge, after the Pentagon’s projected costs soared 64 percent to $382 billion for 2,457 planes…

And from an earlier NYT story:

…Lockheed Martin’s chief executive, Robert J. Stevens, said in June that the company was cutting its costs and improving the efficiency of its production.

Though recent Pentagon estimates have placed the cost of a single F-35 as high as $112 million, Mr. Stevens said Lockheed believed it could lower the cost, by 2014 or 2015, to be comparable to updated and fully loaded versions of older fighters, like Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed’s own F-16. That would reduce the price of each F-35 to about $65 million…

Lockheed Martin has certainly been fighting back. An article in Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 28, p. 38 (text subscriber only):

Lockheed Briefs International Partners On F-35 Cost Story

Lockheed Martin’s campaign to convince customers that F-35 Joint Strike Fighter costs will be below Pentagon estimates faces key tests in coming months [well he would, wouldn't he?]…

The company expects to achieve its $60-million price goal for the F-35A around 2016-17, but “it depends on the ramp rate [that's the speed at which production is increased],”…

So when will the price (basically the lowest, flyaway one) be in the $60 million range? 2014-15 or 2016-17?  That’s rather important to us since (first NYT piece, more detail the government is not giving us):


Kim M. Testa, a spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin, said that Canada would complete the procurement in 2014 and begin accepting delivery two years later…

By “complete the procurement” is meant signing an actual contract one assumes.

The government has also not formally said what version of the F-35 we are buying: “A” (conventional takeoff and landing, USAF); “B” (short takeoff, vertical landing, USMC); “C” (carrier version, USN).  Leave it to Lockheed Martin:

The version the Canadian Air Force is buying is the least expensive of the three variants [the "A", not the "B" STOVL version that the CBC and CTV persisted in showing in their coverage] and in today’s dollars it will be around $60 million per aircraft, said Lockheed spokeswoman Kim Testa.

DoD officials told lawmakers in June that the F-35 fighter program could cost as much as $382.4 billion, with an average through-life per-plane price tag of $92.4 million….

It sure is clear that the actual price of the F-35 is very murky, regardless of the price basis.

(This is what the government says its costs are based on:


The Government of Canada has committed approximately CAD$9 billion to the acquisition of 65 F-35 aircraft and associated weapons, supporting infrastructure, initial spares, training simulators, contingency funds and project operating costs. This is funded through the Canada First Defence Strategy and the National Defence Investment Plan…

Plus this: “Maintenance, according to local media that cited unnamed sources, will cost an extra seven billion dollars (6.6 billion US) over 20 years.”)

Meanwhile, the price of the Boeing F/A-E/F Super Hornet, the most reasonable alternative to the F-35:

…a per-plane price in the low $40 million range for each fighter, excluding government furnished equipment, said one source. Including that equipment, the price per plane will be about $50 million, well below the $57 million price listed on a Navy website about the twin-engine fighter…

Another thing the government isn’t mentioning is the primary role of the F-35 for the US. This is how the US Navy sees it (USAF is no different):

…the true introduction of a next-generation weapon system capable of providing joint, coalition striking power on Day One…

That’s why stealth is so important, to shield the aircraft in an initial attack against targets protected by a heavy and effective air defence system. How likely is it that Canada will ever participate in such an attack (think the start of the two wars with Iraq)?

The government is also mainly justifying the purchase of the F-35 on the grounds of two factors: it is a “fifth generation”, i.e. stealthy, aircraft, and interoperablility.


Canada will acquire an aircraft fully interoperable with our key allies…

The F-35 is the only available fifth generation aircraft that meets the Canadian Forces’s need for a next-generation fighter [the only other such Western plane is the USAF F-22, which the Americans will not now export]…

Fine. Now why is the Super Hornet not suitable for Canadian consideration with those factors in mind?

The USN is acquiring a total of 515 Super Hornets, with 124 still to be produced (the government has passed over that, only 480 F-35Cs are planned for the USN). Remember that the USAF for the last many years has been flying F-15 and F-16 fighters while the USN has been flying Hornets and then Super Hornets. Our Air Force has at the same time been flying Hornets. Have we been grossly uninteroperable all those years, a dire flaw that we must now fix at great cost?  Note also that three  of our largest NATO allies, Germany, France and Spain, are not interested in the F-35 (others involved are Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Australia).

In addition the Super Hornet will clearly be good enough for the USN–surely a front-rank service–for many years to come without being a fifth-generation fighter.  Why if it is good enough for them is it not good enough for us?  The Super Hornet has replaced the F-14 in the air defence role and also is a fully capable ground attack plane (more here)–except for that initial strike role in certain circumstances noted above.  Do not those roles seem the ones any Canadian government would require from its Air Force’s fighters?

I am in fact not arguing that Canada should buy the Super Hornet.  What I am saying is that without a real competition, based on clear operational requirements, there is no firm justification for buying the F-35–whatever smoke the government blows out its tailpipe.

As for those operational requirements.  When we acquired our Hornets in the 80s they had two main roles: continental air defence under NORAD and strike/air combat in Europe under NATO.  That second role has vanished yet there has been, under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, no reconsideration of what our Air Force’s fighters should do.

We obviously need some fighter capability for continental air defence (though that threat is pretty low) and for airspace surveillance (more here) if we do not want the Americans to take over the job for us.  But how much of a ground attack capability, and how sophisticated a one (stealth?), do we really need?

After all the government has not even been willing to employ our CF-18s in Afghanistan to support the CF and allied forces there.  Might not then acquiring real ground attack helicopters–the Dutch have these–be a good idea?  Our Griffons, though now upgraded, are not the real deal (note the rather, er, discrete description of their missions in Afstan here, no mention of their armament in the “Technical Specifications“).

And if only the absolutely most modern and best will do for our forces, why the financial scrimping over the Joint Support Ship?  Not a whole lot of logic or consistency from the government.  But maybe it all just boils down for them to an Air Force personnel question:

…the more important question is surely why the Canadian Forces needs Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighters…

So when Defence Minister Peter MacKay was pointedly asked in the news conference this morning for “specific examples of the uses of these aircraft,” I listened carefully for what I thought might be the key answer of the day.

I expected him to sketch some military scenarios. In what sort of likely conflict or anticipated crisis will we deploy expensive fighter jets? Instead, MacKay surprised me by stressing mainly the challenges of recruiting and retaining military pilots. I’ve read that air force pilots leaving for private sector jobs is an issue, but I hadn’t figured that factor would feature so prominently in the minister’s thinking on a massive procurement program…

…here’s most fully developed part of MacKay’s answer:

“We have very capable pilots currently serving in the Canadian Forces. We want to continue that trend. By the year 2016, 2020, they will be asked to fly 35-, 40-year-old aircraft. So it helps a great deal, I can assure you, in recruiting, to have new gear, new equipment, that is state of the art. That is a very important part of our regeneration of personnel and pilots in particular. So having that platform capability is something that is of great importance to the continued growth of the Canadian Forces and the development of our pilots.”

Update: In National Post’sFull Comment“:


Mark Collins: Smoke and fighters

Mark
Ottawa

23 Responses so far.

  1. dmorrisNo Gravatar says:

    I think the big problem the Opposition has is there appears to be no contracts to favoured Quebec firms,so far.

    Throw a few billion to Bombardier and watch the controversy die down.

  2. DavidNo Gravatar says:

    Good summary. The big problem is indeed a lack of clearly defined vision and requirements.

    The pricing game for these planes is also frustrating. It has been known, and reported, for quite some time that this aircraft is way over-budget and is the most costly weapon system of its kind to date. It is clear (to anyone who has followed the development of this aircraft) that the US is pushing very, very hard for partner nations to sign on to this program and try to reduce costs by spreading them out — and securing extra orders.

    The capability argument is also dubious. The main selling point of the F-35 is software, which, if one thinks about it for a minute, could be installed on *any* plane on the market. The software is not aircraft dependent. Full visor displays can be installed on our current CF-18s, if we wanted to do that — just like the helmet sights that were part of the recent refurbishment.

    Stealth has been played as an argument for decades now, but there are real limitations to that technology. For one thing, the F-35 is *not* completely stealthy — just much less visible than last generation aircraft. Also, the plane is only “stealthy” if it carries no external weapons/fuel tanks. In real combat that is not going to be the case. Internal payload is severely limited in both the F-22 and the F-35. In fact, the US Air Force just recently admitted that the F-22 has a shorter range than the F-15 it is replacing. As a result, the F-15 is going to be upgraded to lead the way in future combat — lighting up targets for the F-22. And that is another problem — you can’t turn on your active electronics in a stealth plane, or you will stop being stealthy! Not only that, but other nations are busy devising new counter-measures that reduce, or eliminate, the advantages of stealth. One refinement is the use of optical sensors, instead of radar, for targeting.

    This whole situation is sad, really. Before we bought the Hornets, in 1982, the RCAF flew more than 200 fighter jets (CF-101, CF-104, CF-5 — depending on how many of our CF-104s had not crashed). We replaced them with 138 CF-18s, of which only 80 remain in active service (after the last upgrade). Now, we are replacing that meager number with even fewer F-35s! How are 65 jets supposed to protect the second largest country in the world? How are we going to participate in any joint missions with allies, if required? What if some crash, or are down for maintenance?

    If we were really serious about providing the best, most cost effective, and compatible solution we really would be buying the Super Hornet. It costs much less and we already have a huge amount of experience with that type of machine. It would also allow us to keep much of our support equipment since the new plane is so similar (on the outside) to the old one. Internally, the Super Hornet is very different. And, best of all, the same money would allow us to buy double the number of planes!

  3. EricNo Gravatar says:

    I’m tempted to defer to the Canadian Air Force. If this is the weapon they want then so be it.

    I don’t like comparisons to previous missions so much because its irrelevant to the kind of war/military action that will occur in the future or that Canada expects to be involved in.

    Does Canada need hundreds of fighter planes stationed all across Canada? No. Will we be involved in missions where dogfighting will be a primary mission? Probably not. Will we need planes that can? Sure. Should those planes also have ground attack capability? Definitely.

    Canada isn’t going to need to ‘defend’ the whole country from some attack. If we are attacked and the US doesn’t/can’t help us, then having 50 more fighters scattered across Canada isn’t going to make the difference.

    The primary concern of the Air Force is probably addressing the issues it thinks will help it contribute to joint missions. In which case, a ground attack-fighter seems to make sense.

    As for helicopters, I think they’d make sense too, but there’s only so many purchases you can roll out at one time without looking like prolific spenders. Give it time.

  4. FredNo Gravatar says:

    Gee what a unique concept. Letting our troops determine the best equipment they need to carry out their missions and listen to them.

    Then buy what the experts who have to do the work, the folks at the pointy end of the stick, the ones who enter the two-way range, have determined to be the best kit.

    The CF-35 will be a sensational piece of kit.

    Worth every penny . . . and $16B over twenty years??? Canada will blow $40Billion paying for the Canadian Broadcorping Castration over the same 20 years.

    So where is the best value for our money?

    Hint – it flies, not butt-kisses downtown Toronto sensibilities.

  5. KellyNo Gravatar says:

    Hard to say what the needs will be 20 years from now. Perhaps they should order up 80 of both.

  6. DwayneNo Gravatar says:

    I wonder how people would feel if they were told the total up front costs of buying a car, you know, maintenance costs and repairs over, say, a 20 year period. Of course, we just use the services of the mechanics, we don’t have to hire and train them and so on, so the costs would still be a bit lower :)

  7. ConradNo Gravatar says:

    Actually, “the troops” DO NOT necessarily want this thing given its many questionable attributes that are making JSF partner nations around the world very hesitant about purchasing this aircraft.

    These are the facts: compared to our current, supposedly “outdated” CF-18s, the F-35:

    1) has a slower top speed
    2) has a slower climb rate
    3) is less aerodynamically stable at slow speeds
    4) has a much shorter maximum range, making defense of our north that much harder
    5) is inferior in terms of safety and reliability since it only has one engine instead of two
    2) cannot carry as much ordinance, and if it tries, it loses its stealth capacity which is its only true selling point
    6) has much poorer visibility because it lacks a full bubble cockpit, leaving the pilot blind to his six in a dogfight
    7) in spite of all this, is over 3 times the cost per unit

    These are the known limitations of the F-35, in addition to the hidden problems that are bound to reveal themselves once it is in operational service.

    The F-35 unfortunately reeks of design by committee, it attempts to be a fighter, bomber and naval aircraft yet is truly good at none of these.

    So why are we spending $9 billion + billions in maintenance on these things again, at a time when other government departments are being cut? Our defense minister seems unable to explain this.

    This decision seems to be entirely political in nature, to appease the United States which is desperate to get partner nations to sign on to this folly to recoup some of its sunk investment costs. Unfortunately our Conservative government with its blind US loyalty took the bait hook, line and sinker.

    I think the Conservatives have just locked us into a terrible purchase that will saddle the RCAF with an overpriced, under-performing goony bird for the next 30 years.

    Rather than letting politics dominate this decision, the government should have followed proper procurement procedure which history has shown is a necessity to avoid exactly this kind of blind purchase blunder.

    We should have explored the viability of planes better suited to our requirements such as the Swedish Gripen. The Gripen is not only much cheaper but is designed to function in a similar climate as Canada’s, including possessing short take off and landing capability (note the F-35 Canada will be purchasing is NOT the VTOL/STOL model).

    If we must purchase American planes, we should have held out for the inevitable export version of the far superior F-22 Raptor. No American fighter has remained off the export market forever, it is only a matter of time before cost considerations make it available to the world. That is what other NATO allies including Japan and Israel are holding out for. The F-35 is truly the poor man’s F-22, a lame duck airplane if there ever was one.

    Following up on other past Conservative procurement blunders like the Voodoo, time will reveal this to be a premature purchase of an inferior aircraft ill suited to Canadian requirements. This decision will be regretted for decades. Not that I am excusing the Liberals since they got Canada involved in the foolish JSF program to begin with.

  8. [...] Me: Canada’s new fighter, the F-35: What the government is and isn’t saying [...]

  9. Darren BNo Gravatar says:

    http://thegallopingbeaver.blogspot.com/

    Can you respond to this guy/gals assertion that the Super Hornet is more expensive?

  10. Darren BNo Gravatar says:

    @Conrad

    How about asking the troops themselves?

    The article I posted above was written by an insider. He/she says the F-35 is the best plane for the job.

    I’ll take their word over yours.

  11. ConradNo Gravatar says:

    @ Darren

    Thank you for that link.

    Assuming this individual actually is an air force officer, his analysis is certainly more persuasive than the vague “trust us” that our defense minister can offer up.

    I agree with his argument that the Super Hornet is inadequate.

    Again though, I question is the JSF really “the best plane for the job” or just the best of a bad bunch of choices given we have artificially limited ourselves to buying American aircraft?

    Insiders are sometimes the poorest gauges for the wisdom of a particular decision, given their tendency toward group think and molding the procurement requirements to fit the plane they had in mind all along (or in this case the only one we are “allowed” to buy from the Americans). Where in his argument is there consideration for key criteria such as supercruise and STOL capability? What about Canada’s need, as a sovereign country, to have independent control over our fighter’s servicing and technology (the Americans have chosen to retain rigid control over JSF software, greatly angering the United Kingdom)? On counts like these, an aircraft like the Gripen is a much better choice for Canada.

    Furthermore his fear of the proliferation of advanced Russian Sukhoi variants should make all of us doubly concerned about the JSF purchase given its dubious dogfighting capabilities.

    If we must buy American, I see nothing in his argument that suggests the F-22 Raptor would not be an even better choice for our future needs, if only we had the patience to hold out for the inevitable export model. The US is also now testing a stealth retrofitted F-15 “Silent Eagle” that might be a better fit for us. Both of these aircraft have twin engines, which I thought used to be a key requirement for our air force (again conveniently forgotten when designing the JSF procurement requirements).

    The longer we wait to commit, the more planes and the better deals will be available to us. The decision by the Conservatives to lock us in prematurely to the JSF due to US political pressure has removed all those other options.

  12. Darren BNo Gravatar says:

    You make some good points. But reading Mark’s and his article again, I think he was mostly responding to Mark’s points. He never mentioned anything about the F-15 or the F-22 or about control of our maintenance.

    He does bring up a good point about the cost of maintenance though. You really have to be careful about the long term costs. And not fall for the short term. Seems like plane makers follow the GM strategy to make money.

  13. ChetNo Gravatar says:

    Supercruise still uses a lot of gas. On the F-22, they’ve found it reduces combat radius to 400 nautical miles. Useless in the Canadian context.

    The Gripen came into service 8 years after the Hornet entered service with us. 1980s technology. So what if we can get it cheap or have control of the maintenance? It’d be obsolete in 10 years.

    As for proliferation of Sukhois he makes a good point. Years ago we never thought we’d be going to war in Kosovo. And then we needed air power. Now imagine something happens in Africa (say Darfur) and we are intervening again. Can you imagine going up against the Sudanese with Gripens (or our current CF-18s)?

    You make good points about controlling the technology. But I don’t know if that should come at the cost of equipping our forces with reasonably good stuff.

  14. ConradNo Gravatar says:

    I’m certainly not disputing the need for Canada to buy new (and expensive!) jets at some point in the post 2015 future in order to keep pace with a changing world. The thing is though, I’m still not convinced the F-35 is the right one for us.

    You’ve probably all come across the Air Power Australia website at some point in time. Perhaps the authors go a bit too far in their relentless criticism of JSF (they’re worse than me!) but I think their basic point holds about the potential inferiority of the F-35 to current or future sukhois (given they’re within striking distance of a host of Asian countries it’s understandable these Australians are more paranoid of the Sukhois than anyone): http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-05072010-1.html

    The F-35 may be new and contain advanced tech but that does not automatically make it the best fighter to be flying in a confrontation against Sukhois.

    Putting aside its stealth capabilities for a moment (which are not as good as the F-22 and only really effective from head on), the F-35 is likely a worse dogfighter than the Gripen and other 4th gen fighters in terms of pure aerodynamic performance at which the Sukhois excel. The F-35 has very advanced targeting/information software which can go a long way to making its missles count, but it can only carry a few of those without compromising its stealth. Allied pilots may face a situation where there’s more enemy birds (even if in outdated aircraft) than they have available missiles with which to engage them.

    Speaking of stealth, future Russian advances in larger radar arrays and optical sights may neuter that advantage somewhat. If the only major thing that diffentiates the F-35 from our current F-18s is stealth, we’re putting an awful lot of eggs in the basket of one idea that may prove less of an advantage on a future battlefield. War is always an arms race, one tech appears, dominates for a little while, and then a counter is developed and so on. Stealth will not protect our pilots for decades with impunity. I’d rather be engaged in a battle where I had twice as many wingmen at my side in Gripens (or other 4.5 generation aircraft) providing twice the number of eyes on target and twice the number of friendly missiles in the air flying toward the enemy.

    Now if Canada is only deploying a single supporting squadron to some conflict region overseas, then perhaps the F-35s are just fine provided they’re primarily tasked with performing the duty of ground attack and are protected by better dedicated air superiority fighters from other UN/NATO allies. But in terms of defending Canada proper (which is being used by the government as justification for this purchase), I personally don’t think the F-35 cuts it in terms of its range, its questionable dogfighting capabilities and the small number we can field for their ballooning price. I think the plane is an expensive jack of all trades but master of none with some worrisome performance deficiencies. Did I mention I think it’s ugly?

  15. ChetNo Gravatar says:

    Air Power Australia’s analysis has been debunked:

    http://ozzyblizzard.blogspot.com/2008/12/air-power-australia-flanker-analysis.html

    http://ozzyblizzard.blogspot.com/2007/11/air-power-australia-fa-18f-and-raaf.html

    Not just that. Dr. Carlo Kopp has an agenda. He seems to be pushing Aardvark upgrades and teh purchase of F-22s.

    The Australian parliamentary committee on defence didn’t buy his arguments. Neither should we. He knows that RAAF officers can’t publicly engage him in debate. That’s why he keeps it up and gets away with it.

    We should leave the analysis to the pros who do this for a living, not armchair generals.

  16. ChetNo Gravatar says:

    As for the Super Hornet. It’s more expensive. Much more expensive. Just ask the Aussies.

    There’s a reason even they aren’t buying more Super Hornets to replace their conventional Hornet fleet (the Super Hornets replaced the Aardvarks in the bomber role). They are buying JSFs to replace the conventional Hornets.

    And one would think that they know more and take the threats much more seriously than we do.

    By the way, the Italians just cut a tranche of Eurofighters and are now buying F-35s. And the Israelis are on the verge of committing too. And you can bet that they don’t buy junk (though they did whine about the range…not enough to bomb Iran for them).

  17. MarkOttawaNo Gravatar says:

    Regarding the “Galloping Beaver” post: a great argument if you assume the Canadian Air Force is going on expeditionary wars, against countries with significant modern air forces, essentially on its own without being able to take niche fighter roles within a coalition. The argument also assumes major fighter battles in the Canadian north, something not even envisaged during the Cold War as far as I know.

    The author ignores that the USN is still buying Super Hornets and will end up with more of them than F-35Cs. Must be pretty good niches for them with the USN. He also does not address the question of which roles the government realistically expects new fighters to perform.

    And the government, shamefully, is not addressing the matter either–which is the key to the issue of what the operational requirements for a new fighter are, and what aircraft may meet them. The author assumes that our new plane effectively must be close to the best at all roles. Is that realistic for Canada?

    Not that I’m advocating the Super Hornet (as I make clear in my post); just trying to present a few facts for consideration as part of the case for a real competition.

    Mark
    Ottawa

  18. ChetNo Gravatar says:

    Except. You can’t just have a competition with the same specs right? Seems to me like they went shopping for a 5th gen and bought the only one on the market.

    You’re right that the government has to define the roles of air force. But don’t the requirements flow from those roles? What would a competition be based on if they haven’t defined the roles?

    As for the Super Hornet bit…I ready your piece earlier and you did come off like you were advocating the Super Hornet to be honest. What do you make of his price argument though, more expensive over the long run? And setting aside the numbers that the USN is acquiring, he/she pointed out that both Super Hornet users were getting the JSF too as escorts for the SH. I’d be concerned about this. Should we buy a plane that needs an escort all the time?

  19. ConradNo Gravatar says:

    I think the JSF will need the F-22 as an escort if we ever go up against well piloted Super Flankers or Pak-fa fighters.

    The F-35 is simply not a true 21st century air superiority fighter no matter what the politicians and Lockheed Martin may say.

    So both the F-35 and SH are very vulnerable to tomorrow’s adversary fighters.

    The only true 5th generation fighter in the world remains the F-22, eventually to be joined by the Russian/Indian Pak-fa.

  20. [...] regardless of realities: Defence Watch Editor’s note: Another point of view in the JSF debate [more here from [...]

  21. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    I’m just wondering how the F-18E would be more expensive than the F-35. The Canadian gov’t will be paying $138M/plane for the F-35s, and Boeing has said that they would offer Canada F-18Es at $40M… So, basic math suggests that the RCAF would be able to purchase 3 times the number of aircraft if they went for the F-18Es.

    What exactly am I missing here?

  22. GOP pooperscooperNo Gravatar says:

    Agree these planes suck and only stealthy oncoming. If we wind up again (and we’re RW enough not to learn ever since RCMP got conflict-of-interest political) somehow with the Americans fighting someone they once trained and fighting someone they are funding, let them be the tip if they won’t sell F-22s. I’d rather fight Russia with some $15M Chinese knockoffs mixed in with our good planes (do we sneak up on Russian bombers now?). Give the money to Viterra to store grain and develop a drought airlift capacity. Develop a forest-fire fighting capacity (forest-fire fighting peacekeepers to thin out forests near cities)….all this is trying to fix GOP errors. PCs were okay but Reformers are part of Hayek Friedman et al brainwashing. Eventually you wonder: y clean up Flanagan mistakes when gini becomes grossly inefficient? If our goal is to bring reform values to the world loyally parroting GOP, we don’t need stealth because we are the evil.