Monday, March 4, 2019

"EMERGING THREATS" (RANT)



Let me get this off my chest...  I hate the term "emerging threats".

Those two simple words are a powerful combination.  They are ominous and imply a need for urgency while also being incredibly vague.  What are these threats?  Where are they emerging?  How long do we have until we see them?  Will it be too late once we do?

The term is often used when justifying some sort of military largesse, whether it be a cutting edge weapon system or massive building projects.  After all, what better way to combat "emerging threats" than to SIMPLY BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.

Nothing exemplifies this more than the current United States military.  It is not enough to have the biggest military in the world, but a larger military than the rest of the world combined.  Despite this, there is still the drive to take it even further.  The mere suggestion of a slight reduction is scoffed at.  How could the USN possibly get by with only 10 nuclear powered supercarriers instead of 11?  Combined with their smaller America and Wasp carriers, that is only 20 in total (with another 3 under construction).  That is not nearly enough compared to possible threats like...  uh...  Russia's single diesel powered "ski-jump" carrier or China's two diesel powered carriers (one of which is still in trials).



Nations that make the conscious decision to build up their military prowess rarely do it at a whim, and they certainly cannot undertake the task overnight.
 In response to its growing role on the world's stage, China has greatly increased its military spending in the 2000s.  It now comes second only to the US when it comes to defense budget.  Despite this, China's military budget is still a mere third of the good ol' USA.  Much of that budget devoted to simply modernizing China's military hardware, much of which dates back to the Cold War.

Make no mistake, China is committed to being treated seriously on the world stage.  The introduction of the J-20 was a clear statement that China's aerospace industry should be taken seriously.  The days of China flying warmed over Russian fighters are over.  Despite some western nay-sayers, the J-20 could very prove a threat to even the vaunted F-22 Raptor.

Even if the J-20 turns out to be absolute world-beater, its effect on the world's stage will be minimal for years, possibly decade to come.  China would have to construct hundreds of them to match the numerical superiority of American air power.  That sort of undertaking would take decades and result in some serious diplomatic repercussions.

China's newfound military might is based on its improved economy.  That improved economy is based on trade.  That trade would be jeopardized by any belligerent action on its part.  China is unlikely to be any sort of threat besides defending its own interests.


Russia's answer to the F-22, the Su-57, certainly appears imposing.  Sukhoi's reputation for building large, fast, and deadly fighters like the Su-27 combined with its jaw-dropping airshow displays would seem to give military planners cold sweats and sleepless nights.

But lo-and-behold, the Su-57 has had some problems.  Full-rate production has been delayed and the program is in serious trouble.  Despite a promising start, the Su-57 looks like it will suffer the same fate as the F-22 Raptor; a short-lived production run cancelled due to exorbitant costs.

Like the J-20, the Su-57 seems very unlikely to have much effect on the world stage now or anytime remotely soon, if ever.


What about new technologies?  Surely some foreign military is working on a top-secret weapon system that will render current missiles and guns obsolete.

Once again, the USA's research and development budget dwarfs all the others.  If any new weapon comes out, there is a very good chance it will be fielded by the US military first, with all other nations playing catch up.

Even if a foreign power developed a "game changer", its effect on the battlefield would likely be limited.  Historically, very few weapons have changed the face of warfare overnight.  Instead, they work themselves into the battlefield after years of experimentation, improvement, and changing tactics.

Iron weapons would turn out to be far superior to bronze but still took centuries to replace them.  Early wrought iron was inferior to bronze and required more advanced blacksmithing and smelting techniques to realize its full potential.

Early gunpowder weapons were slow, inaccurate, and unwieldy.  It took many years before they were even capable of being handheld.  Even then, one would not dare depend on one as their sole means of defense.  Swords, spears, shields and armor would serve alongside matchlock rifles.  A soldier armed with a flintlock would likely have a bayonet (effectively a sword/spear) attached as well as a sword for close-combat.  Bayonets still saw prevalent use in WWI, were built into Cold War battle rifles such as the Russian SKS, and are still seen today as attachments to modern assault rifles.

Even guided missiles, a weapon thought to render guns obsolete in fighter combat, have yet to do so after more than 50 years.  They have continued to get better, but sometimes nothing beats the simplicity of a good old fashion cannon.


One could argue that the only weapon to truly change the face of warfare overnight has been the thermonuclear bomb.  Not that it changed the way make war but how we look at war.

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idea of a large-scale war between superpowers has become unpalatable to all but the most ardent warmongers.  It is now possible for conflict to escalate beyond the actions of men on the battlefield.  War has become much more indiscriminate.  Entire cities of non-combatants can be wiped off the map in an instant.

Thankfully, the introduction of nuclear weapons has seen priority given to diplomacy and communication.  Threat of nuclear annihilation kept conflict on smaller scale.   The post Cold War world has seen great strides in international trade.  The internet age has helped teach us that those in other parts of the world are not so different than ourselves.  It has made it more difficult for governments to oppress their people.  Fear and misunderstanding has begone to give away to empathy and understanding.  The world has become so interconnected that ruination of one nation could effect countless others.

There are still hold outs.  Those that believe it will always be "us versus them".  Those that choose to rattle their swords instead of simply talking.


Instead of constantly trying to combat "emerging threats" that do not truly exist, maybe we should pay attention to the world around us and ask ourselves who the threat really is.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A TALE OF TWO FIGHTERS



In 1959, the Avro Arrow was canceled by then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.  After sixty years, many still view the decision with disgust.  For them, the Avro Arrow was more than an interceptor; it was the embodiment of Canadian pride.  The Arrow was proof that the Canadian aerospace was on par, if not superior to, anything else in the world.

In retrospect, those people were right.

The Arrow was Canada's last serious effort to design its own fighter jet.  Not only that, Canada has pretty much given up designing any military aircraft since then.  The CP-107 Argus ASW aircraft, developed alongside the Arrow, failed to justify a Canadian successor after   The far less ambitious DHC-4 Caribou's lineage died after the DHC-5 Caribou.

While Canada still maintains a robust aerospace industry, it is dwarfed by the American and European giants.  Our largest indigenous aerospace manufacturer, Bombardier specializes in small regional airliners and business jets.  While this is nothing to scoff at, it is a far cry from building supersonic interceptors.


We all know the the story behind the Avro Arrow.  It was a commendable effort, but in the end it was deemed too costly.  Not only that, but its very concept was in doubt.  Similar aircraft, like the North American XF-108 Rapier and British F.155 shared similar fates despite originating in nations with much larger military budgets.

No...  There was no conspiracy to kill the Arrow because it was "too good".  Nor is it worth resurrecting it as a CF-18 replacement.  Stop that.

The CF-105 Avro Arrow was ultimately a victim of its own ambition.

It was intended from the outset to be one of the largest, most powerful, and fastest fighter aircraft of its day.  This in and of itself made for a budget challenge.  Larger aircraft need larger engines to compensate for the increased weight and drag.  Larger engines need more fuel, which requires a larger aircraft still.  Needless to say, larger aircraft simply cost more.  They require more raw materials, more labour to build, and more fuel to fly.

Alongside the sheer size of the aircraft, the Arrow relied on technology that simply did not exist yet.  Its massive control surfaces required a fly-by-wire system, something unheard of at the time.  Jet engine of the time were not yet powerful enough for the massive airplane so a new engine, the Orenda Iroquois, needed to be developed.

There was also a question regarding the Arrow's weapon systems.  Originally intended was the Canadair "Velvet Glove" radar-guided missile, but these were cancelled over concerns that the missile could not be launched at supersonic speeds.  This led to the decision to incorporate the American Sparrow II that was under development at the time.  Unfortunately, the Sparrow II suffered a similar fate when its active radar guidance was found lacking.  The only remaining option was the incredibly underwhelming AIM-4 Falcon missile.  Shorter range (but much more accurate) IR guided missiles could not be mounted in the Arrow's internal weapons bay.

Simply put, the Avro Arrow was an incredibly expensive fighter that was dependent on multiple technologies that simply did not exist at the time.


The Avro Arrow shares many similarities with another the jet interceptor, the Saab 35 Draken (Dragon).  Like the Arrow, the Draken was developed as a supersonic delta-wing interceptor by a nation with a modest defence budget.  Unlike the Arrow, the Draken made it to production.  Not only that, but it managed to secure a few export sales.  Its success has carried on to the Saab 37 Viggen and Saab JAS 39 Gripen.

So why did the Draken succeed where the Arrow failed?

The Draken was a much less ambitious aircraft.  Instead of huge twin-engined aircraft capable if Mach 2+, the Draken's speed requirement was a modest Mach 1.7.  Its defining characteristic was that it could operate from public roads and improvised air bases.

Apart from its ground-breaking "double-delta" wing design, the Draken was a fairly conventional design.  It was closer in size to smaller interceptors like the F-104 Starfighter or F-106 Delta Dart.  With a MTOW (maximum takeoff weight) of 12 tonnes it was less than half the Arrow's size.  This meant the Draken could get by using a single engine instead of two.  Better still, and unlike the Arrow, the Draken utilized a current design, the Rolls-Royce Avon.  This engine, produced under license as the Volvo Flygmotor RM6C, would later see improvements that would take the Draken to Mach 2.  The Arrow, which never got its Iroquois engine, never made it past Mach 1.98.

The Draken's weapon systems were also much simpler.  Instead of relying on internal weapon carriage, the Draken used simple pylons.  This allowed it to mount much the much more accurate IR-guided AIM-9 Sidewinder as well as the crude radar guided AIM-4 Falcons of the time.  If all else failed, the Draken still carried up to two 30mm cannons.


The Avro Arrow is often heralded as being "well ahead of its time".  This is an accurate statement, as the Arrow incorporated technologies that would not see maturity until much later on.  Internal weapon carriage, dependence on radar-guided missiles, and fly-by-wire control systems are the realm of modern fighters like the F-35.

Being ahead of its time is not always a good thing, however.  Radar guided missile proved nearly useless over Vietnam.  In an alternate timeline where the Arrow saw production, it might not have been a useful platform until the advent of the AIM-54 Phoenix or possibly even the AIM-120 AMRAAM.  It had the potential of following a similar evolution to the MiG-25 Foxbat/MiG-31 Foxhound, but it would take years, even decades meet that potential.


The Draken, on the other hand, was right fighter right out of the box.  One could even say it overdelivered.  It went from first flight to operational status within five years.  Despite being intended solely as an interceptor, its double-delta wing gave it the maneuverability of a dog-fighter.  Danish Draken's were modified to function as strike aircraft.  While the Draken could not be considered a true multi-role fighter, it came close.

The Draken would remain in combat service until 2005, outlasting contemporaries like the F-104 Starfighter by a substantial margin.  The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team continues to fly two airworthy examples.

The success of the Draken is not simply due to its simplicity, but from political will.  Sweden's commitment to neutrality and self-sufficiency ensured that indigenous fighter design was neither a luxury nor a point of national price, but a necessity.  This philosophy has carried on to the present day, although it may not last for much longer.

Still, the biggest difference between the Arrow and the Draken were basic design philosophies.  The Arrow was intended to "best in the world"...  While the Draken was simply intended to be the "best for Sweden".

Sometimes "good enough" is more than enough, and "the best" is too damn much.

Monday, February 11, 2019

F-15X?



Here we go again...

After finding out that nobody was interested in its "stealthy" F-15SE Silent Eagle, Boeing is now promoting yet another F-15 variant, the F-15X "Super Eagle".

Those of you not familiar with the "Silent Eagle" can be forgiven.  Boeing concocted the idea when it realized it was running out of fighters to build.  The F-15SE was a valiant effort.  Building upon the much loved F-15E Strike Eagle, the SE updated the platform with modern avionics, sensors, and even stealth improvements.  Aimed towards current F-15 operators, the Silent Eagle promised a happy compromise between the F-35 bleeding edge stealth and the F-15's performance and reliability.

Unfortunately for Boeing, the Silent Eagle never found a buyer.  The closest it came was South Korea's FX-III competition, when its competitors (Typhoon and F-35) failed to meet budget targets.  In the end, South Korea decided on a reduced number of F-35s instead.

One can understand the ambivalence directed towards the F-15SE.  As good the Eagle is, it is definitely not a stealthy plane.  Even the F-15SE's marketing materials only state a "reduced" radar cross section on the front aspect only.  The Silent Eagle proved that you cannot "add stealth" to an existing design.  If a buyer insisted on stealth, the F-35 is still the only way to go.

F-15SE:  Never meant to be.
Despite the lack of orders for the Silent Eagle, Boeing still has confidence F-15 platform...  And so do others.  It was recently revealed that the USAF intends to order new build F-15s, now dubbed the F-15X.

So what makes the F-15X different than the F-15SE?  Why would it not suffer the same fate as the Silent Eagle?

For one, the F-15X less risky than the F-15SE.  Forgoing any promise of stealthiness, the F-15X is a simple update to the existing F-15C/D template.  While a new radar, updated cockpit, and bigger payload are nothing to scoff at, they can be incorporated easily and cheaply.

Secondly, the F-15X is billed as a much needed replacement to the F-15C and D.  Since it is not based on the Strike Eagle, the F-15X would have limited ground attack capability.  This is a plus in the eyes of the Pentagon, which does not want to present a viable alternative to its big budget F-35 and B-21.

Third, the USAF would simply be getting a fighter it already knows and loves, but fresh off the assembly line with modern radar and avionics.  The F-16V "Viper" has already demonstrated that this can be a good thing.  Training is a snap, infrastructure is already in place, and capabilities are already well known.  The Eagle is still among the best fighters in the air today, why mess with a good thing?

Possibly the most attractive feature of the F-15X will be its price.  Boeing is offering it for under $100 million per unit using fixed-price terms.  This offer (similar to the KC-46 Pegasus) leaves Boeing responsible for any potential cost overrun.  Boeing is also promising a cost per flight hour roughly on par with the F-35 ($27,000/hr) and a whopping 20,000 hour service life.  That is A LOT of fighter for the money.


So...  The inevitable question:

F-15X for Canada?

Even dismissing Boeing's recent anti-Canadian practices, the answer is a resounding "NO".

Unfortunately, the F-15X is unsuitable for the same reasons the original model was.  It is simply not a "multi-role" fighter.  While the RCAF would have a serious upgrade to the CF-18 in terms of air-superiority, it would be giving up a great deal of strike capability in the process.  That alone makes the F-15X a non-starter.  The role requires a fighter that is just as adept at ground-pounding as it is interception.

It would be tempting to alter the RCAF's mission to focus more on air superiority, but this would be a hard sell given the CF-18's history of participating in high-profile coalition actions.   Throughout its life, the CF-18 was far more likely to drop a bomb in anger than an air-to-air missile.

The F-15X is one of those fighters that works great as part of larger whole, but not so much by itself.  The USAF plans to use these things primarily alongside the F-22, F-35, B-21, and the evergreen B-52; not exactly a "jack-of-all-trades" application.

If Canada had bought the F-15 instead of the F/A-18, then the F-15X would indeed be a tempting choice for sure.  Instead, it will likely be one of those "what could have beens".



Saturday, February 9, 2019

WHAT? THE JSF IS STILL TROUBLED?



Forgive me if this post seems a bit like a rant.  I've been fighting both a gastrointestinal infection and a lung infection for the last few days and the meds are only helping me so much...

The United States Government Accountability Office recently released its yearly report on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  This 2018 report is of importance because the decision to enter full production will be made in October this year.

Spoiler alert:  Despite being in development for over 17 years, there are still major deficiencies in aircraft performance, longevity, and even safety.  Even with the current problems, the US Department of Defense "plans to defer resolving some critical deficiencies found in testing until after its full-rate production decision in October 2019, even though DOD’s policy states that critical deficiencies generally will be resolved before then."

It would seem "concurrency" is the gift that keeps on giving.  Why mess around recalling and retrofitting dozens of fighters when you can recall and retrofit hundreds...  Possibly thousands?


All this might be understandable if these "deficiencies" were all minor or well on their way to being fixed (like switching the HMD display from LCD to OLED for less light bleed).  They are not.

Some of the more glaring issues yet to be resolved include (but are not limited to):


Any of these issues by themselves would be a huge red flag.  Put together and one wonders how anyone in good conscious could recommend full-rate production.  Instead, The Pentagon is happy to cut the JSF even more slack, deeming late deliveries as "on time".  


Not sure if Michael Bay made the F-35 better or worse...

Of course, Lockheed Martin responded to these criticisms with the usual boiler-plate corporate jargon.  They state the program "continues to improve" and that they "remain confident" in the aircraft.  They are quick to point out that unit cost has dropped under the $90 million mark.  This is small comfort when each aircraft still requires thousands of man-hours of fixing post-delivery...  Not to mention the additional cost needed to upgrade aircraft to the Block 4 standard.

What cannot be emphasized enough is the fact that the F-35 IS STILL IN DEVELOPMENT.  It still needs to be tested "under realistic combat conditions".  Cold weather testing (kind of important for Canada)  Col After over a half-billion dollars worth of improvements, Eieslon Air Force Base in Alaska will house its first F-35 squadron next year.  At least we know the planned drag-chute works okay.  

So what does this all mean?

For Canada, this validates the decision to drag our feet and ultimately restart the fighter selection process.  While spending $500 million on used F/A-18s is far from optimal, it sure beats unintentionally hitting cost overruns measured in the billions.  

Even if the F-35 is still very much in contention, there is no reason for Canada to rush into a risky decision.  

Sunday, February 3, 2019

POLITICS MATTER.


Why is the fighter jet debate so fraught with political baggage?

A recurring theme of the fighter jet debate is that it would go immensely smoother if it were not for all the partisan grandstanding and bickering gumming up the process.  Politics has a nasty habit of delaying or sometime outright ending a promising defence acquisition.  Politicians, eager to sway public favor, will demonize a program while in opposition, only to bungle the process themselves once in power.

Much like being stuck for 10 minutes in the Tim Horton's drive-through, it is a Canadian tradition.  It is also infuriating.


Going all the way back to the Avro Arrow (and even further back), Canadian military procurement has been fraught with political intervention.  It has become so commonplace that it is difficult to find an example where politics has not played a major role.

The FWSAR replacement was a prime example.  What should have been a straight-forward process ended up taking well over a decade (and counting) thanks to a mess of sole-sourcing, rigged requirements, and legal challenges.  

The process of replacing the Sea King is an even more glaring example.  The original replacement, the EH101 "Merlin", was decried as a "Cadillac" by soon-to-be PM Jean Chretien.  Following a Liberal election victory 1993, the deal was shelved to great expense.  In hindsight, this was a disastrous move.  Only now, more than 20 years later, are we finally seeing the Sea King fly off into the sunset.


The CF-18 replacement seems to have suffered a similar fate.

It started out simply enough.  Knowing that the CF-18 was nearing the end of its service life, Canada made the reasonable decision to join America's ambitious plan to develop a successor to the F-16 and F/A-18.  This concept certainly seemed like a winner on paper.  The JSF was envisioned as an affordable fighter that would utilize economies of scale similar to the F-16 to bring the unit cost down even further.

We all know how that went.

What should have been a basic, multirole fighter soon became a classic example of feature creep.  Instead of just replacing the workhorse F-16 and F/A-18, it was to replace the niche AV-8B Harrier, A-10 Warthog, and (to a point( the F-117 Nighthawk.  On top of this, the decision to end F-22 production put more pressure on the JSF to take on more of an air-superiority role.  This resulted in a fighter that was much heavier, much more technologically advanced, and much pricier than initially envisioned.

The F-35 program became so disjointed that the Harper Government took a giant step back from Canada's planned purchase to evaluate other fighters.  The (at the time) opposition Liberals did one better and announced the intention to scrap the F-35 buy entirely in favor of competition.

This extra delay has led to the CF-18 fleet needing to soldier on for much longer than planned.  To they point where we need to supplement our own aging fleet with another nation's hand-me-downs.

 

All of this would seem to beg the question:  "Why are we letting politicians gum up the process so much?"

In a perfect world, politics would have no place in military procurement.  The military would simply procure the assets it needs based on its own criteria.  Decisions would be left to those who have in-depth knowledge on the subject, and to those whom would actually be USING the equipment.

(Then again, a perfect world would not require any military at all...)

Unfortunately, letting the military pick its own equipment comes with its own set of shortfalls.  Giving them a blank cheque would quickly empty the coffers, so a budget would need to be set and enforced.  That budget would need be set by the Government, obviously, giving them ultimate control.

Even when given a set budget, the military would still need to decide how to best divvy that cash up.  Each branch would argue for a larger piece of the pie.  The RCN would demand more for its new frigates, while the RCAF would demand more for new fighters, etc.

Suppose we could get the different branches to agree on where the budget is best spent.  That still does not guarantee a smooth procurement process.  Talk to anyone in any military and they well fill your ear with tales about the disconnect with the top brass.  Military culture is top-down in nature and high-command rarely concern themselves with the opinion of the common soldier.  That means that the people deciding on which equipment to buy likely will not be the ones actually using it.

In reality, upper echelon military officers can end up with a much closer relationship to defense contractors.  Industry giants like Lockheed Martin are not shy when it comes to buying influence.  This goes much further than advertisements and access to special "V.I.P." treatment at trade shows.  There is the infamous "revolving door" between defence contractors and military officials.

One of the more glaring examples is when former Lt. General Charles Bouchard took Lockheed Martin up on its offer to lead its Canadian operations.  This was just slightly after the-year "cooling off" period required before taking a corporate job.  Before this, Bouchard was actually offered a position on a panel tasked with finding a CF-18 replacement, but bowed out due to being "too busy".

This is the sort of conflict of interest we would see constantly if there were no political oversight on the matter.




The biggest problem with political oversight is that it is fickle.  Governments change, policies change, and public perception change.  Political parties rarely think beyond the next election.  The four-year election cycle does not lend itself well to the long-term thinking needed for a proper military procurement, which can take years or even decades to complete.

Large-scale military projects grab the headlines with their enormous price tags.  Worse still, these projects commonly encounter cost overruns and delays, which garner even more negative headlines.  This puts a current government on the spot and they need to make the difficult decision to either continue on or cancel the project and start new.

It is much easier for the opposition party to criticize a current government's decisions.  If a project continues, the sitting government can be accused of wasting money.  If a project is cancelled, the sitting government can be criticized for "waffling" and delaying much needed equipment.  Easy pickings...  Until the opposition party wins an election and finds themselves in charge.

There are no easy solutions.  Politics in military procurement is unavoidable and a necessary part of the process.  It is not always a bad thing.  What does need to be improved is the process.

Looking back at all these failed military procurements, there seems to be little consistency in how they are handled.  Some projects appear to be written by politicians (National Shipbuilding Strategy) while others are obvious DND wish fulfillment (FWSAR, F-35) gone horribly wrong.  Perhaps this is the area where the most improvement can be found.

So what would I suggest?

Ideally, defence procurement should be a joint effort between the government and the military.  The government (representing the people) sets the budget and industrial offset requirements while the military sets the technical requirements.  Once this is done, each side would appoint a handful of members to form a committee tasked with making a final decision.

This committee would be be in place until the decision was made, regardless of any election outcome.  This sort of arms-length decision making would help insulate the process from further political interference.  In order to protect against any impropriety, members would be forbidden from taking any industry position for at least 2 years, preferably 5.  Defence lobbyists would be free to peddle their wares, but no promises of a lucrative "consulting job" following the final decision.

By making the selection process semi-autonomous, procurements should be relatively safe from political interference once the ball starts rolling.  This would also save any government from the potential embarrassment of picking a "wrong" winner if (when) things go wrong.  




Like it or not, politics does have an important role to play in military procurement.  While it may not seem like, politicians do represent the people who will ultimately pay for that equipment.  Those of us flipping the bill deserve some say in the matter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

2019 SCORECARD

As we enter 2019 and what should be the homestretch of Canada's CF-18 replacement saga, I thought it would be useful to do a quick update on where all the fighters stand.



F-35 LIGHTNING II


After years of development problems and controversy, the F-35 can now be declared an operational fighter.  The jet has been declared IOC for both the USAF and the USMC, with the USN scheduled for later this year.  Not only that, but foreign customers are taking deliveries and the aircraft has even seen limited combat.

Better still, the JSF's unit cost has finally dropped.  While early models were wildly expensive, later model prices seem to have leveled off to approximately $95 million (US) per unit.  Most recently, the F-35A broke the $90 million barrier.

Despite the current Trudeau government campaigning on the promise to not buy the F-35, the JSF is still very much a contender to replace the CF-18.  The requirements are no longer written around it, however.


Current odds:  Not the sure thing it once was but still the probable winner...  If it can keep the costs down...  If Canada and the US trade relations do not get any worse...  If it manages to avoid any more negative press...


F-18E/F SUPER HORNET


Boeing famously snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when it attempted to stymie Bombardier's C-Series sale to Delta Airlines.  As we all know, this did not go as planned.  Not at all.

The Super Hornet is still in the running, but it is far from the darling it once was with the Liberal Party of Canada.  Not at all.  In fact, the upcoming fighter competition may include a stipulation that penalizes Boeing's recent behavior.


Current odds:  Politically, its almost impossible for the Super Hornet to get selected at this point.  Boeing would first have to admit mea culpa for its actions involving the CSeries.  Even then, the amount of political animosity may be too great.


EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON


With the F-35 and Super Hornet's chances now severely downgraded, the Eurofighter Typhoon has a chance to shine.  Airbus (a partner in the Eurofighter consortium) effectively rescued Bombardier's C-Series when it purchased a 50.01% stake in the airliner.  Rebranded as the Airbus A220, the Canadian  built airliner will likely see far greater demand then before.  This has obviously scored Airbus (ergo: Eurofighter) some serious political points.

As for the Typhoon itself, it will soon meet its full potential as a multi-role fighter.  There really is not much other choice, what with the RAF retiring the Tornado soon.


Current odds:  Possibly almost tied with the JSF for replacing the CF-18.  Airbus has certainly ingratiated itself to Canada and the Typhoon certainly meets the requirements.



DASSAULT RAFALE


Unfortunately, Dassault has decided to drop out of Canada's fighter competition before it really even started.

This really should not come as a surprise. The Rafale required additional "tweaking" to fulfill some of the requirements.  This additional work would undoubtedly add to the Rafale's cost.  While the Rafale is a fine fighter, it still needs to compete on price.


Current odds:  None.  The Rafale can be listed as "DNF".



SAAB GRIPEN


Oddly enough, the Saab Gripen has stood out from the other fighters this year by mostly staying out of the news.  There have been no forced groundings.  No trade disputes.  No controversy over costs.  Just a boring year of test flights going as planned and construction facilities being built.  

*yawn*

This, of course, is exactly what makes the Gripen of attention.  While drama may make good television, it is not a desirable quality in multi-billion dollar defense projects.


Current odds:  Dark horse.  While many considered it an "also ran" in Canada's fighter competition, its odds seem to be steadily improving as the other fighters come under scrutiny.  The Gripen may very well come out ahead by offering Typhoon-like performance at a more affordable cost.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

I'M STILL HERE!


Once again, I apologize for the lack of content lately.  My work/life balance has been completely out of whack lately and I needed a little time to perform what mental health experts call "self care"...  Which basically means taking a step back and relaxing for a bit.

I am working on new material and I do plan to follow Canada's fighter selection saga until the bitter end (whenever that is),

In the meantime, please check out Alex McColl's thesis on on the subject, available here.