Sunday, September 9, 2018

F-22/F-35 HYBRID FOR CANADA?


What happens when the F-22 and F-35 get busy and have a baby?
Lately, the idea of a "hybrid" between the F-22 and F-35 seems to be gaining steam.  First proposed to Japan when its self-designed F-3 project fell through, Lockheed is now pitching the idea to The Pentagon.

This (sort of) new fighter would take the more modern sensors, avionics, and other newer technology found in the F-35 and modify them to fit the F-22 Raptor.  This new enhanced Raptor would also sport a more modern stealth coating that promises to require maintenance.

It is not a bad idea.  Such a beast would not only offer improved capabilities for the F-22, but could actually result in lower flying costs.

This new fighter (F-22B?  F-22E?  F-22X?  F-28.5?) would improve on the Raptor's exceptional air-to-air capabilities.  One of the F-22's current weak spots is the absence of any sort of IRST.  The addition of DAS (Distributed Aperture System), combined with a helmet-mounted display (HMD) would give the F-22 true 360 degree situational awareness.  "Raptor Salad" would no longer be on the menu.


Better still, the F-22 could be given much improved ground attack capabilities.  Currently, the F-22's air-to-ground prowess is rather limited, but the addition of the F-35's EOTS and other tweaks could turn the F-22 into a true successor to the F-15E Strike Eagle.

Such a platform would undoubtedly have some overlap with the JSF's capabilities, but that is to be expected.  Even with an equal payload, the F-22 would have improved range, speed, and include two internal AIM-9 Sidewinders.  Simply put an "F-22E Strike Raptor" would be a deadlier machine, capable of surviving scenarios the F-35 would not.

Lockheed Martin has good reason to offer up an updated F-22.

Despite promises to the contrary, the F-35 may soon find itself outmatched by other fighters nearing production.  It is also not meeting foreign sales predictions as prospective buyers back out or take a "wait and see" approach.

Meanwhile, the USAF's air-superiority workhorse, the F-15C/D, is not getting any younger.  Boeing has proposed several new F-15 variants in an attempt to reinvigorate sales.  Unfortunately, the proposed F-15SE "Silent Eagle" was met with little interest.  Boeing has followed that up with the more conventional "F-15X".  While the improvements are interesting, they do not change the fact that the F-15 platform is a 50-year-old design.

While the current F-22 still holds the air-superiority throne, it suffers from a lack of availability, high cost per flight hour (CPFH), and some glaring weaknesses.   Fixing these problems would keep the F-22's "king of the hill" status for decades to come...  Or at least until "6th generation" fighters start making an appearance.


So would an updated F-22 be right for Canada?

Yes and no.

Obviously, a stealthy, multi-role, supercruising, long-ranged, twin-engined fighter would be IDEAL for Canada's needs.  More so when that fighter is used by our NORAD ally.

Unfortunately, this F-22/F-35 hybrid is little more than a proposal at this point.  Even if it were to become a reality, a prototype would be years away.  Full production would not likely start for another 10 years at the least.  This puts it outside the timeline proposed to replace the CF-18.

Even if the fighter were available in time to replace the CF-18, there is still the issue of cost.  While an updated F-22 promises to be more affordable than the legacy model, it would still likely be a costly machine to purchase and operate.  This is still a big stealth fighter equipped with two big engines and the latest tech.  At best, its CPFH would still likely be higher then the F-15E.  Given Canada's typically tight-fisted defence spending, a fleet of 88 enhanced F-22s would likely be a non-starter.

This is not to dismiss an enhanced F-22 for Canada completely.  A lot could change in the next few years...  Just look at the last ten for proof.  Political climates change, as do spending priorities.  Canada could very well find itself in need of a higher-end fighter to supplement whatever ends up replacing the CF-18.

If Canada found itself in need of a world-beating fighter, and enhanced F-22 would certainly be at the top of the list.





Sunday, July 22, 2018

SOVEREIGNTY [RANT]



As Canada's 151st birthday passes by, Canadians enjoy the usual swell of patriotism.  No wonder, as our nation is pretty great.  The last two years has found even the least-patriotic Canadians being proud.  Even those curmudgeons have to admit...  "At least we're not the United States."

Canada still, and always will, have its share of issues.  That is to be expected.  Unlike some other nations, we still have an air of optimism about us.  Things are good and we hope that we can make them even better.

One only has to take a cursory glance at the rest of the world to realize that not everyone shares Canada's optimism.  Not only are people taking a pessimistic view...  But they are looking for someone to blame.

It is for this reason that Canadian as a whole must make a renewed commitment to its own sovereignty, lest we get bogged down with the same division.

One need only look to our southern neighbor to realize how a nation can lose its way.

Impossible to ignore and full of hot air.

While US politics have never been a game for the timid; recent years have seen a very clear trend towards divisiveness.  Neither political party aspires towards national unity, only energizing their 'base' while demonizing the other side.

Witness the current American government.

Its accent into power was not predicated on a popular leader unifying the masses.  Far from it.  The American President's political rise was built on hateful racism.  He would go on lose the popular vote...  Only to win the White House.

The American House of Representatives' approval rating rarely breaks 20%.  The US Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is the least popular member.   Yet incumbents are almost always favored to win thanks to the longstanding practice of gerrymandering.

With sitting president who is being investigated for possible treasoninhuman treatment of asylum seekers, and countless other scandals the USA has become a divided nation.  Yet despite the outcry, the upcoming midterm elections could be anyone's game.

One could be excused for thinking the United States of America is headed towards a second Civil War...  Even in jest.

So what does a sitting president do when he's accosted by scandal?  Divert attention by convincing the populous that there is some nefarious external threat.  Since the "War on Terror" is old news (and more of George W. Bush's thing) Trump has decided to point his finger at...  Canada?


HUH?

For years, Canada and the US have enjoyed a close relationship.  Sure, we have had our share of rivalries and minor disputes, but a trade war?  That never works out for anyone.

After embarking a trade war with Canada, Trump feels it is also the right time to tell Canada it needs to spend more on defense...  Even though the current government has already committed to do so.

Perhaps Trump has a point...  But not for the right reasons.

Trump would likely prefer Canada and other NATO nations to spend more on military so as to benefit American defense contractors.  His motive is clear.  If NATO nations want the world's largest military force on their side, they have to pay for it.  Forget about moral authority or being a force for righteousness.  Trump has turned the most powerful military force in history into a mercenary band.

Worse still is evidence that while the USA is willing to sell other nations its cutting edge military equipment, that equipment is never truly theirs.

This has placed Canada in an awkward position.  The current American leader is on friendlier terms with the Russian leader than he is with ours.  Would Trump be willing to send US troops to our aid if Russia decided to annex some of our territory?


Perhaps Canada should be more fearful that the United States of America will annex some of our territory instead.  Normally this would sound ridiculous.  Not today.  The age of Trump should make it clear that the rule book has been thrown out.

Trump's own draconian enforcement of immigration policies have resulted in U.S. Border Patrol agents boarding Canadian vessels in Canadian waters off the Grand Manaan Island off of New Brunswick.  Not exactly neighborly behavior.

This may sound like a rallying cry for Canadians to take up arms and prepare for a possible incursion.  It is not.  Merely a warning that our traditional codependence on the USA is no longer a sensible strategy.  Good relationships are based on trust, loyalty, and dependability.  America is unable to provide any of those things right now.

Perhaps the Trump era will end up being a momentary blip in American history.  Perhaps the 2016 election was simply a perfect storm that led to a reality star ending up being the most powerful individual in the world.  Perhaps Trump's rise to power was the "dead cat bounce" of a disappearing aspect of American society.



Perhaps not.

Either way, it has become clear that while Canada should exercise a little more independence when it comes to our national identity.  Canada's experience in Afghanistan should be reason enough to put the days of blindly following the USA's example behind us.  Instead, we should do our own thing.  Presenting Canada as a global role model that exercises self-reliance and high morals.

As an example, we need look no further than Sweden.  Despite a defense budget that is a fraction of what Canada spends, Sweden is able to field a enviable military force with some impressive combat aircraft, submarines, and other assets.  Better still, Sweden maintains the capability of designing and building its own military hardware.  It has not shied away from global participation when called for.

 (Does it sound like I'm a fan of Sweden?  I am.)

Just remember that sovereignty does not mean nationalism.  A nationalistic approach, like the US under Trump or the UK's Brexit, only serves to alienate the rest of the world.  Trump and his ilk have the mistaken belief that life on earth is a zero-sum game where the more you let someone else have, the less you get to keep for yourself.  This is simply not true.  Globalization is a controversial issue, too complicated to simply break down into "winners" and "losers".

There is also the question of NATO.

Despite some deriding NATO as "obsolete", it still has its benefits.  It could use some serious retooling to align with a post-Cold War world, but it certainly is not worth abandoning.  Article Five, which treats an attack on one NATO nation as an attack on all, is still a powerful deterrent.  One would do well to remember that in NATO's 69 year history, its only use of Article Five was in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11...  Enacted by the USA, no less.

One could easily argue that America's questionable commitment to NATO is all the more reason to keep it.  A NATO nation that can no longer rely on American intervention would still be well-defended with the remaining NATO forces coming to its aid.



We are now living in a time where the American president has a better rapport with authoritarian leaders like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin then democratically elected allies like Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Emmanuel Macron.  Despite the vitriol directed at long-standing allies, Trump is encouraging them to "buy American" when it comes to military spending.  This seems like a rather odd sales tactic.  The recent cancellation of Canada's Super Hornet buy, Italy pulling the plug on the JSF, and the rise of new fighter programs like the Tempest seem to indicate that America's allies have grown weary of being seen as cogs in the American Military Industrial Complex.

The weariness goes far deeper than that, however.

In the years following the Cold War, America was still seen as the benevolent superpower.  Sure, it got its hands dirty plenty of times, but this could be excused as necessary for the greater good.  Things took a turn after September 11, 2001, however.  While a response was certainly justified, the never-ending "War on Terror" committed America to a dark path of unwinnable and unjustified wars and occupations.  Allies that walked alongside the U.S. down this path were soon rewarded with little else but casualties and blemishes to their own moral code.


Years of supporting the USA throughout the Cold War and the following War on Terror have taken its toll on America's allies.  That loyalty and commitment has seemingly been taken for granted by Trump and his ilk.  America's allies are not seen as partners in their eyes.  Instead, we are seen as subservients (at best) or parasites (at worst) prospering only because the U.S. lets us.  

To put it simply, America's allies have tired of this "American Exceptionalism".

Trumps tough talk may appeal to his base (uneducated conservatives looking for a scapegoat) but it is absolute poison to anyone else.  The USA did not become the most powerful nation in the world in a vacuum; quite the opposite, in fact.  American history is built on its international relations.  Generations of immigration, two World Wars and a Cold War helping to build up its economic and military have led to the USA becoming the "hub" holding the rest of the world together.  Now that hub is beginning to crack and split apart.

In order to prosper (possibly even survive) the upcoming chaos, America's allies will need to reduce their codependence on the US and strengthen their bonds with each other instead.  Instead of being spokes around a hub, we become an interconnected mesh.  Like a spider's web, if one of those bonds happen to break, the mesh remains strong.

The current state of American politics may be nothing more than a brief "blip" following the Obama years.  Then again, it may not.  Recent primaries have shown that American politics have changed...  Possibly not for the better.  What is important for Canada and our allies right now is to put ourselves in a position where America's anguish has little to no effect on us.

That is true sovereignty.  When the blustering of another nation DOES NOT MATTER.





Monday, July 16, 2018

THE TEMPEST!



The UK Ministry of Defence made a major announcement at the Farnborough Air Show today.  It unveiled plans for a new fighter to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon.


First of all, let us start with the name:  TEMPEST.  It is very cool.  The name implies lineage with the current Typhoon and harkens back to the Hawker Tempest fighter-bomber of WWII.  Not only that, but the name "Tempest" is darn-right Shakespearean.

The design itself seems rather plain in comparison.

BAE Replica
At first glance, it resembles the BAE Systems Replica design study.  A stealthy twin-engined, twin-tailed delta that also happens to look eerily similar to Boeing's X-32.  There even seems to be a slight resemblance to the Handley-Page Victor bomber.

While the Tempest is being billed as a sixth generation fighter, its appearance is distinctly fifth generation.  Then again, nobody really knows what "6th gen" aircraft are going to look like...  Despite some futuristic looking concepts.  The Tempest's design is far from being "locked in" however.  Expect it to change.


There are some interesting features listed on the infographic.

Some are rather vague; like "Advanced Power and Propulsion System" and "Advanced Digital Processes & Tools".

Others point to stuff that already exists.  The "Automated Support Options" and "Virtual Cockpit" seem similar to the JSF's ALIS and HMD, respectively.  These would likely be more advanced than those on the F-35, much like how the F-35's HMD improves on the current Typhoon's.

Much more interesting is the Flexible Payload Configuration with Physical Architecture "Designed for growth".  The infographic teases what looks like conformal fuel tanks along with two dorsal "pods" that seem similar to the Enclosed Weapon Pods found on Boeing's Advanced Super Hornet.  Could this mean the development of a modular conformal weapon storage?

Not enough?

How about the Tempest's pièce de résistance...  A FRIKKIN' LASER BEAM?


Right now, the Tempest is in its earliest stages of development.  BAE, MDMA, Leonardo, and Rolls-Royce One are current partners.  Do not be surprised if other aerospace firms (like Saab) join "Team Tempest" in the future.  

Current plans for the Tempest see it entering service around 2035.  Given the typical delays in fighter development, it could be very well into the 2040s.  Needless to say, the Tempest is not an option to replace the CF-18...  But it could be the replacement for the replacement.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

LOL LOCKHEED MARKETING (RANT)

Although some might believe otherwise, I have really done my best to present the F-35 in a fair and unbiased light.  I have even warmed up to it somewhat lately, going so far that it could have a place in a mixed Canadian fleet...  And then I see something that makes it nearly impossible to take any of Lockheed Martin's marketing fluff seriously.

Look at the above graphic, coming from a positively glowing article from ForeignPolicy.com.

Does anything seem a bit off to you?

Those numbers are optimistic.  Wildly optimistic.

According to Lockheed Martin, Canada (notice the asterisk there) canceled its planned JSF purchase (of 65 planes)...  But because of Boeing's tomfoolery, it will now buy 88 F-35s instead.

Huh?

While the F-35 is still very much in the running, its high cost and recent political fallout make it far from a sure thing. Yet this infographic presents it as such.

Yeah...


Maybe Lockheed Martin can be excused for being bullish on the F-35 for Canada.  What about the 100 F-35s destined for Turkey though?



Despite a batshit-crazy delivery ceremony, there has been pressure in the US Government to ensure not a single F-35 enters into Turkish service.  Israel is not too happy with the prospect either.

So that infographic may be too optimistic by 188 fighters.



What about those 138 F-35Bs destined for Britain?

That might be overly optimistic as well, considering a massive shortfall in the UK's defence budget.  Britain's current and future military capabilities are under review.  Thus far, the Ministry of Defence has only committed to 48 F-35Bs.

Those F-35's are destined for the UKs new Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers.  While the HMS Prince of Wales managed to avoid the budgetary axe, the UK has done this to keep "one available at all times".  While the MoD does have plans to purchase an additional 90 F-35s, that seems like a lot of fighters for what amounts to be a single operational carrier at any given time.

Since we are on the topic of Commonwealth nations, Australia's "100 F-35As" may be an exaggeration as well.

Australia has only committed to 72 aircraft thus far.  While it initially planned for 100, delays in the program convinced Australia to purchase a combination of 24 Super Hornets and Growlers.  While the Aussies are paying lip service to a full F-35 buy, they are already having buyer's remorse with the ones they already have.

How about the 90 F-35's destined for Italy?

While the current coalition government promises to remain committed to the JSF program, part of that coalition campaigned against the stealth fighter.  Given the chaotic state of Italian politics, I would not hold your breath.




Norway has ordered 40 JSFs.  Not 52.  There is an option for an additional 12.

Oh...  And one of the Norwegian Air Forces Lightning IIs was caught sending sensitive data back to Lockheed Martin.  Well...  That is awkward.

Israel has committed to 50 aircraft...  Why not when its not really their money they are spending?

Japan may purchase up to 60 F-35s, along with the possibility of a F-22/F-35 "hybrid"...  Whatever that could be.  This may be the one instance where LockMart underestimated an F-35 purchase.

South Korea's F-35 purchase is a different matter altogether.  Its purchase is currently under investigation due to a possible case of bribery.  This is not surprising considering the F-35 was eliminated at the beginning of the F-X III competition...  But won anyway after S. Korea changed the rules .

The Dutch and Danish F-35 purchases seem safe...  For now.

As always, the US military is still Gung Ho for the F-35, despite all of its problems.  So it is a good thing for Lockheed Martin that the US political landscape is as stable as ever...

Oh crap.



















Sunday, July 1, 2018

HAPPY CANADA DAY!


Happy Canada Day everyone!

Enjoy the (hopefully not too hot) weather, crack open a cold one, light up the barbecue, and be proud!


Nobody ever needs to say "Make Canada Great Again"...  We never stopped.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

ANYONE'S GAME? THE THREE Ps.



As long-time readers know, the summer months tend to be a slow time here at bestfighter4canada.

The House of Commons is on its summer break, so major announcements tend to be few and far between...  Especially in a non-election year.  With a dearth of stuff to report on (and an all too short Canadian summer), your humble writer lacks the will to sit at a keyboard...  Barring the occasional "summer surprise" like a missed air show appearance due to fire.

This summer feels different, however.

While there will be the typical "summer slow down", it will hopefully be a prelude to an much busier time.  The upcoming year will see Canada's CF-18 replacement program begin in earnest.


As the selection process slowly churns, expect the fighter manufacturers to ramp up their marketing efforts.  Unlike the past, when the F-35 was the defacto choice and the other alternatives were merely paid lip service, this could be (hopefully) be anyone's game.

If anything, the recent political maelstrom has conspired to put the American options at a distinct disadvantage to their European competitors.  The current Trudeau government campaigned on ditching the Lockheed Martin F-35.  Normally, this would give Boeing an incredible advantage...  But we know how that went.

This does not necessarily mean the American contestants are disqualified; far from it.  Ties run deep between the Canadian military and the US military industrial complex.  Deeper than (hopefully) a temporary blip in the American political landscape.  Those hoping for a strict battle between the Eurocanards may be in for disappointment.

As always, the ultimate decision will come down to the three "P"s.  PERFORMANCE, PRICE, and POLITICS.

Eurofighter Typhoon




Recent events would seem to indicate a perfect storm (pun intended) for the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Airbus' recent white knight actions toward the Bombardier C Series has certainly given it a political advantage.  Hopefully the relationship between Bombardier and Airbus is mutually beneficial and not predatory.

While now would seem to be the perfect time for Canada to beef up its European relations, it may be easier said than done.  Europe's political climate has been rather scattershot as of late.  With the United States of Trumpistan at the forefront in the news, it is easy to forget about BrexitItalian uncertainty, and the Spanish imposition.  Of all the Eurofighter partner nations, only Germany shines a beacon of stability.

The Typhoon may also come up short when it comes to affordability.  It is a notoriously expensive to both procure and operate, with Austria giving up on the platform altogether thanks to high cost.  This does not bode well when you consider Canada already passed on the F-35 due to sticker shock.  Thankfully, the NATO-centric Typhoon would be pretty much "plug-and-play" with existing RCAF infrastructure.

Eurofighter need not make any any apologies when it comes to the the Typhoon's capability, however.  It boasts impressive performance numbers, cutting edge technology, and a varied weapon selection.  It is certainly capable of meeting Canada's needs.

Performance:  A

Price:  C

Politics:  B


Dassault Rafale

At first (and second) glance, the Rafale would seem to be an excellent fit for Canada.

Like the CF-18, the Rafale was designed to be an "do-it-all" fighter.  Dassault's fighter matches or exceeds the CF-18's speed, range, payload, and maneuverability.  Compared to more modern fighters, the Rafale is still an impressive package.  It does lack some features however; most notably a HMD.

Cost wise, the Rafale is slightly more affordable than the Eurofighter.  Unfortunately for the Canadian market, it would need some additional effort to integrate current stockpile of AMRAAMs, AIM-9 Sidewinders, etc.  

Following the latest G7 summit, Canada-French relations seem to be stronger than at anytime in recent memory.  Not that that relations were that bad to begin with, just that Trudeau and Macron seem to be of similar mind.  Canada and France are avid economic partners, but not at the same level Canada is with Germany or Britain.

Performance:  B

Price: C

Politics:  C

Boeing Super Hornet



What was once a "sure thing" for the RCAF has now become a long-shot.

The Super Hornet is a perfectly suitable workhorse of a fighter, but it lags behind the others when it comes to performance.  Planned upgrades hope to rectify some of this, but it is clear that the F-35 Lightning II is the Pentagon's current darling.

Affordability seems to be the Super Hornet's strongest selling point.  It is a rugged, proven design slots into legacy Hornet infrastructure.  Only the single-engine Gripen promises a cheaper cost-per-flight-hour.

Boeing has its work cut out for them repairing its tarnished Canadian reputation.  We all know the story.

Performance:  D

Price:  B

Politics:  D

Lockheed Martin Lightning II


Like the Super Hornet, the F-35 was also pretty much a "sure thing" for Canada.  Years of controversy has resulted in it becoming a bit of a political football.  Perhaps the new nickname ("Panther") will help?

Much has been said about the F-35's capabilities compared to others.  To make a long story short, the "Panther" compromises raw performance numbers in favor of stealth.  While it may not be the fastest or most agile beast in the sky, in theory it does not need to be.  

The JSF's performance may be controversial, but not nearly so much as its price.  After years of development and low rate production, procurement and sustainment costs are still anyone's guess. Making matters worse for Canada is the F-35's need for additional infrastructure to support its stealth and trouble prone logistics system.  The F-35A also requires aerial refueling assets that Canada does not currently have.  

Like the Super Hornet, the F-35 has a tough road to travel when it comes to Canadian politics.  PM Justin Trudeau campaigned on cancelling the JSF purchase.  A trade war between the USA and Canada certainly does not help either.  Ties between Canada and the American Military Industrial Complex run deep however.  Lockheed Martin also has the distinct advantage of being the only American fighter manufacturer that isn't Boeing.  

Performance:  Anywhere from B to D depending on hype.  

Price: D

Politics:  C

Saab Gripen




The Saab Gripen has always been the dark horse in the competition to become Canada's next fighter.  Yet as time has gone by, fate seems to have tipped the scales further in its favor.

The Gripen comes close to matching the Eurofighter Typhoon in performance.  As close as a small, single-engined fighter can, anyway.  It lacks the payload capability of larger fighters, but gives up little in terms of technology and aerial prowess.  

Affordability is were the Gripen shines.  Saab intentionally avoids the "money is no object" market, concentrating on militaries shopping on a budget instead.  Its smaller size and simpler construction make it cheaper on fuel and easier to maintain.

While Canada and Sweden are on friendly terms, those ties do not run as deep as they do with the US, European Union, or even France.  Sweden simply does not have the political or economic clout compared to the others.  However, the Gripen utilizes components originating from Europe and the US...  So there is that.

Performance:  C

Price:  A

Politics:  D



So how will things play out?  Given the turmoil of the last few years, it could be anyone's guess.  

At this point in time, it would seem the Super Hornet has very little chance.  Things would have to change considerably for Boeing to get back into Canada's good graces.  

Dassault also seems to be a long-shot currently.  While the Rafale is a good fighter, it has trouble standing out compared to the more politically attractive Typhoon or economically attractive Gripen.  

Politically, the Typhoon certainly seems like the most attractive option at the moment.  In a vacuum, it would be a easy choice.  It becomes a harder sell when compared to two vastly different fighters, however.  

The F-35 promises a paradigm shift in fighter tactics.  It also has massive amounts a momentum on its side.  Its marketing still promises a massive drop in price as it matures, something the Typhoon cannot claim.  

The Typhoon is also a tougher sell when compared to the much more affordable Gripen.  Affordability becomes an even bigger factor when you consider Canada has upped its requirement from 65 fighters to 88.  Add a proven cold weather track record and what was once a dark horse starts to edge its way to the front.  

In the end, Canada's choice will depend on how much weight is placed on each factor.  Do we go with the safe choice, the newcomer with all the hype, or the screaming bargain?

All we can do is stay tuned...


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

WELL... THIS IS AWKWARD... TURKEY AND THE F-35.


Over the last few years, the Republic of Turkey has presented a bit of conundrum to its NATO allies.

Last year, a controversial referendum replaced Turkey's parliamentary government to a presidential system.  This greatly increased Turkish president Recap Erdogan's power within the country and paves the way for a full-on dictatorship.  Unlike other presidential systems, Turkey lacks the checks and balances to reign in potential abuse.

Preceding this was an attempted coup attempt that seems quite suspicious in retrospect.

Turkey has also been less-than-helpful when it comes to the conflict in Syria.  From inconveniences (like denying the US use of an airbase) too outright antagonism (sending its own troops in to confront US-backed Kurds).  To make matters worse, Turkish forces downed a Russian Su-24 when it came uncomfortably close (but not into) Syrian air space.  Needless to say, a NATO shooting down a Russian aircraft made for some tense diplomacy.

(Conveniently enough the pilots responsible for the downed Su-24 have since been arrested on suspicion that they were involved in the failed coup.  What a coincidence...  This had the benefit of greatly improving Turkish/Russian relations.)

The Republic of Turkey's actions of late have led for calls for its expulsion from NATO.  Its relations with Greece (another NATO member) are so bad it it seen as precursor to a war.

Hoo boy...

As if all this was not enough, Turkey has also antagonized its fellow members further by choosing the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system over the US-made Patriot.  Not only does this support a potential adversary's defense industry, but the S-400 is incompatible with other NATO equipment.

Despite Turkey closely approaching the status of a "rogue nation", it is deeply entrenched into the Joint Strike fighter program.  Like Canada, Turkey is considered a "Level 3" Industrial Partner.   Unlike Canada, Turkey is committed to 100 (maybe more) units.

Not only is Turkey committed to purchasing the F-35, but it is heavily involved in the construction of the fighter.  Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in particular is responsible for center fuselage assembly and other major hardware.  Turkey has even been approved to build its own F135 engines.

Of course, there is the small matter of linking up the F-35's highly sensitive ALIS with a Russian-linked S-400 missile system.  This could leave the JSF vulnerable to cyber attacks.

All this has put Lockheed Martin and the Joint Program Office in an awkward position.  Due to the JSF's dependence on economies-of-scale, Turkey's involvement in the F-35 program is needed to help keep sales up and costs down.  That participation is now very much in doubt thanks to a bi-partison bill that aims to kick Turkey out of the F-35 program.

While Turkey is still on track to receive its first F-35 later this month, that jet likely would not see Turkish soil for quite some time.


If Turkey is ultimately denied the F-35, there could be a slew of legal issues.  It has invested hundreds of millions into the program already and would not likely walk away with nothing to show for that.

Turkey would also likely turn elsewhere for its new fighters; most likely the same vendor it chose for its S-400.  Turkey could be a prime candidate for the Su-57 (formerly PAK FA).

While some have dismissed the Su-57 because it lacks some of the bleeding-edge tech utilized by the F-35, it is still very much a serious fighter aircraft.  Unlike the F-22 and F-35, the Su-57 is not completely devoted to stealth.  Instead, the Su-57 takes more of a "holistic" approach, combining sophisticated sensors, stealthiness, and blistering performance.

Given the reported capabilities of both the S-400 and the Su-57, one has to wonder if denying Turkey the F-35 could end up being a phyrric victory.  Turkey ends up with an excellent fighter and ground-based missile system, while the USA gets a heap of legal trouble and a more expensive F-35.

The alternative is to allow the sale and give NATO's most advanced fighter to a belligerent dictator who will plug it in to Russia's missile defense database.

Yikes.