Monday, July 16, 2018


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


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

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.


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.


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 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


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


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.


Thursday, May 31, 2018


"Hey Justin, smell my finger..."
Well...  It looks like the opening salvo has been fired in a trade war between the USA and Canada.

The particulars are not important to our discussion here; just the usual bloviating and rhetoric.  What is important is whether or not this trade war will play a role in Canada's CF-18 replacement decision.

Should military purchases be considered as ammunition in a trade war?

On one hand, it could be argued that any trade war with the USA would be temporary.  Why base a 30 (or more) year fighter commitment on presidency that may not see the end of the decade?  Trump's tariffs are not widely supported and would likely not outlast his presidency.  With the CF-18 replacement not likely happening until the mid-2020s, the entire Trump presidency could be considered a moot point.

Unfortunately, the Trump presidency (and his tariffs) will cast its shadow over most, if not all, of the CF-18 replacement process.  An RFP (request for proposals) is expected in 2019 and an winner announced in 2021-2022.  Even if Trump loses the 2020 election (not a sure thing), there is no guarantee Canada/US trade relations will simply bounce back.

One could argue that taking our military purchases elsewhere could be a "nuclear option" in a trade war.  The American defense industry depends not just on sales to the Pentagon, but foreign sales as well.  Industry giants like Lockheed-Martin and Boeing would likely have little patience once they start losing a multi-billion-dollar fighter deal thanks to  protectionist trade policies...  Especially when their production costs also increase thanks to increased steal and aluminum prices.

No one knows this more than Boeing.

Boeing learned the hard way that trade is a two-way street when it attempted to smother the Bombardier CSeries in its crib by calling for crippling tariffs.  While this strategy was initially successful when the US Commerce Department agreed to crippling 220% tariffs on the Canadian airliner.  This led to Canada cancelling its proposed interim Super Hornets and those tariffs knocked down by the US International Trade Commission.

Neither side really won...  Boeing lost a promising fighter sale and Bombardier had to relinquish control of the CSeries to another aerospace firm...  But the Europeans  (in the form of Airbus) was able to take full advantage of the skirmish.

Perhaps the Boeing/Bombardier dispute should be seen as a "prototype" to the upcoming trade war between the US and Canada.

What will the pending trade war mean for the Canada's CF-18 replacement decision?  Let me know what you think.  (Time for the new moderators to earn their pay!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Years ago, I started blogging as an outlet to help with my PTSD symptoms.  Sitting down at a computer and writing about fighter jets may not seem like "therapy" to some of you, but it has helped me escape the stresses of the EMS world that I am a part of in my "day job".  For that, I am thankful.

Unfortunately, some are not so lucky.

Tragedy struck my station last week when a colleague, partner, and good friend lost his battle with mental illness.  We did not just lose a coworker that day, but a member of our family.

Being witness to traumatic events, long hours, sleep deprivation, and a high-stress work environment all take their toll.  It is no wonder that first responders have a high incidence of mental illness.

Unfortunately, some dismiss the issue; stating that first responders "know what they signed up for".  The truth is; paramedics, firefighters, police, and other first responders can witness sights many people cannot even fathom.  Nobody knows how they will react to these sights until it is too late to be "unseen".  It is not just blood, guts, and gore (that's easy) but the very darkest aspects of the human condition.  This could include watching a terminal cancer patient waste away, a burn victim crying out in pain, or a child abuse victim.

Through it all, first responders are expected to stay sympathetic and professional.  One minute they may have to inform a family that grandma is dead...  Only to have that same level of thoughtfulness when the frequent flier drug-seeker calls in 20 minutes later with a "sore toe".

Sound challenging?  It is.

While there is help available, many do not take advantage of it.  This is due to the stigma attached to mental illness.  We tend to dismiss those with a mental illness as "weak" or "looking for attention".  Let me be the first to tell you that anyone contemplating hurting themselves is in serious need of help.    Suicide is not "an easy way out".  It is a fatality caused by depression.  Worse still, a suicide has more than one victim as family and friends are made to suffer their loss.

For those of you in need, I implore you:  PLEASE GET HELP.

For those of you who know someone in need:  PLEASE OFFER HELP


Much like regular first aid,  mental health first aid could mean the difference between life-and-death to someone in need.  The course focuses on breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as  going over various disorders.

For more information on how mental illness affects first responders, please go to