Monday, July 29, 2013

Used jet fighter "Thrift Shop"?


Thanks to European austerity measures, along with a need for lower-GDP nations for new fighter aircraft, there seems to be few surplus fighter jets hitting the market lately.

Low mileage...  Only $61 million O.B.O.  Serious offers only.

The Eurofighter Typhoon, especially, seems to be flooding the market right now.  With the Tranche 3 version on the way, some countries appear to be looking to offload the older Tranche 1 model.

Germany is reported to be looking at Eastern Europe.  Spain has offered some of its surplus fleet to Peru, while Eurofighter partner EADS has offered used Typhoons to Switzerland in lieu of the Gripen NG.

South African Gripens, bought for the 2010 World Cup...  Then mothballed.

In more depressing news, South Africa is said to considering selling part of its fleet of Saab Gripens.  South Africa has had issues with its Gripen fleet, as it lacks both the financial resources and the trained pilots to maintain its fleet of 26.  With 12 of the jets currently mothballed and only 6 pilots trained to fly the remaining 10 aircraft that are operational for a total of 130 flight hours a year, South Africa has way more jets than it can conceivably use.

So where does Canada fit in in all this?  As politically dangerous it would be to buy another used piece of major military hardware, the option should be given serious consideration.  Not in the long term sense, but possibly as an "interim" solution.  The F-35 is going to be late.  Not only that, but it is not going to be fully ready until some time after its initial procurement.  In the meantime, the Canadian Ministry of Defense seems to be still on the fence, with no permanent decision made until after the next Federal election (likely 2015).  With roughly 4 years (at least!) of lead time needed between a decision and initial deliveries, that puts us precariously close to the CF-18's "best before" date of 2020.

Canada may be in need of an interim fighter.  Especially if there are any more delays.  Although used fighter jets may not be the most attractive solution, they would allow us to increase our air capability for  a fraction of the cost and without any painful procurement delays.  The purchase of a few surplus South African Gripens would likely be very affordable, and those jets could prove useful later on as more of a "lightweight" fighter akin to the RCAF's CF-5 in the '70s.  Of course, a purchase of a few used Tranche 1 Typhoons would certainly make a full purchase of the Tranche 3 version look all the more attractive for commonality's sake.




In these days of "sequestration" and "austerity" measures, the potential is there for Canada to take advantage of military hardware "Thrift Shop".  Should we take advantage and...  "Pop them tags"?

6 comments:

  1. I like the idea of an interim fighter. The way Canada procures military hardware, it would start out at an "interim" purchase, and then due to budget cuts etc we would end up using such equipment for say, 50 years (re...Sea King, insert sarcasm). This may hold of the Yanks, and buy us the time until 6th gen is in the works......

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  2. lol, you're a bit harsh.
    I also like the idea of an interim fighter and already used fighter jets procurement seems an affordable idea.
    To be honest, F35 could not be mature before 2025, so I think it could be a good idea to choose an interim fighter to wait the claimed drop in F35 price. Then, Canada will be able to take the good decision.



    If French were smarter they could also sell used fighters : With the last strategic review, the French Air Force is planned to be smaller, with total Rafale orders droping from 286 to something between 180 and 225 (but most likely 180.). So French Air Force will only have 60 AESA Rafale and 120 PESA. We could procure more up-to-date Rafale and sell first Rafale F2 at a lowered price with shared benefits for customer, FAF and Dassault Aviation...

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  3. Ya harsh maybe but........Victoria class subs, Sea King replacement,
    DDH replacement, the Chinooks, F-35s......Rafale would be a fine interim fighter.

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  4. Well, military procurement isn't an easy thing, especially when a country needs to import hardware.

    I love Rafale and I think it is an option for Canada, but it seems
    difficult to imagining it as the best choice for an interim fighter : it
    will be costly to either import a batch of french missiles or fund
    AMRAAM and Sidewinder integration. For a ten years interim, even with already used Rafale, it's not worth the cost compared to AMRAAM compatible Gripen/Typhoon.

    But I don't particularly recommand Tranche 1 Typhoon : these aircrafts are sold because a heavy retrofit would be needed to get the same capabilities than newly manufactured Typhoon. But I don't know precisely the differences...


    However, if we talk about a 50 years interim purchase, in this case, that should do it fine ^^

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  5. If the Rafale happens, it would likely be as a full solution, not an interim one. The challenges of "Canadianizing" the Rafale would make it a non-starter.


    An interim fighter would need to be compatible with Canada's current weapon systems (AMRAAMs, Sidewinders, etc) and be an easy platform to transition to. As you say, the Gripen and Typhoon are already compatible, and the Gripen in particular would be a rather easy transition, thanks to its simplified maintenance procedures and small size (we got to fit them into existing hangers!)


    The Tranche 1 Typhoon is almost purely air-to-air. Given that the current CF-18 is an excellent strike fighter, and that both the F-35 and the Super Hornet focus on ground attack as well, having a few air-to-air focused Typhoons in the mix might not hurt.

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  6. No argument here^^


    About the small size/hangar fitting issue, after Hornet or another U.S fighter jet in general, there is no need to worry...
    (But you can probably store 2 Gripen in a Hornet hangar!)

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