Showing posts from January, 2014

F-35 Status Report

In a previous post I mentioned that the F-35 was going to be late thanks to software and reliability issues, according to a US government report.

For those who haven't seen it, and who are interested in reading such things, here's the F-35 status report as posted on Solomon's SNAFU website.

2013 DOTE F-35 Report

The Usual Suspects.

Do a Google (or even Bing) search for news about various fighter jets, especially the F-35, and you will see that certain names pop up fairly often.  Sometimes you know exactly what the article is going to be like just by examining the names involved.  Certain authors will wax poetic about a subject, while another will scream that the emperor's naughty bits are showing.

As much as writers (or anybody else) would hate to admit it, we all have biases.  Nobody is truly objective.  One way or another, we are all swayed by our experiences, and by what resources we have at hand.    This is nothing to be ashamed of, it is simply a part of the human condition.  What is important, however, is that those biases be freely examined.

So let's look at some familiar faces and names involved in Canada's fighter jet procurement, shall we?

Billie FlynnBillie Flynn is possibly Lockheed Martin's "go to" guy when it comes to Canada's F-35 selection.  This former RCAF Lt. Colo…

The fighter reset: Speculation.

With rumors that the fighter jet "reset" process might finally be winding down soon, I thought I'd make some wild speculations as to what might happen.

I'm going to do so based mostly on political motivations, not on whether something is truly a wise choice.  The current Conservative government hasn't had it easy in the public eye over the last year, what with senate scandals, spending cuts, library closures, and other silliness.  Keeping this in mind, and the fact that an election will likely be called for 2015, I'm going to assume that 2014 will be the year that the ruling Conservatives try to appeal to their base, as well as undecided voters.  To do so, they will need to do the following.

Give the appearance of being fiscally responsible.  Support the military.Convince voters that they have made sound decisions while in power. The CF-18 replacement is going to be a big topic come next election.  It may be the big topic.  A $46 billion dollar program isn…

The F-35 is going to be late.

It hasn't been a good month for the F-35.

First, there was the revelation that some JSF parts were being outsourced to China.  Then came the arrest of a Pratt & Whitney engineer attempting to sell information to Iran.  Shortly after that, a non-profit group released a report questioning Lockheed Martin's overoptimistic job creation numbers.  There was also a former USAF Chief of Staff advocating for dropping the F-35's nuclear capability, but I don't see how less nuclear proliferation is a bad thing.

If all that wasn't enough, now we find out the F-35 is still having software issues that will keep it from meeting its initial operability capability (IOC) dates.

Last May, the Pentagon announced the F-35's IOC dates.  First to come would be the USMC F-35B version, planned between July and December of 2015.  The USAF F-35A was to come the second half of 2016, while the USN's F-35C  wasn't slated until the 2018-2019 timeframe.

It now looks like that ti…

Backseat in a Typhoon.

For those of you who haven't seen it, here's an incredible video shot from the back seat of a Eurofighter Typhoon.  Those of you with queazy stomaches may want to have an airsickness bag handy.

If you want to brush off your old Kenny Loggins album and play it alongside, I won't judge.

LockMart overpromising... French taunting... Super Hornet surviving?

It's been a week of small stories, so I decided to combine them all in one simple post.

While some have declared 2013 as the year "everything went right with the F-35", 2014 hasn't gotten off to a great start for the JSF.  First, there was that little bit about Chinese outsourcing.  Then there was that bit about an Pratt & Whitney engineer caught smuggling sensitive material to Iran.  Not even out of January, and 2014 has revealed a few more nuggets about the controversial Lightning II.

For one, Lockheed Martin's estimates of F-35 related job creation seems to be rather optimistic.  Despite stating that it has created 125,000 new jobs in the U.S., a non-profit study group estimates that number to be much closer to 50-60,000.  Why the disparity?  It turns out Lockheed Martin is being rather generous with the number of indirect jobs created by the program.  Indirect jobs are much harder to confirm or deny, making it a tempting number to fudge one way or the oth…

FWSAR... Still waiting.

Canada is in desperate need for fixed wing search-and-rescue (FWSAR) aircraft.  It's current fleet of CC-115 Buffalo aircraft started service with the RCAF in 1967.  Like the Sea King helicopter, there is nothing glaringly wrong with the Buffalo current performance, but it is getting more difficult and expensive to maintain and find parts for this Canadian icon.  These new aircraft will also relieve the CC-130H Hercules from its search and rescue (SAR) duties.

The process to procure new FWSAR aircraft has been ongoing for close to 10 years now, with next to no movement into the process.  Compared to replacing the CF-18, finding an acceptable FWSAR aircraft should be a relative cakewalk, politically speaking.  The aircraft themselves are likely to be far more affordable than cutting edge jet fighters, and Canadians are generally far more willing to see their tax dollars being spent on equipment devoted to saving lives than aerial death machines.  The options themselves seem rather…

Despite setbacks, Eurofighter's "Middle-east sweep" continues.

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Eurofighter Typhoon's success in the Middle-Eastern countries of Oman and Saudi Arabia.  Well, that selling streak seams to be continuing, despite rumors of the F-35 becoming available.  These rumors likely had something to do with Eurofighter's inability to seal the deal lately.

Kuwait has now recently signed a draft deal for 28 Eurofighter Typhoons.  While this is non-binding, it certainly is a big step.

China: Unofficial partner of the JSF program?

I've been criticized for being a bit of a F-35 "basher", but I honestly do try to keep the JSF program in perspective.  It certainly isn't the first large scale military project to run off the rails a little bit.  My issues with the F-35 mainly center around its suitability for for Canada, what with it being better suited for attacking foreign ground targets than protecting a country's airspace.

When the news came out a few days ago that the F-35 was being constructed with Chinese parts, I didn't think it was that big of a deal.  These were supposedly simple magnets, after all, worth little more than $2 a piece.  Perhaps these magnets required rare earth metals found predominantly in China, I thought.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time a western defense contractor needed to go elsewhere for rare metals, the SR-71 Blackbird was constructed from Soviet sourced titanium, unbeknownst to the Soviets at the time.

It turns out that the Chinese sourced par…

Cyclone lessons.

Tempest.  Storm.  Whirlwind.  CYCLONE.  It would seem that Canada's newest helicopter was aptly named, not for the downwash of its propeller, but for the type of controversy it would cause.

By now, many of you have heard that the CH-148 Cyclone is pretty much a "done deal".  Despite a brief period of threatening to take their business elsewhere, the Canadian government announced that they would be going ahead with the troubled Cyclone purchase.  This was done as a late Friday afternoon "info dump", a practice that indicates that they want the announcement to attract the least amount of attention.  Despite this, criticism has been ramping up, questioning the choices made and the money spent in what former Defence Minister Peter MacKay called "the worst procurement in the history of Canada".

Those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it, so let's look at some of the lessons (hopefully) learned from the long and painful process of…

Why Canada should go to a mixed fighter fleet.

Canada's only jet fighter at the moment is the Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) CF-188 "Hornet".  As far as jet fighters go, the CF-18 is pretty versatile, its equally adapt at both air-superiority missions and ground attack.  While it isn't the best in any one category, it can handle most duties given to it.

Canada hasn't always used a "one size fits all" fighter strategy, however.  In fact, it's a relatively new development.

Up until 1995, the CF-18 flew alongside the venerable CF-116 (CF-5) Freedom Fighter.  The CF-5 was smaller, cheaper and more economical.  The CF-5 was far from an advanced fighter, however.  It's original raison d'ĂȘtre was as a cheap, almost disposable fighter for third world countries.  With a crude radar, small payload, and limited capability, many argued that the CF-5 had no place in the RCAF in the first place.  The CF-5 was able to fulfill a small role as a light attack platform.  It also served as a lead-in …