|Canada's fighter jet selection process thus far...|
What we do know is that meetings have been held. Meetings discussing the estimated cost and effectiveness of extending CF-18 service. Meetings asking for "clarification" on cost estimates. Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.
Despite rumors that the ultimate decision would be postponed until the 2015 Federal election cycle, the Globe and Mail reports that the secretariat has all the information it's going to get and that it will soon announce one of the following.
- Go ahead with the original F-35 purchase as planned. This, despite concerns over the cost, availability, effectiveness, etc.
- Declare full blown fighter competition.
- Follow South Korea's example and go with a reduced F-35 order, and consider another aircraft to fly alongside it.
|It could be a while yet before the CF-18 flies off into the sunset.|
There is also the not-so-insignificant issue about the current CF-18 fleet. A full blown fighter competition could mean further delays, so there is the very real possibility of needing yet another service life extension program (SLEP) on Canada's current fleet of CF-18s. This isn't an attractive option, as it would likely cost additional millions. Needless to say, dumping money into old, obsolete fighters instead of a replacement seems counter-productive.
There is a very real possibility that an F-35 order might be beset with delays as well, however. Even if the program manages to hurdle over the technical obstacles associated with the JSF, there is still the rather large elephant in the room; US budget cuts. With the Pentagon more or less running the F-35 show, the timeline for development and "peak production" (when the F-35 will be cheapest) is almost entirely up to them.
It's beginning to look more and more like Canada will need to consider some untraditional thinking in selecting its next fighter.
- It could mean spending millions keeping the CF-18 flying well past its prime.
- It could mean going "all in" with a F-35 purchase and possibly procuring them before they are ready or at an affordable price.
- Doing something... Different.
I've advocated for it before, and I'll do it again. Canada should adopt a mixed fighter fleet.
I'll go into detail why in my next post.