Showing posts from February, 2014

Requiem for a Warthog.

It won't be long now.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II a.k.a "The Warthog" will soon be retired from active U.S. service.

The Pentagon's upcoming budget needs to direct funding to more "vital" projects like the F-35 and "Next Generation Bomber".  The only way to make up that money is not just by grounding aircraft, but entire fleets of aircraft.  By retiring the A-10, the USAF can save $3.5 billion.

The plan has met with quite a bit of resistance.  The A-10 is loved by ground troops, and many are skeptical about whether its replacement, the F-35, will be able to fill the Warthog's shoes.

It's easy to see why.  The F-35 looks like Miley Cyrus compared to the A-10's Rampage Jackson.  While one is known for its immaturity and controversy, the other is known for its ability to give and take a beating.

Developed in the early 70s as a close-air-support (CAS) "tank killer", the A-10 is pretty much the antithesis to sleek and fast interc…

Eurofighter: Is this the beginning of the end?

News last week about Germany reducing its planned numbers of Eurofighter Typhoons has put a damper on continued production.  There is now possibility that the line may end with only a few prospects for further sales.

While the Typhoon is a fine fighter, it has the unfortunate distinction of being a "higher end" model.  Recent fighter sales have indicated a tendency to gravitate to the high-zoot F-35 or the more affordable Gripen.

The Typhoon does have a few prospects, however.  Friction with the Indian Rafale deal has left Eurofighter reminding India that it would be more than happy to play ball.  There's also a few possibilities in the Middle East and Denmark.

Where Eurofighter should really step up its game is Canada.

Boeing's Super Hornet is seen as pretty much the default alternative to a Canadian F-35.  But, Dassault has certainly been keen towards Canada, and wants to make its presence known.  Even the Gripen has a dedicated fan base, despite no longer partic…

Richard Shimooka thinks Canada should go with its gut on the F-35

Richard Shimooka, of the CDAFI, thinks that an open competition to select the CF-18 replacement would be a waste of time effort and money.  Mr. Shimooka is no stranger to touting the wonderfulness of the F-35, despite its costs, as can be seen here.

Basically, a full competition is a waste because:

It takes too long.It would mean training some people.The F-35 is going to win anyway.The Super Hornet's production is going to end soon.Nothing has changed since 2010. Mr. Shimooka ignore the fact that: Canada isn't buying any new fighters until 2017 at the earliest.This is exactly what the new "Defence Procurement Strategy" was set up for.The F-35 might not be "all that".The Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen, and Silent Eagle are still around.While the competition has seen plenty of significant upgrades, the F-35 is still faltering.   Perhaps Mr. Shimooka is the type of person that buys a car without test driving it, or even researching online.  Why go through that trouble…

From the Ottawa Citizen: Kyle Meema's CF-35 editorial.

Some time ago, the Ottawa Citizen's Defence Watch blog published an editorial by Kyle Meema on why the Saab JAS-39 Gripen would be a great replacement for the CF-18 in Canada.  You can read it here:  Part One and Part Two.
Mr. Meema has returned to the Ottawa Citizen, this time making a case against the F-35 Lightning II for Canada.  You can read the three part series here:  Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Here is the article, in its entirety, courtesy of Mr. Meema.
F-35 Article v3

New stealth fighter sighted! Maybe?

From The Aviationist.

What could this be?  An old concept brought back from the dead?  A movie prop?  Turkey's stealth fighter?  A rejected JSF concept?

Whatever it is, it sure is interesting!

[RANT] Speed skaters, conformity, boxes, and roof racks.

Internal storage.

By carrying its weapons inside, the F-35 Lightning II presents a slippery shape when armed instead of carrying a bunch of dangly bits about.  Just like a speed skater's skin-tight suit.  Hanging all of these bombs, missiles and whatnot are surely going to slow down any fighter aircraft to crop-duster like speeds...  Right?

Internal weapon bays aren't the only way to reduce a weapon's drag, however.

Just look at the above fighters.  The EA-18G Growler up top is carrying 3 jamming pods, 2 big external fuel tanks, 2 AMRAAMs and two AGM-88 HARM missiles.  The Rafale below is festooned with 3 external tanks, 6 GBU-22 laser guided bombs, and 4 (2 IR, 2 RF) Mica missiles.  It is perfectly reasonable to assume that these aircraft would exhibit diminished performance compared to a "clean configuration".  All that extra weight and drag would take its toll, after all.

Now let's look at an F-35.  With its weapons inside, the JSF certainly looks slipper…

The F-35's crack problem.

Like a certain Toronto mayor, the F-35 is a treasure trove of controversy.  At some point you simply stop asking yourself "Is it good or bad news this time?" and ask "Oh boy...  How bad is it this time?"

Not long ago, it was revealed that The Pentagon would be dropping its 2015 F-35 order down to 34 from the originally planned 42.  Now, it looks like the STOVL version, the F-35B, is under further scrutiny after durability testing found cracks in the bulkhead.  Durability testing will now be delayed until the issue can be resolved and existing aircraft refit.

These cracks only effect the STOVL  F-35B model.  The F-35A, Canada's possible choice would be (mostly) unaffected.  It should be clarified that these bulkhead cracks were found after over 9,400 hours of simulated testing.  The F-35 itself will be meant to last 8,000 flight hours.  While this may seem irrelevant at first, that extra 1,400 hours does not leave a sufficient margin of error.  It should also b…

Good news/Bad news for the Typhoon [UPDATE!]

The Good News: It looks like the pricing disagreement with Saudi Arabia has finally been put to bed. Eurofighter partner BAE was looking at increasing the price for 72 Typhoons up from the £4.5 billion initially agreed upon.  This increase in price was the result of the Saudis requesting more advanced weapons and equipment as part of the deal.  30 jets have already been delivered.

The Saudi Arabian purchase has been shaky to say the least, with accusations of bribery, a convoluted "oil-for-jets" scheme, and arguments over price and support.

No word on what the final price will be for the the 72 Saudi Typhoons.  For reference, £4.5 billion equals $7.26 billion Canadian.
The Bad News: Germany, one of the four original Eurofighter partner nations, has canceled delivery for the last 37Luftwaffe Typhoons.  This will drop its total Typhoon inventory down to 143 instead of the originally planned 180.

UPDATE:  This may not actually be the case.  Eurofighter was not able to confir…

The one thing to take away from 60 Minutes' piece on the F-35

Y'know...  After watching the 60 Minutes piece on the F-35, I was fully prepared to write an in depth piece accusing CBS of shoddy journalism.  Instead of an in-depth analysis interviewing anti-JSF crusaders (Sweetman, Sprey, Wheeler) and the pro-JSF wardens (Lockheed Martin's O'Bryan, et al), basically all we got was various talking heads from the Pentagon.

There was the mention of a few minor problems, like bad tires, valves installed backwards, and the like, but nary a mention of bigger issues like the drop in foreign sales, Chinese espionage of the program, performance downgrades, and the fact that F-35 funding is cannibalizing the rest of the US military.

Whatever.  We already knew that, right?  Besides, somebody beat me to it.  (Check it out!)

The only real lesson to be learned from 60 Minutes' segment on the F-35 came near the very end, during a conversation with CBS's David Martin and Lt. General Chris Bogdan, chief of the F-35 program.

Shortly after he sp…

Tonight on "60 Minutes": The F-35 Lightning II

Mainstream media doesn't do much in-depth coverage of fighter jet procurement programs.  More attention is paid to Miley Cyrus's twerking.

CBS's "60 Minutes" has a report on the F-35 program airing tonight.  It should be worth a look for those of you looking to take a break from the Olympics or bingewatching "House of Cards" on Netflix.

CTV's "W5" broadcast a similar report a little while ago.  It's worth a watch for those who haven't seen it.

Eurofighter is playing vulture to the the Indian Rafale deal.

With bureaucratic delays and price controversy, India's Rafale purchase base met its share of problems.  With the deal put off until next fiscal year, the team selling the Eurofighter Typhoon is reminding the Indian government that it is still looking for its business.

As the Rafale's sole customer outside of France, India may be in the driver's seat on this one.  Both Dassault and Eurofighter are looking for more customers to keep production going.  The Rafale's open source terms and Indian assembly make it seem the inevitable choice, but nothing is for certain until the ink is dry on the contract.

Boeing might have gotten "tailhooked" by the F-35C

Sometimes two news stories come out in such close proximity that the correlation is hard to ignore.

There doesn't appear to be any money earmarked for new F/A-18/F Super Hornet or EA-18 Growler builds in The Pentagon's 2015 fiscal budget.  Boeing is attempting a last ditch effort to appeal to Congress, but that it may prove a hard sell considering the US Navy almost lost an aircraft carrier due to budget pressures.

This could be the end for the Rhino's production run.  Boeing needs orders desperately soon in order to keep the assembly line running past its current 2016 cut-off.  There are a few nations currently kicking the tires of the Super Hornet (like Canada), but it seems unlikely that decisions will be made in time, let alone concrete orders.

Boeing's last, best hope was for the US Navy to procure more Super Hornets as a contingency against issues regarding the F-35C's tail hook problem.

Now, after a redesign, it looks like the F-35C's tail hook issue …

Will there be "Death Spiral" for the F-35?

I recently posted about the possibility of Italy reducing its F-35 order down to 45 out of the once planned 131.  One question that always pops up after news like this is "Could this be the start of the F-35's death spiral?"

Not really.

The JSF program is already far enough along, with enough money already invested, that there is unlikely to be any issue big enough to kill the program outright.  The F-35 is simply "Too big to fail".  100 jets have already been constructed, with more on the way.  The JSF's "winner take all" competition has removed all possibility of a contingency plan such as pressing a navy design into USAF service, akin to the F-4 Phantom II.  The only other viable options are '90s era aircraft like the Super Hornet and Typhoon.  Neither option is attractive to the USAF.    For the STOVL F-35B, there are no options at all, save extending the life of existing AV-8 Harriers.

One way or another, the F-35 will see service.  That…

Another "Decade of Darkness"?

A new federal budget was released yesterday.  In what's becoming an all-too-familiar sight for Canadians, nary a single penny was delegated towards desperately needed new military equipment.  Instead, $3.1 billion worth of new spending will be "reallocated" to 2017 and beyond.

Of course, in typical political doublespeak, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stated that the money was not being taken away, but merely "put aside" for future uses.
“There’s no point in having money sitting there when they can’t spend it this year, which they can’t,” he said prior to the budget’s public release. “So, we’re pushing it forward, not taking it back.” I'm sure the Department of National Defense (DND) could easily spend that money on the myriad of delayed and cancelled projects.  There's plenty of items on the shopping list, not all of them are big ticket items like fighter jets or navy vessels.

In 2006, the current Conservative Party of Canada was voted in.  Before this…

Italy may cut its F-35 order... In favor of ground attack Typhoons.

After the USA and Great Britain, Italy has been the largest investor so far in the F-35 program.  Italy is such a large player in the JSF world that a good portion of F-35 assembly would happen in Italy itself.

All is not well with the Italian F-35 purchase, however.  Amidst economic woes, Italy has already dropped its order of F-35s from the planned 131 down to 90.  There has been some movement to cancel the Italian purchase altogether, but so far it looks like an Italian purchase is inevitable.  The biggest questions remaining are "when?" and "how many?"

Italy's coalition parliament must agree to further spending on the F-35 program, pending a 6-month review of the program.  Given the recent US DOT&E review of the program, Italy's review may not prove promising.

Now there is word that Italian politicians may reduce the F-35 order further down to 45 jets out of the already lowered 90.  This is still a matter up for debate, and it may be a ploy to get…

Canada's new defense procurement strategy...

Canada's post war defense purchases haven't exactly gone smoothly.  I've written about it before.  There appears to be no long term strategy, no set process, and no realistic expectations.  Recent military purchases seem to be:

Way over budget.Delivered late.Not produced the promised economic benefits.Been wrought with controversy.All the above. Why all the trouble?  There seems to be no set way of doing things.
Sometimes, military officials seem to arbitrarily come up with mandatory requirements that are either impossible to meet using any available equipment.  This leads to custom "Canadianized" variants that require additional time and money to develop.  Such was the case with Canada's most recent Chinook helicopters.  It also explains part of the delay behind the Cyclone.
In some cases, requirements are written that all but rule out any contender except for one.  This was the case with the fixed wing search and rescue (FWSAR) project, which heavily favore…