Showing posts from April, 2014

"The Plane That Ate the Canadian Military"

I'm not the biggest fan of the F-35 Lighting II.  I'm not convinced that it is the best fighter for Canada at this time.  It is simply too expensive, its development too troubled, and it focuses too much on the strike mission.

I will admit, however, even I was taken aback at the latest independent review of Canada's potential CF-35 purchase.  This review, released yesterday by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Rideau Institute, claims the lifetime costs of the CF-35 could be as high as $126 billion.  This is stratospherically higher than the KPMG report's estimate of $46 billion, and light-years away from the $16 billion originally stated when F-35 purchase was first announced.

It's important to stay skeptical when presented with evidence that uses a lot math based on estimated numbers.  While numbers are a solid commodity, The Rideau Institute itself has not supported military spending in the past.  For example, it was not in favor of D…

The "Grandfather's Axe" and fighter design.

A comment on my last post got me thinking...  "Just what constitutes an 'all new' aircraft design?"

When it comes down to it, an aircraft's purpose dictates its shape.  Passenger airliners are all designed with efficiency in mind.  This leads to the almost identical shape of a long tube for carrying passengers in pressurized comfort, swept wings to provide a quick cruising speed, and engines mounted in nacelles for easy maintenance.  This general shape originated on the first really successful airliner, the Boeing 707, first flown almost 60 years ago.

While over 50 years of development has brought us new construction techniques, new engine technology, and new materials, modern airliners still resemble the classic 707.  They might be of a different size, with fewer engines, but the layout is still pretty much the same, whether it's a massive 583-passenger Airbus A380 or a 50-passenger Embraer E170.

Unlike single-purpose airliners, military aircraft are purpo…

In praise of the cheap and cheerful.

Imagine a military combat aircraft that first flew in 1954 and is still flying today.  No, it's not the B-52.  This aircraft has played major roles in the air over Vietnam, the Falklands, and the Yom Kippur War.  It replaced the F-4 Phantom as the jet of choice for the USN's Blue Angels demonstration team.  This aircraft even played a supporting role in Top Gun.

Now...  What if I told you that the first 500 examples of this aircraft cost $7.5 million each, adjusted for inflation?

The Douglas (soon to be McDonnell Douglas, then Boeing) A-4 Skyhawk was designed from the outset to be a small, light, simple, inexpensive attack aircraft that could be operated from the USN's aircraft carrier fleet.  It's chief designer, Ed Heinemann, really knocked it out of the park.  The A-4 weighed about half of the USN's desired specs.  Unlike most carrier based aircraft, the A-4 doesn't need folding wings.  The Skyhawk earned a reputation for being rugged, simple to maintain, …

Australia buys 58 more F-35s: What Canada could learn from this.

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Australia has formally announced its purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.  This will bring the total number of RAAF F-35s up to 72.

Much like Canada, Australia is in the midst of replacing its legacy F/A-18 Hornet fleet.  Also like Canada, there has been much controversy regarding the sole-source selection of the F-35 with no real consideration over other options available.  Unlike Canada, the Australian Government has proven to be unwavering in their commitment to the JSF.  Canberra has steadfastly committed to replacing its F-111C and F/A-18 fleets with 100 F-35As.  At the same time, the Aussies have accepted the reality that the JSF will not be ready until the 2020s, and has ordered a small fleet of "interim fighters" to bridge the gap.

In 2010, the RAAF started taking deliveries of the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet.  This would help make up for the early retirement of the F-111C, as well as strengthen the legacy F/A-1…

Is Canada sending CF-18s overseas to support a F-35 purchase?

In a bewildering show of "why bother", Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a force of six RCAF CF-18s to bolster NATO forces near the Ukraine.  Sending six 30-year-old fighters against one of the most powerful air forces in the world is pretty much the equivalent of sending Barney Fife for back up.  Only the oldest Russian aircraft are near the same vintage as the CF-18, with the majority of their fighter fleet (Su-27s and MiG-29s) being far newer.

Both the Su-27 (Flanker) and MiG-29 (Fulcrum) are newer designs than the CF-18, and unlike similar aircraft used by Libya and Bosnia, Russian Flankers and Fulcrums have been thoroughly upgraded throughout the years and their pilots are well trained.  The Su-27 was always superior to the CF-18, it being the Russian equivalent to the F-15.  It's more powerful, longer ranged, and wields a powerful radar along with a dizzying array of air-to-air weaponry.

At best, Canada's modernized CF-18s will be equal to Russia…

What's taking so long?

Looks like this blog might be around for a while yet...

By all accounts, it looks like Canada won't able to start receiving new fighter aircraft until 2018 at the earliest.  There has been some progress however, as the "secretariat" seems to have finished looking at the CF-35 and its rivals.  It is now up to the federal government to make the next step.

What will that next step be?

If the Canadian government decides to continue on with the F-35, it needs to plunk money down now in order to take delivery in 2018.  That's looking more and more unlikely.  A general election is scheduled for October 2015 (possibly earlier) and the current government will likely hold off any decision until after that.  Dropping billions towards new fighters will simply evaporate any hope of the Conservative Party of Canada's (CPC) promise to balance the budget.

The current CPC government has made it clear they are in no hurry to procure new military equipment.  This is made abundant…

Why the Eurofighter Typhoon is the best fighter for Canada... Right now.

David Pugliese's Defense Watch blog over at the Ottawa Citizen has had several guest writers extolling the virtues of various fighter aircraft for Canada.  Starting with Gripen, and followed by the Super Hornet, F-35, and the Rafale.  With no sign of an article in favor of the Eurofighter Typhoon, I took it upon myself to give the Typhoon "equal time".

I'm glad I did.  Mr. Pugliese was gracious enough to print my piece, and the response has (mostly) been positive.

You can find the piece here (part 1), here (part 2), and here (part 3).

You will notice, that the stipulation "Right now" is added to the 3-part ar…

Denmark fires the starting pistol.

The nation of Denmark has now declared a fighter competition to replace its aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Much like Canada, Denmark's government was forced to implement a "reset" thanks to political unsavoriness regarding the F-35.  Concerns over high costs, performance, and availability forced the Danes to take a closer look at the alternatives.

Denmark is still considering the F-35, but will evaluate it alongside the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Saab Gripen E.  Conspicuous by its absence is the Dassault Rafale.

The similarities between Denmark and Canada's F-35 procurement are hard to ignore.  Both countries are Level 3  partners in the JSF program that have been forced to reevaluate their purchases.  Both have been forced to reduce their planned fighter buys due to costs.  Both countries have also shown a traditional preference for American built military equipment.  This would naturally lead one to believe that the race wil…

On vacation!

Screw it.

This cold and wet Nova Scotia "spring" has gotten the best of me.  Me and the family are taking off somewhere warm and dry.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, keep an eye on David Pugliese's "Defense Watch"...  You never know what might turn up.