Showing posts from May, 2014

Spain opts out. F-35 Zombie Shuffle continues.

There aren't many options for STOVL fighters these days.  No options at all, in fact.  The only STOVL fighter aircraft currently in production is the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting II.  Its predecessor, the AV-8 Harrier, was no different.  The only other STOVL fighter to make production was the Soviet Yak-38 "Forger".

The F-35B is seen as the de facto choice for organizations operating Harriers.  It is the only fighter with STOVL abilities, enabling it to operate from smaller aircraft carriers designed primarily for helicopter operations.  This includes the Royal Navy, USMC, Indian Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Italian Navy, and Spanish Navy.

With a monopoly on making STOVL fighters, you'd think Lockheed-Martin's F-35B sales would be shoe-in.  Unlike the "A" and "C" models, there are no alternatives to the F-35B, stealthy or no.  Yet, F-35B sales are looking incredibly shaky lately.

Most recently, Spain has decided to forego the F-35B for now.  Inst…

[RANT:] Canadian JSF Industry Group... Just... Ugh...

Late last week, a group representing "over 35" Canadian industrial partners involved with F-35 production carpet bombed sent a "open letter" to Canadian media outlets.  Predictably, they insist that an actual competition would be unnecessary, expensive, and time consuming.  They also warn of impending doom should Canada delay ordering the Joint Strike Fighter any longer.  Nevermind that these are the same companies that stand to profit from an F-35 selection and are certainly biased.

The open letter can be seen here at the Ottawa Citizen or here at Canadian Skies magazine.  I'm sure it is available a few more places as well.

The "Canadian JSF Industry Group" (CJIG for short) falls back on the same tropes and myths that most F-35 supporters do; claiming that Canada would lose out on billions of dollars worth of work and risk missing out on all that JSF wonderfulness.


Let us just go with a few of outstanding statements:

From a business perspect…

Kirk Webber's fighter comparison

For those of you out there who like to crunch numbers, here's one for you.

Reader Kirk Webber has compiled this excellent spreadsheet filled with information on modern western fighters that could be potential CF-18 replacements.  This information includes information pertaining to the current CF-18 Hornet (as a baseline), as well as for the F-22 Raptor (as a comparison).

I have not tampered with the data in anyway, but I did modify the format somewhat (fonts, colored columns, etc) in an attempt to make it more "readable".  There is A LOT of data here, and I haven't been able to confirm all of it.

Numbers alone do not tell a complete story, of course.  Factors like reliability, commonality, ergonomics, and others are hard to express as a simple numerical value.  Other factors need to valued depending on context.  For example, stealth is much more useful as a first-day strike capability than it is for performing close-air-support over uncontested airspace.  As usual,…

Why Boeing should offer up the F-15SE to Canada.

For those of you who might have missed it, the Ottawa Citizen's Defense Watch blog posted another three-part thesis on why Canada should adopt the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle to replace the CF-18.  The article can be read here:

Part 1
Part 2 
Part 3

The author, Kristopher D. Lorelli, makes some great points.  The trouble is, Boeing has not seen fit to offer up the Silent Eagle to Canada.  Instead, it is offering up the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.  This does make sense, as the Super Hornet can be seen as a logical replacement to legacy Hornet.  It would also likely be a easier sell given the Super Hornet's reputation as an affordable and reliable workhorse.

The F-15 on the other hand, was already passed over once by the Canadian government, when the smaller, newer, and (most importantly) cheaper F/A-18 was selected.  If Canada didn't select the F-15 back when it was still in its prime, why would it select it now when it is over 40 years old?

Because the F-15 Eagle was, and still …

Saab's sorry saga in Switzerland is settled.

It seems that the long soap opera that was Switzerland's Gripen acquisition has come to a sad end for Saab.

On May 18, 2014, 53% of voters of voters voted "NO" on purchasing the Saab Gripen E...  Or any other jet fighter.

So what happened?

Swiss politics.

In December, 2011, the Saab Gripen was selected to replace Switzerland's F-5E Tiger II.  The selection itself was controversial, with an infamous "leaked" report stating that the Dassault Rafale was the obvious winner and that the Gripen tested was not suitable.  This report has been neutered somewhat since, as some of the requirements were rather odd.  It also tested the Gripen C model, not the improved Gripen E.  The Swiss government would end up defending its Gripen choice, as did the Swiss military.

The Swiss Gripen selection was enough to encourage the Swedish government to approve "NG" (next generation) Gripen funding.  With two purchases on the horizon, the Gripen NG was worth developing.

Why is the USAF still infatuated with bombers?

"Fighters make movies, bombers make history." Or so the saying goes.
It's hard to imagine aerial warfare without bombers.  They have certainly "made history".  What would WWII have been like without squadrons of B-17s flying over Nazi Germany?  How long would the war have gone on if the B-29 "Enola Gay" hadn't dropped the world's first atomic bomb over Hiroshima?  Would the Cold War have played out differently if B-52s and Tu-95s didn't stand at constant readiness armed with nuclear "deterrence"?
One has to wonder if the bomber's ability to "make history" is still relevant, however.  The days of carpet bombing have (thankfully) been mostly put behind us thanks to startling images from the Vietnam war.  The era of televised warfare put the horrors of battle front and center on the living room TV set.  B-52s flying over Hanoi weren't dropping tons of explosives on military targets and "evil communists"…

The Comanche and the Albatross: A voice of reason from the USAF.

With the all-or-nothing attitude toward the F-35A, combined with the insistence that the A-10 is no longer a useful platform, one wonders if the USAF still has its head on right.  Surely, with all the JSF's issues and controversy, not to mention the threat of budget cuts, they would at least be considering a "plan C", wouldn't they?

Well, thankfully for the USAF, it would appear as though someone is questioning General Mark Welsh's insistence that "there is no other choice" for the USAF but to acquire over 1,700 F-35As in order to replace the bulk of its fighter fleet.

Colonel Micheal W. Pietrucha of the USAF has written a well thought out piece on the F-35, some of its more glaring tactical issues, as well as proposals for viable alternatives.

The piece can be read in its entirety here.

Pietrucha compares the JSF to another ill-fated stealth aircraft program, the RAH-66 Comanche.  The result of the Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX), the Comanche was…


Please excuse my recent "fiddling" around with the site design.

I've been trying to hit the right balance between readability and "pop".  I also try to make a conscious effort to retain red, white, and blue (RCAF colors) with red borders on either side (Canadian flag).

If anybody has any real preference or critiques, let me know...  Blogger's customization options can be a little...  Finicky.

Would the F-35C be a better fit for Canada?

Two of the criticisms that often come up when discussing the F-35's suitability for Canada are the incompatibility with Canada's aerial tanker assets along with questions regarding its ability to operate from icy runways.  Both of these issues can be addressed by adding modifications.  A retractable fuel probe and a drag chute can be added.  The trouble with this approach is that Canadian CF-35s would then be different, and therefore costlier than other F-35As.

There is a far more elegant way to correct these shortcomings, however, simply change a letter.

The carrier variant of the JSF, the F-35C, would seem like a far better choice.  Unlike the F-35A, which is intended to replace the F-16, the F-35C is meant to be a direct replacement for the F/A-18 Hornet.  This means that it works with most existing F/A-18 infrastructure.  The F-35C is equipped for probe-and-drogue refueling, meaning it is already compatible with Canada's CC-150 Polaris tankers.  It also has strengthen…