Monday, June 16, 2014

Another week of not-so-great JSF news.


Supporters of the F-35 were given some good news last week when Canada's National Fighter Secretariat basically affirmed the Government's decision to sole-source the JSF.  Mind you, the decision was based on policy written prior to 2008, since then, Canada's military budget has taken a nose dive and the "Canada First" defense policy is now considered "outdated".

The decision to buy the F-35 or hold a competition is now left entirely to the Federal government.  With a decision being put off until later this summer at the earliest, with the possibility of it being put off until 2015.  It will not be an easy decision.  Announcing the purchase of the notoriously costly JSF at a time when the rest of Canada's military is hobbled due to budget cuts would be a risky move to say the least.  It would be hard to justify the expense, especially when the CNFS's report is still being held under wraps.

Then again, this last week would not have been an optimum time to declare a F-35 purchase.

For one, the entire JSF fleet was grounded.  Again.  The issue has been traced to a valve that regulates oil flow to the engine.  This only seems to emphasize the hullaballoo over whether or not the F-35's single engine design is safe enough for Canadian use.

[NOTE:  I have weighed in on this issue many times before.  While a single engine in-and-of-itself should not be considered a deal-breaker, the fact that the F-35 uses a new engine design in a single-engine fighter could be.]


If that wasn't enough, there is still the nagging question of the F-35's competency in air-to-air combat.  USAF General Michael Hostage, while supporting the F-35, has admitted that F-22s are required to support it.    For air superiority, he has stated that it takes eight F-35s to do what two F-22s can do.
“The F-35 is geared to go out and take down the surface targets,” says Hostage, leaning forward. “The F-35 doesn’t have the altitude, doesn’t have the speed [of the F-22], but it can beat the F-22 in stealth.” But stealth — the ability to elude or greatly complicate an enemy’s ability to find and destroy an aircraft using a combination of design, tactics and technology — is not a magic pill, Hostage reminds us.
Eight F-35s would be roughly 1/8th of Canada's proposed fleet of 65.  That would be a heck of a commitment.



Meanwhile, Turkey, a JSF partner nation, has further damned the F-35 with faint praise.  While it has committed itself to the program, it has taken issue with the stealth fighter's air-to-air competence.  It plans to compensate with its indigenous TF-X fighter.

At least the Lightning II has seen some minor cost reductions and reliability improvements.  These are nowhere near where they need to be however.
Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan said the program had already lowered the projected cost to fly, operate and repair the jets by 9 percent, and hoped to eventually achieve a 30 percent reduction from an initial estimate that put the "sustainment" cost at $1.11 trillion over the next five decades.
These cost cutting measures may come with a price however.  Contractors have been told they will need to invest more of their own money into the program.  This will likely be passed on to the various subcontractors, including those from Canada.  Also, "incentives and financial penalties being contemplated" to ensure foreign buyers buy the F-35 according to plan.  

Needless to say, even with the NFPS's approval, any announcement declaring a F-35 purchase would still be controversial to say the least.  It would be difficult to justify the purchase of a single-engine fighter with known engine, problems, reliability problems and unknown combat prowess.

If the Canadian Federal government wants a preview of how a F-35 purchase would go over in Canada, they merely need to look at Australia.  Here, the JSF purchase has been declared "a great national scandal" with calls for it to be scrapped.

5 comments:

  1. Pierre Sprey being interviewed by The Fifth Estate a Canadian news program, on "The F-35 is a Lemon" from 2013.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxDSiwqM2nw#t=85

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  2. I'm disappointed that I keep reading that Canada's purchase is going to be 65 aircraft. No way not for 9 billion. I read the Aussies are paying 12.3 Billion for 53 and look what the Dutch are paying for 37. I wish some new agency would report this, because of course, Canadians again are being mislead. How about the truth, 65 for 15-19 billion.

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  3. Actually
    Russia's PAK-FA 5th generation fighter is being jointly developed with India.

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  4. Goose, I've been doing my part and writing about the potential for acquisition cost over runs in many posts. Oddly, no one seems to be picking up on it?? I suppose because its still 4-5years away its hard to debate. Although, program trending analysis doesn't support a $60million/unit drop in price.

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  5. I read so many articles on these topics I loose track of the documents so sorry don't have the link. However, I read an interesting article that explained modern air to air combat and the role of stealth, supercruise, irst. Essentially, no planes would use radar searches because as soon as they do their search signal will be picked up. Therefore, everyone rely's on infrared search and track as it is less detectable. Thus using supercruise and slower speeds reduces the planes heat signature. The problem with the F35 is the IRST isn't forward facing but mounted on the bottom of the plane for ground targets instead of approaching aircraft. They keep telling us the F35 can detect/shoot first but lacks the instruments to do so?? If this is true than this completely eliminates the F35 for air sovereignty defense over Canada.


    Maybe others have more specifics on this?

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