|CF-104 Starfighter in "Tiger Meet" livery.|
For some reason, the two-versus-single-engine debate never seems to go away.
Possibly the day before the Harper government announces its plan to replace the CF-18, a new study questions the wisdom of going with a single engine aircraft.
Morbidly entitled "One Dead Pilot", the study concludes that the single engine F-35 is a poor choice for Canada due to its single engine design. The piece often compares the F-35 to the infamous CF-104 Starfighter, a fighter that earned the nickname "Widowmaker" due to its sketchy (and deadly) safety record.
For one thing, the CF-104 is a TERRIBLE example of single-engined jet fighter safety. The Starfighter was notoriously unforgiving, being little more than a "missile with a man in it". Its tiny wings provided the glide characteristics of a lawn dart, and its onboard diagnostic systems would be considered positively archaic by existing standards. To complicate matters further, the CF-104 was originally designed to be a high-altitude interceptor, NOT the low-altitude strike fighter role it was forced into.
|F-105 Thunderchief. Proof that a single-engine aircraft can be tough.|
By contrast, the single-engined F-105 Thunderchief was praised for its responsiveness as well as its low-altitude/high-speed performance. Despite earning the early nicknames "Thud" and "Lead Sled", the F-105 endeared itself to its pilots. Unfortunately, it proved easy pickings for MiGs over Vietnam. It was, however, an extremely durable aircraft, many returning home riddled with battle damage. Once, one landed with an enemy missile still lodged in its tail section!
As I've noted before, two-engines certainly doesn't seem to be as big of an issue as some make it out to be. Sure, two engines would be nice... But it shouldn't be required absolutely necessary.
|CP-140 Aurora. Canada's preferred "arctic patrol" aircraft.|
CF-18s do not constantly patrol the northern skies looking for Russian bombers. Instead, they are launched when North Warning System (formerly the DEW line) radar installations detect incursion into Canadian airspace.
While I do have issues and concerns regarding the F-35 as Canada's next fighter aircraft, its single engine is nowhere near the top of the list.