Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What if... Canada needed an interim fighter?

Old n' busted...  New hotness.
It looks like the majority of you agree with my preference for a mixed fighter fleet consisting of Gripens (61%) and Super Hornets (43%).  Surprisingly, the F-35 would be the third choice (at 28%) for a mixed fighter fleet.  Neither the Typhoon (16%) or Silent Eagle (14%) got much attention, but the Rafale (at 24%) did.  I would argue that the Rafale is well-rounded enough that it would not really need a second fighter type to back it up.

Today's "What If" poses a similar question, albeit with a major difference.  Instead of picking two fighters and moving on, we will merely pick out a single fighter as a "bridge" to shore up the RCAF fighter fleet until the F-35 (or whatever) arrives.  This is similar to what the RAAF has done when it selected the Super Hornet as an "interim" fighter to make up for the delay in its F-35 acquisition.

The federal governement has already stated that they will extend the life of the RCAF's current CF-18 fleet until 2025.  This may not be possible, however.  The CF-18s have seem some heavy use, especially lately.  They have also been thoroughly upgraded and refurbished several times throughout their lives already.  All this, despite the fact that the F/A-18 Hornet was originally intended to have a lifespan of 20 years (not 40+). 

Acquiring new fighters earlier than planned may not be possible.  The troubled F-35 may not be ready by then, as indicated by Israel's recent decision to cut its order on the basis that the JSF "is not yet operational".  Given the current state of Canadian politics and military procurement, there is still no guarantee that Canada will still purchase the F-35 (or any other fighter, for that matter) in the 2025 timeframe.

By 2020, the list of available fighters could be severely limited.  Super Hornet production is due to end soon, followed by the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-15E Strike Eagle.  The F-35 will be in production, but may not be ready for primetime.  Only the Gripen is a sure thing to stay in production by then, possibly accompanied by the Rafale if they can ever seal that MMRCA deal.

That does not mean Canada will out of options.  There is the possibility that Super Hornet will remain in production, while some Typhoon operators may wish to unload their Eurofighters thanks to cost and reliability concerns.

So which would you pick?  Gripens?  Raffles?  Super Hornets?  Used Typhoons?  Something else altogether?

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