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Showing posts from June, 2017

F-35 LIGHTNING II: STILL TROUBLED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

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Fans of the F-35 have had to put up with a deluge of good news and bad news stories the last few months.

First, the good news:

After a troubled development, the JSF has now considered to be in operational service with the USAF declaring its initial operating capability (IOC) in August of last year.  The F-35 can no longer be in "development hell"...  Sort of. 

Costs have gone down as well, with the latest batch of F-35s bringing the unit cost of the CTOL F-35A down to a reasonable $95 million*.  (More on the "*" later.)

As if to perform a mic drop on all this, an aerobatic performance at the Paris air show put to rest any criticisms that the F-35 cannot maneuver, accelerate, or climb.  Piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot (and former RCAF CF-18 pilot) Billie Flynn, the JSF performed a flawless routine.  It even attracted the attention of zee Germans, who have thus far declined any participation in the JSF program.

Not bad.




So...  I guess that settles it then.  …

BOEING, BOMBARDIER, BLUFFS AND BLUSTER

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In late 2016, Canada's fighter jet saga seemed to finally be reaching a resolution (at least in the short-term) after Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced that Canada would be purchasing 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an "interim" fighter.  These fighters would fill a "capability gap" whilst Canada pursued a permanent CF-18 replacement.

The move made sense.  The Super Hornet is readily available, affordable, and similar to our current fleet.  Some questioned that the move would give Boeing an unfair advantage going in to a full competition, but whomever said defence acquisitions were fair?  At the very least, the RCAF would finally have some new fighters.

Of course, this being a story of Canadian military procurement, a plot twist was inevitable.  That plot twist came from Canada's own Bombardier.

To say Bombardier has a controversial history is an understatement.  At any given time it simultaneously a both the worst of crony-capitalism and best…

GRIPEN E FIRST FLIGHT!

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The Gripen E (née "Gripen NG") can no longer bed accused as being a "paper aircraft".  On June 15, Saab successfully flew its first JAS 39 Gripen E.

The flight went off pretty much on time, with Saab promising a flight in the second quarter of 2017.  Initial plans were to hold the test flight in late 2016, but Saab chose to delay the flight due to self-imposed software requirements.  Saab insists the aircraft is still on track for deliveries to begin in 2019.


The upcoming years may indeed be the "perfect storm" for Gripen E sales success.  Contemporaries like the Typhoon, Rafale, and Super Hornet have had middling sales success, but are not even close to representing a true sales rival to the F-35.  Simply put, these fighters do not seem to offer enough of a cost and/or performance benefit to entice qualified buyers away from the still troubled JSF.  
But the Gripen E is different.  
Saab is promising the Gripen E will continue its predecessors' lo…

Just when I thought I was out... They pull me back in.

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Welp...  So much for my hiatus.

Back in March, it seemed like Canada's protracted fighter jet saga was entering a stage of (relative) stability, with an "interim" purchase of 18 Super Hornets pending followed by a open fighter competition.

That was then...  This is now.


The Canadian government has now suspended talks with Boeing thanks to a trade dispute over allegations that Bombardier is "dumping" (i.e. selling below cost) C-Series airliners onto the US market.  Whether this is simple posturing remains to be seen.  As of now, a Canadian Super Hornet purchase appears unlikely...  Interim or otherwise.



The Government of Canada dropped another bombshell this week with the release of its new defence policy (available here).  In it are plans for Canada to increase its defence spending by a whopping 70%.  This would bring Canada's military spending up to 1.4% of our GDP up from its current .99%.   Much of this new spending will go towards new personnel, fif…