2019 SCORECARD

As we enter 2019 and what should be the homestretch of Canada's CF-18 replacement saga, I thought it would be useful to do a quick update on where all the fighters stand.



F-35 LIGHTNING II


After years of development problems and controversy, the F-35 can now be declared an operational fighter.  The jet has been declared IOC for both the USAF and the USMC, with the USN scheduled for later this year.  Not only that, but foreign customers are taking deliveries and the aircraft has even seen limited combat.

Better still, the JSF's unit cost has finally dropped.  While early models were wildly expensive, later model prices seem to have leveled off to approximately $95 million (US) per unit.  Most recently, the F-35A broke the $90 million barrier.

Despite the current Trudeau government campaigning on the promise to not buy the F-35, the JSF is still very much a contender to replace the CF-18.  The requirements are no longer written around it, however.


Current odds:  Not the sure thing it once was but still the probable winner...  If it can keep the costs down...  If Canada and the US trade relations do not get any worse...  If it manages to avoid any more negative press...


F-18E/F SUPER HORNET


Boeing famously snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when it attempted to stymie Bombardier's C-Series sale to Delta Airlines.  As we all know, this did not go as planned.  Not at all.

The Super Hornet is still in the running, but it is far from the darling it once was with the Liberal Party of Canada.  Not at all.  In fact, the upcoming fighter competition may include a stipulation that penalizes Boeing's recent behavior.


Current odds:  Politically, its almost impossible for the Super Hornet to get selected at this point.  Boeing would first have to admit mea culpa for its actions involving the CSeries.  Even then, the amount of political animosity may be too great.


EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON


With the F-35 and Super Hornet's chances now severely downgraded, the Eurofighter Typhoon has a chance to shine.  Airbus (a partner in the Eurofighter consortium) effectively rescued Bombardier's C-Series when it purchased a 50.01% stake in the airliner.  Rebranded as the Airbus A220, the Canadian  built airliner will likely see far greater demand then before.  This has obviously scored Airbus (ergo: Eurofighter) some serious political points.

As for the Typhoon itself, it will soon meet its full potential as a multi-role fighter.  There really is not much other choice, what with the RAF retiring the Tornado soon.


Current odds:  Possibly almost tied with the JSF for replacing the CF-18.  Airbus has certainly ingratiated itself to Canada and the Typhoon certainly meets the requirements.



DASSAULT RAFALE


Unfortunately, Dassault has decided to drop out of Canada's fighter competition before it really even started.

This really should not come as a surprise. The Rafale required additional "tweaking" to fulfill some of the requirements.  This additional work would undoubtedly add to the Rafale's cost.  While the Rafale is a fine fighter, it still needs to compete on price.


Current odds:  None.  The Rafale can be listed as "DNF".



SAAB GRIPEN


Oddly enough, the Saab Gripen has stood out from the other fighters this year by mostly staying out of the news.  There have been no forced groundings.  No trade disputes.  No controversy over costs.  Just a boring year of test flights going as planned and construction facilities being built.  

*yawn*

This, of course, is exactly what makes the Gripen of attention.  While drama may make good television, it is not a desirable quality in multi-billion dollar defense projects.


Current odds:  Dark horse.  While many considered it an "also ran" in Canada's fighter competition, its odds seem to be steadily improving as the other fighters come under scrutiny.  The Gripen may very well come out ahead by offering Typhoon-like performance at a more affordable cost.  

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