Can Canada can F-35 plan?

Things are hotting up in Canada over the nation’s F-18 replacement options, with the key question being whether Ottawa will go forward with previous plans to buy the F-35, or enter into a competitive process.

Clearly worried by the prospect of the second option, the pro-F-35 ‘Canadian JSF Industry Group’ published an open letter ahead of the CANSEC show, which took place in Ottawa from 28-29 May. Further delaying a firm commitment to the Lockheed Martin type (US Air Force image below) would be “a costly exercise in terms of personnel, resources and life extension for the existing fleet”, the partner companies warn, while also adding that “current Canadian F-35 contracts and jobs will very soon start going to countries that are today buying the aircraft”.

F-35A

Sensing that the door might be slightly ajar, representatives from the Eurofighter consortium were at the Ottawa show, in a bid to raise the profile of the Typhoon. I spoke to a senior sales official from the company at the recent ILA show in Berlin, and he said that they had previously completed a questionnaire resulting in only ticked boxes from Canada. However, there’s no clarity yet on whether a competition will be launched – or that if it comes, that the requirements might not be put down in a way that would result in an F-35 purchase anyway.

Arguing their case, the more than 35 companies behind the Canadian JSF Industry Group argue that a competition would take three years to run, “and the only significant outcome will be hundreds of millions of dollars of more lost opportunities for companies across Canada”. They add: “This should not be about politics. It should be about our national capability and determining what is best for the country.”

The best way of doing this, they say, would be to back the programme which is due to stay in production until 2039. So which should win out: “warfighter capability”; domestic industry; or perhaps both?

14 Responses to Can Canada can F-35 plan?

  1. Ed 2 June, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    ‘ “This should not be about politics. It should be about our national capability and determining what is best for the country.” The best way of doing this, they say, would be to back the programme . . . ‘

    So, essentially, the industry feels that they’re entitled to determine what is the best for the country.

    It kind of seems to me the industry doesn’t know its place anymore… It should be exactly up to politics to determine how ambituous the country should be in its defence. And then let independent strategists determine how to fulfil that ambition as efficiently as possible. The industry should only, at the very most, state their product’s specifications… Otherwise I don’t see a great role for them in this decision-making process.

    Also, is it actually true that “current Canadian F-35 contracts and jobs will very soon start going to countries that are today buying the aircraft”? Aren’t these industrial benefits supposed to be independent from actual orders? Wouldn’t it affect how sincerely we can take each of the competitions held, otherwise?

    • jetcal1 2 June, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

      “It kind of seems to me the industry doesn’t know its place anymore… It should be exactly up to politics to determine how ambitious the country should be in its defense…..Aren’t these industrial benefits supposed to be independent from actual orders? Wouldn’t it affect how sincerely we can take each of the competitions held, otherwise”

      Welcome to the military industrial congressional/parliamentary complex (Canadian market version.)

      The elected official will follow the scent of the pork without any consideration of actual defense considerations. It’s always political for them.

      Industry helps them by scenting the air with pork.

  2. Cocidius 2 June, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Even if tomorrow Canada decided to have a “competition” to determine which fighter aircraft would be most appropriate, it will be years before an F-35 will full warfighting capability actually will exists available to compete.

    After 13+ years of development and billions of dollars of funding there is not a single JSF in the entire test fleet ready to go to war to date.

    How could Canada or anyone else for that matter rationally decide that the F-35 is the best plane for the job without a fully functional product available to evaluate?

    It’s all politics and business that are driving the bus, and its been that way since day one with the JSF Program.

  3. Laurence Mardon 2 June, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    As a nation of only 35 million or so people, Canada cannot afford militarily significant numbers of cutting-edge 5th generation fighters. Currently, the world’s only successful such airplane is the F-22, whose production has been curtailed. The F-35 has to be looked upon as a failure: overweight, sluggish, short legged, unreliable, single-engined, expensive to operate, and with only an ephemeral stealth capability.

    An idea: why not have a mixed force of 4++ fighters (Super Hornets, Eurofighters, or what have you), as well as purchasing a force of surplus A-10s from the U.S. Air Force? Such a plan would leave money in the budget for 3 important factors: training, training, and training.

    This plan would give Canada a robust and flexible force that could both integrate with coalition partners (primarily the U.S.), but also give it the ability to operate independently as a medium-level power.

    • Zero-one 4 June, 2014 at 6:31 am #

      The notion that the F-35 is slow and slugish is common misconception among aircraft enthusiast that has been misled by similarly confused statements

      Allow me to clear up a few things:

      1. The F-35 is slow with a top speed of only Mach 1.6

      This is true,but it can reach this speed with a full internal weapons load.
      an F-16C on the other hand, which is rated to Mach 2.0 can only reach that speed when totally clean (no weapons, fuel tanks, sensor pods, ECM pods).

      With a weapons load, its speed and acceleration falls in the same place as the F-35A.

      2. The F-35′s wing loading is too high giving it a disasterous turn rate.

      False, the F-35A and the F-16C have the same wing loading when empty
      ~63 lbs per square feet, the F-35C’s wing loading is far lower approching F-22 class wing loading properties.

      When loaded for combat, every pound of fuel and weapons will affect the F-16C more than the F-35A, this is because the F-16 is naturally smaller and lighter than the Lightning II.

      Loaded for combat (8,000 lbs) here is a comparison of wing loading and thrust-to weight ratios:

      [Wing Loading]:
      Mig-29 M/M2: 91
      F-16C (block 50): 90
      F-35A: 81
      F/A-18C: 77
      Su-30MKI: 72

      [T/W ratio]
      Mig-29 (M/M2): 1.05
      F-16C (block 50): 1.05
      Su-30MKI: 1.13
      F/A-18C: 1.14
      F-35A: 1.15

      3. Prominent figures like Pierre Spray and Karlo Copp have said that the F-35 is a flying brick

      True, they did say that, but they are wrong.

      All F-35 variants are cleared to 50 degrees Angle of attack while most planes (i.e. F-16, Typhoon, Rafale, Grippen, Mig-29 ) are limited to ~25 degrees AOA, the F/A-18C is limited to ~40 degrees.

      though the Mig-29 can reach ~40 degrees with the limmiter off, most pilots choose not to do this because the Mig-29 has a large tendency to go out of control when pushed this way, most pilots preffer to have the limitter on and fight with high sustained G maneuvers instead of high AOA maneuvers.

      The F-35 can fight both ways, maneuverability in a combat configuration, It will be on par or slightly better than some planes in some asspects, either sustained G or high AOA or both (i.e. F-16,Rafale, Typhoon, Mig-29, F/A-18, F-15, Su-27/30)

      and marginally inferior to others (i.e. Su-35, F-22, PAK-FA)

  4. Jim Ramsey 2 June, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    I very much agree with Cocidius. Who in their right mind would buy such an expensive aeroplane totally untried and despite such a long development is no where near the finished article. It is only Governments, with apparently very deep pockets being pressured by industry can take such a risk. The future of all complicated hardware must be a little uncertain but there must be some sense in greater numbers of a less expensive platform with higher aerodynamic capability and that way they can be in two places at the same time if necessary!

  5. David87124 2 June, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    They should – we US taxpayers will be on the hook for this turkey for decades to come.

    No reason they should follow us into “madness:)”

    Buy something that can do the missions Canada needs to do – Uncle Sugar south of the border can “afford” to waste billions – Not – LOL

    Canada likely needs something more useable for the coast guard mission. If it comes to WWIII the US will be doing the swinging but everyone on our borders will be in collateral damage range and 24 F-35s won’t change a thing.

  6. Rivetspacer 3 June, 2014 at 2:09 am #

    Good job!
    3 posts in 5 days, I appreciate it
    Thx for listening. But can you sustain it?!
    :) Cheers

    • Peacemaker 3 June, 2014 at 5:33 am #

      “Even if tomorrow Canada decided to have a “competition” to determine which fighter aircraft would be most appropriate, it will be years before an F-35 will full warfighting capability actually will exists available to compete.”

      “After 13+ years of development and billions of dollars of funding there is not a single JSF in the entire test fleet ready to go to war to date.”

      First off, let me come clean in so much as I must disclose I am personally involved in F35 production. However, I also have 35 years in the industry and suspect I can look at a product without bias. In fact, I only stick to the facts, facts which unfortunately seem to be passed over by a hyperbolic press who seem to prefer quoting tidbits of information grossly out of context to achieve a conclusion which is far from truth and reality.

      Yes the F35 program has had it’s problems, and many at that. Yet, regardless of this point, over 100 are now flying and have in total accumulated in excess of 16,000 flight hours. True, not one of them is ready to go into battle at this moment in time but there are clear reasons for this. The F35 program, which is bigger and more complex than any other before it, is one where the testing and production are happening simultaniously. It’s a new program and extremely software intensive and dependant. If all goes to plan, the “B” version will be battle ready in 2015. The “A” will follow closely behind and finally the “C” or Navy version in 2017.

      Many have stated Canada should get more Boeing CF-18′s, namely the “Super” Hornet version since the F-18 has been such a successful fighter. Well, yes, it has been successful, but not in the beginning. How many F-18 proponents know that with that program, 12 test aircraft were produced prior to production and 5 of those crashed. Yes, it became very successful, but at great cost, overruns and delays. The F35 is lightyears ahead of the Super Hornet in complexity and capability. I think it deserves to be cut a little slack.The alternatives are now old programs and technology yet at the end of the day, not to far off in price. The F35 cost per plane is reducing approximately 3-4% per year at the moment. Of course, the KPMG report whic is dated doesn’t reflect this. Nor does it reflect maintenance cost reduction of approximately 15 – 20% less than originally estimated based on real flight operations. If the naysayers had their way it should be about 30% more by now.

      I totally agree industry should not be deciding where taxpayer funds go nor should they decide what should be in place to protect those taxpayers should things go awry. I am one of those taxpayers and nothing erks me more than press spewing uneducated unproven “facts” all over the papers and news. “Facts” which the people and many politicians listen to and know no better. The F35 has a ways to go in proving itself it’s true, yet so far most all performance expectations have been met or exceeded and those that haven’t are being reviewed and reworked. More and more countries are getting on board.The longer we wait, the farther back any order we place will be pushed. Likely by 2019 or so the price will have to start to increase as well. The Canadian Airforce wants it and with the treaties and commitments in place we may have no choice anyway.

      • Ed 3 June, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

        Hey Peacemaker, thanks for your insightful reply! It’s indeed good to look at how other programmes fared initially, as it’s a bit unfair to compare a new platform to a proven one.

        I think much of the gripe is with the treaties and commitments you mention. Where I come from, at least, it seemed that when we joined the development programme, we were promised that no choice was yet made and we could always back out if the programme didn’t live up to its expectations. Increasingly that seems to be false, and I can imagine many people feel betrayed – and rightfully so, if it really turns out there’s no practical way back. In that case, essentially we were lied to.

        Furthermore, with how close the industry seems to be to the government and the military, I suspect there’s little trust in whether the military will be able to balance their budgets. The Netherlands, for instance, had to get rid of their tank devisions and coastal patrol vessels… But a top-of-the-line stealth jet is still part of the plan.

        So perhaps it’s not so much a distrust in the jet, but rather a distrust in the process of determining and meeting requirements, and the parties that are seen as doing unfair business.

      • jetcal1 3 June, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

        Peacemaker,
        Thank you for the post.

      • Cocidius 6 June, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

        Peacemaker:

        First of all I want to thank you for stating upfront that you are involved with the F-35 on a personal basis. Since you’ve quoted a few of my statements I hope you’ll feel OK with me reciprocating.

        1. I have a few issues with the idea that the “image” of the F-35 has been unfairly tarnished by the press only “quoting tidbits of information grossly out of context to achieve a conclusion which is far from truth and reality”

        My response would be that there are a great many fine experts at both the GAO and the DOT&E in the US which have been for many years writing critical reports rich in technically accurate detail outlining the many problems with the F-35. I might add that these many reports have for some reason have never be acknowledged by the F-35 supporters in Canada (including the members of the military and the government).

        2. The 16,000 hours of flight time to date have occurred in aircraft with semi-functional avionics within very carefully controlled conditions far removed from what a F-35 would experience in combat. While this is inherently the nature of a flight testing program, I think it should be openly acknowledged that accumulated flight hours and the number of aircraft flying in a program this large does not necessarily indicate an appropriate level of progress or maturity for the F-35.

        3. I glad that you mentioned the F-35 software issues since the once estimated 8 million lines of code required have ballooned far beyond any other fighter program in history. Perhaps you should have also mention the army of programmers that have been hired by LM to try to and complete the needed software to meet the current IOC dates. I also might add that DOT&E is now questioning the July 2015 IOC date for the USMC and estimating that it may take an additional 13 months to complete the coding for the Block 2B software need for “basic” warfighting capability. The estimated delay for 2B will impact the other JSF variants making it unlikely that the IOC dates you mentioned can be reached.

        4. While it’s true that the F-18 experience delays during development, the F-35 remains the benchmark for program delays in the fighter market. None of the other competing aircraft required a clean sheet redesign (SWAT) years into the program as occurred with the JSF. There are simply no other fighter aircraft in history that have required 13 years of development to reach basic flight testing.

        The mantra that unproven “facts” spewed by the press and politicians have unfairly damaged the image of the JSF is a gross oversimplification of the current situation.

        In my humble opinion a careful review of JSF history indicates that the F-35 needs very little help in achieving the notoriety that it has today.

      • Stoopid American 8 June, 2014 at 5:52 am #

        Count me as a naysayer. At a time of exorbitant national debt, the F-35′s cost/benefit ratio is indefensible. A better example cannot be found of the unholy influence defense contractors and their army of lobbyists have over the US budget.

    • Craig Hoyle 3 June, 2014 at 9:38 am #

      Will do my best!

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