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F-35 Fighter Jet Purchase

kEiThZ

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Choose high-speed rail over F-35s
ottawacitizen.com
Sat Feb 4 2012
Section: OnLine
Byline: Ken Gray
Two points with this article:

1) While it's perfectly okay to criticize the F-35 as technically flawed or debate its suitability for Canada, why tie it to HSR? How is building HSR dependent on cancelling the F-35? Funds are not an issue for the federal government. It can budget, move projects around, run a slightly longer deficit, etc. So why the association? People would find it patently ridiculous if somebody had suggested cutting CBC or arts and culture funding to pay for HSR. Yet, leaving the country's airspace utterly defenceless is okay? (It would take the entire F-35 budget to pay for HSR by the Feds and then some, so no money for a cheaper jet either). Heck, why not go one step further? Disband the armed forces entirely. $20 billion saved per year. We'll just let the Americans police our waters and airspace (if they'll do it for cheaper). And if the argument is from an industrial base perspective, is Ken Gray really so naive to think that the thousands of aerospace workers in hundreds of companies across the land about to get a piece of the largest defence program ever known would want to take months (or more likely years) to retool to get a piece of a one shot rail program that in its entirety would cost less than 5% of the total JSF program, with an industrial component (rolling stock) that would be less than 25% of the total HSR project cost? Then again, it is Ken Gray, he's well known in Ottawa for his pie-in-the-sky fantasizing.

2) The example of the 401 runs against the article. It was a provincial project that transformed the province. One could easily argue, citing the 401, that Queen's Park should foot the bill for a rail line that will transform the province. Again, the deficit excuse doesn't cut it. Queen's Park can find the funds if they have to.

Personally, I do think the Feds should be involved in building HSR. But there is no way they should be paying the entire cost.
 

TOareaFan

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i know nothing about f35s or much about HSR.....but it sounds like we might need the latter to get our nukes where they need to be since we are not going to build them until 3 minutes before launch.....who knew you could have a JIT defense system?

;) ;) ;)
 

rbt

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i know nothing about f35s or much about HSR.....but it sounds like we might need the latter to get our nukes where they need to be since we are not going to build them until 3 minutes before launch.....who knew you could have a JIT defense system?
Politics doesn't go from "we want to be our trade partner" to "we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars to take over your capital" in 3 minutes. You've got several years of escalation and 6 months to a year of watching forces gather off-shore at your doorstep.
 
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kEiThZ

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i know nothing about f35s or much about HSR.....but it sounds like we might need the latter to get our nukes where they need to be since we are not going to build them until 3 minutes before launch.....who knew you could have a JIT defense system?

;) ;) ;)
Would a nuke be travelling first class, or just coach? Would we keep them at Union Station?

And why would be be keeping jet fighters on our trains? I guess they'd have to be VTOL ...

(mods ...
They would most certainly have their own cars:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peacekeeper_Rail_Garrison_Car
=====

Excuse the frustration. But I find this kind of thinking just moronic. Haven't Liberals like Ken Gray learned anything from cancelling the Sea King replacement? We paid half a billion in penalties. Two decades later, the replacement is still not in service and the aircraft selected is still not as capable as the EH-101 (because the powers that be could not stand the idea that the EH-101 would win again and forced the Air Force to dumb down the requirements). There hasn't been significant money saved either. The costs of maintaining the obsolete Sea King has skyrocketed, and the cost of developing the S-92 is rising every day. All things considered, nobody in the RCAF thinks any money was saved at all by the Liberal cancellation. To top things off, the cancellation also cost a ton of jobs that were supposed to come from an EH-101 assembly line being built in Canada. Now we buy naval helicopters built in Connecticut.

For those of us in uniform, the current criticism of the F-35 sounds strikingly similar to what happened 20 years ago. Unhappy with the price, the political opposition will use any justification (regardless of logic or reason) to try and get the project canned.

As a military professional, I have no issues with defence cutbacks. But I'd like to see politicians also cut back on roles for the CF if they are going to cut back on funding.
Most frustrating is the fact that the politicians who have no qualms cutting back defence funding, have no such reservations on increasing the CF's workload (and risk level). So then you end up anti-piracy patrols with a 40 year old Sea King armed with nothing but a light machine gun (the pirates have RPGs and anti-aircraft missiles), unarmoured jeeps and no transport helicopters in Afghanistan and most infamously forest camouflage in the Afghan desert environment.

And now we have this piece, attempting to suggest that we can get the same industrial benefits as the F-35 by building a less technologically complex (we ain't doing Maglev here) HSR where the vast majority of costs will go towards property expropriation and track laying. It's nonsense.

HSR is needed in this country. But it's not going to be built by trading one project for another. Governments at all levels need to sit down and commit to a multi-year plan to get this thing built.
 

Tulse

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the current criticism of the F-35 sounds strikingly similar to what happened 20 years ago. Unhappy with the price, the political opposition will use any justification (regardless of logic or reason) to try and get the project canned.
But the difference here is that the JSF has been a troubled program from the start, and Canada is not the only country suffering from both sticker shock and delays in the program. Heck, the F-35 has had a very rough ride even in the US. It is way over budget, it continues to have technical issues (largely related to the "make them now and fix them later" approach to the program), and various countries are re-considering their commitment. For example, the delays are forcing Australia to consider purchasing more Super Hornets.

I have absolutely no problem with Canada modernizing its air force. What I have problems with is the unthinking cozying up to the latest US tech-toy when it continues to be mismanaged and wildly expensive.
 

Tuscani01

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You people are all so narrow minded. Lets get the jets, and use them in place of HSR.

Problem solved and everyone goes home happy.
 

Admiral Beez

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Super Hornets would more than suffice for the RCAF into well past 2030, when presumably we'll all be switching to unmanned drones for the same jobs. Heck, the F-15 is still in production, we could buy some of those.
 

kEiThZ

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Super Hornets would more than suffice for the RCAF into well past 2030, when presumably we'll all be switching to unmanned drones for the same jobs. Heck, the F-15 is still in production, we could buy some of those.
So you are suggesting that the RCAF induct jets in 2019 (the rough planning timeframe for now) that will be in service till at least 2040, but more likely till 2050, that the service knows will be obsolete in 10 years after induction?

Keep in mind that unlike your internet aviation enthusiast, we have to consider future threats throughout the planning timeframe, we have to consider growth capability, support costs and most importantly total lifecycle costs (not just acquisition costs) as mandated by Treasury Board. The last point is what rules out two-holers regularly. They are simply more expensive over the lifecycle of the aircraft.

It's really a rock and a hard place kinda choice. The Super Hornet and all other twin engine jets costs a ton more over the long term, even with the F-35s increased acquisition costs. So the government could save now and then pay with substantially higher operations and maintenance costs for the next 30 years. Not to mention the capability gap and the upgrades it would take to overcome that.

The only real single engine alternative would be the Gripen. It's simply not as capable. And bordering on already obsolete.

And none of these will have the user pool in the long run to ensure substantial savings on spares and support.
 
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kEiThZ

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But the difference here is that the JSF has been a troubled program from the start, and Canada is not the only country suffering from both sticker shock and delays in the program. Heck, the F-35 has had a very rough ride even in the US. It is way over budget, it continues to have technical issues (largely related to the "make them now and fix them later" approach to the program), and various countries are re-considering their commitment. For example, the delays are forcing Australia to consider purchasing more Super Hornets.
Procurement isn't done by saying, "I'll have what he's having."

The government lays out its defence tasks and its budgets and tasks the respective elemental staffs (in this case the Directorate of Air Requirements) to come up with materiel requirements and subsequently fulfill through equipment purchases.

The Aussies have bought Super Hornets as a gap filler for their replacement of the F-111. That is, they bought the Super Hornet not to fulfill the role of a fighter, but the role of a bomber, that's something the RCAF does not do. We don't do strategic bombing. In the long run the Aussies plan to use the Super Hornet exactly the way the US Navy will: with F-35s escorting them. Even now, they aren't planning on quitting the JSF program, they are simply looking at filling gaps on their fighter side with some stand-off capability from the Super Hornet. Yet, they aren't banking on using the Super Hornet as their primary air defence asset. The Indonesians next door, would make short work of unescorted Super Hornets with their Su-30s.


I have absolutely no problem with Canada modernizing its air force. What I have problems with is the unthinking cozying up to the latest US tech-toy when it continues to be mismanaged and wildly expensive.
The problem is that unless the government changes the inputs into the equation (defence tasks, planning horizon, etc.) the Air Force will pick this aircraft every time. This is exactly what happened with the EH-101. Chretien cancelled it. When it came time to buy new Search and Rescue helicopters, the Air Force picked the EH-101 again. It was the only platform that met the requirements as dictated by the guidance given by the government.

I get that there's always an optics issue with defence procurement. But it's not a case of us guys in uniform wanting what's latest and greatest. Indeed, it's always a topic of discussion in my office about what is utterly necessary and what is a "nice to have". The taxpayer (of which we all are) is never far from our mind. But neither is the ultimate user, who will be the one putting his/her life on the line using the equipment.

In this case, there is nothing nefarious or some nebulous scheme to tie ourselves to the US defence industry. Believe me, the Air Staff would like nothing more than there to be a dozen options so that we can have a competitive process and squeeze the best price possible. Nor does the Air Staff tend to have any love for Industry Canada and their constant demand for offsets (which tend to then turn procurement into an industrial benefits exercise). However, when the government tells you that you get one fighter buy every 30-40 years, that ties your hands substantially. I am willing to bet that if the government cut the planning horizon in half, the options would open up substantially (since the requirements would change). But how many voters are willing to see us induct new fighters and start planning to spend billions more on their replacement before we've even taken first delivery? And we won't even get into the industrial benefits debate. The F-35 wins that hands down (that's why Boeing focuses on airframe price).
 

nfitz

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So you are suggesting that the RCAF induct jets in 2019 (the rough planning timeframe for now) that will be in service till at least 2040, but more likely till 2050, that the service knows will be obsolete in 10 years after induction?
Correct, we should buy something that we know works, and will work for 30 years. Rather than do what we did with the subs, and buy something that might work, and where we'll end up with nothing for most of those 30 years, because they won't be ready in 2019, and will frequently be unavailable, or not suitable for the job they were supposed to be suitable for.

One in the bag is worth 2 in the bush. Particularly when the ones in the bus cost more each than the one in the bag.
 

kEiThZ

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Correct, we should buy something that we know works, and will work for 30 years. Rather than do what we did with the subs, and buy something that might work, and where we'll end up with nothing for most of those 30 years, because they won't be ready in 2019, and will frequently be unavailable, or not suitable for the job they were supposed to be suitable for.

One in the bag is worth 2 in the bush. Particularly when the ones in the bus cost more each than the one in the bag.
Except we aren't buying anything yet. There has been no contract award. And there isn't going to be one for years. Until the Air Staff is satisfied that the program has reached a maturity level that it feels comfortable contracting. We took a similar approach, with similar risk concerns when the current Hornet fleet was purchased.

We still have years to decide. So I don't get the rush by some to already ditch the program. With the requirements done, the statement of work done, and a whole pile of contractual documents done, there would be no need to launch a contest until at least 2015 to ensure delivery by 2019.

But again, I keep referring to the process. This seems to be constantly missed in all these debates about what to buy. The Air Staff's recommendation to buy the JSF is specifically based on governmental guidance. The key drivers are the fact that the government (and not just Conservatives here, see the last White Paper under the Liberals) is committed to a full spectrum air combat capability, is committed to operate only one fleet of aircraft (no hi-lo mix), and is only budgeting for one fleet replacement for 30 years. That leads to only one conclusion. If you want the Air Staff to change their recommendation, then the government has to change its guidance. Some examples...the government can accept that no Canadian combat aircraft will enter a high risk theatre without an escort (is pertinent both in expeditionary ops like Libya and the few Russian incidents when Sukhois have been lingering near by). If the government is willing to accept that we would never do anything (even over our Arctic) without the likelihood of US combat support, the Air Staff could significantly reduce requirements. Or the government can suggest that whatever we induct will only have to be relevant till 2040. That might help lower the requirements. Or the government can pledge to spend more on operations and maintenace and we can seek out a two fleet solution with some F-35s and another substantially cheaper fleet for the ground attack role.

Costwise, ask any aerospace engineer. There's simply no contest. Twins are bloody expensive to operate over the long term. There's a reason that airlines are going from 4 to 2 engines. And they are not all that cheaper to acquire either. The latest estimate from the US GAO estimates that the Super Hornet would now cost over US$100 million ($101.5 million I believe) and that's without targetting pods, external fuel tanks, etc. The Rafael is more expensive. The Eurofighter is more expensive. And in the nightmare scenario, the F-35 would be $150 million? So at best that's a $2.6 billion savings in acquisition. Maintenance for the second engine alone would be greather than that. We won't even talk about fuel burn. And fuel isn't cheap in any war zone.

Again. So everybody understands this. Want the RCAF to drop the F-35? Reduce the load on the RCAF, simple as that. All the government has to do is commit to a lower threat level or agree to some loss of sovereignty (if we see high-performance aircraft nearby on an Arctic intercept we accept F-22s from Alaska doing all intercepts in our airspace). Do that and you'll change the analysis and save money.

Or you can, of course, utterly ignore the Air Force's analysis and needlessly risk lives by not updating equipment or deploying into situations with entirely inappropriate or obsolete gear.

It's fine to suggest we buy something else. What I want is that anyone suggesting we do so tell me what the trade-offs are. Are you willing to lose a bit of sovereignty? Willing to limit our foreign policy? Willing to take more risks with the lives of our air crew?
 

Admiral Beez

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I accept the reduced foreign commitments and foreign policy limitations.

For NORAD we can do with 21st Century CF-101, but with one engine. When the USA was running F-16 and F-15 the CAF got by fine with the VooDoos, provided we didn't try to mix them up with MiGs as part of some UN intervention outside of Canadian territory.

For the money what's wrong with $40-60 million Gripens for Canadian air defense?
 
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gristle

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Well yeah, the CAF got by with Voodoo's, but it wasn't an ideal situation either. At the same time, comparing a Voodoo to the F-35 is not fair; the F-35 is a far more capable aircraft.
 

kEiThZ

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I accept the reduced foreign commitments and foreign policy limitations.

For NORAD we can do with 21st Century CF-101, but with one engine. When the USA was running F-16 and F-15 the CAF got by fine with the VooDoos, provided we didn't try to mix them up with MiGs as part of some UN intervention outside of Canadian territory.
You can't be serious. Had something actually happened back then, those Voodoos would have been lawn darts. The only reason they were ever kept in service is to keep aircrew proficiency till the next fleet came along. And it simply lead to more reliance on the Americans for defence of the North. A situation that's likely to repeat itself in a few years if a replacement isn't found for the Hornet.

For the money what's wrong with $40-60 million Gripens for Canadian air defense?
Nothing wrong with it. But again, you don't buy fighter jets like you shop for a car. The government has to change the guidance given to DND first. If the government insist on a jet that last 30-40 years (the key driver pushing the JSF), there's only one solution. This is the point I keep harping on. It does not matter who's in power. If the Liberals were to get back in tomorrow and set the same guidance, they would get the same answer from the Air Staff.
 

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