Friday, September 3, 2010

The F-35

The government is proposing to purchase 65 of the new F-35s as replacements for the CF-18s currently in use. the cost is projected to be in the range $140,000,000 per plane with the same amount needed for the maintenance of the planes.

Do We Need an Air Superiority Fighter?
The CF-18 was purchased during the Cold War when there was a need in Canada to have a fighter for the artic and for Europe.   Canada bought 138 of them.   17 have been lost in 28 years.

So what do we need them for now?   What do we need our Air Force to do?

The Canadian air force should be spending a lot effort on coastal patrols and the ability to move the Canadian Forces around the world.   I can not see the need for a fighter plane at all.   Something like the BAE Hawk should be able to meet most of the ground attack and close support that is needed by the Canadian Forces.

The rapid advances in drones means that within ten years no fighter will be able to compete with the advanced drones that will be possible.    Buying a new fighter makes little or no sense.

What Other Aircraft Options Are There?
Saab JAS 39 Gripen NG - An upgraded version of the Gripen - the older versions of the Gripen have been sold for about $40 million a plane.

Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle - $100 million per plane.   South Korea and Israel are looking at this plane, two countries that still have a need for air superiority fighters.  the F-15 has a long history as a very powerful plane.

Eurofighter Typhoon - $100 million per plane.

Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - This is a much larger plane than the current CF-18 and has a significantly longer range.   It is available for $60 million and proven to work well.   Australia is buying them, Denmark is considering them and the UK may choose not to get the F-35 for their new aircraft carrier and the Super Hornet instead because it is much cheaper.  Greece and India are also looking at it.  Frankly it makes sense to me because it is natural progression from the planes Canada has now.

It strikes me that it would make a lot more sense buying the Super Hornet than the F-35.  You can get 100 planes for $6 billion, maybe even less.   The plane meets or exceeds all the requirements Canada had for the CF-18.  It is natural progression from the CF-18 and could allow for an era of overlap and thereby allowing for a longer period to acquire the planes.

In the end the F-35 will be a plane looking for a role and will suck a lot of money out of the Canadian Forces for no real benefit.

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