F-35 jet faces new delays - Macleans.ca

F-35 jet faces new delays

U.S. vice-admiral ‘surprised’ by swelling cost


Fresh hurdles in the production of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are bound to translate into new criticism of the Conservative government’s decision to purchase 65 of the troubled fighter jets, the Globe and Mail reports. Delivery of the aircraft should be delayed, the Pentagon recommended this week after the discovery of cracks and “hot spots.” The constant hiccups and swelling price tag that have characterized the F-35 program are creating frustration in the U.S. as well. “The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost,” U.S. Navy Vice-Admiral David Zenlet recently told the Web-based publication AOL Defense.

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F-35 jet faces new delays

  1. The constant hiccups and swelling price tag that have characterized the F-35 program…

    Well sure, but that is pretty much standard for most new programs, no?

    • Precisely. Look at the challenges Boeing had with the 787. However, should the cost of the F-35 rise dramatically, or the procurement date slip too much, the government will have to reconsider its order. At some point, however capable an aircraft it may be, it may simply be impractical to acquire it.

      • Basically agree with that, except that on a rational basis (value for money, anyone?) Canada probably passed that “point” quite some time ago.

        I suspect it will be quite some time before the current government walks away from the commitments that they have made to the F-35 program on our behalf. And that’s not to say that honouring your commitments is silly or passe or whatever – its not – but for Canada I believe that the new Super Hornet might be a much more appropriate choice.

        • I wouldn’t presume at this point to tell the RCAF what plane they need. At the moment the F-35 still provides the capabilities the air force will need over the next 40 or 50 years. The problem with the Superhornet is that it is still based on a thrty-year old design and as capable as it is now, it is doubtful it will have the growth capacity to maintain a front-line capacity for the decades we would need.  If we were to buy it we would be buying an aircraft at the end of its production and development life, not the beginning as in the F-35. When you are making a purchase for a generation or two of pilots it would seeem more prudent to buy for the long term.  I don’t think the Superhornet could be anything but a stop-gap.

          • [The problem with the Superhornet is that it is still based on a
            thrty-year old design and as capable as it is now, it is doubtful it
            will have the growth capacity to maintain a front-line capacity for the
            decades we would need. ]
            Your information is mostly incorrect. Where it is correct is in the Superhornet has wings, a cockpit, etc, etc, and looks vaguely like the F18. Beyond that, it is almost totally a new aircraft.

            That is why the US Navy prefers it, along with a number of nations…not to mention price.

            There is not one branch of the US services who prefer it, save for perhaps the Marines, but even there, the well has been poisoned long ago, as the STOVL variant has proved unworkable.

            It’s not just ‘normal teething problems’ with the F-35. It was born deformed and has gone downhill ever since.

          • No, while the Superhornet is largely an new airplane, the concept and general design is based on the F-18. While a much improved and capable airplane it is still based on thirty year old concepts. It seems unlikely it will be kept in production much longer – although the challenges with the F-35 may change that.  But even so, as a basis for our next fighter for the next 40 years it is a bit long in the tooth, especially compared to the competition it is likely to face if conflict does erupt at some future date, such as the PAK-FA.   Boeing is certainly pushing hard to sell more of the Superhornet (having lost the JSF competition in the first place), but I don’t think they would be the first choice as an alternate if Canada were to have to cancel the F-35 purchase.  Either the Typhoon or Rafale would have more growth potential, as well as more benefit in offsets and local production orders. 

          • @MikeRedmond:disqus 

            It would be interesting to see the Decision Analysis that was completed to select between the F-35, the Super Hornet, the Typhoon and the Rafale.

            Might not be able to show the actual scores, but the public should at least be able to know the criteria that were used, the relative importance of those criteria and perhaps the overall scores of the Alternatives that were scored.

          • Ummm, do you know all of this for sure, about the F-18E/F? That model is fairly recent, no? Sure, fundamentally it is based on a decades old plane, but I thought that the new versions were substantial improvements vs the original. Sure, it doesn’t have stealth, but is that really important for Canada? I’m not so sure.

            I’m asking about your level of knowledge because, admittedly, my info is only based on a modest level of research, but I thought a pretty good case was being made for the Super Hornet.

            Even if a new F-18 version seems stop-gappy today, one never knows for sure how wise that decision might look two decades from now! ;-)

          • I just have an amateur’s interest. Which is why, as I said, I wouldn’t presume to tell the RCAF what plane to choose.  But yes, the SuperHornet is a capable aircraft, but is, at the moment, at the end of its production and development life.  If the US does replace it with the F-35 (which is almost certain), who will pay for the mid-life software and other updates that the RCAF would need in 20 years?  We certainly couldn’t afford to do so ourselves. As for stealth, the question is, what combat will our pilots be engaged in over the next fifty years?  If I was flying into a hostile environment with a modern air-defence system, or against something like the PAK-FA, I think I would consider stealth an essential component.  The fact is, Canada has to buy one type of aircraft, to do all potential combat missions, over the next 40-50 years.  We can’t know what those will be – so it makes sense to buy the plane that can do the most, and will be capable of still doing them in 50 years.

          • Hmmm, you are making a convincing case, which is not to say I’m now totally convinced, but still… ;-)

            Thanks for the chat.

          • Air stealth is a mugs game. I predict it’ll be gone as a technology in the next 50 years. 

            The reason is simple. Moore’s Law.  Computer getting faster means that increasingly sophisticated pattern identification algorithms can be applied to large networks of radars using decades old proven technology.  Stealth thus gets harder and harder to maintain.  Putting up new radar stations is cheap, getting them networked and the signals analyzed is getting cheaper.

            To keep it, you not only need to deal with aerodynamics but refractive physics and materials tech.  Things which are getting more expensive, not less, as the radar analysis gets better at figuring out smaller and smaller return signals.

          • Very interesting, and thanks.

    • “Well sure, but that is pretty much standard for most new programs, no?”Perhaps, but there are better and worse programs and some have more problems than others, and if the US military is starting worry, that makes me think that this is not exactly going well. As a taxpayer “eh, these things happen” isn’t good enough for me. Remember when the Cons were supposed to be coming to Ottawa to watch out for “waste, mismanagement, and corruption” in the public purse?

      • Don’t disagree with any of your points.

  2. Lot’s more on the plane at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute’s “3Ds Blog”

    “Canada, Norway and the F-35: Poor, Pathetic Julian”

    “F-35: Lockheed Martin Faces Reality…” (and so does the Pentagon, see second comment for important news)http://www.cdfai.org/the3dsblog//?p=701MarkOttawa

  3. This is the wrong type of plane for our needs – especially in our polar regions. When it comes to speed, manoeuvrability, armament, armoured protection, bombing capability, and ground support, there is a problem in trying to combine these variants in one aircraft. 

    During WW II, there was a reason that fighters, bombers, and ground support planes were designed differently and those needs haven’t really changed.In addition to transport and rescue services – different types of aircraft – we need at least 2 or 3 types of military aircraft. I can see purchasing a few of the F-35’s for NATO missions where high speed and open terrain are present – and even there, there might be less expensive and less complicated alternatives. the more complicated a plane is… the more can go wrong (especially in extreme weather situations) and the less control the pilot actually has as functions are so compuiterised.

    I tend to see the Government’s barging headlong into this contract as a way for it to satisfy its desire for machismo and to be a member of the “Big Boy’s Club”. Is this what we want?


  4. Relevant, also at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute’s “3Ds Blog”:

    “The Wings of Things to Come, or, UCAVs?”


  5. Americans think that showing off their military they can spend
    Trillions of tax dollars anytime and anywhere in the world. And go on
    prospering like there’s no tomorrow.

    That’s how stupid we are.

  6. There is more prison money, War dollars than there are Healthcare or Education
    dollars for each person in America. Shameful.