New multi-billion dollar fighter jets ill-equipped for Arctic use

F-35 jets can’t communicate from Canada’s north


American-built F-35 fighter jets are expected to be delivered without the ability to communicate from Canada’s northernmost regions, even though the warplanes are costing the federal government billions of dollars. Defending the Arctic was one of the key reasons put forward by the Conservative government to upgrade Canada’s fleet of fighter jets, which currently consists of CF-18s. A senior official from Lockheed Martin, the company that builds the new jets, told The Globe and Mail that the F-35s will eventually be equipped with the ability to communicate from the Arctic, saying the hope is that the software can be installed by the fourth phase of their production in 2019. The Defence Department has reportedly asked the company whether a special communication system can be placed in the planes. Typically, fighter jets communicate by sending signals into space and back via satellites. Communicating in the Arctic is difficult because of a lack of space satellites in the region.

Globe and Mail

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New multi-billion dollar fighter jets ill-equipped for Arctic use

  1. Can anyone say “boondoggle”?

  2. Maybe Canada needs to get into the satellite business? Just thinkin…………..

  3. Can’t wait to see what the end cost of these planes will be once they are built and delivered. The first estimate was about $18B (including maintenance). Figures circulating around today come in over $25B.
    Imagine in 5 years what it will be. And His Majesty won’t be around to explain the cost.

  4. We had the DEW Line before we had satellites.  Communications with the F-35s in the Arctic will be successful.

    • It was actually the Americans that had the DEW line, it just happened to be on our soil.  And it was an environmental disaster.  But it did repel a fictional Russian invasion at a huge price tag, so I guess bringing it up in this thread is valid.

  5. The quality of Canadian news
    reporting just keeps getting worse and worse. The F-35 will have the satellite communication
    equipment on board the aircraft when we purchase them, the only thing missing
    will be the computer code that is need to operate it. The software for the F-35
    is being written in blocks of code. There are at least six blocks of code totaling
    about 8 million to 12 million line of code. By the end of this year the F-35
    will have the second block of code. The coding for the satellite communication
    is in one of the latter blocks of code which is why it won’t be initially
    available when the first F-35’s arrive in Canada. But by the time Canada’s F-35’s go operational the software block for
    secured satellite communication will be installed and the liberal media will
    have to find some thing else to bitch about.

    • So what are we doing with them between when they arrive and when they “go operational”? Home decor?

      • Training. We won’t be replacing all our CF-18s with F-35s on the same day. Introducing a new aircraft into service involves a lengthy process  of training pilots and ground crew and ensuring parts and logistic support is in place.

        • Training? Training to do what? There is no credible threat to our country that can be countered by a few F35s!

          On the other hand, they will be impressive at airs shows. What a colossal waste that would be!

          • Training to do whatever any government of Canada may ask them to do over the next fifty years.  Since it is hard to predict what that might be, although it is a virtual certainlty they will be asked to do something in aid of Canada’s interests, they will continue to do their job of being prepared.

          • Like reducing the infrastructure of Libya to the stone age was in Canada’s interests? I don’t think so!

        • Thanks. Good answer, actually. Although personally, I always figured our forces were smart enough that they could set up training exercises and logistic planning without needing a physical copy of the plane in place. I mean, is how this thing takes off and lands that much different from normal planes? (Other than it having to land in the middle of the arctic and be towed by stealth-snowmobiles to be refueled, that is.. :) )

    • It would be nice if everything unfolded as was originally conceived and planned; with block IV achieving IOC in 2016-2017 and legacy CF-18 retiring by 2017-2018 – being replaced by $75m per copy CF-35 and Canadian industry making off like a bandit in kind.

      But there’s a slight hitch with the plan now.  First, the F-35’s annual order rates are going to plummet across the spectrum worldwide.  The unit procurement cost is going to skyrocket compared to originally pre-conceived expectations.  And CF-18 will now apparently have to be additionally funded with further avionics upgrades and Service Life Extensions to ensure credible (and safe) stopgap operation until the mid-2020s.  Where this additional sustainment funding will come from will be of further interest to all concerned, especially to the CF-35-or-bust fan club.  That is in addition to the fact that fewer CF-35s will likely be afforded in the first place due in part to a political unwillingness to pay astronomically higher Unit Procurement costs once the ‘block IV’ are actually ready for full rate procurement.

      Perhaps a prudent compromise between the genuine RCAF requirement for replacing old and costly to sustain/upgrade legacy Hornets with a risky CF-35 and the propeller UAV proposal, cough, would be for an earlier procurement schedule acquiring long-range and extended endurance CF-15 multi-mission patrol and air sovereignty jets.  They will be actually more affordable to Procure and actually employ superior long-range surveillance capabilities along with extended escort sortie capabilities.  In addition to a slightly reduced number of CF-15 procured under this option, would be the ability to procure 3-4 long-range strategic G550 dual-band AWACS platforms (equipped with SATCOM), which can double as Beyond Line of Sight communications relay for CF-15 (if required), in the interim?

      • You seem to be assuming that the reason to purchase these planes is actually to defend our northern sovereignty.

        While I admire and respect your idealism, I expect your assumptions will need to be re-examined.

        • You are right! But why would we, in support of NATO, be buying an aircraft capable of attacking third world nations. That makes no sense! NATO has evolved 
          from its original role of protecting Europe from a perceived threat from Russia and other eastern bloc nations to a role of policing and beating up on third world nations who do not conform to our western “standards”. Do Canadians want to be a part of that organization. I think not!

  6. We do not need F35 aircraft in the arctic!

    Can anyone keep a straight face and say that Canada or, for that matter, North America is likely to come under attack by a massive wave of bombers – therefore we need F35s . I don’t think so. Sounds to much like 1960 Cold war thinking. The world has evolved way past that insanity! 
    For the forseeable future the nations of the world that even have a remote capability to attack us militarily are Russia, China and the USA. [Lets rule out the USA]. These nations are going to need our resources. Insanely bombing us into oblivion would not be in their best interests. They don’t have the capability to occupy and remove resources from our land. It is much easier for them to simply buy our property and resources. And that is what is happening. Therein lies the major threat to the future of our country.

  7. “Defending the Arctic was one of the key reasons put forward by the
    Conservative government to upgrade Canada’s fleet of fighter jets, which
    currently consists of CF-18s.”

    Can anyone list the incidents requiring Canada to ‘defend’ the arctic during the lifespan of the CF18s?? Oh yes, there was one… USA submarines entering Canadian territory without the required notification/ request and denying it was Canadian territory. Good thing we used those CF18s to protect the arctic then.

    Face reality, Canada is buying these toys for one reason and one reason only, the USA told us to… After all, the bigger the production run the cheaper the toys will be for the USA who pay nowhere near what Canada will pay for one.

    • The interception of the odd Russian aircraft just outside our territorial borders has been going on since the 70s. The intercepts were done with CF101s and now with CF18s. The Russian aircraft presented no threat then and are no threat now. An all out attack would be insane and involve ICBMs. No role for the F35 here!

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