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How bout them jets? (II)


 

In an interview with the Times & Transcript, Michael Ignatieff lays out his thoughts on the F-35 purchase.

Canada does need to replace its CF-18s and it needs to defend itself; the question is what plan do we really need to do that job? We need an open, competitive bid to determine what Canada’s needs really are and to get the best plane for that job at the best price.

The problem with the F-35 you can understand just by reading what they’re saying about it in the Pentagon; the thing is late, over budget, still in development and not even proven. There are other aircraft available right now that Canada could give us good value for money.

The other point is on the aerospace sector. We have not received a guarantee for aerospace jobs! What they’re saying is that there are going to be a whole lot of these aircraft bought and we can compete in the global market for a piece of the action.

Well that is not how you negotiate aerospace jobs! What you say is ‘if Canada is going to buy an air frame, we want guaranteed industrial benefits for Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, wherever we are doing aerospace.’ So, we care about Canada’s national defence but we will replace the CF-18 with an aircraft that gets value for money and guarantees aerospace jobs.


 

How bout them jets? (II)

  1. Which is why he's no brighter on this.

  2. I don't disagree with Iggy's sentiments at all… however, have we proceeded too far down the F35 'line' that holding a competitive bid process is too late, and will only end up costing us more money in the end? Will switching gears only be more costly? This is my central concern.

  3. Latest from "Air Force Times", hardly an unfriendly source:

    "New problems disclosed on 2 models of F-35 http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/01/militar

    The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter has previously undisclosed problems with its handling, avionics, afterburner and helmet-mounted display, according to a report by the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

    Both the Air Force F-35A variant and Marine Corps' F-35B model experienced “transonic wing roll-off, [and] greater than expected sideslip during medium angle-of-attack testing,” the report said.

    The report also says that various components are not as reliable as expected.

    Additionally, the Pratt and Whitney F-135 engine has encountered an afterburner “screech,” in which airflow disruptions cause severe vibrations, preventing the engine from reaching maximum power. That problem has delayed some required testing…

    Further, the report indicates problems with the aircraft's helmet-mounted display. Unlike many previous aircraft, the F-35 does not have a cockpit-mounted head-up display; the pilot instead views critical data projected on the helmet visor.

    The report does not elaborate on the nature of the problems, but says they must be solved before the Block 2 mission systems software can be tested. Currently, the program is testing preliminary Block 0.5 and Block 1 mission systems software. Block 2 would incrementally increase the aircraft's capabilities and would be followed by the fully mission-capable Block 3 software…

    Further, the report indicates problems with the aircraft's helmet-mounted display. Unlike many previous aircraft, the F-35 does not have a cockpit-mounted head-up display; the pilot instead views critical data projected on the helmet visor.

    The report does not elaborate on the nature of the problems, but says they must be solved before the Block 2 mission systems software can be tested. Currently, the program is testing preliminary Block 0.5 and Block 1 mission systems software. Block 2 would incrementally increase the aircraft's capabilities and would be followed by the fully mission-capable Block 3 software…"

    And this at "Aviation Week and Space Technology", note final sentence: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_chan

    "…
    Some of the new programs are an attempt to stave off a decline in capabilities brought on by yet another delay to Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and a 124-aircraft cut in the buy (AW&ST Jan. 10, p. 24). Improvements are needed for the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F-15 fleets to keep them viable while Lockheed works through testing problems and produces the JSF at a slower than predicted rate. As of last year, Air Force officials said their fighter shortfall reaching out to 2024 would be 185 aircraft—down from a predicted 800-fighter shortage a year earlier—because the service opted to allow more risk into its war planning.

    The gap estimate of 185 units, however, was predicated upon buying 80 F-35s annually at full-rate production beginning in Fiscal 2016; with the F-35 acquisition slipping, reaching full-rate production will take longer and the fighter shortfall could grow.

    The Air Force recently retired roughly 250 fighters, 129 of which are old F-16s, as part of a force-reduction strategy designed to save money.

    Service officials have studied what work might be required to extend the lives of up to 1,021 F-16C/Ds in the fleet today. The Air Force is crafting a path forward for an F-16 service-life extension (SLEP). “As we consider the impact of this conservative approach to Joint Strike Fighter . . . we anticipated we would need to take a look at F-16 SLEPs,” [Air Force Secretary Michael] Donley says. “That question is more ‘how much and when and what kind,' rather than an ‘if.'”…

    The service also plans to accelerate installation of Raytheon AESA radars on the F-15C/E fleet. Completion of work on the C will move up by one year, and the E installations will be advanced by eight years to 2024. The AESA radars will allow the F-15s and F-16s to detect smaller, slower targets from longer ranges…

    Donley notes that more progress is needed in software and testing for all three F-35 variants. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has slipped the conclusion of flight testing from mid-2015 to the end of the first quarter of 2016, and the department has “taken an even more conservative approach to production rates as we go forward,” says Donley.

    The Air Force is the lead customer for the conventional F-35A and last year slipped its initial operational capability date to 2016 from 2014. Donley says it's “implied” by the new development schedule that the in-service date will shift further…"

    So does anyone really believe Canada will planes in 2016 as the government maintains? Or that they will cost in the mid-$70 million range as the government claims? At that time the aircraft will still not be at full-rate production and costs will not have been reduced as they will once that rate is attained.

    Mark
    Ottawa

  4. That's, like, just about the total cost of a national sign posting campaign, er, advertising for national stimulus program and not even half the cost of throwing away a significant strategic military base in a snit . And it's like 1/20th the cost of a G20 summit and only three times the throwaway cost for a dumb census decision. Sounds like a bargain.

  5. This is just a PR move and nothing else.

    If the LPC gets in power in the near future they'll say that it would be too costly to simply cancel and get other planes. Or they might go Chretien and do the unthinkable?

  6. Thanks for this Mark. Your diligent and thorough reportage of the F-35 debacle has been truly eye-opening and informative.

    If anyone wants to get a clear, objective, non-Liberal, generally pro-CPC coverage of the problems and costs and concerns about the F-35s from someone with military background, head over to the conservative/Conservative blog Unambiguously Ambidextrous where Mark now blogs (ever since the unfortunate demise of the great military blog "The Torch").

  7. There is no signed contract so there would be no penalty.

  8. We need an open, competitive bid to determine what Canada's needs really are and to get the best plane for that job at the best price.

    We need a competitive bid to determine our needs? That does it. No way does this guy get close to the PMO without a visitor's pass.

  9. Well that is not how you negotiate aerospace jobs! What you say is ‘if Canada is going to buy an air frame, we want guaranteed industrial benefits for Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, wherever we are doing aerospace.'

    I want to see Andrew Coyne's face when he reads this.

  10. Thanks Ted. But I'm no longer at UA (Adrian reasonably wanted it to be his own again). I'm now blogging at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute's "3Ds Blog", http://www.cdfai.org/the3dsblog/

    and thinking of starting my own too. Any thoughts for a title? And I have no personal military service, just some 55 years of reading and considerable contact when in the public service.

    Mark
    Ottawa

  11. That is the primary problem with his suggestion isn't it? No one uses a competitive bid to determine their defence needs. That is done by the armed forces and the government. Once they determine the need (as this government, and the previous one, have done) then if there is more than one possible solution to that need, a competitive bid may be in order. If the need is such that informed expert opinion, such as that possessed by the air force, states that ther is only one possible aircraft can fulfill the requirements a competitive bid is a waste of time.

    In this case our air force has identified the need for a multi-role airplane that will be interoperable with our allies and capable of being a first-line combat fighter for the next 40 years. They are sufficiently familiar with all the possible options (there are, after all, only five or six possible aircraft that are even remotely plausible replacements for the CF-18). Having concluded the F-35 is the only reasonable replacement, the notion of a competitive bid would be pointless.
    "Guaranteed jobs" is not a reason to select an inadequate plane for the role.

  12. I'm going to presume he misspoke there, but you're right that as written that part of this quote makes little, if any, sense.

  13. Come on; obviously, he's just using "an open, competitive bid" as a short-hand for the whole standard military procurement process they're supposed to follow, where the DND & politicians put their heads together to outline our likely military aims & needs; then a detailed SOR (Statement of Operational Requirement) is drawn up; then an RFP is issued; etc., etc. That could take a long time to spell out, which isn't going to happen in the context of a wide-ranging 15-minute interview in the middle of a busy day.

  14. Agreed….people want a white paper ferheavensake when it was just a short routine interview.

  15. Yeah, that part annoyed me, too. Not because he's wrong, but because that is standard operating practice. I guess its more annoying that Harper's campaigning on doing such a thing without locking it in, but I think I'd rather buy a plane when buying a plane. Or we could subsidize an industry and get some planes as a sort of fringe benefit. I mean, if we are subsidizing our industry, it makes the bidding on a contract an unneessary waste of time. But if Harper's doing that he should a) actually ensure he's subsidizing OUR industry, and b) say so.

  16. Andrew may not like it, but i bet it is standard operating proceedure in just about every industrial country that has an aerospace industry.

  17. That would be funny.

    The again, I think it's worth pointing out that it's not like Ignatieff is worse on this point than the alternative. Both Ignatieff and Harper are promising jobs, and spinning this as being substantially about jobs, so if you don't like the idea of guaranteed industrial benefits one is going to have to vote NDP.

    As long as both the Liberals and the Tories are promising jobs, jobs, jobs, I do think we need to assess which group has the best chance of actually delivering on the promise.

    Or vote NDP.

  18. The day the NDP becomes the rational choice to lead this country is the day I need a new country. So I would appreciate it if you would refrain from providing credible evidence that this may be so.

  19. Don't worry. While they won't use the $16 billion to create jobs in the aerospace industry, I'm sure that they would use it for some OTHER command and control type of economic interventionism, so it's not like the NDP are the rational choice on this file either, it's just that they want to do some OTHER silly thing than the particular silly thing that the Liberals and Tories are on about.

  20. You mean like spending it all in Canada and boosting the economy? That would be just so silly!

  21. If it involved subsidizing companies to create jobs building products that couldn't be economically justified without the subsidy then yes, that would be silly.

  22. How about spreading more money to low-income Canadians who will immediately go out and spend it and boost the economy?

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