Mythbusting the F-35

Aaron Wherry checks out the facts in the spin

A note posted to Facebook by Chris Alexander, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence. (It seems to have gone out from the PMO as an internal Conservative memo on Thursday evening.)

Replacing Canada’s CF-18s – Just the Facts

Media have incorrectly reported on some aspects of the replacement of Canada’s CF-18s. Here are the facts:

Myth 1: Costs have risen from $9 billion to $45 billion.

Fact 1: Our government has set a $9 billion budget for the purchase of new fighter aircraft. This amount is for the purchase of new aircraft and will not change. The remaining costs are the long-term costs associated with owning and flying these planes, such as maintenance, fuel and salaries. These costs are now presented over 42 years, as compared to 20 years previously. It goes without saying that the dollar figure for operating and sustainment costs for more years will be proportionately higher.

Myth 2: The Auditor General’s report increased the costs from $16 billion to $25 billion

Fact 2: The Auditor General recommended that operating costs be included in the total lifecycle cost estimates, resulting in the apparent “increase”. This is not new money as DND currently spends this money for our CF-18 fleet. These costs are currently being incurred by our fleet of CF-18s and will be incurred by whichever aircraft is chosen to replace the current fleet.

Myth 3: The review of options is a competition

Fact 3: We have a seven point plan that has reset the process to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s. As part of that plan, we have released the rules that will guide the review of alternative fighter aircraft. No decision on a replacement will be made until that work is complete.

Myth 4: Costs are rising, so $9 billion will not be enough to pay for these aircraft.

Fact 4: We have identified $9 billion for the purchase of replacement aircraft. We will not exceed that amount.

Myth 5: Canada is leaving the Joint Strike Fighter development program.

Fact 5: Canada will not end Canadian industrial access to F-35 contracts before the Seven Point Plan is complete and a decision on the replacement of Canada’s CF-18s has been made.

Myth 6: The government did not follow the rules when it released costs over 20 years.

Fact 6: Previously lifecycle costing was done over 20 years, consistent with long-held practices for this type of acquisition. The Auditor General recommended extending that time frame to cover the complete costs over the full life cycle; we complied by adopting the aircraft’s entire program life of 42 years.

Myth 7: The options analysis will find that the F-35 is the only viable option because it is the only plane that meets the Statement of Requirements.

Fact: 7: The original mandatory requirements for this purchase (known as the Statement of Requirements) have been set-aside. Once the options analysis is complete, a determination will be made as to whether a new statement is necessary.

Myth 8: Canadian companies have only received benefits equal to 1% of the total cost of the contract.

Fact 8: Over 70 Canadian companies have won nearly $450 million in contracts already. We believe our world leading aerospace industry will be able to continue to compete for and win contracts in the global marketplace.

Myth 1 seems to depend on the meaning of the word “risen”—the stated cost of the procurement has increased from $9 billion (for acquiring the planes) and a total of $16 billion (for acquisition, operation and sustainment) to $45.8 billion (for development, acquisition, operation and sustainment), owing to an acknowledgement and calculation of a full life-cycle costing. The timeline of 42 years is problematic though. For the sake of comparing the previous estimate for acquisition, operations and maintenance to the current estimate for acquisition, operations and maintenance, the price has gone from $16-billion over 20 years to $45.2 billion over 30 years.

As for Myth 6, the auditor general’s report in April states that “Treasury Board policies require consideration of all relevant costs over the useful life of equipment, not just the initial acquisition or basic contract cost.” And, as Andrew Coyne, has pointed out, National Defence agreed with the auditor general in 2010 that life-cycle costing was appropriate. Of the life-cycle costing for the F-35, the auditor general found in April that “costs have not been fully presented in relation to the life of the aircraft. The estimated life expectancy of the F-35 is about 8,000 flying hours, or about 36 years based on predicted usage. National Defence plans to operate the fleet for at least that long. It is able to estimate costs over 36 years. We recognize that long-term estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about future costs as well as to currency exchange rates. However, in presenting costs to government decision makers and to Parliament, National Defence estimated life-cycle costs over 20 years. This practice understates operating, personnel, and sustainment costs, as well as some capital costs, because the time period is shorter than the aircraft’s estimated life expectancy. The JSF Program Office provided National Defence with projected sustainment costs over 36 years.”

In the defence of Myth 8, 450 million is one percent of 45 billion. There is the potential for more contracts for Canadian companies, but as Canadian Press reported this week, there are doubts about how much Canadian companies will get.




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Mythbusting the F-35

  1. Myth 9: Peter McKay said people who criticized the F35 process did not support the troops.
    Fact 9: He didn’t say they were traitors did he?

  2. I’m annoyed the details of the ENIGMA machine extraction during Dieppe, haven’t been made public.
    Japan is considering using a Muon detector to image their melted down reactor interiors. This orginates from astrophysics R+D. I’d guess was NASA funding, but maybe another Research Park from other physics. NASA is underfunded and so is CSA. Whoever funded the Muon detector should get brownie pts. We have a hologram company. Didn’t know that. The holograms and the basic R+D are better uses of money.
    For example, the next next gen of Jets (manned) might use an expensive stealth skin. We really need mission objectives before single-purpose R+D.

  3. Unfortunately, using Lockheed Martin talking points as “analysis” as justification for the Just So Failed is misleading the public about the risks. http://goo.gl/WF5EF

    • Eric to be fair if you are going to bash the F-35 you should recommend an alternative fighter because it is easy to bash the F-35 until you start looking at other fighters and realize how much worse they are then the F-35. So where are your F-18, Rafale and Eurofighter reading lists? Lets see the dirt on those aircraft prorgrams?

      • The SAAB is not a bad bet and actually exists in reality.
        Even the Su t-50 is being questioned by the Russians who are asking if there is a need for that plane. 5th Generation seems a generation too far.

        • You got to be fricken kidding me. The T-50 is just starting it’s development program. In fact it is where the F-35 was in aproximately 2002. The aircraft that you see flying are experimental aircraft and not production aircraft.

          As for the Saab Gripen, it’s a piece of junk. It has major flight control issues. You can check these articles:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6yVU_yYtEc
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_JAS_39_Gripen

          • As I said even the Su t-50 is being questioned in much the same way that the F35 is in the west. The Russians are questioning the need for a 5th Gen fighter.

            The SAAB, might not be all things to all people but it is flying. Nice clip from 1989, maybe you’d like to find an updated piece of evidence for your knocking? As for your wiki citation, go back and read the causes for the crashes, jeez folk should read the links they throw out in support of their case. Pathetic.

            You can of course answer any questions you want but if you are answering my points please do so. If you have any up to date actual examples of the plane failing rather than birdstrike, pilot error or a flight suit setting off the eject system please let me know.

          • There are a lot of other clips of Gripens crashing on youtube as well. The bottom line is the Gripen has a novel flight control system which kills pilots. There are far to many incidents for the amount aircraft flying.

          • That’s a strange statement too considering the pilot didn’t die in that horrific clip from 89. You’re an f35 cheerleader fair enough, but right now your evidence against the Gripen sucks seriously.

            The plane is already in service with airforces around the world and continues to be ordered by others; now that is more than can be said for the f35

          • Out of 235 Gripens built 5 have already crashed that is a 2.1% crash rate. That is way high even for a fighter. As an aeronautical engineer I am indeed a fan of the F-35 based on its technical merits. Even though the F-35 is only about 25% through its flight test program the F-35 is setting bench marks across the board for the number test flights flown and test points achieved in single day, in a month and in a year. The F-35 will no doubt eventually win the Collier Trophy for its design and execution. So yes I am fan but for all the right reasons not because of politics or because I am anti Saab or Anti Boeing, or Anti Dasualt.

  4. I always find it interesting that those people vehemently opposed to the F-35 never come to the discussion with an alternative. Likely because there really isn’t one. They also seem to have this opinion based on absolutely know actual knowledge of current military aviation technologies. I can’t name a single Canadian politician that has ever served in the RCAF, much less then flown in combat situations, or likely even have flown an aircraft. These people should have absolutely no say in the matter. The RCAF says they require the F-35, there should be no questions asked. The ONLY question we should be asking is why are we buying so few? 64 aircraft is no where near enough to maintain Canadian sovereignty much less participate in NATO commitments. We should be buying 112 of these aircraft.

    • Surely we ought to determine what the threat is likely to be before we commit to this purchase. If they thought it could be sold the military would be asking for a fleet of Starship Enterprises. Please let us take a deep breath and decide what we as a Nation consider to be the the realistic threats to our country.

      There is no credible threat to Canada which can be deterred by a few fighter aircraft.They would only be a symbolic purchase of toys. Totally useless in dealing with the more likely threats that Canada will face in the future.

      • No credible threat? Have you looked at China lately? Canada holds HUGE amounts of energy supplies and fresh water and everyone else is running out. I’d say there are a lot of threats.

        • No one is going to take our resources using military force!

          Only Russia, China and the USA have the capability to mount an all out attack on Canada. But why would they do that? They are not stupid. They have figured it out that it is far cheaper and easier for them to buy us.

          • Lets not waste our valuable resources playing “games”! We either need these things to defend ourselves against a credible threat or we don’t. In this case there is no credible military threat.

            “Gunboat Diplomacy and Saber Ratling” are games that the militaries of the world play to justify their existence.

          • 65 planes will still let Verizon hear their pin drop when we attempt to rattle them.

            I suppose if someone had the means to attack us in a way in which those planes could be of any use at all they might pause a moment in laughter while we rattled our narrow use planes.

          • It’s not the number of aircraft that is important, it is how those 65 aircraft utilized.

        • There is no amount of money canada can spend which could match China’s military. none. zero. nada. The only faint hope Canada could have against a major power would be a nuclear threat.

          You realize how foolish you look saying how nobody (except you apparently) knows anything and then you go off like that? Actually, you probably don’t.

        • Try reading the whole sentence.
          Here.. I’ll help you out by repeating the part that seemed to give you trouble: “which can be deterred by a few fighter aircraft”.

          It was the word “deterred” wasn’t it? It means stopped. Does that help?

      • Never mind china, a smart terrorist with a Cesena 152 and a smart phone connected to the autopilot can do a hell of a lot of damage if it is targeted in the right place.

        • absolutely. you realize this proves willoways point, right?

        • A smart terrorist can do a lot worse than that, to be honest. We should be thanking whatever Gods we might worship that there haven’t been any smart ones yet.

        • Never mind china, a smart terrorist with a Cesena 152 and a smart phone connected to the autopilot can do a hell of a lot of damage if it is targeted in the right place.

          OK, fair point.

          However, surely you can’t now be arguing that we need a stealthy 5th generation fighter like the F-35 to take out a high-jacked Cessna being flown remotely by auto-pilot!

          • Actually it is because the F-35 carries it weapons and fuel internally which was a requirement for its stealthy design which makes for a really low drag slippery airplane that enables the F-35 to Supercruise at Mach 1.2 for 13 minutes which gives it a much better chance at catching the suspect Cessena 152 that has deviated from its flight plan. With its advanced Electro Optical Targeting System it will be able to assess the suspect aircraft at great range and fire its AIM-120 AMRAAM missile and down the terrorist aircraft flown by the NDP nut job.

          • So now you have us shooting down every aircraft that has deviated from its flight plan. We are going to be very busy with that – and that doesn’t include all the aircraft in the air that are not on a formal “Flight Plan”.

          • The US had F-22s.

            The twin towers still came down. You have no point.

          • The TwinTowers came down because the terrorists used Commerical Aircraft which should never been allowed to happened. Had they used private aircraft they would have likely been intercepted.

          • I was almost paying attention until the last 6 words, when you confirmed that you’re nothing but a partisan hack.

            That’ll save me time later on I suppose.

          • You have to realize that NDP stands for No Dam Planes. So between getting planes and not getting planes I support anyone who supports the F-35 because it is the based jet fighter based on it’s Technical Merits.

          • And you have to realize that criticizing the NDP’s policy on the F-35 acquisition, and implying that a terrorist controlling a high-jacked airplane is probably an “NDP nutjob” are two different things. One is just crazy partisan hackery. Can you guess which one?

            Also, for a party supposedly committed to “No Dam Planes” (sic), not only is the NDP on the record supporting the need to replace our F-18s, they’re ALSO on the record that the F-35 should be included in the competition to be that replacement. If you’re just going to treat what some internet commenters who purport to be NDP supporters say as though it was NDP policy, then am I free to do the same with the comments of right-wing nutjob commenters who purport to be supporters of the Tories?

          • Yes but is the NDP actually willing to buy an that has a chance winning a modern air to air engagement. Most if not of all the alterntives to the F-35 were designed on crude computers in the 1970′s & 1980′s.

    • @David, seems to me that 65 aircraft can cover a hell of a lot of ground espically with a 1080 KM Combat radius. In fact if you deploy F-35′s in flights of four you cover Canada coast to coast with just 12 aircraft.

      In the olden days you needed more aircraft because each aircraft was specilized for its role. For instance you would have day fighters, night fighters, naval fighters, electronic jamming aircraft, attack aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft,ect,ect. Also because these aircraft only had 50-60% of the range the F-35 has you needed twice the number of aircaft to get the same coverage. I’ll give you an example. The F-4 phantom II has a combat radius of only 680 km just 63% of the F-35A’s Combat Radius of 1080 KM’s. So in order to get the same coverage 65 F-35′s would give you would need 89 F-4′s. Also because the F-4 require twice the maintaince hours per flight hour as the F-35 that means you have to buy twice as many aircraft so that puts you at 178 F-4′s to get the same coverage as 65 modern F-35′s.

      • You’ve got to make these aircraft last 35 to 40 years. Attrition alone dictates that 65 is too few.

        • Don’t forget that the F-35′s will be part of a networked defence system. So the F-35′s will be feeding targeting information to other weapons systems such as surface to air missiles, ships, and ground attack forces. So yah your going to loose a few aircraft but by buying F-35′s you force everyone else to buy more expensive higer quality aircraft as well which evens the playing field.

          • What are you talking about?

            Do you really think Russia or China is going to attack Canada’s Arctic? Do we really think that Russia or China is going to invade Canada at all? Why would they? How would they? Does anyone know how impossible it would be to airlift tens of thousands of paratroopers across our Arctic and then drop them successfully to take over….what?!?!…Edmonton, Winnipeg and Quebec City!?!? Even if that were done, supplying them would be a nightmare so costly that it would make any economic reason for attacking us ridiculous.

            No one is going to take Canada’s vast natural resources by military force!!!!!

            Any real disputes in the Arctic will ultimately wind up in International courts. It is in no one’s interest or capability to fight a “war” over this treasured land/ice mass.

          • Weren’t you the one claiming all they need is is a cessna and a smart phone? So which is it.. more expensive higher quality aircraft, or simply asymmetrical warfare?

      • Please look at a map. With 65 F35s we could not defend Vancouver Island against a 1960s envisaged all out attack. That does not matter because that is not going to happen.

        It is interesting to note that the USA has calculated that they would require 2400+ F35s in addition to the hundreds of F16s, F18s, etc. to mount a defence.

        Our few fighters would be nothing more than symbolism.

        • Don’t forget the USAF, USN, and USM are deployed all around the world. They also have a lot more infrustructure to defend in mainland United States then Canada which has only 20 major cities.

          http://digitaljournal.com/article/292072

  5. Here is another fact the media keeps ignoring. If Canada’s new fighter has to last 42 years, and the design of the F-18 (YF-17) dates back to 1974 how relevant as a fighter is a F-18 going to be midway through those 42 years?

    • If Canada’s new fighter has to last 42 years….

      It doesn’t. The 42 years number is Tory spin. They keep the annual cost from rising significantly by including development in the timeline, and starting the clock TWO YEARS AGO. That’s how they can say it’s still roughly $1 billion a year in costs, by stretching out the timeline to begin when they decided to get the F-35, not when the F-35s actually start arriving. The 42 year number has nothing to do with the life of the planes, since it starts in 2010.

      • So we’ve already spent $2B and 1% if that is the case and we still haven’t flown 1 km in a single plane.

        Wow now that’s what I call economic genius..

        • No, we haven’t already spent $2 billion on the plane. That’s the point.

          The Tories are trying to make the annual costs SEEM smaller by starting their clock in 2010. The operating costs didn’t ACTUALLY start in 2010, but starting the clock in 2010 allows the government to spread the overall cost out over more years for their talking points. What they’re trying to do is take money we haven’t spent yet, and spread it over a timeline that starts in 2010, in order to claim that we’re still spending basically $1 billion/year, but over a longer timeline. If you start that clock in 2020, when the planes are likely to actually start arriving then you can’t spin it that the yearly costs are basically the same as their original estimates anymore.

          By adding 12 years to the timeline, the Tories get their “still just $1 billion a year” talking point, and all the public has to do is ignore that fact that we’re actually only really spending about $565-million over those extra 12 years, not $12 billion.

          • I was ironically trying to show the Harper groupies that if they wanted their new figures for a timeline, they would now have to admit that we have in fact spent $2B, as they can’t have it both ways.

            Sorry I should have used the “sarcasm” tags.

      • Canada got their first CF-18′s in 1982 and they are are slated for retirement around 2020. So if you do the math Charlie Brown that is 38 years that we will be operating these aircraft. Of course that doesn’t inculde the original procurement time for the CF-18′s because it took a really long time for Northrop/MacDonald Dogulas to take the YF-17 prototype and develop it into the CF-18 which Canada purchased. In fact the initial major design concepts for the YF-17/F-18/CF-18 goes all the way back to 1965.

  6. On the topic of myth 8… The 45 billion is the total costs over 40 years. Only 9 billion of those costs have to do with the purchase of the planes. Most of the 45 billion may go toward the gas, the personnel, the buildings, the equipment, the wages, the maintainance including salaries etc. There will be many Canadian people getting cheques from that 45 billion, and many Canadian companies that will be involved in the whole life cycle. I think that the 450 million figure has to do with business that happens at the beginning. So, comparing the 45 billion and 450 million is apples and oranges.

  7. Screw these fighters…they are meant to fit into foreign R2P (barf) coalitions. Keep the CF-18′s and train more infantry in our mountains, and create greater defences on our coasts.

  8. Myth 9: Wherry is someone who cares about the truth.

  9. here are some other related facts: documents allegedly show that MacKay and Harper and others KNEW that our troops were handing detainees over to Afghans who were going to torture them, and no one at any level did anything to stop this practice until much later. THAT makes MacKay and Harper and all the others “war criminals” in the eyes of international law.

    Where is the reporting on that? Why are Harper and MacKay not in jail?

  10. The F-35 project as a whole is 10 years behind schedule and a 1/2 trillion dollars over budget. No sane person would assume that there will be no more problems and units will be delivered in time and on budget.

    Canada needs a jet that is cheaper to buy, cheaper to operate, and more flexible. The Swedish Saab Gripen fits the bill. Saab has even offered to build them in Canada. Use the leftover money to pay for more training, more advanced missiles, and UAVs.

    http://gripen4canada.blogspot.com

  11. We had to wait until KPMG added up the costs until they dumped this!?!? Who needs a government? MacKay and Harper have shown how truly incapable they are. They might have been good lockheed salesmen but they weren’t even able to close that deal.

    When will Canadians actually wake up and stop being so apathetic about these idiots?

  12. Myth 10: Canadians care about anything else beyond Tim Hortons. Good job Mr. Harper.

    Double double please.

  13. I must point out something the media seems unwilling to do. Saab has offered 65 of the next generation Gripen known as the Gripen E/F at a total cost of 6 billion dollars which includes 40 years of maintenance. So the total cost is 6 billion for 65 Gripens for 40 years versus 45.2 billion for 65 F-35 fighters for only 30 years – a difference of 39.2 billion. The F-35 does not justify this massive difference. Look at the difference below:
    F-35 Gripen

    The F-35 is only rated to last 30 years. The Gripen is rated to last 40 years and the cost per flight hour according to Jane’s is $4,000 for the Gripen versus $21,000 for the F-35.

    There

  14. Sorry hit ‘post’ by accident.

    The F-35 has only limited stealth which is negated if it carries external fuel, breaks the sound barrier, or carries more weapons than the internal bay can hold. The Gripen E can fly faster (mach 2 versus 1.6), can super-cruise, only requires a down-time of 10 minutes between mission flights, and is designed to carry long range missiles which the F-35 isn’t as there is no room in the bomb bay. As I mentioned at the end of my last post, the cost per flight hour comparison between both planes is substantial.

  15. On Fact 8, Saab offered to let Bombardier contract to build all 65 Gripens in Canada. Worth more than some scraps Lockheed Martin is throwing our way. I’d like to see some legislation pass that states any military, civil servant, or politician involved in the procurement of anything can never retire into a lobby position in that or any related or controlled industry.

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