The F-35 on trial

The NDP will convene two public roundtables this morning on the Hill to hear what Winslow Wheeler, Philippe Lagasse, Alan Williams and Scott Taylor have to say about the F-35. Official parliamentary hearings on the matter were closed in May.

It remains unclear when the Conservatives will be providing an update on the projected cost of the F-35. When the auditor general releases his report in April, the Harper government promised to provide an update “within a maximum of 60 days from receipt of annual costing forecasts from the Joint Strike Fighter program office.” In May, Defence officials met with JSF officials in the Washington, but in June, the Harper government decided that an update would have to wait until the fall because National Defence’s estimates needed to independently validated. But as of two weeks ago, the Harper government was still looking for an auditor and the reissued tender for that job won’t close until the end of August.




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The F-35 on trial

  1. “In May, Defence officials met with JSF officials in the Washington …. ”

    I wonder what Canadian defence bureaucrats were told?

    Washington Times ~ Aug 2012:

    The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the white whale of the Defense Department — a stealth jet designed to work for all branches of the armed forces — but at a total cost of $1.5 trillion, it’s also a program that analysts say is an epic boondoggle that neither President Obama nor his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, has a realistic plan to get under control …..

    “I’ve been involved in this since the ‘60s and I’ve never seen it so badly managed as it was up until very recently,” said Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served as an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan.

    “The cost overruns are unprecedented,” he said, explaining that the problem stems from a failure of several successive administrations to appoint a deputy secretary of defense with the kind of hard-core business sense needed to root out nepotism and tighten the screws on profligate spending.

  2. Does Canadian air force even need planes? Surely the future is drones, why are we spending enormous $$$ on technology that is obsolete before it’s even built.

    Wired ~ Attack Of The Drones:

    The F-16s had come and gone, dropping a pair of 500-pound satellite-guided bombs on an insurgent safe house in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle. Now it was up to Major Shannon Rogers to see whether they had hit their target. With a tug of the throttle, he brought his plane to 10,000 feet for a closer look.

    Tracking the feed from the Predator’s camera, Rogers could see rubble where the safe house had been. He and a sensor operator on his crew watched a crowd gather to ogle the destruction. Then a white Dodge pickup rolled up with a .50-caliber heavy machine gun in the back. Five men climbed out, ran into the house, and returned to move the truck to a secluded alley. They began loading ammunition and arc-welding the .50-cal’s mount.

    Back at Nellis, Rogers wasn’t limited to just assessing battle damage. He could also inflict it; his Predator was equipped with two Hellfire laser-guided missiles. Rogers, who flew F-15s (call sign: Smack) before switching to drones, radioed for authorization to destroy the Dodge. He got it. “We left their truck one big smoking hole,” he remembers. “My heart was pumping as we were doing our business. It felt just as real to me, however many thousands of miles away, as if I was sitting right there in that cockpit.”

    • Long term I don’t think we do need fighter jets (PLANES certainly, for transport and the like, but not fighters/bombers). However, I don’t think we’re there quite yet (for example, the Predator in the story can hold two Hellfire missiles, whereas the F35 can hold around a dozen missiles, depending upon the configuration, and also has a 25 mm cannon. I also think that as great as drones are against ground targets, they’re not ready for serious air to air combat yet, and I’m not sure they’ve even really seriously tested such a capability).

      I always figured that the reason the government was only going to buy 65 planes (barely enough for three active squadrons) was because they were already anticipating supplementing their combat abilities with UAVs. To my mind (putting the debate about the F35 specifically to one side for a moment) 65 fighters isn’t actually enough for the RCAF unless one is going to ramp up the use of drones (which is, frankly, a good idea imho).

      It seems to me that whatever we end up getting in terms of fighters (and as I suggested, I personally think we need to invest in one more generation of manned fighters before we’ll be ready to go “all drone”) if we’re only going to get around 65, that’s fine with me, but then I expect we’ll NEED to supplement with drones, and that’s not something the government has talked about much. If we’re NOT going to get seriously into the drone business then, personally, I think we need more than 65 fighters.

      All that said, as I too think that the future is drones, I think that’s another chink in the argument in favour of the F35. Arguably the F35 is a less terrible choice from the standpoint of still having the most modern generation of fighter out there 30+ years from now. However, I also think that that argument can be turned on it’s head on the rationale that this could mean that 35 years from now the RCAF will still be flying the most advanced manned fighter out there… 10 years after every other Air Force has passed all of their fighter duties over to drones.

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