All You Need To Know About The Replacement Of The Canadian Boeing CF-18 Fighter Jets - Or the chronicle of (another) announced disaster.
US government will have to approve the choice of the new fighter jet selected by Canada.
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By TCA for fliegerfaust.com
- Ministry of Defense (and the Canadian Forces) has always had absolute control over this tender. PWGSC is in fact only an approving facade.
Let's be honest and recognize immediately that the process of replacing fighter planes is simply biased.
As well as the replacement programs for search and rescue helicopters, helicopters operated from Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) vessels, or the renewal of the Coast Guard and RCN fleets (frigates, multi-role replenishment vessels, arctic patrol ships, icebreakers ...), this one has borne the brunt of many twists and turns, ranging from changes of military requirements to political interests (and interferences), all of which is tainted by numerous lobbyists and other people with direct interests or not.
Also, I do not intend to discuss in this text other equipment replacement programs that have not yet started or have just started. Per example, all CC-150 Polaris wide-body aircraft, CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, CH-146 Griffon multi-role utility helicopters and CT-155 Hawk advanced training aircraft will also need to be replaced faster than we all realize.
In any case, we are talking about significant expenses. More significant than you will ever think it will be. If you believe that our governments have over-subsidized Bombardier for its CSeries, don't worry: you'll quickly understand the CSeries program's provincial and federal grants were pocket change by comparison.
The F-35 comes from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) development and acquisition program, which began in 1992. This program was designed to replace most combat aircraft in service within the US Navy (USN), US Marines (USMC), US Air Force (USAF). The United Kingdom joined the program in 1995 to replace some fighter jets of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy (RN). Canada, for its part, joined the program in 1997 as an evaluation partner of competing aircraft to eventually replace its CF-188s.
Since the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has repeatedly tried to reduce costs and increase efficiencies between different services. Thus, the F-35 is not the first combat aircraft program required by the US DoD to equip both the USN and the USAF. This honor goes to the F-111 Aardwark, the very first variable geometry aircraft put into production. In the end, the F-111 was only adopted by the USAF and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and put into service from 1967.
Other unified fighter aircraft programs were initiated later but ultimately resulted in separate aircraft. These were the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet.
It is important to note that, in the past, several USN aircraft designed for aircraft carrier operations have also been adopted by the USAF. A-1 Skyraider, A-3 Skywarrior, A-7 Corsair II and F-4 Phantom II are some examples. Several simple factors explain this situation: USN aircraft must be more robust because of the forces exerted by catapulting and landing operations on aircraft carriers. Thus, converting aircraft designed for the USAF for use on aircraft carriers turns out to be almost impossible.
Among the most ambitious requirements of the JSF is also to replace all AV-8B Harrier II in service not only in the United States and the United Kingdom but also in Spain and Italy. These STOVL aircraft are among the most important for the USMC to support its troops. Deployed from amphibious assault ships, they represent the independence of air combat and the Corps ground attack in its operations.
One of the initial objectives of this program was a commonality of components between the different versions of 80%. According to an evaluation conducted in 2017, this rate would now be 20%.
The aircraft: The (C)F-35A
So, 27 years after the official start of the program, the second largest country on the planet will therefore purchase 88 (C)F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) at a probable unit cost of US$109 million (2019) to ensure the defense of its territory of 9,984,670 km2. You read it right: eighty-eight combat aircraft to patrol and protect nearly ten million square kilometers at an initial cost of ten billion US dollars.
That being said, we are no longer at the beginning of the Cold War and technologies and infrastructures have since greatly evolved. Remote-controlled satellites and radars now allow the surveillance of large areas of land without local personnel. The protection of the airspace is thus improved and the human and material resources better used. In theory, this should also translate into lower overall costs, but that is another subject altogether.
Government estimates are close to $20 billion for this program as a whole. This being said, there are few realistic indications of the estimated costs of integration (including training of pilots, ground staff and changes to the supply and maintenance chain) or specific modifications (some specific weapons and communications have not been previously integrated by any other allied armed forces on the JSF) for the integration of these aircraft into the Canadian Forces.
Finally, just to be part of JSF's development program, Canada has also paid over US$600 million so far to become and remain a Tier 3 partner. Economic spinoffs vary greatly among different estimates and will not probably entirely known given the "secret defense" nature of these.
After reading these amounts, one wonders why the government does not consider other combat aircraft. In fact, the Trudeau government launched an international tender a few years ago which is, officially, still underway. Officially, this call for tenders comes from Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) but internal sources have revealed that the Ministry of Defense (and the Canadian Forces) has always had absolute control over this tender. PWGSC is in fact only an approving facade for sanctioning decisions made by other departments and, ultimately, the Cabinet.
Among the manufacturers invited to this tender, Boeing presents its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter its Typhoon, Lockheed Martin its F-35A and Saab its Gripen E. We could also add the F-15X of Boeing, the Tempest of BAE and the New Generation Fighter of the consortium Dassault/Airbus Defense and Space to this list. Note that the Eurofighter is owned by Airbus (46%), BAE Systems (33%) and Leonardo (21%)
Despite the controversy, the Lockheed F-35A is the combat aircraft that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) wants. For the military, no one else is better qualified than themselves to evaluate and acquire their equipment and spend your money there. For them, apart from the F-35A, none of the aircraft competing for this contract meet their high operational standards and are able to exploit the latest advanced weapon systems that Canada needs to ensure its safety until 2070.
It should be noted here that the F-35 (and its variants) is the first western stealth fighter plane available to allied countries of the United States.
« Stealth? »
Let's take a moment and define the term "stealth" in terms of aeronautics. In my opinion, the most accurate definition is a set of technologies and techniques aimed at reducing the reflectivity and emissions of a device with respect to heat, visible light, audio, radio frequencies and detection by radar.
That being said, all its technologies and techniques remain compromises.
Various techniques are used to reduce engine heat emissions to make them less susceptible to infrared-guided missiles. Engine design and placement has a very significant impact on the noise emitted (consider the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW1000G engines that are used in particular with the Airbus A220 whose noise reduction is generally recognized at 50%). The problem comes when we look a little closer to the technologies and techniques decreasing the radar detection.
Indeed, all these technologies are effective against radars operating in certain frequency bands. As with any radio transmitter, the antenna will be smaller if it transmits in a higher frequency. Reducing the radar footprint of "stealth" aircraft is therefore optimized for radar in high frequency bands because these are generally used on other aircraft and their weapons systems, anti-aircraft systems ...
Conversely, they are still visible to radars operating in the low frequency bands. These radars have a long range, have very large antennas and are usually fixed. Radars in the low frequency bands were among the first developed and used during the Second World War. Several have been supplied to the USSR and many developments designed and put into service to date. These radars do not have the same resolution as those operating in the high frequency bands but fit perfectly with the philosophy and organization of the Russian Air Force and their allies.
So, is the F-35 (or the F-117, F-22 and B-2 and future B-21) "stealth". It depends on the point of view but especially on the equipment used.
The operator: The Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces relies heavily on the training of its troops, and the ARC prides itself on being among the best trained and most experienced pilots. These would be among the best in the world in terms of superiority, combat, bombardment, suppression of anti-aircraft defenses, reconnaissance and ground attack. Many, if not most, of its pilots have been trained at the US Navy Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (TOPGUN). In addition, because of trade, some have also been trained in aircraft carrier operations.
There are still some concerns. First, if Canada wants to retain these combat and air support capabilities, Canada must replace its eighty-four CF-188s. These aircraft will not rejuvenate just because you want. They were used not only in Canada for our national commitments and the NORAD treaty, but also during combat operations in Kuwait, Iraq, and former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, in Libya in 2011, and again in Iraq, and in Syria in 2014-2015. They have also been deployed extensively in Europe under NATO command.
Second, trying to predict what will be the future of aviation in fifty years is more complicated than guessing the next winning combination of your favorite lottery. In fact, we wonder whether Canada has the means to meet its ambitions and even to operate combat planes.
The F-35A is not the aircraft Canada needs. It is far from it.
To enable them to perform the missions assigned to them, they need an aircraft capable of performing them. In theory, the F-35A is able to accomplish all these missions. In reality, we are far from having a multi-role aircraft, multi-mission as we are sold. Because of the initial requirements of this program, including a maximum commonality of the components between the variants of the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines, we are witnessing here a compromise plane. It is a plane that can do anything, pretty much. It is not "excellent"; it is average at best.
Despite their advanced age, the CF-188s were and remain for a while, perfectly suited for these uses. In fact, the general wear of these aircraft is more problematic than their relevance. Both the Canadian Forces and their external suppliers have developed unique maintenance methods for CF-188s. It is not uncommon to see American, Australian or other F/A-18s here in Canada for maintenance and/or major modifications. Not only are our industries competitive in this field: they have developed exclusive and recognized expertise on these aircraft. (Would it make much more sense to select the Boeing Super Hornet instead?)
Special conditions of operation
Because of the extent of its territory, Canada has for some decades relied on dual-engine combat aircraft. This argument is essentially in favor of the safety of pilots and aircraft because of the small number of airports that can accommodate combat aircraft in Canada's North. The choice of the F-35 breaks this trend initiated more than 50 years ago. To my knowledge, there are a few airports that have been built and others modernized in Canada's north since the mid-eighties, but never enough to change that.
Like Canada's geography, the airports scattered throughout its territory are just as diverse as each other. Many of them who are able to accommodate the CF-188s have been equipped with arresting cables in the '80s and' 90s, in all respects similar to those installed on the aircraft carriers. The use of these cables serves only to shorten the stopping distance, which is essential on some tracks whose length is not always adequate. As the proposed F-35As do not have landing hooks, Canada, Norway and the Netherlands have requested the addition of stop parachutes to the F-35A they want to operate. So far, no information seems to be available on the status of certification of this option.
Let us also keep in mind that these fighter planes will continue to be operated from two main bases (CFB Bagotville and CFB Cold Lake) as well as a multitude of secondary bases. Just as on a personal trip, having mechanical trouble away from home is not only unpleasant but can also cause significant problems for the repair. These devices can not always be sent to the nearest garage.
Note: The F-18 (and CF-188) remains in flight when an engine is lost. Stop cables are also used in the event of a potential loss of oil pressure to the brake system during engine problems. In the case of an engine loss with the F-35 you have just lost more than $100 million and the pilot must eject.
We all know how Canada is a country of extreme climates. The extent of the territory and the seasons give us a country where temperatures vary between -40 ° C and 40 ° C annually. And I only mention our territory: our governments like to deploy our troops for all kinds of good and bad reasons at the international level. Preliminary F-35 operational tests by the US Air Force in Alaska have shown battery problems in cold weather, while other tests by the US Marines have shown engine control problems in hot, humid weather. No other country seems to have made public the results of their own climate tests.
Since 2008, Canada has regained its air refueling capability with the conversion of two CC-150s in collaboration with the German Luftwaffe. These two CC-150Ts feature two probe and drogue devices per aircraft. These devices are those used by the F-35B and F-35C. It should be noted that a boom device that can be used to refuel the F-35A could be installed but it is almost impossible that this is the case as the CC-150 will have to be replaced soon.
Other recently F-35 "disclosed" issues also mention problems with the logistics system (cloud computing), information sharing (cloud computing), overpressurization of the cabin (software, perhaps equipment), loss of oxygen supply (software, perhaps equipment), structures and coatings during supersonic flights (structure), basic control of the aircraft (software), erratic flight behavior during altitude changes of more than 20 ° (software ), protection of hydraulic systems in the event of an explosion of a landing gear tire (structure), radar (software, perhaps equipment), display at the helmet and avionics (software , maybe equipment).
What worries me the most is that most of these reported problems are software-related. Millions of lines of code control this aircraft, from start-up to landing and even between flights. All these lines of code must be written in a simple and conscious way, documented excessively and tested continuously both by module and interaction with the other components. It is obvious that from the strict point of view of the secrecy surrounding this project that ordinary mortals will not have access to the code to verify it.
But what about F-35 operators? Except for the United States, only Israel would have obtained in their purchase contract access to all development documentation, engineering plans and source code for all components as well as test data from all countries participating in the program, whether they accepted it or not. Since the first aircraft (including one specifically for testing purposes) have been delivered to Israel, these have already been modified to improve their effective range and stealth characteristics.
Politics, Diplomacy and Politics
The most surprising of this entire fighter aircraft acquisition program for Canada is the role of the US government. Indeed, in the name of common defense of North American airspace, the US government will have to approve the choice of the new fighter jet selected by Canada.
You read very well. The US government has an indirect veto right conferred on it by the Norad Treaty. If the Canadian government had made this buying exercise a decade or even twenty years ago, it would not have been the same situation. But today, in 2019, with JSF delays, problems and cost overruns, the United States has no advantage for Canada to choose another aircraft than the F-35. They have (too much) invested in this program to not share the bill with a natural and captive partner such as Canada. At worst, they will accept without too much fuss that Canada is buying Boeing Super Hornet F/A-18E/F.
But what will they do if Canada chooses the Eurofighter Typhoon or Saab Gripen E? The US government will never directly deny the Canadian choice but will do everything in their power to let the approval and, subsequently, the certification of combat aircraft and related systems until the situation is untenable.
If it is not done correctly, it is at this point that politics and diplomacy merge to become questionable policies.
So what is the combat aircraft Canada needs? Are other fighter planes doing the trick? Most likely. Under the NORAD treaty with the United States, the US must "approve" any purchase of fighter aircraft made by Canada for the purpose of implementing the Treaty. In fact, with the current political conditions and using the bureaucracy, Americans will probably block any fighter from a different origin that Canada would like to acquire. Regardless of who competes for this international tender, a US fighter will be retained and it will most likely be the F-35.
In the end, we should rather ask ourselves if Canada has the means of its ambitions. $20 billion is a huge sum for the vast majority of Canadians, especially for less than one hundred (C)F-35A. Now add up to $70 billion for the replacement of RCM destroyers and frigates (by a consortium including, among others, Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-35), at least $4+ billion for offshore patrol vessels in Arctic, at least $3 billion for the replacement of multi-role replenishment vessels and an amount still unknown for the replacement of the majority of the Coast Guard fleet. Let us also keep in mind the replacement of maritime patrol aircraft, strategic transport and air refueling aircraft, advanced training aircraft and multi-role helicopters that will eventually have to be done soon.
Now that you're just dizzy with the more than $100 billion in planned and upcoming aircraft and vessel expenses, I need to remind you that health and education costs can only increase, that our Infrastructure and public buildings are in decay and there is only one viable source of revenue for all these expenses: The Canadian tax payers.
So, dear friends, what are the choices we have to make today so that we can live tomorrow?
 Despite the announcement made in January 2019, some analyses are still ongoing for the replacement of the current CH-146 as there might be a better and cheaper option.
 A-10 Thunderbolt II, AV-8B Harrier II, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18A-D Hornet.
 Harrier GR7-GR9 and Tornado GR4.
 Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing
 The Canadian commitment to the F-35 program actually began unofficially in 1997.
 The Tempest aims to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen E around 2035.
 It should be noted here, among other things, that Canada has operated in the past single engine combat aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin Shooting Star and the Canadair Saber and Starfighter and has learn from it.
 https://www.discs.dsca.mil/pubs/vol%2013_1/omb.pdf, page 33.
 More than 5.5 times the total budget for 4 similar supply vessels for the Royal Navy ($600 millions).
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