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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Do we need 66 CF-35?

CF 35 Lightning II
As we continue to talk about the potential purchase of up to 66 CF-35 Lightning II Fighter jets there are many questions about cost and if this plane is the right thing for Canadian defence.  

CF18's are still a very good aircraft but are getting old in the tooth
(long hours on their airframes and components)
High capability aircraft are like the F 22 raptor (that costs 322 million each) and currently not available for foreign purchase so Canada and other NATO allies need a low capability aircraft like the current F 18 or the CF 35.  High capability means it can do a multitude of jobs such as bombing and cruise missile work which isn't in the Canadian defence needs.

Many have said that the fighter is inappropriate for the north as it is a single engine aircraft.  Canada has used CF 104 Star fighters as a single engine Jet fighter in its intended role but as the need for a low altitude fighter in Germany the CF 104 was pressed into this service.  It soon received the nickname for being the widow maker as if there was a mechanical issue the plane and pilot had very few options.
CF 104 Star fighters
Should Canada follow the idea of multiple aircraft to do the different jobs that it will be requested of the Canadian air force?
CF 18, CF 104, CF 101 and CF5 all multi engine except for the CF 104
One way to get around this problem is to do what we did in the 1970's and 80's and that is to use a multitude of different planes of different types.  In many ways that didn't work out as well as one would hope as the parts, technical crews and simplicity was not there.  The mix of old airframes from different ages, companies and technology made the maintenance a huge hassle.

This is the huge benefit of the CF 35.  
A large number of countries that operate the same aircraft sharing the same technical knowledge and even in some cases the same ground crews.  Many countries can take part but the program is in trouble as the costs begin to rise and the uncertainly of the need and use of this fighter.

UAV and F18 Fighters
Another option may be to use high tech UAV's that can work in tandem or completely separate  from other Canadian fighters.
F18 Fighters in storage
Or should we purchase less CF 35's and possibly buy some low hour airframes from the American storage areas and upgrade them with CF 35 weapon and helmet systems?
Boneyard in Arizona with over 4200 US warplanes.
The new helmet system that is incorporated into the CF-35 is truly world class and makes the fighter a 5th generation machine with huge capabilities.

New helmet for the advanced weapons systems of the CF 35

I find it amazing that we find ourselves in a position that is almost the same as when the Avro Arrow was first brought up.  Then a high tech fighter that had cost overruns and dubious foreign purchase requests (countries said they would buy but then backed down).  This forced the Canadian government to cancel an aircraft that could have in the long run, saved lives, saved maintenance hours, parts purchases, pilot and ground crew cross training hours among many other issues.

We could have seen 1956 NATO air force that used the Avro Arrow as the base model for several countries and would have probably served until the 1980's if not longer.  
We planned to purchase 66 Avro Arrows and here we are 60 years later and we plan to purchase 65 CF 35's are we making the same mistakes?


  1. As an American looking to go red, and serve upon the award (more like reward) of citizenship, I have to say YES! The F-35 is a mistake for Canada. I like your idea of a "few" F-35 alongside some "low-hour" American planes. I say some super-hornets and/or F-15's and F-16's.

    It's too bad that NORAD is intact, or I'd say how about some maritime aircraft such as (well, the Hornet!!) EA-6B, and a more "Air Forcish" plane like the A-10 for some COIN and CAS capabilities, the Jayhawk or Seahawk to relplace or (at least) compliment the Sea King, heck, why some E-2C'S for some maritime AWACS.

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    2. You clearly do not have an understanding as to how the canadian forces and their air force operates. The F-15s and F-16s competed with the F-18 many years ago, and lost. There are only 2 realistic options, we purchase F-35s, or we purchase more F-18s with newer airframes. Purchasing the F-18s however, would just be a step back in technology. New technology costs more, it's that simple.

  2. I think Canada needs to create it's own aircraft capable of carrying out all weather patrols. F35's are not severe cold weather capable, so it is strange that we would consider purchasing them when their primary role would be ensuring Canadian sovereignty in the north.

    either we develope our own aircraft again, or we go with the country that knows severe cold as well as we do... Russia. I know Canada is NATO and what not but why not purchase aircraft from a country that needs all of its aircraft to be cold capable? I think the SU-37 would be best as it is the latest Sukhoi fighter and we know it can do the job well as it is a high mobility fighter built for cold weather.