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The RCAF's Next Generation Fighter (CF-188 Replacement)

Colin Parkinson

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Likely continuing to move ahead very, very, very slowly. Favorite Liberal tactic is to never cancel things, just quietly defund then.
 

Edward Campbell

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I suspect Prof Elinor Sloan has nailed it. Near the very end of the article, she is quoted as saying that "My guess is they are having to walk back that clear policy statement [2015, a Liberal Gov't will NOT buy the F-35] ... [and] ... I can only read into this that [F-35 Joint Strike Fighter] will be chosen. They need to find a way, a political way, to justify this about-face."
 

Good2Golf

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Agreed Mr. Campbell, Prof. Sloan is bang on. Certainly no doubt that Boeing’s actions precipitated the chain of events that led to Bombardier’s C-Series being taken over by Airbus, arguably (perhaps) keeping Canada and Quebec from recovering any value from their C-Series related investments. Most likely post-election, g will announce its moving ahead with the F-35 acquisition.

G2G
 

MarkOttawa

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Excellent Finnish blogger Corporal (not) Frisk on Finland's fighter competition--64 planes wanted--and Super Hornet/Growler/F-35A offers--start of post and excerpts on cruise missiles:

The Further Adventures of the F-35 (and the Super Hornet)​

The HX competition continues to provide surprises in the post-BAFO era, and this week’s media event courtesy of the US Embassy was no exception. After a short introduction by the embassy that described the strong partnership that exists between Finland and the US (and which included a note about Finnish exports and know-how finding its way into key US programs, such as the Polar Security Cutter), it was on to the two US fighter manufacturers to discuss their bids. And while they might be taking part in the same media event, the tone certainly tells of the battle heating up. Boeing discarded outright the theory of ordinary fighters working as EW-platforms, noting that an AESA radar will only provide X-band jamming, and only during ingress, leaving you unprotected when exiting the target area, while Lockheed Martin explained how the F-35A doesn’t require support from electronic warfare platforms or ISR assets “as opposed to 4th generation fighters”.

all-aspect-full-spectrum.png


Illustration of the difference between having a dedicated EW-aircraft compared to an unnamed strike fighter (no points for guessing which, though) using its AESA-radar as a giant jammer. The colour coding symbolise different bands, with the underwing pods of the Growler jamming the S-, C-, and X-bands while the centre-line pod handles the VHF, UHF, and L-band part of the spectrum. Picture courtesy of Boeing.

Much of the presentation from Boeing should be well-known talking points to readers of the blog, but in short Boeing still sees international opportunities for up to 400 Super Hornets on the international market. This includes everything from Germany, which already has down-selected the aircraft, to less likely cases such as India.The German contract is the most important one from a Finnish point of view and would likely be a minor facor in HX as it would mean another serious European operator, though my expectation is that the deal won’t be inked until the new government is formed and have gotten up to speed (read: 2022, which also seems to be roughly the timeline Boeing is expecting). Some have questioned the future of the programme as a whole with the rise of Die Grünen, but so far the programme is continuing apace and Germany has indeed already invested money in the preparatory studies, which would imply that the MoD is expecting it to survive a change of government. Notable also that while the Greens aren’t particularly keen on nuclear weapons, part of the allure of the Super Hornet in the strike role comes from the synergies of the Growler which is part of the non-controversial luWES Tornado ECR-replacement program. Of the near-future decisions, the Swiss and Canadian decision are expected within June and before the end of the summer respectively. Switzerland and Canada are less likely to end in work for St Louis, but you never know [emphasis added]...

Is there a heavy cruise missile at all in Lockheed Martin’s best and final offer?

The JSM is a very nice weapon, and it marries extremely well with the F-35. However, the 550+ km range is a far cry from the 1,850+ km range of the AGM-158B-2 JASSM-ER which is cleared for export to Finland as part of both US offers, but as noted the JASSM has never been confirmed by Lockheed Martin. Granted the F-35A might be able to operate closer to its intended target than the Super Hornet, but I sincerely doubt the difference is in the 1,300+ km class. And the difference isn’t just in the range (the JSM in fact outranges the current AGM-158A, so it would still be a step up), but the JASSM carries a 450-kg penetrating warhead while the JSM comes with the significantly more tame 125-kg fragmentation one.

To put it bluntly – it might be a cruise missile, but it is not the capability the Finnish Air Force is looking for...

Now, if there really is some rather significant holes in the F-35 package, such as the lack of a heavy cruise missile, it isn’t far-fetched to see a re-negotiation where say two aircraft are dropped and the cost is converted into JASSMs, as in all fairness the difference between 64 and 62 aircraft would in practice turn out to be rather minor. On the other hand, it is the BAFO package that will be evaluated in the war games that determine the winner, and it would be a high-risk gamble to go in with something else than the optimal solution to the needs of the FDF. A third possibility is that Lockheed Martin is believing that they won’t come out on top, and then it would look better to be able to walk away saying that they were able to fit 64 aircraft in their offer under the budget given, but that they lost on some more particularly Finnish requirement (defence budgets and numbers are rather global phenomenon and affect every future fighter programme in which they wish to compete, dispersed operations in snow doesn’t)...

Mark
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Colin Parkinson

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Reading about the USAF struggles to maintain the coatings on the F35, makes me wonder if the aircraft is a good fit for Canada, considering our poor track record of maintaining things?
 

OldSolduer

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Reading about the USAF struggles to maintain the coatings on the F35, makes me wonder if the aircraft is a good fit for Canada, considering our poor track record of maintaining things?
If you're talking about keeping things properly yes we do have a not great record. IF you're talking about the use of gun tape and patching things up to keep things operational then we are wizards.
 

Loachman

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Reading about the USAF struggles to maintain the coatings on the F35, makes me wonder if the aircraft is a good fit for Canada, considering our poor track record of maintaining things?
I have never signed for an aircraft that was less than airworthy. There may have been some minor unserviceabilities at times, but never anything unsafe or that might have limited my mission.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I have never signed for an aircraft that was less than airworthy. There may have been some minor unserviceabilities at times, but never anything unsafe or that might have limited my mission.
That i am not doubting, but how many aircraft are/were awaiting serving and parts? That seems to be a common trend in our fighter fleet?
 

Loachman

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We always had excellent serviceability on exercises and ops, and less in garrison - where time could be taken to fix things and conduct major maintenance.
 

CBH99

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Reading about the USAF struggles to maintain the coatings on the F35, makes me wonder if the aircraft is a good fit for Canada, considering our poor track record of maintaining things?
One of the main selling features on the F-35 is it's stealth characteristics, in which a big part of that is the stealth coating. If that coating is extremely expensive (which from my understanding, it is) - and wears out, or damages, fairly easily (again, my impression from articles over the years is yes, it is easily damaged) - then one of the key selling features, also seems to be one of the most expensive to maintain.

Can the program negotiate a better price on the coating? Is this a program that users will just have to plan & budget for? Is this something that will be a worse problem for us, or relatively the same as our USAF counterparts?


By no means am I suggesting this isn't a great aircraft that can do amazing things, and is a real game changer in the next big battle. And by chatting with a buddy of mine who currently flies the F-35C for the USN as well as the F-18E/F - and was the USN demo pilot for a year on the F-35 - he is very clear that he would prefer to take the F-35 into battle over anything else he has flown. (Similar sentiments we've heard from Max and others.)

I too have my questions as to whether this is the right fit for us, given the bulk of what we do.

We could do the bulk of our current missions with a CF-18E/F (Block 3, all whizzed up). But for the occasions where our fighter pilots are deployed to a real shooting war, we need to make sure their jets can do as much as possible better than the enemy.


(0.02)
 

Colin Parkinson

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You want the LO coating for training to avoid drawing false lessons in the training environment and using less-than-optimal tactics to account for the LO coating
But would the LO training issue only apply to certain training missions? if that was 50% of the training and you have 5 jets not coated that had higher serviceability rates, that means more flying hours and better use of your limited number of maintainer, supplies and budget.
 

suffolkowner

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The CPFH of the F35A need to be broken down by lot and Block to get a real impression of where things stand. Sustaining multiple parts systems/lines for the those different lots and blocks has greatly contributed to the cost/availability/and sustainability of the program. I think if you look at just the block 3 onward there will be a substantial difference
 

Kirkhill

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The Finnish report makes much of the ability to carry a long-range cruise missile.

And yet the trend seems to be towards UAVs as bomb trucks. Old fighters could be easily converted to missile carrying drones.

The F35s seem to me to be gaining a reputation equivalent to snipers. They are more valuable when they don't have to disclose their presence by shooting. They seem best advised to reserve their fire for High Value Targets and for self-defence. The longer they can stay on station, meaning more fuel and less extraneous loads (like weapons" the more valuable they are.

Which brings us back to Canada.

Is it time to revisit the Fighters vs Missiles debate of the 1960s that killed the Arrow and bought us the Bomarc?

Do we need a force of 88x F35s? Or do we need a steady supply of 88x F35s over the next 20 to 30 years that allows us to keep a couple of dozen current F35s at operational levels and spend some of the money on maintaining some long range UAV interceptors and bomb-trucks to back them up? Convert the existing F18s into drones with missiles to work with the F35s when required?

Both the Brits, and the USAF, have been sending signals that they may honour their buy of total numbers of F35s over the life of the production lines but they may not field all those aircraft as a single, time constrained, fleet. They will operate smaller fleets that are constantly upgraded and maintained over the life of the production lines.

The implication of that is that we are not looking for a paint that will last fifty years. We are looking for paint that will last 5 to 10 years before the aircraft is replaced by a new aircraft prior to being down-graded to second echelon tasks.
 

lenaitch

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But would the LO training issue only apply to certain training missions? if that was 50% of the training and you have 5 jets not coated that had higher serviceability rates, that means more flying hours and better use of your limited number of maintainer, supplies and budget.

No doubt LM would charge an extra few Mn because it is a small, out-of-production line order. Besides, five aircraft out of an already small fleet probably limits their assignment; they would always be training aircraft since stealth was felt to be operationally important.

Then again, at least one could be annually re-painted for the Demo Flight.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I get the impression that the current paint technology that they are using on the F35 is quite the maintenance burden on the USAF systems, which dwarfs ours. I suspect jets can fly with compromised/subpar coatings but not sure on that?
Perhaps the first 5 are tagged as "Do not repaint" and once the coating reaches a certain point, it's removed and those 5 or so jets are used as training jets for all the non combat related training and familiarization flights. It likely that the traditional coatings could be stripped and LO coatings applied if needed?
 

MTShaw

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I get the impression that the current paint technology that they are using on the F35 is quite the maintenance burden on the USAF systems, which dwarfs ours. I suspect jets can fly with compromised/subpar coatings but not sure on that?
Perhaps the first 5 are tagged as "Do not repaint" and once the coating reaches a certain point, it's removed and those 5 or so jets are used as training jets for all the non combat related training and familiarization flights. It likely that the traditional coatings could be stripped and LO coatings applied if needed?
AFAIK the F-35 has RAM coating baked into the outer surface of the plane itself.
 
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