Here's a syndrome that can only make matters worse for all sides on the F-35 imbroglio. As David Pugliese points out:
Previously, the Canadian government determined it would receive the F-35 during peak production – the so-called “sweet spot’’ that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and others have repeatedly talked about. That was to be 2016, according to DND and government officials. According to Mr. MacKay and others, the “sweet spot” is the year the jets are to achieve their peak production rate, thus coming off the assembly line at their lowest cost. Over the last year DND officials have extended the “sweet spot” to include a wider range, expanding the period to focus on 2016 to 2021.Which creates whole garden boxes of problems for the troop-supporting, standing up for Canada, Harperites.
But in a March 29 report sent to Congress, the Pentagon’s plan for near peak production rates for the Lockheed Martin jet is now set for 2018. In that year, U.S. F-35 program officials say they will be able to purchase 110 jets, according to a recent article by my colleagues at Defense News. By 2021, the production rate will hit 130 jets, which includes versions for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
So from that congressional report it appears that the “sweet spot” has moved from the original 2016 to at least 2021.
But there are concerns that the peak F-35 production year could shift even further. And Defense News is reporting that there are serious concerns within the U.S. Air Force and Navy about whether they will be able to afford the number of aircraft projected to be bought around 2020 and the years following.
By the time the first operational F-35 goes wheels down at CFB Cold Lake the F-18 airframes will be so fragile that they won't be able to perform a half of their expected roles. So what happens in the period between when it became critical to start replacing the F-18s and the unbelievably late arrival of their replacement?
The short-sightedness of putting all their eggs in the F-35 basket, (and giving other options less than a passing glance), will have created a huge defence gap. If the kids at DND and their political masters actually believe Canada needs to field a fighter air-force with strike and air superiority capabilities, they're doing little more than mouthing the words.
By the time Canada can take possession of enough F-35s, (at a cost which doesn't put a mortgage on our great-grandchildren), to become an interoperable, coherent element of any combined fighter force, any of the technological advantages attached to the plane today will have evaporated in a multitude of technological countermeasures.
As the price goes up, and it just keeps going up, we will be able to afford fewer and fewer of these so-called advanced weapons platforms. We've already seen the initial acquisition estimate drop from 80, (a rounded down, one-for-one replacement of the existing F-18 fleet), to 65, with no plan for contingencies. When we finally take delivery, because the Harperites and RCAF are so wedded to this one airplane and the ability to fly out front in whatever US-led adventure comes along, we may well have sacrificed our own sovereign air-space protection. And that's not just in the interim - it's forever.