Thursday, April 05, 2012

A question or two about the F-35

Following up on Dave's posts about the F-35 and the separation between civilian DND and the uniformed CF about the F-35, I keep finding myself bothered by the same basic question and several that follow from it.

Why F-35?

Is the F-35 a purely political decision? Is it something foisted on the RCAF despite, maybe, hopefully, better minds within that organistion?

Or did the RCAF say unto the Harper people, "F-35 or bust, please"? A while back we had a long guest post here by a knowledgeable blue-suited person who suggested something to that effect.

In summary, the Air Staff and the CF are right when they suggest that the Joint Strike Fighter is the most capable and most cost-effective solution that Canada can field in the decades to come. It meets or exceeds all our defence requirements at a reasonable long term price. The alternatives are all significantly more expensive and could result in capability gaps in the later stages of the platforms expected service life (2030-2045), possibly requiring significant and expensive upgrades or simply sacrificing survivability putting our air crews and possibly our national security at risk... It's another matter entirely, to challenge the choice of the CF, assume you know better than the professionals and then insist on a cheaper alternative without knowing if it's suitable or not. I sincerely hope these commentators will be a little more responsible in the months and years to come and place the needs of the CF and concerns for our national security over partisan bickering.
The date on that post is 22 July 2010.  Yet the Auditor General findings suggest there was some knowledge of the actual costs of the aircraft before that date.
Among the revelations in Michael Ferguson's spring report tabled earlier in the week was the finding that the Department of National Defence estimated in June 2010 that buying and operating the planes for 20 years would cost around $25 billion.
And Brian Stewart hints that few in the CF really believed the cost figures that were bandied about in public. And indeed as PLG points out here, no one with half a brain ought to believe any price voiced about high-speed defence tech until after the contracts are signed and machines are delivered.

If the Harperbots in DND for one reason or another decided that the RCAF was getting the F-35 that the flyers should be enlisted to sell the thing to taxpayers (like also dig up dirt on Opposition members), that's one issue.

But if the RCAF wanted the F-35 and was unable to factor the spiralling cost and ongoing design problems into its analysis, that's a whole separate concern. If so, the Air Force has done as much harm to itself by arguing for the unproven plane as the Conservatives did by lying about it.

Either way, the question why F-35 still remains. Somewhere in there is a rationale  political and/or military for it that has stuck for a very long time. I would be very curious to hear the unspun version.  


Edstock said...

A cluster-fuck of epic proportions.

The F-35 is a stealth aircraft, designed for ground attack as well as interception.

While Stealth is useful for defense, it's a big plus for the aggressor: the smaller your radar cross-section, the closer you can get.

But is that what our country needs? IMHO, the Super Hornet will do just fine, better than the F-35.

Boris said...

You know Ed, at this point I really don't think the country knows what it needs. We keep being told we need an aircraft that is essentially still fiction in both cost and functionality, because its 5th generation and not 4.5 or something, but we're missing an explicit articulation of why we need that particular plane when there are host of others that are non-fiction contenders. We need the F-35 because the F-35 is what we need is what all this sounds like.

Mark, Ottawa said...

Have a look at this, the previous post linked to, and the "Comment":

"More on the Auditor General’s Report and the F-35–and the Canadian Government’s Response"


Dave said...

Good ones Mark.

Saskboy said...
long guest post link is borked.

Boris said...

Saskboy, thanks, fixed. :)