Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Astonishingly Short Shelf-Life of Stealth Technology

When you're looking to part with tens of billions of dollars for an aircraft you'll be relying on for thirty years in service, it's best to get something with some real shelf-life.  And that's not the F35, joint strike fighter.

The F35 sacrifices everything that makes a great fighter - range, payload, agility - for a supposed huge advantage in stealth, that is to say, invisibility.  Of course "stealth" is a relative term.  Stealthy, compared to what?   Stealthy,  under what circumstances?  Stealthy, for how long?

News Alert!   America's brass have informed Congress they're "discouraged" to discover that their country's lead in stealth technology is "eroding more quickly than anticipated."

USAF general Herbert Carlisle warned, "Over time I believe we will still maintain an advantage, but I think our advantage will be a shorter period of time.

"I don't see us maintaining an advantage for as long, as I think other nations will continue to gain that technology," he said.

Another witness, USMC general Terry Robling said the answer to the Russian and Chinese stealth fighters now under development will be the next generation of American aircraft at the "next level."

It's beginning to sound that the F35 really isn't a long-term option.  In fact it sounds like we're spending an enormous amount of money to acquire a paltry number of marginally performing aircraft that stands to be overtaken by superior technology fairly early in its projected service life.   This is the sort of result you can expect when you're making your decisions ideologically.

Meanwhile, American warhawk, Senator John McCain, dismayed by latest figures on the skyrocketing costs to maintain the F35, suggests it's time for a rethink.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "It seems to me [prudent that] we at least begin considering alternatives."

The reason some in the Senate want to start looking for alternatives is the report published last week showing the costs to maintain  the F-35 through 2065 spiraling to $1 trillion.

...Procurement Chief Ashton Carter said,  "Over the lifetime of this program, the decade or so, the per-aircraft cost of the 2,443 aircraft has doubled in real terms. That's what it's going to cost if we keep doing what we're doing. That's unacceptable. That's unaffordable."


LeDaro said...

Mound, I don’t want to sound like a broken record but total cost of contracts for F-35 and ships is $60billion plus. F-35 is estimated to be $9 billion. With $55 billion deficit where is Harper going to get the money.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think the F35 costs, lifetime costs, came out closer to $30-billion but the latest American numbers suggest even that's a low ball number.

Where's Harper going to find the money? My guess is he'll start shredding social programmes, cut transfers to unruly provinces and borrow the rest.

Alison said...

The best case scenario would be for the US to scrap their purchase of the F35. That would eliminate the Cons argument that we have to coordinate our aircraft with the US. On the other hand, SHit is so enamoured of his shiny toys, that he might still go for it, fiscal responsibility be damned.

Anonymous said...

Pshaw. I have it on good authority from Con MP Laurie Hawn (via Power&Politics) that none of that matters. The only number that counts is 9 Billion Dollars for 65 planes. Everything else is obviously some sort of opposition partisan bickering.

It doesn't matter that they're really not that stealthy.

It doesn't matter that they only have one engine, instead of the two usually desired for work in the arctic. It doesn't matter that they don't come with an engine at all.

It doesn't matter that the defense of Canada needs a long-range fighter/interceptor rather than a pseudo-stealthy bomber.

It doesn't matter that many of the supposed billions of industrial benefits have already been contracted out to Israel, who wasn't even a partner nation in the F-35's initial development.

It doesn't matter that the U.S. General Accountability Office says that he can't see F-35s costing any less than $110 million each to purchase, or that the United States has a law where no military hardware can be sold to foreign nations for less than what the US DoD pays for it.

It doesn't matter that even the Department of National Defence admits that the F-35 program is becoming much more expensive. The conservatives have a 'multi-billion dollar contingency fund' which is probably found somewhere near the promised 'deficit slashed one year early' money.

Nope, the F-35s will all appear in 2016 (the most expensive part of the production run) costing a mere $75 million each, even when the rest of the world is expecting closer to $200 million. They will be perfect for Canada's needs (whatever those are). They will bring in enough industrial benefits to end recessions for all time. Their engines will shoot out rainbows and fly 100 miles on a single bottle of Canadian beer.

I really wish Canada wasn't buying the BOMARC of the 21st century. :(

The Mound of Sound said...

Ah, Anon. To someone from the BOMARC/Arrow era that line is terrific.

Uncommoner said...

My grandfather worked on the Lancaster, the Canuck and the Arrow. He worked on the Iroquois engines that would have powered the Arrow. It broke his heart when the project was cancelled and he never forgave Diefenbaker or the PC party.

The fact that we allowed American pressure to cost us an industry is something that never fails to make me bitterly angry.

Buying this Lockheed-Martin White Elephant is a terrible idea for Canada (and for every other nation involved in this fiscal suicide pact).

But Anonymous is probably right. We will go right ahead and buy what we're told, damn what it costs. Because that's what the USA wants us to buy, and that's what really matters in the end.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think this will cripple, if not destroy, Canada's air force. There'll only be 65 of them which, if we have to stretch them out for 30-years, probably means an availability limit of perhaps 40.

Three squadrons to supposedly meet the air defence needs of the second largest national landmass in the world? Let that sink in for a second.

No, I fear the F35, being a 'bomb truck', will only be viable as a ground attack vehicle in support of an American force on some foreign adventure. It can't begin to defend Canada's vast, unpopulated northern frontier.