Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Why Spend a Fortune for a "Troubled" Anything?

In news reports it's common to see the adjective "troubled" used in conjunction with F-35.  It may, by common usage, become that warplane's new name - the "troubled F-35."

The F-35 may fall short on speed, agility, payload, range and just about everything else that marks a great warplane but it's plenty long on troubles - engine troubles, systems troubles, design troubles and, oh yeah, cost troubles.

Now PostMedia has gotten its hands on an internal document generated by bureaucrats showing that the Harper government was kept fully abreast of every step in the "troubled F-35 stealth fighter" progress.

The document, prepared this past spring in advance of a scathing auditor general’s report on the F-35, appears to have been designed to shift responsibility for the stealth fighter program’s mismanagement from the bureaucracy to the Conservatives.

Combined with the Harper government’s admission it knew the jets would cost $10 billion more than Canadians were being told before the election, the document may bolster allegations the Conservatives have kept voters in the dark about the stealth fighter program. 

Former defence procurement official and F-35 critic, Alan Williams, thinks the document shows people are beginning to circle their wagons.

Who do these bureaucrats think they are?” said former National Defence procurement chief Alan Williams, who has been critical of the F-35 program. “What they’ve written is to cover their own butts.

I don't know who "these bureaucrats think they are" but their leaked documents suggest they know what's coming on the F-35 front and want to distance themselves from it as much as they possibly can.  If Harper is going to push this through, it'll be squarely on his head this time.  Sounds like nothing but trouble.

Update -  In other F-35 news, rumours are spreading that the underperforming, overpriced and overdue light attack bomber may be pushed over America's "fiscal cliff."    It is the Pentagon's costliest single procurement item.   That makes it an obvious and easy target sitting atop a pile of expensive programmes.

The ripple affect is that should the Americans sour on the F-35, it will directly impact on Canada and other suckers customers.  If America scraps the "troubled F-35" we're all looking for something else.   If America slashes its orders the way it did with the F-35's big brother, the F-22, then the warplane's costs go up for other buyers.


Anonymous said...

There is no requirement for Canada to buy the F-35 (except if, as you have stated many times, Canada wants to join the American foreign legion).

We require, at least, a twin engine jet with adequate range to patrol the far north. The F-35 does not satisfy this simple Canadian requirement. So why is it even in the running?

The Mound of Sound said...

Why, indeed? This is a politically-driven effort and history has repeatedly shown that to be the worst motivation in any armaments decision.

America's predominant defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, has its nuts in a vise with the F-35, especially after Obama prematurely shut down the F-22 assembly lines. It's hard to imagine what effect a cancellation of the F-35 would have on Lockheed.

Anonymous said...

Lockheed has produced some really fine aircraft, but it appears that they screwed the pooch with the F-35.

I sincerely hope that Canadians won't be spending loads-o-dough on this screwed pooch.

The Mound of Sound said...

Lockheed jumped into a mess on the F-35 project. Some genius in the Pentagon had the brilliant idea that America and her allies could buy an aircraft before the design was fixed and testing completed.

It was, as the subsequent Pentagon procurement chief called it, "acquisition malpractice." Lockheed is delivering aircraft today that are almost certain to need improvements and modifications in the future as testing proceeds.

This is especially problematical for the F-35 because what stealth capability it actually has is dependent on the initial shape and configuration. If the aerodynamics aren't exactly right and if vanes or strakes are required, there's no way you can add such things without compromising stealth. You're stuck with it and, if it doesn't work right, it simply doesn't work right.

There are so many design and performance compromises built into the F-35 to achieve whatever stealth capability remains today that its ability to upgrade is severely restricted.

Lockheed does indeed have an astounding history of achievement but most of that was under the guidance of the late Kelly Johnson and his "skunk works."