Sunday, February 03, 2013

We Need to Make Decisions Based on What Is, Not What Was.

Canada took the hook on the F-35 almost the same day Harper unpacked his bags at Sussex Drive.  That's roughly the same day Harper & Co. began paving Joint Strike Fighter boulevard with a thick tarmac of lies.

Canada F-35?
We were told the Liberals had chosen the F-35.   We were told there had been some competition.   We were told we had inked a contract.   We were told Canada had a fixed price.   We were told that the price was about a third of the actual cost.   We were told the F-35 was the best fighter in the world.   We were told Canada "needed" the F-35 and nothing else would do.  Lies upon lies upon lies.  So many lies it was almost impossible to keep them in any chronological order.

Lockheed F-22 Raptor

It's telling that the Conservatives seem to have stopped the clock at the day they took over.  We're debating the F-35 as though we were still in 2006.   The world has changed.

I just got around to going through Aviation Week's "2013 Aerospace, Intelligence for an Essential Industry" issue that came out in early January.  Yes, I'm falling seriously behind on my reading.   If you want a "shit, oh really?" moment get your hands on a copy of 2013 Aerospace.  It's an eye-opener that casts into even greater doubt most of the assumptions we've relied on in assessing the F-35 and the future of aerial warfare for that matter.

The Reds, Russia and China, (in war games we're still Blue and they're still Red) have been doing a lot of catching up since 2006.  The adversary airplanes we envisioned the F-35 dominating are either being upgraded or replaced with the other side's own stealth designs.   The F-35 wasn't designed to fight the Sukhoi T-50 or China's J-20 or J-31.   They didn't exist when the F-22 and F-35 were designed.   Yet, according to AW, Russia is expected to go operational with the T-50 stealth fighter somewhere between 2014 and 2017.   No word yet on how far behind China's J-20 and J-31 might be.

Russia's T-50

China J-31

While the Russian and Chinese stealth designs seem to be forging ahead, the F-35's fate is still undecided.   America's military is bracing for spending cuts and the F-35 remains in the budget crosshairs.   Curiously enough, AW reports one project that remains safe is the ongoing F/A-18 programme.   That's right, the Super Hornet lives on as does the F-15 Eagle and, yes, they're both advanced versions of 4th Gen warplanes.   Australia's buying them.  So is the U.S. Navy.

The U.S. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments last November released a report based on a budget wargame conducted by seven teams drawn from government and industry.   All teams worked separately but they all had bad news for the F-35.  "All the teams truncated JSF (the F-35) to some extent and one recommended terminating it."

The U.S. Air Force, meanwhile, has committed to keeping most of its F-15s and about 350 F-16s in service until 2030 which signals a slowing of orders for the F-35 which will probably mean even higher prices for partner countries like Canada.

Britain's Taranis

The British and French, having logged their first century without a war between them since the Norman conquest are collaborating on designs for an unmanned aerial combat vehicle based on Britain's stealth Taranis UAV and the French Neuron stealth UAV.   Wait, did I just say "stealth" "Britain"  "France"?  Well, yes I did but only because AW has a write up on the subject.

France's Neuron
The magazine has a detailed look at China's military and notes a determined nationalism driving the adoption of advanced technologies.   India, meanwhile, has now replaced China as the top weapons importer in the world.  That's partly because India is buying a lot more stuff than it has in the past and also because China is moving to develop its equipment in-house.  India is expected to buy about 150 of the Russian T-50 stealth fighter through a joint development/technology sharing programme.

China J-20

Russia is back.  Its budget for military hardware this year is just shy of $70-billion, almost double Britain's entire defence budget.  The Russkies are planning on spending ever more in coming years.  That includes both stealth warplanes and anti-stealth technologies designed specifically to defeat the F-35 stealth technology.
South Korea KFX

South Korea is said to be moving along with plans to develop its own stealth fighter, the KF-X.    Indonesia has taken a 20% stake in the programme.   This may be stealth overload but Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is collaborating with Sweden's SAAB on the development of their own stealth air superiority fighter, the TFX.
Turkey TXF

Ay-yi-yi suddenly we're in a world awash in stealth warplanes.  The U.S. has got'em.  Russia and China have got'em.   India too.  Britain and France have got'em.   South Korea, Turkey and presumably Sweden too.  Who's next?  Who knows?

Last summer Aviation Week reported American and Israeli defence planners recognize that America's stealth advantage is a "perishable technology" with a lifespan of about five years.   By all signs, in another three or four years, stealth technology will be pretty pedestrian and anti-stealth technologies will be pretty widely deployed.

It's not 2006 any more and the same assumptions we used back then to assess the F-35, or  at least many of them, are outdated and no longer valid.  It's time to go back to square one and come up with a realistic assessment of what we need and how best to get it.

8 comments:

Bill Hornbostel said...

You forgot to mention Iran: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21307208

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Bill. I didn't forget it so much as I saw the mock up they came out with and wasn't convinced. Iran does that sort of thing.

I will update this when I can find some photographic evidence of it at least flying.

Owen Gray said...

They still sell the idea that their strength is competence. And they don't blush as they repeat that word.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's becoming blatant, Owen, that the F-35 is a political decision, not a military issue. It's primarily about enlisting Canada in America's aerial Foreign Legion. When we choose the F-35 we are effectively reconfiguring Canada's defence posture for two decades, perhaps more.

It's bewildering to me how the opposition doesn't grasp the foreign policy and defence posture realities of this decision. They go for the low-hanging fruit, the dollars, which is really a red herring issue.

Not once have I heard a Liberal or New Democrat address the foreign policy and military implications of this aircraft. They're utterly childlike.

Anonymous said...

I read something on a tech blog about how astronomers can detect the motion of stars when it is cloudy or overcast. Apparently, it is pretty cheap with off the shelf items.

Surround your country with cheap things that can detect an interruption in the detection of a star. Hook a bunch together and you can write a kid's program to detect and calculate anything the "stealth" nonsense is supposed to counter. Hook it up to a fast missile and kiss that plane good by.

Is, was, has been and will be a total waste of time, resources and money.

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting idea, anon. Australia has developed a radar that detects the wake turbulence from aircraft and can then be used to guide interceptors or missiles onto stealth aircraft.

In a way, stealth is kind of a gimmick. It's one of those developments that, once accepted, will be required along with a gamut of stealth counter-measures. The Russians, for example, are fitting "L" band, stealth detecting radar arrays in the wing leading edges of their T-50. The F-22 and F-35 stealth technology is designed to defeat X-band radars.

When it came out it looked like an enormous breakthrough but the development lag got overtaken by the competition. What they couldn't steal they reverse-engineered at the same time devising ways to exploit the weaknesses evident in our prototypical stealth technology.

It's been suggested the Russians and Chinese would be delighted to see the west bogged down with ultra-expensive F-35s because, once we have them, we're essentially stuck with technology they figure they can easily neutralize.

The Mound of Sound said...

Bill, here's some further insights on Iran's 'stealth' fighter from the Sydney Morning Herald.

"It looks like the Iranians dumped some rudimentary flight controls and an ejection seat into a shell moulded in what they thought were stealthy angles," wrote Foreign Policy.

Andrew Davies, senior defence analyst and director of research at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the jet was a "laughable fake".

"It looks like it might make a noise and vibrate if you put 20 cents in," he told Fairfax Media.

The article contained a photograph of a supposed pilot sitting in the thing. He was way too big for it. The impression was that this was a 1/2-scale mock up of what some Iranians think a stealth fighter should look like.

Anonymous said...

Harper is giving our resources to Communist China. Harper is planning China in the rich resources of the High Arctic, as well as the tar sands? Harper said, he was sharing with Russia too? What would we need a military up there for? Russia has fighter jets, state of the art icebreaker ships, battleships amassed in their high north. No doubt a few nuclear subs under the Arctic ice as well. China has been building up their military like crazy too.

What country will contest China and Russia in our High Arctic? Those two country's are allies. they are also allies of Iran and N. Korea.

Harper invited Communist China into Canada. China was permitted to set up shop on our Canadian soil. China has taken our resources, and our resource jobs. Harper has given all to China.

What say, have the Canadian people over anything going on in this country? Absolutely none.

Harper has destroyed Canada. What China isn't taking from us, the Americans are.