Monday, April 02, 2018
Caveat Emptor - Beware Lockheed's F-35
I do not believe that Canada needs a warplane that does one thing perhaps, possibly, maybe, better than its rivals: the ability to launch a first strike attack on an adversary with sophisticated air defences, i.e. China or Russia.
I don't believe Canada has any damned business participating in a first strike attack on those countries. Such an attack would either have to be massively devastating to the nations we want to take by surprise or else they would retaliate with weapons against which Canada has no, zero, nada, zilch ability to defend itself.
It's bad enough the Americans think such a mission might be viable. It's far more troubling if we come to think the same way.
The world is becoming increasingly dangerous. That's not going to go away anytime soon. We will remain in peril, directly or indirectly, from challenges ranging from climate change, overpopulation and over-consumption to terrorism, insurgency and nuclear proliferation. That's the world in which we, our children and our grandchildren will have to deal with. That dictates that we have some aerial defensive capability. A partially stealthy, nuclear-weapon capable, light strike bomber does not meet our needs.
Canada has a lot of airspace to control and secure. That dictates a certain minimum number of warplanes capable of flying a stipulated range and a suitable speed carrying and capable of delivering a particular weapon load and performing in a way necessary for attaining air superiority. The F-35 doesn't ring those bells. It's less than agile. It has a limited range and a paltry weapon load and its far from a world beater in agility. It's also bloody expensive.
Now we learn that the land of the bottomless defence spending pockets, the United States of America, is finding the F-35 prohibitively costly to operate. The American military was looking to buy 2,400 of them in their three variants. Now it realizes that operating the F-35 is going to be far more expensive than expected, so much more that the buy may have to be trimmed by a full third, from 2,400 down to something around 1,600.
For a small-budget country like Canada, that should be a deal-breaker. We were only budgeting for a paltry 60 machines. However if their life-cycle operating costs are what the Americans now suggest, we could wind up with a lot of warplanes that will be stuck on the ground.
It's called "readiness." This has caused a big controversy in Europe where many nations operate the EuroFighter Typhoon. At one point Spain had 39 Typhoons out of which 6 were operational, about 15%. Germany had 42 out of 109 servicable, 49%. The remainder were grounded for want of parts or technicians available to repair them, i.e. no money to keep them flying.
Now that it seems even the Americans can't keep their prescribed number of F-35s flying why should Canada even give it a second thought?