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Nov 30

“Canada and the F-35: Government Apparently Shifts Position Fairly Substantially, Part 2″. This summer the Canadian Deputy Commander of NORAD, now the Chief of the Defence Staff, was a strong proponent of the RCAF’s acquiring F-35s as they were the only 5th generation, aka stealth, fighter available to Canada:

F-35: Flim-Flammery From a Senior RCAF General…

1) From an article in the Canadian Military Journal, vol. 12, no. 3, summer 2012 (the general certainly remains committed to the F-35):

NORAD in 2012 – Ever Evolving, Forever Relevant

by Lieutenant-General Tom Lawson with Captain Michael Sawler

Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Lawson, CMM, CD, MSc, is a very experienced fighter pilot who has commanded at all levels and has held a variety of senior staff positions, including Assistant Chief of the Air Staff from 2009 to 2011. He is currently the Deputy Commander, North American Aerospace Defence Command.

While our current fighter aircraft, the CF-18 Hornet, is capable of performing its tasks at this time, it is reaching the end of its effective operational lifespan. It needs to be replaced. Analysis of these capability requirements for a new fighter has “… made it clear that only a 5th generation fighter could satisfy our needs in the increasingly complex future security environment. We need a capability that helps us carry out our core missions of defending the sovereignty of Canadian and North American airspace through NORAD, providing Canada with an effective and modern capability for international operations, and effectively conducting joint operations with our Allies though NATO or a coalition.”9
…it must be noted that it is impossible to upgrade a 4th generation fighter into a 5th generation fighter. Stealth must be expressly designed and built into a fighter from the outset [see below for a bit of a flop-flop]…

In other words, only the F-35 will do. But then the government changed the party line:

Canada and the F-35: Government Apparently Shifts Position Fairly Substantially

In the aftermath of the public accounts committee tabling its report [text here, actually a bit more critical of DND/CF than one might have expected from the Conservative majority] on the auditor general’s spring assessment of the F-35 procurement, the New Democrats devoted three questions to the topic in question period Thursday [Nov. 22]. And, as they did earlier this week, Public Works minister Rona Ambrose’s talking points [the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat is under her department] changed…

“Could the minister assure us that the requirements to replace the CF-18 have been changed?” [NDP MP Matthew] Kellway asked.

“As I said previously,” Ambrose began (she’d given a similar answer a moment earlier to Kellway’s caucus colleague, Christine Moore) “the options analysis is a full evaluation of choices, not simply a refresh of the work that was done before.”…

Then came the new bit.

“That review of options will not be constrained by the previous statement of requirements [emphasis added],” Ambrose said…

Now those requirements allowed only for the F-35; the post above continues:

Lots more on the SOR here. And from an earlier post:

Then see the two slides for the Chief of the Air Staff at pp. 23 and 24 from a March 2010 presentation. The one at p. 23 concludes: “F-35–The only option that met all CF Mandatory Requirements”…

So General Lawson rapidly adapts to the new party line, with some more flim-flammery:

F-35 not the only plane that meets stealth requirements: Lawson

The F-35 might not be the only plane that could meet Canada’s requirement for stealth as currently set out, according to Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson.

Lawson told the national defence committee Thursday evening [Nov. 29] that the F-35 is not the only plane that meets the level of stealth set out in the statement of operational requirements (SOR). The terms of the SOR do not mean the F-35 is the only fighter aircraft Canada can to buy.

“Is there only one airplane that can meet the standard of stealth that’s set out in the statement of requirements?” Liberal MP John McKay asked.

“No,” Lawson said [but see above].

And, he said, later, the stealth provision in the SOR is not hard and fast.

“The necessary element of stealth is not written in. The requirement for some level of stealth is what’s written into the statement of requirements [but see above],” Lawson told reporters afterward.

Lawson’s statement seems to contradict what Defence Minister Peter MacKay said shortly after the government announced it would buy 65 jets in July 2010.

“As a fifth-generation aircraft, it is the only plane that can fill the requirement laid out in Canada First Defence Strategy,” MacKay told the national defence committee in September 2010. He also added that, “it is the most affordable option [hah! to the max].”

“This is the right plane. This is the right number. This is the right aircraft for our Canadian Forces and for Canada,” MacKay said. “In fact, it’s the best plane for the best air force.”

Despite the suggestion that the F-35 is not necessarily the only option for Canada, Lawson would not speculate on whether that means there is another plane available to Canada that meets the terms of the SOR…

Well, if “stealth” magically no longer equates with “5th generation” for Gen. Lawson, there’s always the Super Super Hornet as one possibility, still only a proposal by Boeing–which is already pitching the standard version:

“I think the Super Hornet would stack up incredibly well against the F-35 in Canada,” said Boeing Vice-President, Mike Gibbons. “We meet all the high-level Canadian requirements perfectly.”

“I think the Super Hornet would stack up incredibly well against the F-35 in Canada,” said Boeing Vice-President, Mike Gibbons. “We meet all the high-level Canadian requirements perfectly.”..

Somehow I doubt our defence budget could spring for Boeing’s other, considerably more expensive, concept –actually flying–for another advanced 4.5 generation fighter, the Silent Eagle (the 4.5 category also includes the Rafale, Typhoon, and Gripen NG).

Keep those ouija boards at the ready. Related:

F-35 purchase in jeopardy with upcoming KPMG report on full cost of fighter jet

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

3 Responses to “Mark Collins - Canada’s New Fighter: What the Heck is that “Stealth” Anyway? Or…”

  1. MarkOttawa Says:

    Meanwhile the Norwegians:

    “Norway pushes for further assurances over JSM integration on F-35″

    More on Norway:

    Mark Collins

  2. MarkOttawa Says:

    From Prof. Philippe Lagassé, U, of Ottawa–last part is esp. interesting:

    “The F-35 is Down but Not Out as Canada’s Next Fighter”

    As for “interoperability” remember that major powers France (non-stealth Rafale) and Germany (non-stealthyTyphoon) are not acquiring F-35s (nor is Spain, Typhoon)–and the UK will rely on the Typhoon to be the mainstay of its fighter force rather than the F-35B.

    And the USN, the West’s second largest air force, will be flying Super Hornets for many years to come, along with however many F-35Cs it eventually gets.

    Mark Collins

  3. MarkOttawa Says:

    As for what the heck that stealth is, a knowledgeable friend observes:

    “I suppose the degree of stealth is the variable. Certain things can be done to most existing aircraft to reduce the number of radar reflecting surfaces and angles and some coatings might help. Major reductions of reflectivity can result, if Boeing’s Silent Eagle ads can be believed, but nowhere near the score of a stealthy airframe designed to be so from inception.

    A fully stealthy aircraft must deal with the engines: in the front the rotating face of the turbines must be screened (with a reflecting material as on the F-117) or masked (by curving the intake); in the rear the heat signature must be reduced. The rotating face of the turbines is the hardest to do and cannot in a practical sense be revised that much on an existing airframe. This is no doubt one of the reasons why Gen. Lawson said that a stealthy aircraft must be so-designed from the start.

    Eliminating weapons pylons and external tanks is also a key design requirement since they are impossible to screen, hence Boeing’s F-15 [and Super Super Hornet] add-on fuel /weapons pods for ‘concealed carry’.

    The really key element might be the statements of the US Navy CNO who stated that in a few years radar and processing performance will defeat stealth.
    “USN CNO Wobbly on F-35?..”
    “F-35: More on Possible USN Wobbling…” (plus more on Super Super Hornet)]
    However, the utility might still be there as a momentary tactical advantage in some situations so this should not be taken as an absolute.

    As an aside, the UK’s Avro Vulcan delta-winged bomber was a very stealthy aircraft because of its gently curved surfaces and engines buried deep in the wing. And they weren’t even trying.

    We shouldn’t necessarily be totally critical of the RCAF for its devotion to the F-35, at least in the beginning. It did offer inter-operability, mass production would keep prices down, and stealth did seem to be the thing to have for joint operations with the USAF. It is what has come afterwards that is less edifying but we might still be surprised after any new competition.”

    Mark Colllins

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