Mark Collins - Helicopter Blues The Week Ahead in Foreign Affairs
Jan 21

Some interesting information from the US Air Force secretary (from Aviation Week and Space Technology):

…As of last year, Air Force officials said their fighter shortfall reaching out to 2024 would be 185 aircraft — down from a predicted 800-fighter shortage a year earlier — because the service opted to allow more risk into its war planning. The gap estimate of 185 units, however, was predicated upon buying 80 F-35s annually at full-rate production beginning in Fiscal 2016; with the F-35 acquisition slipping, reaching full-rate production will take longer and the fighter shortfall could grow…

[Air Force Secretary Michael] Donley notes that more progress is needed in software and testing for all three F-35 variants. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has slipped the conclusion of flight testing from mid-2015 to the end of the first quarter of 2016, and the department has “taken an even more conservative approach to production rates as we go forward,” says Donley.

The Air Force is the lead customer for the conventional F-35A and last year slipped its initial operational capability date to 2016 from 2014. Donley says it’s “implied” by the new development schedule that the in-service date will shift further…”

So Canada will start receiving F-35s planes in 2016 as the government maintains, with a cost in the mid-$70 million range as the government claims? At that time the aircraft will still not be at full-rate production and costs will not have been reduced as they will once that rate is attained.


F-35s for our Air Force in 2016? Really?

Canadian Government has no idea what the F-35 will cost…

Meanwhile Prime Minister Harper defends the planned $16 billion (long-term costs) acquisition without giving any indication of what type of missions the government expects new fighters to perform and why only the F-35 is capable of them.  He does say that…

…if you look at the level of military spending we’re maintaining in this country, if anything we may remain below where most of our allies are.

Wonderful.  The government plans to buy a plane — at vast expense — whose price is uncertain but almost certainly higher than expected and whose purpose is not defined, for a country whose military spending is in fact unlikely to grow and is low compared to our allies.  Heck of a defence policy.

And that at a time when there’s not even enough money now to buy for the Navy Joint Support Ships and Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships with the original specifications planned.  And eventually some government is somehow to find, current estimate, some $41 billion (near end at link) for the planned 15 Canadian Surface Combatants to replace our Navy’s destroyers and frigates.

Something will have to give sometime for some service.  One of our governments had better give a serious think to what the Canadian Forces are realistically supposed to be able do, given the money they will get for equipment.

Update: More on the Canadian angle:

1) Multibillion-dollar jets buy ‘best value for Canada,’ top soldier says

…“From my perspective, the F-35 is the best aircraft with the best value for Canada,” General Walter Natynczyk said in a visit to the Globe and Mail editorial board on Friday [Jan. 21]…

Gen. Natynczyk, the Chief of Defence Staff, argued that the state-of-the-art jet fighters are the best deal on the market, given that Lockheed Martin’s mass-production lines are about to fill up with F-35 orders from Canada and other U.S. allies.

“The cost per unit is the cheapest for any fourth- or fifth-generation aircraft,” said Gen. Natynczyk, explaining that any attempt to buy older jets might actually cost more money…

2) U.S. defence expert tells Canadian MPs: No way to know how much your F-35 program will cost

 … Today [Jan. 22], Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center For Defense Information in Washington [not favourable to the Pentagon, one should note], D.C., releases written testimony [worth a read] he was asked to give to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence. Wheeler says he tries to answer three questions in his testimony:

1. What will Canada’s F-35As cost?

2. What will Canada obtain for that expense?

3. Is there a good reason to wait?

The short answers to those three questions: 1. Unable to know. 2. Unable to know 3. Yes…

By the way, our government currently estimates its cost of each F-35 as in the $70-million to $78-million range.  See my comment on the current cost of Super Hornets.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa Blogger

3 Responses to “Mark Collins - USAF Making Plans for Delays Past 2016 in F-35’s IOC/Canadian Costs”

  1. MarkOttawa Says:

    As one comparison, the current price of a Super Hornet (which the US Navy continues to buy in considerable numbers) is US $42.7 million, without its two engines:

    As the cost of one engine appears to be some US $4 million, the basic price of one plane would be around US $51 million:

    Mark Collins

  2. MarkOttawa Says:

    Two letters Jan. 25:

    1) Globe and Mail:

    “Best value?

    General Walter Natynczyk’s statement (General Says Multibillion-Dollar Fighter Jets ‘Best Value’ – Jan 22) that “the cost per unit [of the F-35] is the cheapest for any fourth- or fifth-generation aircraft” was surprising, because it is factually wrong.

    When compared to the JAS-39NG Gripen fighter contract offered to the Dutch, or to recent American budgets and multiyear contracts for its Navy F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, the F-35s budgeted $9-billion for 65 planes is more than $2-billion above the most touted alternatives.

    Meanwhile, recent official Pentagon estimates reflect outright disbelief of Lockheed’s cost assurances, and continue to adjust average purchase costs higher.

    Joe Katzman, editor-in-chief, Defense Industry Daily, Toronto”

    2) Ottawa Citizen:

    “Aircraft require a competition

    Re: The Truth About Those Jets, Jan. 24.

    Authors Paul Manson and Angus Watts would be well advised to at least acknowledge the following truths:

    First, with regard to the F-35’s capabilities, as of now, the aircraft is in a developmental state. As such, its capabilities are unproven.

    Second, with regard to its costs, we do not know what its acquisition cost will be nor do we know what its long-term support costs will be.

    Third, to state that there is no need for a competition because there is no other competitor is nonsensical because no statement of requirements has been made public linking the requirements to the role and mission of the military.

    By the way, their contention that we would have to withdraw from the program is false. There is no requirement under the current memorandum of requirement to do so.

    In fact, the opposite is true. The 2006 memorandum of requirement states that “Actual procurement of JSF Air Vehicles will be subject to the Participants’ national laws and regulations” (article
    [More on the MoU here, with link to text: ]

    Fourth, with respect to jobs, under a competition, in order to be compliant, all bidders are required to guarantee jobs equal to or greater than the value of the contract.

    Accordingly, Canadian industry would fare significantly better under a competition than through a sole source. I am confident that Industry Canada would ensure these jobs are ‘long-term, high-quality.’

    Fifth, given that the government has claimed a statement of requirements has been prepared, a competition can certainly be conducted and completed within two years and possibly within one year. If started now, it would not delay the process at all.

    For Canada to commit to purchase an aircraft without knowing for certain what it will cost nor how it will perform operationally makes no sense.

    If the F-35 is, in fact, the best aircraft for Canada it will win a competition. I cannot understand why its supporters are fearful of subjecting it to an open, fair and transparent competition.

    Alan Williams,
    Former ADM in charge of defence procurement for the federal government,

    Mark Collins

  3. MarkOttawa Says:

    Later official US F-35 schedule news on Jan.25:

    [Joe] DellaVedova [Pentagon’s F-35 spokesman] said development of the Air Force and Navy versions of the F-35 would be extended by 10 months until the first quarter of 2016, while 20 months would be added to the development of the Marine Corps variant.

    A detailed schedule laying out development and operational testing would be available later this year, he said…”

    As for costs:

    Mr. Burbage [ Lockheed Martin General Manager for the JSF]… said Lockheed was concerned that the slowdown in production could complicate efforts to gain economies of scale and lower the cost of each plane…”

    Mark Collins

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