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.
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
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