Another Benefit to the Libs Winning in the Great White North

It looks like the elections in Canada make it far less likely for there to be any purchases of the F-35:

British Columbia — Canada will see a major shift in defense policy with the election of a new Liberal Party government and its planned withdrawal from the Iraq coalition air campaign and the US-led F-35 program.

Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau promised both during the election campaign leading up to Monday’s vote. Trudeau won a surprise landslide victory, forcing the ruling Conservative Party government into the opposition ranks of the House of Commons.

Trudeau said Tuesday he talked to US President Obama about Canada’s changing role in Iraq and the battle against the Islamic State militant group.

“I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how Canada has a role to play in the fight against ISIL,” Trudeau told journalists in a televised news conference from Ottawa, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group, also known as IS. “But (President Obama) understands the commitments I’ve made around ending the combat mission.”


Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said if he was re-elected, he would approve a long-term commitment to the Iraq and Syrian wars.

Although Trudeau intends to end Canada’s role in the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, he has promised to boost the number of soldiers available to train Iraqi troops.


Trudeau also has promised to move quickly on replacing Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft and to pull out of the F-35 program. He said Canada does not need a stealth fighter for its defense needs and that the F-35 is too expensive.

The Liberal Party released its 88-page election platform Oct. 5, which included some details about how it would proceed with replacing the CF-18s. “The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability,” the platform said. “We will make investing in the Royal Canadian Navy a top priority. By purchasing more affordable alternatives to the F-35s, we will be able to invest in strengthening our Navy.”


Alan Williams, who signed the original memorandum that brought Canada into the F-35 program in 1997, said the planned withdrawal from the fighter jet project would be embarrassing for the US.

But he said that Canada has to base its decisions on its own defense needs, and not only on the security and industrial concerns of its allies.


The other potential contenders to replace Canada’s CF-18s are the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet and Saab’s Gripen.

Williams said holding an open competition for a CF-18 replacement would ensure Canadian aerospace firms have the best chance at obtaining work on such a project.

Trudeau has suggested that the F-35 would not be considered in any competition.

There is an interesting comparison of capabilities at this page, and you will notice that, apart from low observability performance (stealth), the F-35 does not seem to be a particularly good deal:

Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Saab Gripen JAS 39E/F Eurofighter Typhoon Dassault Rafale Boeing F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornet
Crew 1 1(E), 2(F) 1 or 2(Trainer) 1(C,M), 2(B) 1(E), 2 (F,G)
Engines 1 1 2 2 2
Power 28,000 (43,000 with afterburner) 13,000 (22,000 with afterburner) 26,000 (40,000 with afterburner) 22,500 (34,000 with afterburner) 26,000 (44,000 with afterburner)
Thrust-to-weight ratio (with 100% fuel and A2A weapons) 0.87 1.06 1.07 0.99 0.93
Max speed (in mach) 1.6 2 2 1.8 1.8
Supercruise No1 1.2 (with 2 WVR and 2 BVR missiles) 1.3 (with 2 WVR and 4 BVR missiles) 1.4 (with 6 WVR/BVR missiles) No
Combat Radius (Air to Air mission) 1,100km (internal fuel only) 1,300km (with centreline 290 gallon tank) 1,389km 1,000+km 1000+km (internal fuel only)
Ferry Range (with external tanks) 2,220km (internal fuel only)2 4,000+km 3,790km 3,700+km 3,300km
Service ceiling: 60,000ft3 50,000ft4 55,000ft 55,000ft 50,000ft+
Wing loading (lower = better): 91.4lb/ft2 58lb/ft24 64lb/ft2 62.8lb/ft2 94lb/ft2
Rate of climb: Classified 50,000ft/min4 62,000ft/min 60,000ft/min 44,882ft/min
Infrared Search and Track: AAQ-40 EOTS Selex “Skyward G” IRST PIRATE IRST, LITENING pod SAGEM-OSF IRST mounted in external fuel tank
Helmet mounted display System: HMDS (still in development) Cobra HMDS Eurofighter HMSS TopSight HMD JHMCS

Electronic warfare and countermeasures: AN/AAQ/37 DAS missile warning system, AN/ASQ-239 Electronic Warfare system, stealth design resulting in decreased radar and infrared signature. ECM pods, BOL advanced countermeasure dispenser, MAW (missile approach warner), Laser Warning System, towed decoy, internally mounted RF jammers. ECM pods, flares, IR decoy dispenser, chaff pods, radar warning receiver, MAW, laser warning receiver, towed decoy, Thales SPECTRA electronic warfare suite ECM pods, towed decoys, chaff, flares, AN/ALE-165 jammer pod, AN/ALR-67 radar warning reciever
Gun: GAU-22/A 25mm 4-barrelled gatling cannon 27mm Mauser BK-27 Revolver cannon (E model only) 27mm Mauser BK-27 Revolver cannon 30mm GIAT 30/719B autocannon 20mm M61 Vulcan gatling cannon
Hardpoints: 4 internal, 6 external 10 13 (4 semi-conformal) 14 11
Payload: 18,000lbs (using external pylons) 15,875lbs 16,500lbs 21,000lbs 17,750lbs
“X-Factor”: Stealth, advanced sensors Can operate from unprepared runways, low operating cost. Legendary air-to-air performance, twin engine. Ground strike ability, naval version available, twin engine. Naval airframe, easy transition, twin engine.
Problems: Troubled development, questionable performance, high operating cost. Smaller design, less payload. Troubled history, high operating cost. Proprietary systems and weapons. Old design, unremarkable performance.

1Unofficially, the F-35 can supercruise at mach 1.2 for a distance of 241km.
2External fuel tanks are planned for the F-35, but none have been flight tested yet.
3The F-35 has only been tested to 43,000ft so far.
4Gripen C information, Gripen E data is unavailable

I would note here that the F-35 is more than 50% more costly than any of the competition, and has a direct operating cost more than that of an F-15, which was never known as an aircraft that was cheap to operate.

Further, it appears that the use of external tanks in a combat configuration will not be something that we will see in the near future, the Pentagon has its eggs in the stealth basket, and adding a combat tank would require its cooperation.

This means that its range in a typical combat configuration will typically be no better than its competitors.

In an air to air mode, the F-35 either needs to carry missiles externally, negating stealth, or to limit itself to just two missiles, placing the aircraft at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, much like Donald Trump’s hair, it’s fat, heavy and slow.

Finally, the F-35 is a roach motel: Data goes in, but it does not come out until it reaches Lockheed Martin in Ft. Worth, which means that there will be a heavy rent collected for developing new weapons, which will suppress the defense industries in partner nations.

The inability to access the source code of the aircraft also means that there will be some serious tactical issues, as data collected on new threats cannot even be examined by anyone but LM and the Pentagon, which could make for lots of flaming debris when an opponent deploys a heretofore unknown air defense system.

I do understand why Trudeau wants to drop the program:  It is less a defense program than it is an industrial base preservation program centered on the US defense industry.

Leave a Reply