Friday, December 07, 2012

What To Buy, What To Buy.

The F35 fighter is back in the news again in Canada, with reports the government is reconsidering the program given that it may cost as much as 40 billion dollars, versus the 9 billion the government had been claiming.  So, if the RCAF isn't going to buy the F35, what would they buy in its place?

In fact it is arguably a good time to be out trying to buy a fighter.  There are a lot of choices out there:

Boeing F/A18E and F Super Hornet.  It's the 21st Century version of the original McDonnell Douglas F18 Hornet the RCAF currently flies.  Along with earlier Hornet models the E(single seat) and F (two seat) Super Hornets are the backbone of the US Navy's air combat capability.  The Royal Autralian Air Force also flies the F model, which replaced its Lockheed F111s in the long range attack role, and may buy more of them given the problems the F35 is having.

Boeing F15E Strike  Eagle.  This early '70s design is still in production, and Boeing has proposed a more stealthy version, the F15SE Silent Eagle.  Given its age it's likely a long shot for a Canadian purchase, and no one has purchased the Silent Eagle version, making it a risk for Canada to buy it.  The choice would also be ironic given that the original F15A was one of the contenders in the late '70s in the competition that eventually saw Canada buy the CF18.

Saab Gripen.  Sweden's current entry in the world fighter market.  It's flown by Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa, and Thailand, and the Swiss have a batch on order.

Lockheed-Martin F16.  It's still in production, but for how much longer remains to be seen.  Another aircraft that took part in Canada's late '70s fighter competition., but the currently offered versions are heavily upgraded from the early A model.  Buying a Lockheed-Martin product instead of another, problem plagued,  Lockheed-Martin product might prove politically iffy.

Dassault Rafale.  The latest design from France's famed fighter producer.  It's flown by the French Air Force and and by the Navy's carrier squadrons, and the plane got a big boost earlier this year when India decided to order 126, most of which will be licence produced in India.  The Indians may order more in the future, and it's considered one of the frong runners in Brazil's on again/off again fighter competition.  Several Middle Eastern countries are also interested. 

Eurofighter Typhoon.  Built by a consortium of several European firms, it was developed to a joint design requirement for the airforces of the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain.  It has also been purchased by Austria and Saudi Arabia.

Sukhoi Su27/MiG 29 families.  I'm lumping these together because they're very unlikely choices.  Russia would certainly love to see more export orders for these aircraft, and no doubt would get a certain kick out of a NATO country buying them instead of an American aircraft.  But it would be quite the chore to modify them to meet NATO standards and take NATO weapons like the AMRAAM and Sidewinder missiles Canada uses.

Avro Arrow.  There was some ridiculous talk earlier this year about the much ballyhooed late '50s Canadian design coming back from the dead.  Don't believe it.  Trying to make Arrows makes as much sense as startng a car company to make the 1958 Chevrolet lineup in huge numbers. 

No fighters.  Some folks would no doubt say this is the best choice.  It's not going to happen.  Canada will replace the CF18s with something.  Ironically the people who don't want to buy new fighters would be no happier with a possible result, namely the US demanding the right to station fighter squadrons in Canada to patrol Canadian airspace if we don't.

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