Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Canada ditches the F-35
I note that incoming Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has already announced that Canada will cancel its order for the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II strike aircraft.
Good move. Good, good move. As we've said several times in these pages, the F-35 program is a boondoggle of the worst possible kind, and recent evaluations suggest that the aircraft's performance is simply not up to the standards required. I think the US armed forces are making a grievous error by proceeding with it at all. I think Canada will be much better off without it.
As for alternatives, Canada will want something with twin engines (for safety of flight in its huge and very remote Arctic regions), long range (ditto), and a decent warload. Options include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Canada currently operates the first-generation Hornets), the Boeing F-15 Eagle in its latest updated form, and the Dassault Rafale from France (although the latter might be a bit short-ranged for the Arctic mission). All will cost rather less than the F-35, both in purchase price and in operating costs.
A surprise candidate, which may not be up to Canada's needs but is an interesting development, is Lockheed's latest-generation F-16V fighter, which made its first flight last week. It has a modern AESA radar and internal equipment that's said to put it (electronically, at least) in fifth-generation fighter territory, even if the airframe and engine aren't quite there. More to the point, it can probably be bought for half the cost of the F-35. Even though it's only got one engine, that's a pretty tempting option . . .