Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Article attacks possible Canadian F-35 purchase

David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen does a hatchet job.

The headline in the National Post version (link above) is not too bad; this is what the Citizen's headline writers came up with:
Critics doubt value of high-tech jets

More spending expected despite analysts' criticism of proposed fighters
From the story:
Canada is expected to spend more money on a U.S.-led program to build a multi-billion-dollar stealthy aircraft even as some defence analysts are questioning the usefulness of such planes for missions in failed states such as Afghanistan.

Negotiations between the U.S. and Canadian governments for more Canadian participation in the Joint Strike Fighter program are continuing with an agreement expected to be signed sometime in December, according to military and aerospace officials.

Representatives with the plane's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, were in Ottawa yesterday to meet with industry and government officials concerning Canadian participation of the program...

Canada has not officially committed to purchasing the futuristic plane [note to Mr Pugliese: the experimental version first flew in 2000] but Defence Department planners are setting the stage for that [those sneaky and profligate devils!].

Military officials expect the Joint Strike Fighter to be purchased sometime around 2017 when the current fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft are retired. Documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen estimate the cost to replace the CF-18s would be $10.5-billion.

But some defence analysts have questioned the worth of high-tech aircraft in the war on terror. They note planes that can fly slower and spend more time over the battlefield are of more value in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Such propeller-driven planes are also inexpensive to buy and operate, with some types costing around $15-million each...
Mr Pugliese is implying that Canada should buy prop COIN aircraft, instead of a new fighter some years down the road to replace our CF-18s. While there may be a case for such dedicated fixed-wing COIN aircraft (I'd love a new A2D Skyshark--more here) if one can afford them, they are not an alternative to fighters as Mr Pugliese suggests.

Just one point: how would a 300-400 mph max plane patrol Canadian airspace with transports flying at 500-600 mph?

I especially wonder about Mr Pugliese's motives in writing this piece since, as he himself writes, we won't be replacing our Hornets until around 2017--over a decade ahead. I somehow doubt that he thinks we should be buying a dedicated COIN aircraft in the meantime, in addition to the attack helicopters that the CF would like to have.

Aviation Week and Space Technology articles on the RAND study are here and here. Note the Stavatti Aerospace Machete in the second piece.

Update: A good discussion of close air support in Afstan and in general at Defense Industry Daily.


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