Canada – Check out other jets

By Peter E. Greene, The Windsor Star

May 28, 2012

As someone who has worked in production and overhaul of military aircraft, I have been avidly reading the various letters and opinion/guest columns that have appeared in your paper, for and against the Canadian government’s decision to buy the F-35 aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The latest salvo condemning the F-35 program comes from retired colonel Paul Maillet, an aerospace engineer and former fleet manager for Canada’s CF18 fleet.

Paul Maillet called the F-35 a « serious strategic mismatch » to Canada’s military needs.

The drawbacks mentioned were the F-35’s single engine, low range, low payload and low manoeuvrability .

The F-35 has been shrouded in controversy, cost overruns and delays, yet the Canadian government and Department of National Defence are adamant to go ahead with this aircraft deal.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson gave a highly critical report of the Defence Department’s handling of the F-35 project. Why doesn’t the Canadian government follow a tendering and evaluation process for new aircraft that it wants to purchase?

No doubt the military industrial complex in North America has a powerful lobby which will bring pressure on our government and DND to buy this aircraft. Canada should be looking at other aircraft that several countries have to offer.

It is interesting to note that rising superpower India, which was looking to buy a medium multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian air force, started a tendering process and evaluated six aircraft from different countries over a period of five years.

They evaluated the U.S.-made F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-16 Super Viper jets, the Rafale made by Dassault Aviation of France, The Eurofighter Typhoon made by a European consortium, the Russian MiG-35 aircraft and the Saab Gripen made by Sweden.

U.S. President Barack Obama made a special visit to India to lobby its government to buy the F/A-18 Super Hornet. It was a hotly contested race of strict technical and commercial evaluation and the two finalists were the Rafale of Dassault Aviation and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The final clincher was the cost evaluation and the Rafale aircraft was selected. President Obama was disappointed and offered the F-35 aircraft to India.

The Indians rejected the F-35 and went ahead with their deal to buy 126 MMRCA Rafale fighters from France for $20 billion. Dassault will supply the first 18 aircraft by 2015 and the rest will be manufactured under licence by India.

This will be the longest opentender military aviation deal in the world.

Rafale is a twin-jet, semi stealth combat aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of short-and long-range missions, including ground and sea attacks, reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence. Rafale can carry payloads of more than 9t on 14 hardpoints for the air force version, with 13 for the naval version.

The range of weapons includes: Mica, Magic, Sidewinder, ASRAAM and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; Apache, AS30L, ALARM, HARM, Maverick and PGM100 air-toground missiles and Exocet/ AM39, Penguin 3 and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The Rafale is a NATO-compatible aircraft and has flown in NATO operations over Tajikstan, Afghanistan and Libya.

Canada should evaluate more aircraft under a tendering process rather than making a hasty and costly mistake by going for the overpriced and untested F-35 aircraft. The Rafale aircraft offers high value for money.

It is high time that our defence department jettisoned the canopy, ejected and bailed out of the F-35 project.

Peter E. Greene lives in Windsor.

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