Monday, November 7, 2011

Canada still has a lot of work to do in order to validate a proper CF-18 replacement

Canada still seems to be confused on the topic of what should replace its CF-18 fighter fleet.

There is a lot of talk about 65 aircraft not being enough to meet its requirements for home defence and deployment needs.

In order to do this properly one has to decide if the F-35 will make it into service. If so, training can be done in the United States and thus free more airframes for operational taskings. If not then Canada will either have to increase their final number of CF-18 replacement aircraft or just deal with the shortfall.

If the F-35 does not become the way forward, Canada needs to consider the following for “combat-coded” fighter aircraft.

1. How many will be dedicated to training?
2. What percentage will be going through periodic maintenance?
3. How many aircraft will be pulled for overseas deployments?
4. When there are overseas deployments will there be enough combat-coded aircraft to perform home defence?

Since the Canadian DND never properly looked at the Super Hornet let us look at some of the considerations of this aircraft as a CF-18 replacement.

1. Two engines
2. Two air-crew (if required; for instance CAS support of ground troops)
3. Better procurement and operating cost compared to an F-35.
4. Suitable home industry workshare.
5. Short pilot upgrade training between the CF-18 and Super Hornet (for instance, the Australian example).
6. It is an off-the-shelf and proven joint weapons platform with coalition partners including excellent network and communications gear.
7. Adding to that, is part of a joint team with the U.S. Navy and Australia in the area of platform knowledge growth.
8. As the upgrade process happens, the Super Hornet provides excellent enhancement of the C-18 with the ability to provide increased threat and mission situational awareness and other advantages such as buddy-tanking when needed.
9. Excellent capability against peer or legacy threats.

Here is an example of how the Canadians could deploy to support a joint coalition with the Super Hornet.

8x Super Hornets, Accessories to include, HACTS, 10 ATFLIR, 3 SHARP recon pods, 3 buddy-refuel kits. Weapons could include AMRAAM, AIM-9X, JSOW, Laser-JDAM, HART-JDAM, SLAM-ER and Harpoon.

1. Deployment to the Philippines as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension in the Spratly Islands.
2. Deployment to Japan as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension with North Korea.
3. Deployment to Italy as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension in the in the Balkans.
4. Deployment to Kuwait as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension with Iran.

The above considerations can be used to look at other kinds of aircraft that may be suitable as a CF-18 replacement.

I do not think that the CF-18 controversy is over. Simply because Canada's political decision makers have been fed so much bad information on the topic.

19 comments:

Apollo said...

Don't know why you'd want a back seater for CAS. Just someone to screw away your own time critical decision processes.

Why on earth would you take HACTS (a simulator thesize of a building) on deployment?

ELP said...

Sorry, I meant the mission planning workstations for legacy and Super....

Apollo said...

Fair enough... You mean JMPS I think

Bushranger 71 said...

Agree with Apollo; the A-10 does okay in close air support without a 'scope dope' in the back, as does the F-16. The 2-seater argument is largely applicable to multi-role combat aircraft; trying to make a single type suited for all purposes.

Can see the desirability of 2 engines when trundling around the Arctic, but that is really a big operating cost penalty regarding maintenance and fuel burn. Australia decided on the F/A-18A in 1981 in lieu of the F-16, principally because a certain Group Captain was adamant that the RAAF must move to twin-engine fighter/bombers. Methinks that was a mistake.

Notionally, a better thrust/weight ratio for the F-16 depending of course on systems fitted and whatever is hung on the platform. I surmise that the single engine reliability for various powerplants fitted to the 4,500 plus F-16 airframes produced over time has been pretty good, hence just one propulsion unit in the F-35.

geogen said...

Ranger,

I'm in the camp supporting this EDE upgrade to the F414. I think the additional fuel efficiency and engine durability - reduced maintenance - would be an underestimated value for a transonic Super Hornet platform not trying to fake air-superiority in the first place.

But add two EFT eventually and two winders on the F-35 and I bet the fuel consumption rate with the drag would be fairly similar compared to twin F414 EDE powered Super w/ CFT and a centerline tank?

Cost comparison wise for engine maintenance and overhaul might possibly be closer to a wash taking into account the actual cost of an F135, vs 2x F414 (actually cheaper by a couple $mil)?

My personal bias would be in an F-15E camp though for RCAF, even over the Super as an alternative to F-35. That, or possibly even in the Rafale-M camp with potentially austere base ops in mind.

But with the money Canada could save with the Super, holy heck, what they could buy for fancy add-ons and customized fixtures/weapons integration et al.

I'm thinking the stock F-18F might even be able to integrate an AEA attack jamming pod such as the Thales aesa based pod, either that or a next-gen SoJ pod which are probably under development today? It could become an all-in-one Growler-lite and still maintain the gun.

With savings, perhaps go for it and also integrate Meteor? For the cost of one F-35A, Canada could buy what, maybe 80-90 JASSM (factoring offset LLC costs) to equip the SH as bonus?

I'd also contemplate Canada's existing Sniper pod being retrofitted to the next-gen Sniper SE capability when it's complete and possibly mount in under on the centerline sta. That could give some near-IRST capability at least and improved A2A credibility.

ELP said...

Some good points G.

My opinion if Canada makes the smarter of two choices--the Super Hornet that the following would be good.

I don't think you need SNIPER for the Super. Look at the performance of the ATFLIR. ATFLIR is fused with the Block II in many areas including hand-offs from helmet cueing (front or back seat).

ATFLIRs only sin is when you try to go outside of its intended purpose (supporting Boeing products) it is not price competitive vs LANTIRN or SNIPER.

Yes, the other "Joint Strike Fighter"...... the JASSM. I am a critic of the JASSM (yet another platform that wasn't affordable to its goals)... it still has to do well outside a highly scripted range event (both in fusing and terminal targeting)...getting PK numbers nicer... yet if that is solved then yes. JASSM would be something Canadian Supers could carry.
JASSM might get shot down more against high-end IADS that are part of the future, yet, if you fire enough of them...well... there you go.
IMHO we still need a multi-mode BVR missile or a family mix. AIM-9X seeker on an AMRAAM comes to mind as a minimum requirement.

Apollo said...

How will the operator have confidence of IR track at those ranges against a clutter background (esp over time of flight)?

Bushranger 71 said...

Any nation that has sort of committed to the JSF would be prudent to stretch any intent as far as possible into the future, as it might take a while yet for the political fortitude to emerge to terminate the fiasco. If that transpires, how will LM then be sustained? Most probably by further enhancement of the F-16 which is still being sought by multiple prospective buyers.

While the lead sled Super Hornet has some fancy systems, some of these could also migrate to the F-16 platform and also F-22/F-35 technology. Australia needlessly stampeded into an SH acquisition supposedly due to a mythical pressing capability gap, but a wiser course would have been just to sit on the fence for a while longer to see how the ongoing JSF saga unfolds. Methinks the Super Hornet is being over-credited as it is more a bomb truck than an agile air combat platform. Attractive though because it is competitively priced; but the Canadians would be prudent to await more developments. Maybe my elder conservatism showing!

Apollo said...

SH in air-air is certainly no slouch with threats in the Australian region up until 2020 (it's intended life)

LO, AESA, AIM-120C7, AIM-9X w/ JHMCS

vs

SU-30MKK/M/I/V, mega RCS, Slotback 2, AA-10C, AA-11 w/ ironsight HMS

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, I neglected to also add the N011 Pesa to my list

Anonymous said...

Apollo you need to do some research.

Gobsmacked said...

What a stupid comment.Who metioned APA.

Goldeel1 said...

Who mentioned APA? Err.. no one I think, why whats the beef?

Anonymous said...

Apollo:

re IIR-seeker track confidence in BVR use? I wouldn't know of the exact techniques employed but I guess this is what training is for, to figure out how to best exploit the system you employ in an effective tactical fashion? However, one could imagine it would be somewhat similar to methods employ by an operator to gain confidence when employing a BVR RF-seeker variant (with tiny active radar seeker against clutter/counter-measures) at stand-off ranges?


Ranger:

I'm an upgraded F-16 fan myself with confidence in the latest engine reliability. Although, no doubt it would be that much harder to swallow a $190m single-engined loss every few years with a pilot having to punch out, than a $90m single-engined one (not to mention, benefit of more airframes in the inventory for attrition). My personal long-standing conviction is that an evolved F-16XL derivative would be the cost-effective game-changing operational platform being sold off-the-rack today, had the vision been exercised. If so, GE would likely have had it's next-gen advanced augmented F110 engine offered to top off the extra reliability and match for a more high-end single-engine platform.

ELP: Remember, in this plan you're talking at least a couple $billion savings of which RCAF could throw into either additional airframe orders, or any combination of mod/integrations the USAF could only dream of affording for their mainstay legacy fleet. Let your hair down a little :)

Sooo, how about a compromise here... a couple AIM-120IR on the waist and two Meteor on the outside SUU-80 pylons? btw, are these slightly less toed out? (they would look only 2deg maybe).

Cocidius said...

Oh now you've done it, you just had to bring up the F-16XL again!

Alright Geogen, lets hear it....

:-)

Anonymous said...

I do not know, but perhaps you are following the pack.Defamatory comment?

Goldeel1 said...

What is the comment directly above this in reference to? Once again way to many people here using the "anonymous" tag instead of using a simple name. It saves the confusion people.

Cocidius said...

No defamation intended, just kidding with Geogen who loves the F-16XL (so do I).

RSF - alias Cocidius

Anonymous said...

LoL,

Thanks for the back up whomever that was...

I knew that was sarcasm by you, Cocidius and that you respected the F-16XL's basic concept and potential.

If Boeing had won the JSF contest (probably would have been a better CTOL model, not sure about the X-32's CV viability), it could be very likely that LM would have reintroduced an operational incrementally upgraded F-16XL concept as a poor-mans alternative to the F-32A... perhaps about 8 yrs sooner!

By around 2015, I would have envisioned a block upgrade with a reduced drag, 2/3-sized all-moving vertical tail incorporating LO materials. That and possibly a DSI and worlds first ever Fluidic Thrust Vectoring nozzle fitted to the next-gen advanced augmented F110 engine upgrade. Anyway, you asked to hear it haha... and yes, I have a little F-16XL fatigue so don't even bring it up too much anymore ;)

geogen