Even if the Conservatives announced a new competition, the F-35 would still come back as the winner, according to Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies.
“It’ll come back and say there is no other competitor,” he said, disputing Wheeler’s claim that there are alternatives.
Huebert said the “theoretical” alternatives are either outdated like the F/A-18 Super Hornet or just as expensive like the Eurofighter.
Let us compare the F-35 to the slowest 4th gen out there; the Block II Super Hornet:
-Sortie rate per-day/per week: Super Hornet
-Deliver with in agreed cost and schedule: Super Hornet
-Affordable in acquisition and sustainment: Super Hornet
-Able to take on non-anti-access threats better-cheaper: Super Hornet
-Better to assist in anti-access threats (note; by virtue of the JORD, the F-35 and this study, the F-35 will not be able to stand up to anti-access threats). Again: Super Hornet.
-Two-aircrew attack option: Super Hornet
-Two-engines: Super Hornet
-Structural survivability: Super Hornet
-Radar threat survivability: Super Hornet
-Better in Within-Visual-Range (WVR) combat (HOBS, working helmet, manoeuvre, etc.): Super Hornet.
-Better value to the joint theater commander (networking, and proven effectiveness): Super Hornet.
-Buddy tanker: Super Hornet.
-Escort jammer option: Super Hornet.(An important distinction for Growler hopefuls; the difference between an escort jammer and a stand-off jammer. Against anti-access threats; and even with the great hope of a next-generation jammer, long range emerging threats will still be out of reach).
-Proven clearance of a wide variety of short and long range precision guided munitions: Super Hornet.
-Affordable within a $9B procurement budget and $7B 20 year maintenance budget? Unknown. If one needs 72 Super Hornets, (a more viable operational need), you might be looking in the $22B region with 300 flying hours per airframe per year. If you go with 65 jets and less annual flying hours, then you might be able to swing the $16B number for 20 years. And, there are actual existing figures to look at with the Super so Canadian decision makers have realistic information in front of them.
There is more to this list. But it is my opinion that the "theoretical" label applies to every F-35 metric. The F-35 does not have the maturity to be properly evaluated. It is possible that it may never reach that milestone.
What is not "theoretical" is how long one can keep CF-18s operationally viable. 2020 is the realistic limit. If a procurement decision is made within the next year, it may be possible for Canada to retire the CF-18 with dignity while maintaining operational capability for home defense and operations abroad.
Boeing Super Hornet flipbook (PDF)