Saturday, April 07, 2012

The pilots?

Fishing around for things F-35 today, I came across one or two interesting quotes. Emphasis mine.

First, an article in Macleans by Alec Castonguay, where he interviews and quotes RCAF Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin about the plane, makes for some interesting reading. Here's Major-General Blondin as quoted describing the rationale behind the F-35:

The first air strikes in Libya were carried out by American B-2 stealth bombers and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean. “With the F-35, we could have been active from day one attacking their radar,” says Blondin. “It’s the difference between playing a front-line role and a secondary one.”...Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin doesn’t hide the fact that the wishes of the pilots, who enjoy a special status within the Canadian Forces—on missions they sleep in hotels instead of in tents—weighed heavily in the decision to recommend the Lockheed Martin jet. If some talk about the “arrogance of pilots,” Blondin prefers to talk about the “pride” of a “wolf pack” within which competition is fierce. “The experts, the guys who sit in the cockpit, are the pilots,” he says. “They talk to pilots from other countries. They know the F-35 will be good. The politicians listened to us and we appreciate it.

Next up, a month later we have the Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, explaining much the same.

“The Joint Strike Fighter is the most capable aircraft out there,” said Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk. “It represents the best value for Canada’s Air Force. More importantly, when I was in Bagotville talking to the seven pilots who just flew home, les Alouettes de Escadron 425, and I grabbed these seven pilots together and I said, 'Okay, what airplane do you want?' That’s the aircraft that they want." General Natynczyk also said he is so thrilled that "an extraordinary combat veteran pilot" like Major Jean-Paul 'Jeep' Peart is in the project management office of this aircraft.
Major Jean-Paul 'Jeep' Peart is one of the Canadian fighter pilot[sic] who flew the F-35 simulator to conduct system familiarization, evaluation and tactics development.

Let's hope these quotes are just part of a Con-spired propaganda exercise, but let's unpack things a little anyway. According to MGen Blondin the F-35 is for Canada because RCAF fighter pilots want to be able to join the US in the first wave of air attacks against whatever spot in the world our southern neighbour next sees fit to bomb.  The pilots know the F-35 will buy them their ticket to that show because some of them have flown Lockheed Martin's simulator and well it was awesome and also some other pilots said so. I would think the simulator version is very likely programmed as the idealised type without all the ongoing bugs and glitches of the real thing. As for talking to other pilots, none of them could have belonged to an air force that flies the thing and therefore speak from serious experience on type.  These quotes suggest uniformed proponents of the F-35, fighter pilots, are essentially asking the Canadian taxpayer to spend at least $25 billion on a paper airplane to support their egos.
Warning: Not a real fighter pilot.
Not for training purposes.

If there is any real truth to this, people like MGen Blondin need to be sacked and replaced. Ultimately, these are people charged with the nation's defence and expected to die, if need be, in that service. Every other mission ought to be secondary to that. Indeed, this document, which is the closest thing we have to a White Paper, spells it out. International missions are third on the list of priorities for the Canadian Forces after Canada and North America.

Perhaps I am a little old fashioned in my outlook, but I'd want my Air Force to baseline its approach to the job at something like how the RAF did in the summer of 1940. Anything beyond that, such as large-package coalition air campaigns on other continents and first-strike options therein, are luxuries of politics and time and secondary to the first purpose of the Air Force. Betting the family farm on a single problematic aircraft when other proven options are available because it looks cool is grossly negligent. I'll try not to draw comparisons to some 'defence analysts.'  

I would hate to think that this whole boondoggle came to down an uncritical question about what the 'pilots wanted' without a very careful look at why they wanted it.

Warning: Pushes people under buses.
Also not a fighter pilot.
Then again, if I were the RCAF members looking these quotes, I would watch out for Conservative ministers behind you and big blue buses accelerating in front of you.


Dave said...

Didn't want to go down the ole 'defence analyst' road, eh?

Didn't think, "... because it goes fast," is good analysis?


Dave said...

Y'know, I recall, a long time ago, being asked what class of ship I thought the RCN should get. I pointed at the picture of HMS Amazon on my desk and said, "A dozen of those."

I got whacked for that remark.

ThinkingManNeil said...

Those two LockMart lapdogs sound like they've been ticket punchers from Day 1.


Edstock said...

The Pentagon forgets the past. Back in WW2, they carefully refrained from putting all their eggs in one basket:

The F-35 is progressively becoming 3 different aircraft, with less commonality: the basic USAF "A", the Navy "B" and the USMC "C" with vertical landing capability.

Over-designed, too complex.

Robert hennecke said...!/media/set/?set=a.3381489052717.154152.1134156019&type=1

Some pictures that should be seen when evaluating the F-35.
Robert Hennecke

Robert hennecke said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert hennecke said...

The fifth generation label is a marketing term for those who thrust that point as a selling point. Do the hard reading and you'll see that the F-35 is LESS capable than the superhornet. The 'stealth' of the F-35 will be the exported version... which is inferior and even the one reserved for the US (first class) is still nothing to scream about as it is visible on the L and K band radars of the Sukhoi's. The RAAF's appraisal of the F-35 on purely a technical level and the conclusions were anything but postive. MOD didn't do it's due diligence in arriving at a viable defence policy that had CANADA's interest in mind primarily. Canada could buy a used aircraft carrier from the UK and still get 80 superhornets and put the saved money towards social programs and be well under 15 billion. 80 * 50 000 000 for the superhornets = 4 billion, another 2 billion for maintenance = 6 billion. 1 billion for a used aircraft carrier + 2 billion to refit and repair in halifax or St. Johns = 6 billion + 3 billion = 9 billion. Three billion to develop and mfr advanced drones. Another 3 billion to upgrade satellites etc....launched from Churchill. The aircraft carrier meant to cruise the NW Passage with ~ 20 odd planes. Twenty planes east coast, twenty planes west coast and twenty planes Southern Ontario. That's 15 billion over a 15 to 20 year period with a lot of the work done in Canada itself and a FAR more independant self defence strategy with an emphasis on defence and a strong reluctance to be engaged in foreign entanglements such as Libya etc.... The F-35 is a first strike aircraft (such as it is) and this implies the Conservatives eagerness to have Canada attack Iran or some such place. Has Canada's defence policy been hijacked ???? The 10 billion the conservatives intended to waste on the F-35 to be spent on social programs.