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Boeing Touts Fighter Jet To Rival F-35 — At Half the Price

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the but-is-it-a-robot? dept.

The Military 497

An anonymous reader sends this news from the CBC: "In a dogfight of defense contractors, the hunter can quickly become the hunted. It's happening now to the F-35. The world's largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, is trying to convince wavering U.S. allies — including Canada — to stick with its high-tech, high-priced and unproven F-35 stealth fighter. But the F-35 is way behind schedule, way over budget and, now, it's grounded by a mysterious crack in a turbine fan. After years of technical problems, it's a tempting target for Lockheed Martin's rivals. It's no surprise, then, that the No. 2 defense contractor, Boeing, smells blood... The Super Hornet, it says, is a proven fighter while the F-35 is just a concept — and an expensive one at that. ... The Super Hornet currently sells for about $55 million U.S. apiece; the Pentagon expects the F-35 to cost twice as much — about $110 million."

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Easy to say (-1, Offtopic)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#43034879)

Half the price for the piece of paper with the specs on it. But like the dreamliner, Boeing will deliver late, overbudget, and with serious issues forcing it to be grounded. Cos that's how it works. The more you pay, the less you get.

Re:Easy to say (5, Informative)

CajunArson (465943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43034947)

If you bothered to RTFA, you'd see that 500 superhornets are in active service right now. The "Superhornet" isn't really that new and it has issues such as it is still too-short ranged although an improvement over the original F-18, and it suffers from the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none capability profile. However, it is real, it is proven, and it can likely receive some halfway decent upgrades without costing anywhere near as much as the F-35.

Re:Easy to say (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035053)

It's a turdpolished 40-year-old design, just like the F-15 derivatives that Boeing keeps trying to flog on people. ("Silent Eagle", suuuuuure....) How long are we expected to keep buying "upgraded" 70s-era aircraft?

Re:Easy to say (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035241)

Just like the Flanker and Fulcrum families of Russian jets. And still good enough to give Rafales and Typhoons a run for their money.

Re:Easy to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035383)

Exactly like the Flanker and Fulcrum -- note that Russia's putting lots of money into the PAKFA, for the same reason. There was a big burst of fighter aircraft design that came to a peak in the mid-seventies, and now there's another one coming to a peak around now.

Re:Easy to say (5, Informative)

jandrese (485) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035285)

For what it's worth, the Super Hornet shares very little with the original Hornet. It's only called the Super Hornet because it was easier to sell it as an "upgrade" instead of a new aircraft.

Re:Easy to say (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035057)

Unintentional irony: "... it suffers from the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none capability profile." The F-35 has this FAR worse. At least the SH doesn't have the grossly-compromised aerodynamics of the F-35.

Re:Easy to say (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035155)

The F-35 outperforms the superhornet even if the SH is slicked off, lubed up, and going down-hill with another SH pushing it.

You'd have known that if you actually had a look at the performance charts of the SH (no, they aren't classified).

The F-35 doesn't suffer from 'jack of all trades' anything. It has one trade: It's a strike fighter, and it will be good at this role. All other roles are secondary.

Re:Easy to say (5, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035393)

The F-35 outperforms the superhornet even if the SH is slicked off, lubed up, and going down-hill with another SH pushing it

Not if it doesn't fly...

Re:Easy to say (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035701)

It's already flying.

Re:Easy to say (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035405)

Except for the whole, if one engine dies in the Hornet/Super Hornet you can fly home of the spare one. If one engine dies on the F35, your in the drink.

Re:Easy to say (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035873)

My in the drink? Please explain.

Re:Easy to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035717)

The F-35 doesn't suffer from 'jack of all trades' anything. It has one trade: It's a strike fighter, and it will be good at this role. All other roles are secondary

Isn't that why it underperforms the F/A-18E as delivered? Not only is it slower and less maneuverable, it also carries less weaponry. Just about the only edge it will have over the Super Hornet is in avionics, and those can be installed in the Hornet via the proposed upgrade.

jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none (2)

DarthVain (724186) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035687)

Is that not the exact requirements for the F35? I believe this has been the number one concern regarding them, and apparently much of the overruns are due to having to satisfy so many masters and have so many varients.

Re:Easy to say (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035145)

Um, what? The Super Hornet has been over 500 deliveries and has been flying since the 1990s. It's been in service with the US and Australia for years. It's a known quantity.

About the only downside is that it isn't as stealthy. For half the price, both purchase *and* operational costs, the reliability of a two-engine aircraft rather than single-engine, and given the fact that the current Canadian front-line jet fighter is the F-18, it's a no-brainer. Ditch the F-35 and pocket the rest either as savings or to buy some drones.

Re:Easy to say (5, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035195)

Half the price for the piece of paper with the specs on it. But like the dreamliner, Boeing will deliver late, overbudget, and with serious issues forcing it to be grounded. Cos that's how it works. The more you pay, the less you get.

Really? The F/A-18 E/F acquisition program was an unparalleled success. The aircraft emerged from Engineering and Manufacturing Development meeting all of its performance requirements on cost, on schedule and 400 pounds under weight. All of this was verified in Operational Verification testing, the final exam, passing with flying colors receiving the highest possible endorsement. [navy.mil]

Re:Easy to say (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035513)

That's because the FA-18 used the normal aquisitions process and not the F-22/F-35's "design and build at the same time" process.
The F-22/F-35 should have been finalized instead of the US Government shelling out megabucks for flying prototypes.

Re:Easy to say (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035703)

The F-18 was a complete boondoggle. I'm going from memory, but IIRC it was born out of a competition for a single aircraft to serve both Air Force and Navy (sound familiar so far?). The design that would become the F-16 won, but the Navy wanted a second engine so we ended up building TWO fighters. F-16 development went fairly well, but the F-18 proved to cost far more than initially thought as the specs changed underneath of it. A major design iteration (redesign?) resulted in the Super Hornet, and both configurations currently fly. But the path was not smooth or cheap.

If anything, the F/A-18 program shows how iterative design is generally smoother and more cost effective than a clean sheet design. Other examples include the gradual changes that keep the 747 and 727 viable, versus the 787 or A-380 programs.

Not that a clean sheet design is doomed - you have programs like the 777, which went pretty well. And sometimes the technology changes significantly enough that iterative design will no longer result in acceptable performance. I'm not sure what it would have cost to modify the F/A-18 to include stealth and internal weapons, but I'm betting it wouldn't have been cheap. And it almost certainly would not have produced a VTOL version.

Re:Easy to say (3, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035809)

Your history is a bit off (it's more like you are talking about the F-111 fiasco) - the YF-17 lost to the YF-16 in the USAFs lightweight fighter competition. The navy needed a new fighter, and were told to look at the YF-17 as a base, which was developed into the F-18.

Re:Easy to say (2)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035807)

You bet. I worked around Boeing projects for years. They really don't appear to care if they ever deliver anything, as long as they can scoop cash in the front door. Ask them about the Airborne Laser Project, which they won with numerous promises. After 10-15 years, they Pentagon had to cancel it, because Boeing hadn't really delivered anything usable.

Or ask them about Wedgetail, the AWACS-like aircraft for Australia, they won over competitors Lockheed and Raytheon E-Systems. After a few years, the Australian government was back begging for the losers to re-submit their bids, because Boeing was a day late and a dollar short.

The list is nearly endless. The Minuteman missile bid is infamous: when the government asked for Boeing to provide a basis for the bid they submitted, Boeing pointed to two boxcars of data, not sorted into any particular order. At the time, they weren't required to structure data so anyone could make sense of it, and they hadn't. The government was stuck with their bid, because it was the lowest, and they had cleverly found a loophole which allowed them to not tell the government what the government got for the price quoted.

To give credit where it is due, the government did have the common sense to close that loophole.

Re:Easy to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035567)

Half the price for the piece of paper with the specs on it.

Except for the fact that its already flying, since 1995, and Boeing already delivers the Super Hornet at the price quoted and they are flying and in servicewith other export countries.since 2009. So perhaps attacking it as non-existant is not the most usefulgiven that its been flying for 17 years, operational for 12 in the US and 3 with export customers. Better would be to question the relative utility and cost of the two airframes.

Or even better ask why this is on Slashdot now? The general trend has been happening for a few years nowcountries have expressed interest in Super Hornets as a gap filler for the F-35 delays (or if they couldn't get on the early F-35 production schedule or couldn't afford it at the original price). For the last few years the trade press is full of articles of countries considering increasing (or making new) Super Hornet orders and backing out of their F-35 commitment.

Dreamfighter? (3, Funny)

waddgodd (34934) | about a year and a half ago | (#43034901)

I hope they're being sold as "batteries not included"

This is not news (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | about a year and a half ago | (#43034955)

Boeing has also been pushing the Silent Eagle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_F-15SE_Silent_Eagle [wikipedia.org] Which might be an even better choice for Canada. The thing is that Defending Canada is not that high of a priority of the Canadian military. It is working as part of NATO and for that the F-35 will be better. BTW this history of problems and doubt about aircraft is not new. Happened with the F-14, F-15, F-18, B-1, C-5, C-17, Apache, and so on. New airplanes have more problems than older aircraft.

Re:This is not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035257)

New airplanes have more problems than older aircraft.

Old airplanes have quirks, new airplanes have problems. Once a problem is sufficiently understood, it becomes a quirk, once the quirk/problem ratio exceeds 5, it is an old airplane.

Re:This is not news (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035273)

"The thing is that Defending Canada is not that high of a priority of the Canadian military. "
Isn't that any military's highest priority?

Here at the Canadian Army, we taking defending our borders second to cutting down trees and smiling politely.

The seem to be less concerned with overseas quagmires with regards to the air strike missions.

" BTW this history of problems and doubt about aircraft is not new. Happened with the F-14, F-15, F-18, B-1, C-5, C-17, Apache, and so on. "
or:
  BTW this history of problems and doubt about [large complex projects] is not new. Happened with the all of them.

Except the F-18 sucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43034957)

Great job Boeing and Lockheed -- between the two of you, we have had an incredible number of promising aircraft programs canceled or shelved so your multi-billion dollar mistakes could get built.

This F-18 proposal has been known as the "Growth Hornet," which highlights the appalling inefficiency of Boeing's design process in deliberately leaving unused space on the F-18 for future upgrades ($$$).

ROI (3, Interesting)

Krazy Kanuck (1612777) | about a year and a half ago | (#43034965)

Reaper drones run about 37 million per unit, it'd be interesting to see simulations of 3 reapers vs an F-35.

Re:ROI (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035037)

Given that big drones are being used for surveillance and ground attack of lightly armoured, unsophisticated Third World targets, no contest.

Re:ROI (4, Informative)

PhxBlue (562201) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035083)

I wasn't sure about that figure, so I went to look on the Reaper's fact sheet [af.mil] .

They're actually $53 million apiece. You could buy four F-16s with that.

I'm going to go cry in a corner now.

Re:ROI (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035309)

That 53 million is for FOUR of them,. with ordnance.

Yes, taking out the human saves a lot of money.

Re:ROI (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035327)

withOUT ordnance. gah.

Re:ROI (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035623)

Ah, thanks for the catch. I totally missed that part, and I wondered why the figure seemed so ... well, inflated.

The MQ-9's a pretty awesome piece of hardware for what it does, but it's no replacement for an F-16 in contested airspace.

Re:ROI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035697)

That F-16 price listed is in 1998 dollars -- for buying a 1998-spec F-16. In 1998.

The current list price hasn't been published in a while, but when the UAE bought a whole bunch of F-16 Block 60s back in 2007, it cost them substantially more.

Re:ROI (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035101)

Given the extremely slow comparative airspeed and the 2-second lag on controls, I'm guessing the Reapers would fare poorly.

Re:ROI (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035403)

If the reaper flies into a lightning storm, it wins. Assuming the reaper can handle lightning.

Re:ROI (1)

jandrese (485) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035447)

Plus they are surveillance/ground attack aircraft. A Cessna 182 new costs roughly $400k, but I would still give the edge to the F-18 in a dogfight even though it is grossly outnumbered.

Re:ROI (2)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035151)

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The reaper doesn't even have a radar suitable for detecting other airplanes and its only air-to-air weapons are the sidewinder and stinger. Even if the reapers somehow knew exactly where the F35 was, it would kill them all before getting even remotely near their weapons range. Even after the F35 ran out of munitions, it could simply run away from any number of reapers at multiple times their speed.

Re:ROI (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035349)

It's not a good comparison for another reason.
The reaper will probably become a drone.

Re:ROI (1)

Discopete (316823) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035715)

Screw running away, jetwash sucks. That little Reaper is going 300mph (full throttle, downhill with a tailwind). The F-35 just screams over it at cruising speed (probably around 500ish), interrupting airflow and the poor little drone loses lift and finds the ground.

Re:ROI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035439)

Reaper drones run about 37 million per unit, it'd be interesting to see simulations of 3 reapers vs an F-35.

Historically, drones do HORRIBLY against manned fighters. Chances are, the drones would lose and the F35 would fly on home unscathed.

Josh

Half the price of an F-35? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43034979)

Sounds expensive!

The Lazarus plane (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035001)

The FA-18 has always been the underdog. When it was the concept fighter YF-17 it lost out to the F-16 from General Dynamics but the twin engines and the rugged features were a hit for the Navy, so that became the FA-18 now in it's Super Hornet edition, it is a very, very capable aircraft. What amazes me is that the F-35 program for all the promises hasn't been cut or curtailed. It still goes to show that McDonnel Douglas knew how to build planes and I'm still going to be sad when all those MD80, MD83s etc. all get sent out to pasture to. It reminds me of the Monty Python scene from "The Holy Grail" I'm not dead yet. And like Lazarus it keeps getting brought back from the dead.

Not quite the same (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035005)

Sure the FA-18 has been a proven aircraft for some time, and IMHO should continue to be produced after the F-35 is flying, but it doesn't fit all the roles the F-35 is supposed to (I question that capability too). The F-18 has no vertical takeoff capability and upgrading to the same level of avionics I'm sure they are putting in the F-35 would be very costly.

Ultimately the biggest advantage of the FA-18 is it handles its role quite well but it also dosen't try to do as much as the F-35 is. Though I'd like to see either aircraft actually do the job of an A-10...

Re:Not quite the same (3, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035235)

The F-18 has no vertical takeoff capability.

Neither does the F-35. Only the F-35B is short-takeoff-vertical-landing. The A variant takes off and lands normally and that's the one Canada is/was considering.

Re:Not quite the same (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035239)

The F-18 has no vertical takeoff capability

So what? Neither does F-35.

Re:Not quite the same (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035299)

The big issue is do you want one plane to do the job of three or do you want three planes to do the job of three? The F-35 was designed around the premise that a single airframe could be purposed into multiple roles. Except now the various F-35's have essentially different airframes. Yes, there are some similarities but overall, you aren't saving any money or time and you're losing flexibility - you have a bunch of expensive eggs in a small basket as opposed to a larger number of cheaper aircraft.

The F-35 is designed to fight against other aircraft that haven't been developed. The F-18 / F-16 are still more than equal to other current fighters. In reality, the only enemy we need to be worried about it the Chinese and if we end up in dogfights with them, which philosophy - a few expensive, highly functional planes vs. a whole shitload of narrower role aircraft - do you think they will chose? (Yes, I know, they're copying the F-22 and F-35 but then again, so are the Iranians).

Re:Not quite the same (3, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035617)

Except now the various F-35's have essentially different airframes.

Ostensibly this means that the F-35 is a failure, in relation to its original intent. Still, though, if R&D is limited to one basic group of planes, then perhaps there could still be overall savings, even with a higher per-unit cost. Programs aren't limited in cost to the per-unit acquisition cost - there is at least R&D to consider in addition to maintenance and supply.

The bigger trouble, though, is that these things don't seem to be very good at anything. For instance, the -B model, which can do VTOL for the USMC can't do that at austere locations. The USMC says it will have to pour special high-strength concrete pads for F-35 VTOL to work. OK, it's smaller than an air strip, but by time you secure an air base, get a concrete pumper in there, and let it cure, the Marines' job should be well over for a given operation.

The Marines should use an Osprey if they need VTOL. The Navy can get them close enough and the Air Force can provide actual air combat.

I say all this in light of the USG needing even more war planes, while it is threatening to cut Meals on Wheels, heating assistance, and air traffic controllers today instead of discarding unneeded weapons platforms.

Re:Not quite the same (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035817)

The "austere locations" crap that the Marines keep talking about is just that: crap.

What's actually going on is that, in addition to the eleven supercarriers that the U.S. Navy uses, they also have another nine "amphibious assault ships", which would be called a small aircraft carrier if they were in any other navy. (The newest design, the America-class [wikipedia.org] , doesn't even have a well deck for launching boats; it's just a smaller aircraft carrier.) These carriers can't field catapault-launched aircraft like the F/A-18; they're more like the UK's carriers in that they only field helicopters and VTOL aircraft. Right now that means the Harrier, but the Harrier is a clunky old piece of shit and BAE ain't making new ones anymore, so once those wear out it's either F-35 or helicopters only.

Waste (1)

koan (80826) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035007)

We do not need either of these jets, in fact the smart money would be spent on faster drones with improved range, optics/sensors and payload capabilities, spend the big money on launching the satellites you need to run the show.

Re:Waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035093)

The USAF doesn't want to put all its eggs in one drone basket. Or it did, until Congress canceled the F-22 air superiority fighter and they had to pin all their hopes on the appallingly shitty F-35. Maybe they'll call up Israel and ask them for the F-4X specs back. A Mach 3 interceptor would be rather unique.

Re:Waste (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035115)

Which is all well and good until you face another power with modern manned airplanes which have instant response time. I'm not supporting these projects, but comparing a manned fighter to a drone is pretty apples to oranges. Drones tend to occupy fairly different roles like observation and hitting motionless or slow ground targets and children.

Re:Waste (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035389)

Who the hell has instant response time?
No one has that.

Of course, fighter will be drone, so the point is moot.

Re:Waste (1)

Ratchet (79516) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035739)

I'm thinking there are things in the works for autonomous combat drones, piloted by AI that can track targets and respond to maneuvers in an air combat setting. Even if the pilot is maneuvering erratically and unpredictably, the drone still has the advantage of being able to (massively) out-turn and therefore out-maneuver the human piloted aircraft.

Re:Waste (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035769)

Which is all well and good until you face another power with modern manned airplanes which have instant response time. I'm not supporting these projects, but comparing a manned fighter to a drone is pretty apples to oranges. Drones tend to occupy fairly different roles like observation and hitting motionless or slow ground targets and children.

The limit of modern fighters is the little piece of meat upfront. It requires heavy life-support equipment to be carried, can't withstand more than 9Gs for more than a few tens of seconds with assistance (the modern G-suit/helmet/mask/pressure vest ensemble gives you about a +3G tolerance increase over no assistance at all, and you can be trained to handle 5-6Gs unassisted).

So a next-gen fighter will practically be all remotely operated to enable faster and more maneuverability (the manned jet may have a pilot, but if you can turn tighter and faster than he can, you can flip the tables from pursued to pursuer)

It's basically estimated that the F-35 (and the F-22 before cancellation) would be the last generation of manned fighters around because the limits of the pilots are limiting performance and many countries will just opt to use last-gen technology while they wait for the price to come down.

The F-35 would be the computing equivalent of upgrading to an octo-core processor from a quadcore. Yes there are improvements, but the gains are getting to be fairly marginal as the bottleneck is elsewhere.

Re:Waste (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035277)

Pilot 1: Hey Bob, where did the drones go?
Pilot 2: Word from ground is some kind of virus.
Pilot 1: Uh oh, they're sending in newer planes.
Pilot 2: Good thing I've been bribing the mechanic to maintain my eject.

ALTERNATE SCENARIO:

Pilot 1: Hey Bob, shouldn't our drones be headed toward the enem--*STATIC*

The best part is on the Boeing box (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035029)

"Batteries not included."

Re:The best part is on the Boeing box (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035559)

With the fire^w fine record of the 787, it is a feature to not have a battery that catches fire. :)

Backwards compatibility (5, Interesting)

jest3r (458429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035033)

From a Canadian perspective the big advantages of going with the Super Hornet is backwards compatibility (even more-so than the lower price).

- The Super Hornet is compatible with the current RCAF in-air refuelling technology
- The Super Hornet technology is an upgrade to what we already have - our techs are compatible / familiar with it
- The Super Hornet does not require longer runways for landing - our remote arctic runways are compatible
- The Super Hornet has landing gear better suited for icy runways - our weather is compatible

It's not as stealthy but we are a defensive military.

- The Super Hornet is also half the price.

The Harper Government has a hard-on for the F35 and the Canadian public really has no idea WHY.

Re:Backwards compatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035125)

As a Canadian. Only half the public knows what the F35 is and only of those people care.

Re:Backwards compatibility (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035429)

The Harper Government has a hard-on for the F35 and the Canadian public really has no idea WHY.

It's obvious, really. The F35 is much cheaper reputation-wise. What politician would like it to be known that they needed Viagra to get it up?

Re:Backwards compatibility (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035207)

The only thing that is correct about this is the air refueling technology.

For all that, and 'half the price' (it won't be, two engines require a lot more maintenance than one) you basically deprive the RCAF of huge amounts of capability. The F-35 is a force multiplier. Having F-35's means not needing as much EW support or as much tanker support (because they already have plenty of fuel onboard, AND you don't need as many additional assets).

The F-35 is better suited to return pilots alive from combat, and the RCAF doesn't have that many.

Finally, the superhornet, at 'half its price', will be obsoleted in practice at half the time the F-35 will be, especially considering the pace of fighter upgrades that the RCAF has been keeping.

Re:Backwards compatibility (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035243)

From a Canadian perspective the big advantages of going with the Super Hornet is backwards compatibility (even more-so than the lower price).

By that logic, you should still be flying Spitfires. Heck, you'd be arguing over why you abandoned the Sopwith Camel for those risky new fangled monoplanes.

Re:Backwards compatibility (2)

beckett (27524) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035357)

By that logic, you should still be flying Spitfires. Heck, you'd be arguing over why you abandoned the Sopwith Camel for those risky new fangled monoplanes.

by that slippery slope argument, you should be invoking Godwin's law in about 30 seconds.

Re:Backwards compatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035789)

by that slippery slope argument, you should be invoking Godwin's law in about 30 seconds.

No this would be more like arguing that the Kaiser will take over Europe not Hitler.

Re:Backwards compatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035879)

by that slippery slope argument, you should be invoking Godwin's law in about 30 seconds.

He came really close with that Spitfire. Come on ol' boy, make another pass!

Re:Backwards compatibility (1)

JavaBear (9872) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035271)

Looking at the smaller European countries, their politicians and decisions makers are also having a severe hard-on for the F-35, despite the abundant criticism of it, and it's budget, as well as doubt over it's actual capabilities.
It is odd really. What is it that Lockheed have, that keep the greedy little bastards (Politicians) so focused on their design, while ignoring all the faults, and defects?

Re:Backwards compatibility (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035413)

Do you think that other aircraft have no faults or defects?

Generally speaking, aircraft development is full of these teething issues. All this stuff is routine for aircraft development.

Where were you when there was criticism of the EF2000 and the Superhornet?

The Rafale might have gotten away with it because the French like to keep things under wraps.

Re:Backwards compatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035777)

No, what is happening with the F-35 certainly isnt routine. Heck, many countries are bailing the project anyway. It wont get cheaper anytime soon.

In dutchyland there now also is talk of the F-18 and the Saab grippen(or viggen, I keep mixing the saabs up). Both competitors are a whole lot cheaper upfront, promise a lot more(from the manufacturer concerning upgrades/maintenance) and the flying costs per hour are a fraction of the F-35. Nobody understands why we need it, but from what I've heard from certain sources is that the airforces high brass have a hughe hardon for the F-35 and mostly want to play with the USA's toys.

Re:Backwards compatibility (3, Insightful)

dryeo (100693) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035593)

Pressure from the American government?

Re:Backwards compatibility (2)

Pope (17780) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035379)

Yeah, I don't get it either. When Harper first announce the F-35 buying program, my first thought was "WTF? Why not the Super Hornet?" Guess we'll never know other than he likely had someone to get cozy to.

What are they needed for? (1, Interesting)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035091)

I have often have doubts whether these fighter planes really have any use nowadays. Especially dogfighting seems to be a bit outdated in times of cheap shoulder launched surface to air missiles. Moreover, there are drones, cruise missiles, etc. These planes look a lot like super-expensive adult toys to me. Could someone who knows more about military strategy explain to me for what purposes these kinds of planes are needed? What is the strategy behind them? What about cost/benefits? Is such a plane capable of evading the amount of modern surface to air missiles you could buy for its price?

No attempt to troll, I'm honestly interested.

Re:What are they needed for? (1)

jest3r (458429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035127)

Yes this is the question that the Harper Government has failed to answer!!! I'd love to hear the reasoning behind why the Canadian Military specifically needs F35's.

Re:What are they needed for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035329)

And would you actually be able to understand the answer?

Simplest of reasons:
    - It's a small air force, and it can do a lot more with an F-35 IF the need arises.
    - It won't be obsoleted as soon. F-18's will be obsoleted much sooner and they will become more expensive in the long run because of this.
    - You should be wanting the best for your pilots. The F-35 is the best that Canada can get for a number of reasons.

Re:What are they needed for? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035179)

Well, Canada... I don't see much a point. They don't have many enemies, and since they're mostly defense-oriented you wouldn't need that many (or at least not Stealth ones). Sure they probably want AN air force but they don't need to go crazy with it.

That being said... just because the US isn't in any conflicts with countries with fighters doesn't mean it won't happen eventually. Sure, right now drones and bombers appear to be all the rage... since we're mostly concentrating on terrorist factions or countries without much of an air force. But if things changed and, say, started facing someone WITH an air force... then we'd probably want a solid one too.

After all, other countries with an air force are consistently upkeeping / upgrading them. Various new Migs and EuroFighters are out there so we need to keep current. But I have my doubts that the F35 and F22 are necessary... something like a Super Hornet seems like a better investment since it's good for AirToGround operations and such.

Re:What are they needed for? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035291)

Especially dogfighting seems to be a bit outdated in times of cheap shoulder launched surface to air missiles.

Shoulder-launched missiles have a severely limited performance envelope. Besides, maneuverability is still a significant portion of why missiles often fail to hit their target. If you want to survive an approaching SAM, you had better be sitting in a maneuverable airplane.

Re:What are they needed for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035713)

But the test dog fights had shown the F-22 losing to a EuroFighter because of the lack of maneuverability vs the more agile EuroFighter. While in long(er) range combat the F-22 may be better, when it comes to maneuvering it fails. I'm not sure how the F-35 stacks up against the F-22 though

Captcha: flight

Re:What are they needed for? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035311)

at some point the older aircraft become too expensive to maintain, rebuild, retrofit, etc. and airframe and everything else wears out. electronics die. less parts means it costs more per part.

Re:What are they needed for? (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035427)

There are multiple roles for small fighter jets:

- Air to Air interceptors. Drones don't go all that fast and as of yet don't have the same sensor processing ability of a human being. You need somebody to scope out the situation and report back. Bonus points for being survivable. You also need somebody to protect the big slow transports.

- Air to Ground. Yes, the drone can drop a hellfire or two. Absolutely worthless compared to an A-10. (Of course, we don't really have anything that is an upgrade to an A-10 but that's another issue). The current crop of drones are capable of blowing up fragile little meat popsicles but not a whole lot beyond.

Yes, eventually we will have mecca wars with no humans involved. But not just yet.

-

Re:What are they needed for? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035847)

There are multiple roles for small fighter jets: ... Absolutely worthless compared to an A-10.

You call A-10 "a small fighter jet"? I'm not sure how it stands in the current population of military jets, but for a single-seater, it's capable of delivering a significant payload. "Small" evokes something like F-5 or L-159 to me.

Re:What are they needed for? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035481)

don't compare 'dogfighting' to what you see in the movies. It takes place in a much larger air space, and you don't need to visually see your target.
expensive shoulder launching missile to don't reach 20, 000+ feet in the air. They are also slow and detectable.

If you are dog fighter 1 mile above the ground in an advanced fighter, something has gone horrible wrong... and good luck.

Re:What are they needed for? (1)

jandrese (485) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035537)

Well, if you didn't have them and Russia invaded, you would automatically lose the air battle, which is bad in modern warfare.

It's hard to imagine a scenario where this actually happens though. MAD worked and first world countries just don't invade each other anymore.

Re:What are they needed for? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035587)

Modern air defense systems are getting more and more sophisticated in counter missile technology. At some point, and the hypothetical is that you are engaging someone in the next 20 years (the minimum before you even start thinking of another replacement aircraft) with counter missle tech, you need a stealth system to infiltrate far enough into enemy airspace to deliver munitions before the air defense can respond. Stealth on missiles would drive their cost up to ridiculous levels (as well as the maintenance/storage requirements).

Other thoughts
- In a modern war you would expect jamming out the wazoo and likely all GPS-like systems to be either jammed or disabled. That would put a severe crimp in any medium/long range smart bomb's accuracy. Closer you are, better then chance of hitting it
- Close air support against a modern enemy would be against a LOT of anti-air firepower. Stealth increases survivability and your friendly guys on the ground likely don't want you firing your supporting missiles from a dozen miles out blindly. Fighters with their higher speeds have superior survivability to air to air defenses than helicoptors.
- The basic airframes and systems of our current fleet of fighters in the US is sadly outdated when you compare them to the technology you have sitting on your desk. That's largely due to how long it takes to design/produce these systems which is easily 10-15 years to get to operational status from when they started designing it, so when it gets on the field, it's behind the power curve technologically already. US F-15/16 fighters already have many decades of service under them with B-52s having I think an average age of around 55 years for the fleet (and they aren't planning on retiring it anytime soon). Would you hop into an aircraft that old (although with service life extensions and modernizations when feasible) and go to war with it? Do we need something with the bells and whistles of the F-35 along with its pricetag? That's very debateable. Do we need a tech refresh in the somewhat near future? Yes. You can only modify an aircraft cost effectively so much before you should throw the whole thing out and start over again. Also as the years go on, the basic structural fatigue is showing up in the news as aircraft literally break in half in the air due to wear and tear.

Re:What are they needed for? (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035627)

Not to bitch at you personally, but it's a pet hate of mine seeing the tired old "These things are useless nowadays" arguments.

People were saying the same thing years ago about the Sea Harrier here in the UK, then the Falklands happened.

The point is, just because we're fighting low tech opponents hiding in mountains right now, doesn't mean we wont be fighting a completely different type of war tomorrow.

These sorts of military purposes are made not because of what's going on right at the time of development, but as a piece in the larger military puzzle that'll be expected to have a life of 20 - 30 years. A lot can happen in that time - in the last 30 years cold war style dog fighting was still a very real prospect, and manned jets were essential to missions in The Falklands, Yugoslavia, and Iraq.

Whilst we're at a point where drones could replace some functionality, the Slashdot mindset that drones can replace every manned air function is false. This wont always be the case, but right now maintaining a manned air to air presence is smart unless you want to risk being caught with your pants down.

Put simply, it doesn't really matter what type of wars we're in right now or have been for the last 10 years, the question is, can we absolutely guarantee that there will be no use for manned aircraft in the next 30 years? Is it 100% guaranteed that there wont be say, a small skirmish over disputed islands between China and it's neighbours? Can we absolutely guarantee that Russia wont attack an Eastern European state that is more strategic to the West than Georgia was requiring some intervention? The answer is no, absolutely not, we most certainly cannot guarantee these things, and whilst that remains true, these new planes serve a purpose - getting rid of them, even if they only act as a deterrent and they never actually have to be used, would only make such scenarios more likely.

The likes of Chinese pilots in their new stealth aircraft would love nothing more than a turkey shoot of pathetic drones with their lack of situational intelligence and awareness, their high latency and so forth in a combat situation in 20 years time.

Regarding your question about avoiding missiles, shoulder launched SAMs tend to have pretty limited altitude, and even more expensive systems don't necessarily seem particularly effective. Remember that Israel flew some older F15s/F16s right through some brand spanking new Russian bought Syrian SAM batteries to blow up their nuclear program and out again without incident.

It's about insuring against the unknowns over the next decades until drone technology is genuinely mature enough to completely and utterly replace it. That's what it's about.

Re:What are they needed for? (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035683)

Could someone who knows more about military strategy explain to me for what purposes these kinds of planes are needed?

As far as I can tell, the goal is to be able to deal with the Russian and Chinese air forces if those countries chose to attack us. Of course, there are other ways of preventing those kinds of attacks, like diplomacy and trade, but we don't have time for cheap and sensible solutions!

If this goes on... (1)

VAXcat (674775) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035201)

We are approaching a limit here, where the cost of a single advanced fighter equals the national budget. Before we reach that limit, the price will go high enough to make it too expensive to ever actually risk an advanced fighter in actual combat - couldn't afford to lose one...

Re:If this goes on... (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035827)

Considering we dont actually have a budget, no, we're not.

half price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035263)

since when is the government concerned with the price of anything?

Re:half price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035301)

The logical plan for the government is to purchase both and reconvene at a later date to decide which fighter better suits their needs

Re:half price? (5, Insightful)

dryeo (100693) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035653)

since when is the government concerned with the price of anything?

We have a Conservative government, they need to spend money, put us back in debt (we had a balanced budget for 8 years until the right wingers got into power with their cut taxes and increase spending policy) so they can cut the things they don't like such as science.

The F-35 was a badly planned project ... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035401)

From the inception, the F-35 seemed to me like it was doomed to failure.

It was a massive development project which was set up in such a way as to try to convince allies to buy this plane before any existed and have them fund the development. It was supposed to have several different variants including a VTOL one.

It's been plagued with cost overruns, delays, and almost everything else. It's always struck me as an obscenely expensive plane with a lot of risks, and as countries are starting to ask "do we really want this", it could leave those still in the program with mounting costs since it's no longer being paid for by as many governments.

From the start, this was a program designed to get everybody to help pay for a pie-in-the-sky plane which was completely unproven. This is just a program to line the contractor's pockets, and for the US to try to get someone else to help pay for it.

Unfortunately, a lot of people warned about how this would happen, but they got ignored. If anybody thinks this it's a surprise that F-35 program has been ridiculously expensive with very little results, they haven't been paying attention. And unless Boeing already has a plane in the works, I'm not sure I'd believe their claims of being able to do it cheaper any more than Lockheed's.

Re:The F-35 was a badly planned project ... (4, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035581)

I've only looked at a few projects from the 70s to 80s, but aviation contracting is chocked full of bullshit promises and bribes to beat out the other guy. Contractor A uses corporate spies to find out what Contractor B's bid will be, then promises to do it in 75% of the time for 75% of the cost. If that doesn't work, promise the colonel running the evaluation a juicy 7-8 executive job after retirement. Boeing has been busted a couple times doing this.

After you've got the contract, it doesn't matter how long how much it takes for you to finish since the government is locked in based on how much they've already invested in you. So long as you keep it cheaper for the government to stay with you rather than axe the program and start over with Contractor B. PROFIT!

Re:The F-35 was a badly planned project ... (4, Informative)

Binestar (28861) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035775)

And unless Boeing already has a plane in the works, I'm not sure I'd believe their claims of being able to do it cheaper any more than Lockheed's.

*sigh* It's in the summary. The Super-hornet is what they are talking about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_F/A-18E/F_Super_Hornet [wikipedia.org]

Problem is (1)

jxander (2605655) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035483)

We have zero need for advanced dogfighter and air superiority craft currently. What foreign power are we planning to dogfight against? Over what potential enemy do we not already have complete air superiority?

I can't really blame the aerospace companies though. The government said "Here's a couple billion $$ to build some war-planes," without ever putting critical thought into whether or not we actually NEED a billion dollars worth of war-planes. But Lockheed isn't really going to argue, so they start building $100m warplanes. Why not divert some of that funding to space or sea exploration. Sure, Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop, etc aren't exactly in that business right now. They might not have the engineering skillset for space or sea, but I guarantee if the government offered up a billion dollar contract to build a better lunar rover, those guys would become experts very quickly.

Re:Problem is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035839)

We have zero need for advanced dogfighter and air superiority craft currently. What foreign power are we planning to dogfight against?

China

Over what potential enemy do we not already have complete air superiority?

None because we don't sit on out ass and let gain air superiority.

Let's save 110 million apiece (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035607)

Why buy either plane???? The F-35 is a dog and keeps getting grounded and has yet to see a day a service. We're talking hundreds of billions on a plane there's serious question whether we need it at all! Drones are cheaper and save pilots lives and the biggest claim against them so far is they are doing too good a job at taking out targets.

Re:Let's save 110 million apiece (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035823)

Wait... isn't sequestration about only saving 85 billion? Why don't we just not buy the F-35 and be done with it...

Re:Let's save 110 million apiece (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43035885)

Drones are cheaper and save pilots lives

The problem right now is latency on battle initiation. Think 10-30 second round trip. Drones have been doing gangbusters replacing the A-10/Apache suppression/surprise attack role. Dogfight role will not work as good in some conditions (think 2-4 seconds latency).

What, no 3-d fighter jet? (2)

Dishwasha (125561) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035613)

Where's the open source 3-d printed fighter jet project? Should I go ahead and start the Kickstarter project for that?

Is it really a bargain? (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035651)

Half the price, okay, but still... I remember when the F-18 started out as the YF-17, which I read about first back when I was in junior high -- in 1975 -- and the design dates back into the 60's. Actually "half the price" for an aircraft design that is 40 years old seems kind of expensive.

F-35 Just a jobs program... (2, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | about a year and a half ago | (#43035679)

It's welfare for the wealthy. It's yet another overblown, overbudget money pit to keep the Military Industrial Complex employed and well-funded, while Congress tries to cut every social program, including the FDA, because the country is broke.

Can someone explain to me why we have 50 million hungry in America, including 17 million children, while we lavish billions that will stretch into the trillions, for a fighter plane we don't need.

If the name of the country I was describing was "Sudan" or "Chad", where they buy weapons while the people starve, there would be outrage, concerts to raise awareness and funds for food, the UN would be making disparaging statements about the banana republic and its dictator, etc.

But because the name of the country is the USA, it's "Business as Usual". No corruption here, just because the engine for this PoS is built in Ohio, the state of the Speaker of the House (note you'll never hear that mentioned when he talks about wasteful spending).

We've got plenty of money to make war, and not a cent for caring for the citizens of this nation, nor our own infrastructure.

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