Further to 2) (“New RCAF commander gives F-35 thumbs-up, but will accept government’s choice“) at this post, excerpts from an interview Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin gave to Vanguard magazine in September 2012 and published January 7–note training and planned increased use of simulators, as well as numbers aspect and service life of CF-18s. And what will happen to the NATO Flying Training Centre at Moose Jaw (links added)?
On potential programs for review:
Fighter training is one. At the moment we are 10 years into a 20-year contract with the NATO Flying Training Centre, which takes us to 2021-22. That’s about the time when we expect to have the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) [the government now has the "National Fighter Procurement Secretariat"]. So this is an opportunity to look at that training and do it differently to better train for the NGF. The way we train now for the F-18, once pilots finish their generic pilot training I send them on the fighter lead in trainer on the CT-155 Hawk – Bombardier does this in Cold Lake – for about four months. They learn the basics of flying a fighter but not necessarily the tactics because I don’t have the radar systems on the Hawk; they have to learn those tactics on the F-18. They do seven months of training on the F-18, about three learning to fly the airplane and about four of tactical training, learning to use the airplane now with the radar to be able to do intercept, bombing runs, air-to-ground deliveries. With a NGF, training is going to be different. That three months of training that we now do on the F-18 with an instructor flying with you, that will be done in a simulator. The tactical training part with NFTC will be coming to a close about the same time. If I had a Hawk-like airplane, not necessarily with the radar systems but with emulators and a NGF cockpit, I could do my tactical training on that smaller platform and not have to do it on a more expensive NGF platform. The course would be a bit longer but not more expensive because more of it would be in simulators. So with the same kind of airplane for about the same relative cost and the same operational hours, I can have a pilot who is trained tactically for fighters, very familiar with the NGF cockpit, who learns to fly the airplane in a simulator, and knows the fundamentals of how to fly it tactically during the first solo flight [see also: 'Where Are Our Ace Media on This? “RCAF confirms search for new jet trainer”'].
That then raises the question, do I need an operational training unit? Of my 77 F-18s, I have an operational capability of only 50-51 airplanes [36 are committed to NORAD, see end of this post] because 27 are on the OTU. If I didn’t need airplanes for training pilots because I could do most of it in simulators, then my requirement would be less or I’d have more of an operational capability. It opens opportunities. My intent is to go away from operational training units and create virtual training units. When pilots finish today on the OTU, they go through a three-month period of combat ready training to gain some seasoning, some experience. We can use the same concept with the future fighter.
The original plan for the 65 F-35s was to have 13 airplanes for training, either in the States or by building an OTU in Canada. With this concept, I could spread my 13 airplanes within the operational squadrons and have airplanes to use for the combat ready training. It would be a bit of a load passed to the squadrons but it would certainly give me greater capability. This technology gives me a better operational training asset in the end, so I want to pursue this. I need to start now on a new way of training and adapt this to the way I want to train 10-15 years from now [does all this mean the OTU unit, 410 Squadron at Cold Lake, Alberta, would be disbanded?]…
On what next generation fighter technology offers:
The F-35 represents where the western world is going [not the French or Germans, and the Typhoon is almost certain to remain the Brits' main fighter--Comment 2. here]. I’m going to be flying the F-18 for another 12-15 years [emphasis added, that might be until 2027!]…
That extended service life could really cause problems, see end of this post (already noted above) and links there. And might all that simulator use allow the government to claim it can reduce an F-35 buy to below 65?
Something odd, regardless of what fighter Canada eventually chooses. The Netherlands, with half our population and minimal geography, is now planning on 56 F-35s (see end of 2) at this post, a reduction from 85 for cost reasons) and Norway, with a very small comparative population though a lot more–and northern–geography, is planning on up to 50 of the planes (see 2) at this post, also “F-35 Lightning II Wins Norway’s (Fake) Competition“). Kind of makes our 65 look kind of on the serious cheapo.
But at least small Denmark is coming down to 30 new fighters!
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute