Mark Collins – More on the RCAF’s Chief Really Wanting the F-35

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!

F-35: Guess What? Denmark is Having a Fighter Competition


Canada Looking (sort of) Beyond F-35 for New Fighter

Pentagon F-35 Testing Report (plus Turks)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

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6 responses to “Mark Collins – More on the RCAF’s Chief Really Wanting the F-35

  1. More on the Pentagon’s operational test and evaluation report on the F-35 covered in the last link at the post above, from AW&ST’s Bill Sweetman–a noted critic of the program. Note the likely push-back in F-35A IOC until at least 2019, at end:

    ‘Fire Down Below
    …All versions are still restricted in maximum Mach number at altitude because of exhaust heat damage to coatings and structures on the horizontal tail surfaces, a problem that surfaced in 2011.

    On the other hand, it might be argued that the above issues can all be solved easily before the aircraft enters service – because the critical item there has nothing to do with stealth coatings, aerodynamics or coolant. It’s software, and this is where the DOT&E report may be of most concern.

    Software releases, the report says, ran late – and that is against the schedule adopted after the 2010 technical baseline review, which was carried out in part to correct optimistic projections made before that date. (The program’s leaders had underestimated the amount of regression testing – tests to make sure that changes had not induced problems in previously tested functions – and overestimated test rates and productivity.) Block 1 software is not complete. Lot 2 and Lot 3 aircraft have been delivered “with major variances against the expected capabilities”.

    Block 2A, the initial training software, was four months late and less than half of it was available at the point where the report was written. Block 2B, intended to be the first combat-capable software, is late. Block 3i (interim), a bridge between 2B and the service-standard Block 3F, “has lagged in integration and laboratory testing.”

    Software problems are part but not all of the reason for slow progress with weapons integration, along with optimistic and inaccurate assumptions about the need for margins and the availability of instrumentation and range support. “The impact of these delays will potentially require an additional 18 months added to the schedule for weapons integration events,” the report warns.

    The report adds to the uncertainty surrounding the F-35’s initial operational capability dates. Last summer, Congress added language to the 2013 budget that called on all the USAF and Navy to name IOC dates for all three versions by year-end – then changed the deadline to June 1 at the last minute. The most recent Selected Acquisition Report disclosed that Block 3F initial operational test and evaluation, a necessary event for IOC, would not be finished until 2019 – and that does not include any additional weapons integration time.’

    Mark Collins

  2. Plus from, gasp, the “Navy Times”:

    “Report: Lightning [quelle ironie!] a threat to F-35

    Despite undergoing regular test flights, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, called the Lightning II, remains vulnerable to its namesake — lightning.

    Additionally, attempts to lighten the JSF by 11 pounds may have left the fifth-generation stealth fighter more vulnerable than the aircraft it will replace…”

    Read on.

    Mark Collins

  3. Plus from Flightglobal:

    ‘Pentagon lowers F-35 performance bar

    The US Department of Defense is lowering the performance bar for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter according to a new report by the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E).

    The specifications for all three variants pertaining to transonic acceleration and sustained turn rates have been reduced. Worst hit in terms of acceleration is the US Navy’s F-35C carrier-based model.

    “The program announced an intention to change performance specifications for the F-35C, reducing turn performance from 5.1 to 5.0 sustained g’s and increasing the time for acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by at least 43 seconds,” reads the report prepared by J Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s DOT&E. “These changes were due to the results of air vehicle performance and flying qualities evaluations.”

    The US Air Force F-35A’s time has slipped by eight seconds while the US Marine Corps short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B’s time has slipped by 16 seconds. However, turn rates for both the A and B models have been impacted more severely than the USN variant. Sustained turning performance for the F-35B is being reduced from 5G to 4.5G while the F-35A sinks from 5.3G to 4.6G according to the report.

    All three variants are having problems with their horizontal tails. “Horizontal tail surfaces are experiencing higher than expected temperatures during sustained high‑speed / high‑altitude flight, resulting in delamination and scorching of the surface coatings and structure,” the report reads. “All variants were restricted from operations outside of a reduced envelope until the test team added instrumentation to the tailbooms to monitor temperatures on the tail surfaces.”..

    Perhaps in worst shape is the F-35’s software. According to the report, even the initial Block 1 software package is not complete, some 20% remains to be delivered and flight tested. An initial version of the more advanced, but still not combat capable, Block 2A software was delivered four months late to flight test. “In eight subsequent versions released to flight test, only a limited portion of the full, planned Block 2A capability (less than 50 percent) became available and delivered to production,” the report reads. “The program made virtually no progress in the development, integration, and laboratory testing of any software beyond 2B. Block 3i software, required for delivery of Lot 6 aircraft and hosted on an upgraded processor, has lagged in integration and laboratory testing.”..’

    There’s also a para on the helmet.

    More here on LRIP 6:

    Mark Collins

  4. And more from Mr Sweetman:

    “Lagging JSF Software Development Worries Pentagon DOT&E”

    Mark Collins

  5. A well-informed friend responds:

    “With regard to the diminished need for an Operational Training Unit for the F-35, the key is that the new generation of simulators offers such fidelity that a large chunk of training can be done in them. There is no two-seat F-35. The commercial world evidently agrees about the simulators, many of which are a Canadian product [CAE].

    Consideration of a new generation trainer to complement the new fighter would also reduce the need to train on F-35s and thereby save money and conserve service life of the fighters. It may be that a desire for a new fighter trainer also reflects rumoured dissatisfaction in the RCAF over the current public-private training process.

    It may be that fewer than 65 F-35 aircraft–if complemented by, say, 20 new generation trainers–would sustain a first-class RCAF fighter force but it has to be recognized that there would be very little ability to deploy more than a six-pack on an expeditionary operation, without robbing the NORAD commitment. In addition, it seems that quantities smaller than 65 F-35s would not provide for a small rotational reserve to cover airframes in maintenance.”

    If we could send only an expeditionary six-pack, how much would that contribute against a serious enemy for which the F-35’s “first day of war” strike capability demands stealth?

    Mark Collins

  6. wonderful post, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must proceed your writing. I’m confident,
    you have a huge readers’ base already!

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