F-35s and UAVs


in Bombs and rockets, Economics, Politics, Security

A recent letter in The Ottawa Citizen makes an interesting point:

Our CF-18s don’t need to be replaced. Lockheed-Martin needs to sell F-35s right now. The window is closing because UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. The F-35 is like the last word in cavalry horses in 1914. By the time we actually need CF-18 replacements, that fleet won’t have cockpits.

Is there a role for which piloted combat aircraft will always be best? Perhaps air show demonstrations. Apart from that, the wide range of UAV sensors will always trump eyeballs in the cockpit. The executive decisions of a team of controllers on the ground will always trump the snap judgments of the over-tasked pilot in the air. And finally, the performance of an aircraft that isn’t bound by human limits will always be able to trump the Top Gun solution. The only ingredient missing from UAVs is testosterone.

Perhaps this is the wrong time to be buying manned fighter aircraft, even from a purely military perspective (ignoring the question of whether the money could be better spent on non-military purposes).

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

oleh April 7, 2011 at 1:50 am

I question the need for any new military aircraft when:
1. we are under no threat
2. they are so expensive both to purchase and maintain
3. we have so many better uses for our tax dollars. (or simply could reduce the tax debt which will burden future generation.

I say purchase no or a minimal amount of new military aircraft

. April 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm

That’s why it’s a mistake to keep talking about the F-35 in isolation. The greatest risk here may be to Canada’s aged navy, which is desperately in need of rebuilding. Any slowdown in ship replacement – quite likely if the F-35 goes well over budget—threatens to cripple this country’s single most important strategic asset.

The navy is historically the service “out of sight, out of mind” and has been shabbily under-resourced for most of its 100 years. Yet it is almost always the first service called upon in a crisis, and while the air force or army may stay home, the navy usually goes forth.
Since 1990 alone, our ships have taken part in 15 international operations, ranging from arms embargo enforcement, counter-terrorism actions and anti-piracy patrols to rescue and humanitarian missions. It protects 240,000 km of coastline and is our chief defence as a major maritime power in an age when sea power is still the main security guarantor of the global economy.

To its credit, the Harper government has launched a national shipbuilding procurement strategy to prepare for a steady stream of ship construction in at least two major yards over 30 years. All of the navy’s major warships — three destroyers and 12 frigates — will be replaced with a single class of ship, and two long-promised joint support ships will finally be built after years of delay.

. April 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

As previously reported in the Citizen, Canada will withdraw from NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) program as well as NATO’s planned purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles. On Wednesday, air force chief Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps issued a message to personnel, noting that the withdrawal from the NATO AWACS program would take place over a three-year period. AWACS are airborne radar and targeting aircraft that officers say played a key role during the Libyan war.


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