It may be the biggest military blunder in Canadian history but all signs point to our country succumbing to the F-35, Lockheed's first-strike, light attack bomber. Harper, the ultimate stealth politician, is playing a waiting game. He knows that the clock is running out on most potential F-35 rivals. With the market dominated by cash-strapped buyers, costly aircraft production lines are shutting down in short order.
Boeing had modified 'stealth' prototypes of both the F-15 Eagle and the F-18 Super Hornet but without a lead customer both lines will probably be shut down and, once they're gone, they're gone for good. It's reported that France's Dassault might close down Rafale production once the company's Indian order is completed. The tranche 3 upgraded Eurofighter Typhoon may remain a possible contender but Harper may be able to outwait them also.
Here's the thing. Countries around the world are signing on to buy the F-35 - Israel, Korea, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia - all without any of them staging a fly-off against the F-35's rivals. Every other contender is available to show its stuff in attack, strike, close air support, air superiority, reconnaissance, patrol and interception missions. The only airplane that won't compete because it's years away from being ready to compete is the one winning the contracts, the F-35. Now, if you don't think those orders are being swayed by factors other than the jet's ability and performance then I do indeed have a bridge to sell you.
The F-35 is not even the best Lockheed can make. As a follow-on to Lockheed's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, the company engineered the F-35 to be the 22's poor cousin. The F-35: 1) isn't nearly as stealthy; 2) has frontal aspect only stealth; 3) is slower; 4) lacks supercruise capability; 5) carries less payload; 6) is not as agile; 7) lacks thrust vectoring; 8) has considerably less range and 9) lacks twin engine survivability.
So we're paying as much or perhaps more than the cost of the F-22 for an aircraft that has had most of what makes the F-22 great engineered out of it. Most people would think that's a sucker deal. It's sort of like paying for a Cadillac and when you reach the dealership you find the 8-cylinder engine has been swapped for a 6-cylinder, the driver's door is missing, the back seat has been stripped out, the sunroof glass is gone and so is one of the wheels. And we're handing over our money without even knowing if it'll manage to get off the lot and into traffic.