Failure to communicate: Did Lockheed miss the mark when pitching the F-35 to Canada?

Avatar for Chris ThatcherBy Chris Thatcher | January 27, 2022

Estimated reading time 22 minutes, 48 seconds.

For those attempting to foretell the outcome of Canada’s future fighter competition, two announcements in the weeks before Christmas appeared to tilt the field in favor of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The first was a leaked story over the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend in late November that the Canadian government had down-selected to two bidders to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fleet of aging CF-18 Hornets, and the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Block III Super Hornet would not be among them.

Boeing is out of Canada’s future fighter competition, leaving Saab and Lockheed Martin as the remaining competitors. While the F-35A Lightning III may be winning competitions around the world, and is favored among RCAF fighter pilots, it is definitely not a shoo-in to replace the CF-18. USAF/Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown Photo

That would later be confirmed by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) in a statement claiming that, after a rigorous assessment of the proposals for capability, cost, and economic benefits, including economic impact, only the F-35 and Saab Gripen E remained eligible. Pending further analysis, negotiations with the “top-ranked bidder” or a competitive dialogue “whereby the two remaining bidders would be provided with an opportunity to improve their proposals,” would begin shortly.

The second came a few weeks later, on Dec. 9, when the Finnish government announced the selection of the F-35 for its HX fighter program to replace a fleet of F/A-18 Hornets. Like Canada, the competition had included the Boeing Super Hornet, Saab Gripen E, Dassault Rafale, and Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon.

But if Lockheed Martin executives are clinking celebratory champagne glasses over a likely Canadian competition victory, Billie Flynn has a cautionary warning.

“If I were at Lockheed Martin, I would be very humble about what could happen from this point on. I would not take this as, ‘Hey, we’re a shoo-in,’” he said.

For most of the past decade, Flynn served as the senior test pilot for the F-35 program and the face and voice of its global marketing campaign; his lean frame, dressed in a flight suit, a ubiquitous figure at trade shows, air shows, and media events.

Like many, Flynn was “stunned” when he received a message from a former squadron mate as he was enjoying American Thanksgiving dinner with family. He had long viewed the Super Hornet as the main rival to the F-35, and he had been part of a vigorous campaign challenging its capabilities as a fit for Canada’s future fighter requirements. Now the Block III Super Hornet was out. “It blew up my evening,” he admitted.

Though he retired from Lockheed Martin in 2020 to be with family during a pandemic that limited cross-border travel, Flynn has continued to advocate for the F-35 online, explaining its strengths over the Super Hornet in blog posts and podcasts. Over a career that has included supporting global campaigns for the Typhoon, the F-16 “Viper,” and the F-35, he has sat through numerous debriefs on how fighter capabilities are assessed. Why the F/A-18 was eliminated from the Canadian competition is a mystery. “I cannot imagine how Boeing could not fit the requirements when they are the incumbent,” he acknowledged.

The Canadian government has yet to explain why the Super Hornet was disqualified, at least not publicly. In an email to Skies, a PSPC spokesperson reiterated that all proposals were subject to the same evaluation criteria, “with oversight by an independent fairness monitor. Due to the confidential aspect of the information provided by the bidders during the procurement process, we cannot provide further information.”

A Boeing spokesperson confirmed “that a meeting did take place [with the government]. We are not commenting on the proceedings/outcome of that meeting and would defer to the Canadian government for further details.”

While the F-35 may be among the last two contenders standing, Flynn’s caution for humility is premised on a simple fact: Despite a decade of marketing, the F-35 sales pitch has failed to resonate with the Canadian public or politicians. Put more bluntly, he believes Lockheed Martin got it wrong.

MISSION EXPERIENCE

It is not lost on Flynn that whatever misgivings he might have about the F/A-18 Super Hornet as a future fighter for Canada, the legacy McDonell Douglas CF-18 A/B Hornet made him the pilot he is today.

Raised in an RCAF family and a graduate of the Royal Military College, Flynn was the first “pipeliner” from the training system selected to fly the CF-18 when it entered service in 1982, replacing fleets of McDonell F-101 Voodoos, Lockheed F-104 Starfighters, and Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighters. He flew the first solo, was scrambled on the first live intercept of a Russian Tupolev Tu-95 Bear off the coast of Newfoundland, and deployed on the first CF-18 squadron stationed in Germany. He was even the first Hornet “demo” pilot, performing at the Paris Air Show in 1987.

Billie Flynn questions if Lockheed Martin is getting it wrong in the way it is pitching the F-35 to Canada.

Following his tour in Germany, Flynn attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and then crossed the U.S. to serve as an exchange officer on the F-16 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California conducting, among other things, thrust vector control research, flying the F-16 Multi-Axis Thrust Vectoring aircraft as well as NASA’s highly modified F/A-18 Hornet High Alpha Research Vehicle (HARV).

Following stints in the Canadian Forces College and the RCAF’s Directorate of Air Requirements, he was promoted to Commanding Officer of 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1997. In the spring of 1999, he led the “Balkan Rats” of Task Force Aviano, the CF-18 contribution to Operation Echo supporting NATO’s Operation Allied Force against Serbian military and paramilitary forces in Kosovo. He flew 25 combat missions during the conflict.

When Flynn retired from the Air Force in 1999 after 23 years, he stepped into the world of private sector test pilots, first with the European Defence and Space Company, now Airbus, on the nascent Eurofighter Typhoon program, and then in 2003 with Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, on the F-16 E/F Viper program and, a few years later, on the F-35 program. He was also seconded to the company’s infamous Skunk Works developmental program on a team that matured the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, a technology introduced on the F-16, and now the F-35, that has already saved 11 lives and will likely feature in some form on every commercial and business jet in future. He remains particularly proud of his role in the program; in the operational history of the CF-18, seven of 16 pilot fatalities were from ground collisions.

As the only Canadian to have flown all three variants of the F-35, as well as the first demonstration pilot at the Paris Air Show in 2017, Flynn has an obvious bias in assessing the aircraft against competitors. But he has also flown the NATO and NORAD missions Canada is demanding of its future fighter and understands well the classified world of aircraft. So why, after a decade, is there still apprehension about the F-35 for Canada?

“I, as much as anyone, failed to communicate to Canadians in a manner that they would understand, and deliver messaging that would resonate,” he admitted. “I spent a decade talking about capability instead of talking about jobs and the economy. And when we talked about capability, we failed to talk about why it could be important to Canadians.”

Lockheed Martin has as large and experienced a marketing team as any in defense and aerospace, but up until the very day the Super Hornet was disqualified, Flynn and others were mired in a debate about topics like one versus two engines.

A former Canadian fighter pilot, Flynn is the only Canadian to fly all three variants of the F-35 while working as a test pilot for Lockheed Martin.

“One of my failures was that I couldn’t move the needle off that debate,” he said. “I couldn’t get people past talking about one or two engines and was unable to get their focus on distinguishing between fourth and fifth generation systems. Our team was so focused on repeating the messages that worked in every other country around the world, even though they did not work in Canada. It should have been a warning to people like me to pivot the messaging and talk about what really did matter in Canada.”

WHY STEALTH MATTERS

One of the challenges Flynn faced is a perception that Canadian aircraft are unlikely to be tasked on the first day of a conflict, so arguments about stealth and survivability tended not to find their mark. Flynn knows differently. On March 24, 1999, the opening night of combat of Operation Allied Force, its was a four-ship of CF-18s that crossed first into Serbian-controlled territory.

“Canada was at the very front of the attack,” he recalled. “The notion that Canada can buy an older generation airplane and just tidy it up after [the initial combat runs] is completely wrong, and I needed to have cemented that in people’s heads.”

Moreover, the shooting down of an F-117 Nighthawk and F-16 Fighting Falcon occurred in the days and months after the campaign began, when most Serbian surface-to-air systems were thought to have been wiped out. The point, he stressed, is that stealth is required throughout a conflict, not just on the first day.

“For Canadians to think they don’t need a stealth fighter to improve the survivability and protect the pilots that fly them is completely wrong, and I failed to cement that message in people’s minds. I was busy talking about stealth for other reasons and trying to explain the remarkably difficult technology of sensor fusion. But a very low observable fighter is what will keep Canadian pilots alive in modern conflict.”

In its debut at Exercise Red Flag in 2017, the F-35 recorded a kill ratio of 20:1 against fourth generation aircraft, according to the U.S. Air Force. Flynn said the real number was much higher. “The best I ever had on my very best day was two to one,” he noted of participation in the exercise in 4th gen fighters. “When you start winning at 20 to one, that is a complete game changer. The F-35 is an extraordinarily survivable airplane.”

Strangely, perhaps, given the permanent basing of F-35As at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, the aircraft strengths in NORAD operations have failed to connect with Canadians. Both Boeing and Saab have been more successful telling an Arctic story, Flynn noted. He even posed in a Winnipeg Jets jersey in a climatic chamber at -40 C (-40 F) during the F-35’s cold weather testing to make a point.

“We tried to tell the Arctic story, we talked about the climatic chamber often and the special icing tests that pilots would see in North Bay or Bagotville. But Boeing was better at telling their story than I was. I don’t think that we convinced a lot of people.”

Canadians don’t tend to see the vast and sparsely populated Arctic as a threat vector – Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) leaders have often joked they would first have to rescue anyone who chose to invade through the North – but Flynn and Lockheed tried to explain the power of the F-35’s networked sensor technology to protect across such open space with limited assets. He tried repeatedly to demonstrate “how it wasn’t just one aircraft with a radar looking out over the Polar icecap at Russia; it was four to eight F-35s with all their sensors looking hundreds of kilometers away. You actually have a chance to protect Arctic airspace with that sensor coverage that is orders of magnitude beyond what fourth generation fighters are capable of.”

In fact, the F-35’s exceptional sensor capabilities and data fusion have been a tougher sell than might be expected. The aircraft offers seamless integration and interoperability, Flynn believes, “not just with other fifth gen fighters, but within the broader CAF context; with the future surface combatant; with the future multi-mission aircraft; with remotely piloted aircraft; with space assets; with battle commanders at NORAD with the terabytes of data that are gathered every time an F-35 flies. The future of NORAD joint domain operations is dependent on platforms like the F-35 gathering data; they are not just there as a kinetic weapons platform, but also as sponges for electronic intelligence. As an ISR platform, the F-35 is unmatched.”

The F-35 may also be better suited to the revolutionary transformation the RCAF anticipates in its future aircrew and fighter lead-in training programs. But that message, too, has had minimal traction beyond the Air Force. Flynn has seen the U.S. Marine Corps adapt for “independent decision-making” in its tactical flying because of how the F-35 operates.

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Larry Grace Photo
F-35 Lightning II. Larry Grace Photo

“An F-35 pilot is expected to contribute to the effectiveness and survivability of an entire four-ship as an equal member of the formation,” he said. “That is entirely different than how the relationship between flight leads and wingmen has been since the Red Baron days of the First World War. There is a hierarchical approach to fighter pilot flying in the conventional forces where in the four-ship cases, the flight lead is in charge, he has a wingman, and the No. 3 is the deputy lead, and is in charge of his wingman, No. 4. And the wingmen’s job is just supporting the formation.

“With the F-35, the formation will not survive unless all four members contribute and think independently. The Marine Corps learned early on that they couldn’t have No. 2 and No. 4 asking permission from their flight leads to execute their tasks. The wingmen needed to be given permission and assume responsibility as independent members of the formation. And the Marines evolved their F-35 tactics, they were forced to reassess how they develop pilots. This new way of flying is so different that it drives you to train pilots differently from the beginning of their pilot education. Highly advanced fighters like the F-35 are driving a revolution in pilot training.”

Flynn acknowledged other lingering storylines he could never tamp down, including the cost. The F-35 has always been labeled as too expensive even though “other markets have been able to get past that; in Switzerland it won in all categories and was assessed at two billion euros cheaper to procure and operate over a 30-year period than the closest of fourth generation competitors. Somehow, in Canada, people think you can get an even trade exchanging a 40-year-old fighter for a 5th generation F-35.”

And then there’s that single engine versus two engine conversation: “I figured I would have to fight that with Boeing right to the very end.”

IT’S THE ECONOMY

So, if he were still with Lockheed Martin, what story would he tell in the next months before the government makes its final decision?

“This should now be the story of the economy of the future, of the jobs of the future,” Flynn said. “Canada’s competitiveness as a nation is dependent on digital transformation, and the country has been lagging for the past decade. Well, the F-35 may not have convinced Canadians on its capability, but it has done an extraordinary job of driving technology transformation. It is a superb story to tell throughout Canada. Since the beginning of the partnership, which Canada signed on to 20 years ago, Canadian high technology and digital transformation work contributes to every F-35 and will be part of the more than 3,000 aircraft built in the decades to come.”

Media coverage has often painted Lockheed Martin as being at a disadvantage in the Canadian competition because it could not offer the same industrial offsets, what Canada calls Industrial and Technological Benefits, as its competitors. An agreement signed by all members of the Joint Strike Fighter program prevents the manufacturer from proposing offsets to any interested country. Nonetheless, while issues around interoperability with the United States and the Two Eyes partnership may ultimately determine the next fighter, Flynn believes Lockheed Martin still has an industrial story to sell — from the more than $600 million Canada has already invested in the development of F-35, to the approximately $2.7 billion Canadian companies have received in initial contracts. Throughout the pandemic, he noted, Lockheed Martin “pushed funding ahead to Canadian suppliers to keep them above water, with employees working and now whole as they come out of the pandemic.”

Flynn added: “I would tell the story of 150,000 jobs projected over the lifetime of this program, that will be building F-35s past 2045, increasing all the time with foreign military sales. Canadian companies are going to have enduring work as part of a fleet of more than 3,000 planes. That’s a jobs story for a prime minister who has said he is building the economy of the future.”

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26 Comments

  1. Good story, but the reasons for Boeing being booted from Canada’s fighter replacement competition and the unwillingness of the public and more likely government officials to support the F-35 was not touched upon in detail.
    Simply put, the American military industry is putting out inferior products. Boeing has so many issues with quality control with both their military and civilian products and they attacked Bombardier for no good reason other than jumping on the Trump wagon at the time.
    The F-35 sounds great on paper, but has too many teething issues to work out and Lockheed has done a very poor job of convincing folks that the fighter is ready. Bombing camels and tents is not a true test.
    Further, and most importantly, the US has proven time and time again that it can not be trusted to abide by trade agreements, etc. Being an untrustworthy business partner and neighbour is not conducive to friendly relations.
    I realize a lot of readers may not agree with this however this is my opinion and I know many do agree.

    1. US products are inferior? Not in fighter design, there is a very good reason why over 3000 F-35s are going to be built. These aren’t a redesign of a 1980s airframe like the Gripen E either. No the biggest difference is that US products have more public accountability. These reports are yearly and wide spread. The more advanced the program the more issues you will have, it’s quite simple.

      Meanwhile European programs have no public accountability, and no insight because of the regional competition, and the funding involved. But they have problems, the Gripen E was supposed to be complete most deliveries by 2017. Here we are in 2022 and they only have a handful flying. Nothing to see here!!!

  2. Billie is absolutely correct; no one knows why the Super Hornet was disqualified, and it’s not what everyone thinks!

  3. Someone wants to sell old stuff like the obsolete F-35 to Canada.
    SAAB claims structural stealth is obsolete.
    UAE bought the GlobalEye, put it into service and then cancelled their F-35 order.
    Maybe because the SAAB GaN radar spots a stealth fighter at the same distance it would spot a Mig 21 where the curvature of Earth puts a physical limit.

    – But you have all the bells a whistles on the F-35?
    The USAF didnt get a networked fighter that beat the SAAB JA37D Viggen until the F-35 entered service more than a decade after the SwAF had retired the Viggen.

    1. Obsolete F-35? Meanwhile you say the Gripen E is modern? Did you miss the fact that it is based on a 1980s design? There is a reason why no one is buying it besides Brazil (of which there were rumours of corruption) and that is because it’s not capable. Every competition it is entered in ranks it last or close to it. Recently the Swiss and Finland competitions to prove a point. As Billie Flynn says the only thing the Gripen E does better than the F-35 is the marketing. Of which you seem to have fallen for.

      1. The Gripen E shares one thing with the Gripen C/D, the name and nothing else.
        Gripen E is an almost two decades more modern design than the F-35.
        Billie Flynn says about the Gripen: “small fighter which has neither the range or endurance to manage the missions in Canada.”
        The problem for this expert Billie Flynn is that the Gripen out performs the F-35 in endurance, range, fuel economy, supercruise, ease of maintenace and still has one of the worlds if not the most advanced sensor suite, EW-system and tactical networking capability. These are derived from decades of longer experience in sensor fusion and advanced tactical fighter links than the USAF/USN/USMC have.
        As I said the SAAB JA37D wasn’t surpassed in its tactical capabilities by any US fighter until the F-35 entered service with MADL a decade after the SwAF retired the Viggen. By then the Swedish Air force was flying its third generation with such a system, the current Gripen C/D. Now they are getting their fourth generation the Gripen E.

        1. your hilarious. sooo, SAAB has sooooo much more experience in military tech than the ua airforce, navy, and marines?????? I mean really I laughed out loud.

          anyone who argues against stealth on sounds of some new magical capabilities of airborne radar. The same argument could have been made and likely was made in the early 90s about night vision.

          When it first came out, only we had it, on my first tour in afghan, we knew no one bad could see at night.

          Then, we started to find that the enemy had progressed, and now had some night observation capacity.

          did we abandon our nvg’s as “obsolete? Offcoarse not, we developed some more updated tactics to mitigate the possible detection of us at night.

          How many Ja37D’s have penetrated a hostile nations airspace to deliver the good news to the enemy??

          How many F35, F22, F15, F14, F4, F105, F16, F18, F117, A6, A7, F111, CH47, Ch53, I could go on and on. All have gone into denied airspace of dozens of countries to do unwelcome things. Period.

          I think the Americans have got the experience advantage over SAAB, no dis respect to the contractor.

          I don’t know any warrior who cares about his machines fuel economy.

          1. So, you’re ignoring the fact that the Gripen-E does INDEED out-range and out-pace the F-35. You’re ignoring the fact that the Gripen is much easier to maintain which results in more training hours. Fighter pilots aren’t “warriors” and referring to them as such makes you look like a fool. I’ve never met a fighter pilot who didn’t want more training hours to be better at their job.

            Someone here is definitely hilarious, but it’s not Anna Tulta, it’s YOU. You’re the one denying the reality of the situation. The F-35 was designed to do one thing well and that’s to enrich Lockheed-Martin and the USA in general. Thus far, it’s been amazing at its job.

          2. @Thomas Hawk,
            So, you’re spelling lies by ignoring the facts! The Gripen E does not outrange the F-35, not even in your wildest dreams! For anyone who knows what a fighter aircraft really is (which clearly, isn’t your case) knows that the Gripen C has a very short range! The Gripen E which is an improved version of the Gripen C (that’s it!) is claimed to have 40% more fuel than the Gripen C but it seems that value is actually closer to 30%. Anyway, if you think that 40% more fuel equals to 40% more range than I have a bridge to sell you! Actually the Gripen E likely has a shorter range than the current RCAF CF-18 and the F-35 has a longer range than both (note that the F-35 carries internally more fuel than most 4th gen fighter aircraft with internal plus external fuel).
            About the cost, you’re ignoring THE FACT that F-35A (the version that is competing in Canada) costs $77 million USD per unit (fully equipped) while a Gripen E costs $85 million USD per unit and this is a flyaway cost which doesn’t include “vital” equipment such as targeting pods. So, even if the Gripen E costs a little less (and I repeat, A LITTLE LESS) than a F-35A to maintain the total cost (acquisition + maintenance) is actually higher/costlier on the Gripen E side, as the Finnish competition already proven!

      2. Seems to me that since we need to be closely integrated with the US in NORAD using the same aircraft would be wise. Any time we go into combat we are more likely going to be working with an F35 than a SAAB.

  4. Do not underestimate the Gripen’s survivability and networked sensors. SAAB has been pioneers since the sixties in tactical airborne networking, and the “wingman independency” that the Marines try to introduce as been bread-and-butter for the Swedish Airforce longer than that. Red Flag excersises has proved thet Gripen’s highly advanced electronic warfare suite compensate more than enough for the lack of physical stealthiness. It is also possible to update the Gripen’s tactical software within hours in a “phone app” like sw architecture to quickly adapt to new threats. The same is “a little” more complicated in F35. The physical stealth is also quickly becoming obsolete with new radar technology, and all the tradeoffs F35 has been forced to undertake will become apparent. So please do not underestimate the Gripen. It already has a formidable electronic warfare capability, and sw development, which Canada can undertake locally without problems, is a game changer. How much can Canada change in F35 for rapidly changing local conditions….?

    1. You know that this is marketing line right? “Physical stealth is quickly becoming obsolete” – that’s directly from the SAAB Gripen E marketing team. And literally no one is buying it (the marketing line, oh and the Gripen E also). Meanwhile SAAB is collaborating with BAE for a….wait for it…stealth fighter called the Tempest.

      Gripen at Red Flag? The last official Swedish account was a 10:1 kill ratio for the Blue Team of which Gripen C was a part of. I’m ignoring the former Swedish constrict Stefan England’s account of it because 1) he wasn’t there 2) he doesn’t know what he is talking about 3) he made it up.

      The Gripen E is a comparable F-16 class fighter, which is prey to fifth gen jets like the F-35. Canadian fighter pilots deserve better than a modern CF-5

      1. SAAB is collaborating with BAE to develop systems for the Tempest. Systems that can be implemented on the Gripen E or a future single engine none stealth SAAB fighter.

        Comparing a F-16 with a Gripen, LOL.
        Ask the the SwAF, the Gripens A/B/C/D have never lost an encounter with F-16s in any exercise.

        1. The fact that “SAAB is collaborating with BAE to develop systems for the Tempest” means that even Saab knows that their Gripen E is already a thing of the past!
          So Sweden will eventually move on with the Tempest which is an actual Stealth aircraft – the same Stealth that Saab says it’s “obsolete”, LoL – and people like yourself defend that Canada should operate up to 2070’s or something like that an aircraft which the selling country (Sweden) is already starting to plan to retire. Do you even know that if Brazil didn’t jump in to participate on the Gripen E program that Sweden wouldn’t buy the Gripen E??
          And no, you cannot retrofit stuff being developed for the Tempest such as a Stealth airframe into an old 1980’s design like the Gripen. Even retrofitting electronics on the Gripen E would be limited because the Gripen E is a LIGHT FIGHTER and as such it has a very limited internal space for expansion.
          Anyway, what you’re trying to defend here with Canadian buying the Gripen E instead of the F-35 would be akin to Canada in the late 1930’s instead of buying monoplanes like the Hawker Hurricane and Curtiss P-40, would buy the Gloster Gladiator biplane instead! Gripen E is a thing of the past, and only 3rd rate air forces of 3rd world countries like Brazil will operate them in the future. First world countries that wish to have a First rate Air Force will not buy the Gripen E as it can be seen with Switerzerland and Finland for example! Now if you want Canada to have the same type of Air Force as a 3rd world country, that would be another (very twisted) matter….

          “Comparing a F-16 with a Gripen, LOL” -> Well, the F-16V is superior to the Gripen E, period!
          And the “Gripen is so good” that only a few were exported and this opposed to how many F-16’s exported?? Common, give me a break!

  5. Do not underestimate the Gripen’s survivability and networked sensors. SAAB has been pioneers since the sixties in tactical airborne networking, and the “wingman independency” that the Marines try to introduce as been bread-and-butter for the Swedish Airforce longer than that. Red Flag excersises has proved that Gripen’s highly advanced electronic warfare suite compensate more than enough for the lack of physical stealthiness. It is also possible to update the Gripen’s tactical software within hours in a “phone app” like sw architecture to quickly adapt to new threats. The same is “a little” more complicated in F35. The physical stealth is also quickly becoming obsolete with new radar technology, and all the tradeoffs F35 has been forced to undertake will become apparent. So please do not underestimate the Gripen. It already has a formidable electronic warfare capability, and sw development, which Canada can undertake locally without problems, is a game changer. How much can Canada change in F35 for rapidly changing local conditions….?

  6. As with Finland, F-35 would not be chosen based on economics and capabilities. But only based on geopolitical reasons.

    1. Uh no, the Finland competition was billed by many as the most comprehensive and transparent competition held since the end of the Cold War. The biggest allocation of points was the capability portion, of which the F-35 won without question. The Gripen E ranked last and did not meet the minimum requirements. Lol it was political

  7. You still have it wrong. Reason are political. Canadians are tired of being taken for granted and even bullyed by the USA. We do not forget how Boeing kill our Bombardier C serie program. Saab as a European company and not necessarly the fighter itself has gotten Canadian attention.

  8. The decision of our so called Canadian government as to what fighter to buy is solely based on how much money will be poured into the highly subsidized Quebec aerospace industry. The F-86 Sabres, the CF-100 Clunks, the CF-104’s and the CF-5’s were all built there. All CF-18 major maintenance work is done in Quebec. Trudeau poured billions into the Bombardier C Series, which Bombardier then sold to Airbus for $1.00.
    The fighter decision is ALWAYS political, and not about capability, or need.

  9. Here is a quote from the SAAB Gripen web site: “As part of this package Saab will establish two new aerospace centers in the Greater Montreal Region. These centers will help support a resurgent aerospace sector, building on its domestic excellence, while spurring development in new areas of research and giving the next generation of talented Canadians a career route and future.”
    Who pours the most money into Quebec will win. Boeing was the incumbent and was in the best position to dump billions into Quebec, but could not meet the Liberal corruption threshold. Everyone was in disbelief when Boeing was disqualified, as its aircraft was an obvious contender based on need and capability. And the government has been silent as to why Boeing was punted. We know full well why.
    Lockheed Martin is hamstrung as the F-35 industry participation agreement prohibits it from buying off Quebec.
    SAAB, being of European culture, knows that fighter need and capability are irrelevant factors, and knows that Trudeau, who could care less about Canadian defense, will always go with Quebec. Trudeau has already stated the “F-35 does not work”. Look forward to the Gripen,

    1. You do know that if selected, the Saab Gripen would be built by IMP in Enfield (Nova Scotia), not Québec, right?
      You do also know that Bombardier is the only manufacturer of airliners in Canada, and just so happens to be HQ’d in Quebec, right? Trudeau didn’t pour ”Billions” into Bombardier because it is from Quebec, it just so happens to be the only airliner manufacturer in the country.
      It’s always Québec’s fault though, right Mr. Martin? Makes a lot of sense.

  10. Contrary to what Mr Martin claims, not all the aircraft he cites were manufactured in Québec. The CF-100 was manufactured by AVRO Canada in
    Malton, Ontario.

  11. The F-35 is not a new aircraft at all. It has been around for a number of years. Remember, Jean Chretien got Canada in to this when he was the PM. With regards to the Red Flag in the USA, when the Swedes were invited to attend, they flew the earlier Jas39 C and D. In that Red flag, the Swedes were able to get within striking distance of the F-22 and the Eurofighter. The pilots in those 2 planes did not even know that the Swedes were there. With regards to the comparison to the F-16, the Saab jet usually came out the winner. Remember, this was an older version of the Gripen. But, let us get down to nuts and bolts. The USAF ordered a lot of F-35s cancelled a lot of F-35s because that jet was too expensive to fly and to maintain. . Yes, they wanted the F-15EX..The annual budget of the USAF is most likely far greater in comparison to the entire Canadian military budget.. If the USAF finds the F-35 too expensive to have, that in itself should be a very large warning to Canada. The F-35 continues to have parts problems not only with availability but also with quality. As already mentioned here, stealth is the current flavor of the day. If you really want to find out what a piece of garbage this F-35 is, lookup the American GAO. That will give you a real scare. Lockheed is trying to bring the hourly cost down to ?33,000 .00/hr. That is in American currency which is nearly $40,000/hr Canadian. The key word here is ” trying”. The Saab is $10,00/hr. Another thing to mention here is the complete transfer of the “secret stuff” by Saab. Not with Lockheed! Canada will have to send that F-35 to the USA or wait for the USA to send THIER techs up here. That will be a very long wait becasue any proble that we have, they will have and Canada will be at the back of the line. Canada will end up having a lot of Gate Guards and Hanger Queens. Remember that it takes the better part of a day to re and re the F-35 engine and that is at a maintenance depot! You will not have that issue with the Saab. The only real issue that has already been mentioned above, the American are not our friends when it comes to business. In outright performance, the Saab is the winner. Faster, longer ranged, supercruise with intercept weapons under wing. The F-35 stealth coating peels of at supersonic speed. It cannot supercruise. The F-35 is a massive money pit with very little if anything in return.

    1. Absolutely correct. It is very clear that the USAF is not happy with the F-35 for all the reasons stated by Mr. Labonte, so why on earth would we want to saddle ourselves with this plane. I am not convinced that “stealth” is all it’s cracked up to be, this tech has been out there at least since the first gulf war, doesn’t anyone think that efforts have been made to deal with “stealth” tech. Further I simply don’t think Canada can afford the risk of the F-35 and it’s known ridiculously high operating cost and limited in air time vs maintenance time. The Gripen E is a solid workhorse aircraft that is inexpensive to operate and will have an abundance of tech transfer, and domestic supply capability, and to be blunt does not tie us to the USA in any way, which is becoming increasingly more important as they seem to become less stable, even adversarial at times.

  12. I’m grateful to Billy Flynn for his fine service to Canada but as an employee for Lockheed-Martin, he’s far from impartial. I’m willing to bet that he stands to gain from Canada choosing the F-35 and so he’s going to sell, sell, sell it as much as he can.

    This is like back when you had two Boeing employees spouting BS about the Super Hornet. If you want to have experts weigh in on the subject, that’s a great thing but you have to make sure that they’re impartial and have nothing to personally gain either way.

    This is essentially the same as having a Saab test pilot talking about why we should take the Gripen. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not because the source is incapable of being objective. I think that reaching out to Robert Behler would be a better tactic because nobody is more knowledgeable about the F-35 than he is and he has been impartial in his DOT&E reports for years now.

  13. Well, well! By some stroke of USA interference, our idiot self serving politicians have for the time being chosen to look at the F-35 more seriously if that is possible. Whatever I have previously mentioned regarding the F-35 still remains true to this day. It has a very limited capability to carry weapons because the internal weapons bay is quite small. If it were not so serious to see an F-35 with all kinds of external stores hanging under its wings, it would be funny. There goes all of that stealth. As mentioned before by others, at supersonic speeds the stealth coating bubbles and peels off which apparently is extremely serious for obvious reasons. Apparently, this can cause serious structural issues.( GAO). So, the F-35 can only be supersonic for a very short time or else.
    The Saab can super-cruise as long as there is fuel. This very important as a direct result of the fact that Canada is the second largest country in the world ( Russia is the biggest) in land mass. Great range. The Gripen E can simply can outrun, outclimb, outturn any F-35. While it may look like the previous Jas39, it is not. It is bigger because Saab relocated the main landing gears to an outside position to allow for a much larger internal fuel tank to get a far greater range. The Saab39E is fully integrated with the Meteor missile which can easily reach hypersonic speeds. It also has a tremendous range and can self-adjust its speed as needed. Maintenance is a nightmare regarding the F-35. Not so with the Saab39E. Engine can be replaced in the field in about 2 hours. To do the same thing on the F-35, almost a full day at a full maintenance depot. F-35 requires much more fuel to do the same operation in comparison to the 39E.
    The Saab would be completely built here in Canada by Canadians in Canada. Full unrestricted tech transfers. One thing that worries me is the 414 engine. I can see the possibility of the USA to make it very difficult to buy and maintain if Canada went for the Saab.The Canadian -39E should be able to use another engine ( EJ200 series engines) like the ones of the Eurofighter but more powerful because the Saab has only one engine and the Eurofighter has 2. That is it for now. Take care all. Covid is back again! 1000 extra cases in Ontario per day.

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