Thursday, May 12, 2011

Engines not included after all, according to Laurie Hawn

Trust military, civilian experts on F-35, Hawn urges

Re: "F-35 not what Canada needs," by H.M. MacPhee, Letters, May 8.

H.M. MacPhee knows little of what he speaks. He believes he knows how wars will be fought in the future, when history will tell us that no one knows the answer to that question.

The Russians and the Chinese are developing advanced fighters for export and we have an obligation to give the air force the best tools available for use beyond the middle of this century. Our air force will be tasked to perform anywhere in the world and in any mission -roles it has responded to admirably in the past.

MacPhee does not understand the mission capabilities of a multi-role fighter, which are represented by both the CF-18 and the F-35 in their respective eras. The F-35 is in development, just like the CF-18 was when we bought it. Pilots simply want the equipment that will counter the threat and get the job done. MacPhee refers to a Top 10 list of fighters that doesn't mention the F-35, but that's because it's not in production yet. I'll put my trust in the military and civilian experts who have been managing this program for many years.

On another point, we are buying engines for the F-35. The engines are purchased separately from the engine manufacturer, Pratt and Whitney, and are installed at Lockheed Martin. This is normal procedure.

We did indeed look closely at five other aircraft. The F-22 Raptor is too expensive and not for sale. The Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale could not meet basic performance requirements. The Eurofighter Typhoon is more expensive than the F-35 and lacks the advanced stealth and systems capabilities. The Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft, but lacks advanced stealth and systems. It will not be produced beyond about 2020 and will not be in use by the U.S. Navy beyond about 2030.

MacPhee misrepresents a line in a routine briefing note about competitive process; inaccurately states that the F-22 will cruise at Mach 2 without afterburner; and doesn't realize that we already have the advanced "beyond visual range" air-to-air weapons on the CF-18. It is also important to understand how modern weapons systems work in missions like close air support and the tactical employment of advanced radar systems.

Opinion is fine; it should just be better informed.

There has been much misrepresentation of the F-35 program. The only number that is relevant is $9 billion for 65 aircraft, simulators, infrastructure, initial training, initial weapons and spares and a sizable contingency.

All this was budgeted in 2008; won't be spent for several years; and doesn't take a penny away from other programs.

We owe our men and women the equipment to do the difficult tasks we give them. Our government will not let them down.

Laurie Hawn, (Lieut.-Col., retired), MP for Edmonton Centre

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