Thursday, 3 May 2012


Bill Sweetman, a long time critic of the F-35, has written in Defence Technology International that;

 “If you make the right decision based on inadequate information, you are lucky rather then intelligent. Although many planning decisions (including big ones, where the horizon is years off) must be made on partial information and rely on estimates, “due diligence” involves learning as much as you can.
Meanwhile, the insistence of Canada’s government that the JSF was the only aircraft that met the nation’s requirements, combined with sullen refusal to release the (unclassified) summary of those requirements that the DND presented to the government, has raised suspicions about the process.
 An April 3 report from Canada’s auditor-general, plus a few leaks, confirmed those suspicions in spades.
 The DND had cobbled the requirements together after it found that the only way to avoid a competitive selection was to declare the F-35 uniquely capable of meeting its needs. Inconveniently, its only previous study showed three qualified candidates.
 DND assembled anew document that compromised a couple of dozen mandatory requirements that anything on the market could meet, plus a handful that were written around the F-35.
 One of those described the F-35’s complicated night-vision system. It is an open question whether it will work.
  Another concerned stealth (with detailed specs in a classified annex). You can debate the value of stealth in some missions, such as intercepting Russian bombers that have no air-search radar, but it is a legitimate requirement. But for the DND to assert that the F-35 is uniquely able to meet it is disingenuous.
 Could the Rafale or the stealth-modified Super Hornet meet the radar cross section target? Could they hit it by the 2020 in-service date specified by Canada? I don’t know the answer, and neither does DND, because they didn’t ask; no competitors were invited to give formal briefing.
 In terms of due diligence, that’s a big question to forget.”

 On the question of due diligence Philippe Lagassé in Macleans Magazine writes;

“The key question that must be asked is why the F-35 is the only possible future fighter aircraft for the Canadian Forces, on what grounds the air force makes that claim and based on which defence policies and priorities. The Canadian military lacks many capabilities that larger powers possess; the Canadian Forces are not equipped to meet every possible threat or eventuality. Why was it judged absolutely necessary for the military to have this particular aircraft and to write a statement of requirements that excluded any alternatives? Why were trade-off considerations and cost-benefit analyses not entertained in this case? How does the defence department explain the Auditor General’s finding that due diligence was not performed when addressing these concerns? And the most important question: did the defence minister or Cabinet allow the department to brush aside its duty to perform this due diligence”

 At the same time Dan Ward has said;

 “There are basically three reasons to cancel an acquisition program. In no particular order, the reasons are:

We can’t afford it.
We don’t need it.
It doesn’t work

This means Defense Department leaders have to continually ask three important questions throughout the development of a new military system:

Can we afford it?
Do we need it?
Does it work?

The wording of these questions is quite deliberate. Note that question #2 is not “Will we someday possibly maybe need it for some hypothetical future against an opponent who may or may not exist?” Question 2 is also not asking if we need it right this minute – no need to get all short-sighted here. The question is whether we need (present tense) to build it – and the answer might very well be “Yes, we have to build it now because we’ll need it three years from now.”
The other questions are similarly posed in the present tense. Thus, question #3 is not asking “Will it eventually work some day, assuming several breakthroughs and discoveries and new technologies?” No. It’s asking “Does it work?” I think that’s the right question. Developing new technologies is important, but it’s an activity that should be kept separate from developing new systems.
If the answer to any of the three questions is No, then it’s time to seriously consider cancelling the program. If the answer to all three questions is No, we’re definitely in the process of building an unnecessary, unaffordable, unworkable waste of space.
That’s nobody’s idea of a good time.
Of course, life is more complicated than that. Given the uncertainties of world events, political realities and technical developments, these questions don’t always have binary yes/no answers, much less a wide consensus on what the answers are. Further complicating the equation, the answers are seldom static. Today’s no could easily become tomorrow’s yes… and vice versa.
What makes it particularly difficult is that systems in development tend to accumulate hordes of advocates willing to swear on a stack of Constitutions that the republic will not survive without this particular piece of gear. These true believers are inevitably countered by critics who insist with equal enthusiasm that spending another dime on the thing will push our nation into bankruptcy. Each side of the debate is well-armed with stacks of competing data, various assumptions (stated and unstated) and detailed analyses which prove they are right and their opponents are stupid.
So yes, it can be difficult to determine the right answer. But the difficulty should not prevent us from continually asking the questions.”
 One more thing to think about. At somewhere around 25 billion dollars over something like thirty years the F-35 is going to suck up about five percent of our defence budget annually. Is it worth it to spend five percent of our entire military spending to get 65 fighters? I don’t know the answer, but I hope that someone out there is doing their “due diligence”.