Tuesday, October 17, 2017

BOEING'S BULLYING BACKFIRES BIGLY.

Brothers from different mothers?

For those of you whom have been living under a rock the last 24 hours, Bombardier has now partnered with Airbus in order to save the C-Series.

No actual money has exchanged hands, but Airbus now owns 50.01% of the C-Series program.  This gives Airbus controlling interest in the jetliner moving forward.  While this may seem like a blow to Bombardier to see its pride and joy become the property of someone else, this partnership all but assures the future of the C-Series and Bombardier as a whole.

Under this new partnership, C-Series headquarters will remain in Montreal and production will continue in Bombardier's Mirabel assembly plant.  Airbus will expand C-Series production by utilizing its pre-existing plant in Mobile, Alabama.  This will allow the C-Series to circumvent the U.S. Department of Commerce's crippling 300% import tariffs.  Airbus will also contribute its considerable marketing and supply chain prowess.

In effect, Bombardier has a sacrificed part of the pie...  But the pie will now likely be far bigger.

The deal is described as "win-win-win".  Bombardier and its C-Series have a much more secure future, Airbus gets a new airliner that slots just under its A320 series, and Delta gets its airplanes without that pesky (possibly illegal) tariff.  Bombardier shareholders are happy as the values of their shares go up.  Meanwhile, workers at Bombardier's Mirabel plant should have gainful employment until 2041.  Taxpayers in Canada and especially Quebec can rest easy that government investment into the C-Series will not turn into a write off.

There is, of course, one big loser in all this.



If Boeing was having scary dreams about the C-Series before, it is now in the middle of a nightmare that it cannot wake up from.

Boeing has no one else to blame.  It created its own monster here.  

By tying itself to the "Trump train" and attempting to stifle competition utilizing American protectionism, Boeing has driven Bombardier into the arms of Boeing's chief rival.  Like the mythical hydra, two heads have grown where there was once one.  



Boeing will now be forced to market its venerable 737 against both the C-Series and the A320 NEO...  Except now, BOTH models will be backed by the European-based aerospace giant.  Boeing could very well be in for a hard time marketing the 50-year-old 737's design against two much newer designs that both utilize fly-by-wire and geared turbofans.  

At least Boeing has its military branch to fall back on, right?

Errrr...  About that...

When it challenged the Bombardier, Boeing quickly lost friends all over the world.  The Canadian government all but scuttled its plans to purchase interim 18 Super Hornets from Boeing's defence branch.  Not only has Boeing lost this easy, no-bid sale; but it all but put itself out of the running to sell up to 70 more CF-18 replacements.


But we won’t do business with a company that’s busy trying to sue us and put our aerospace workers out of business.

-Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  

Boeing's 737-based (and US Government funded) P-8A Poseidon 
The United Kingdom has also promised to fight back against Boeing.  The UK set up a £113 million loan to help set up a factory in Belfast to build the C-Series wing assemblies.  These jobs were put at risk thanks to Boeing's legal action.  Now, Boeing may have put future defence contracts at risk.  

Luckily for Boeing, it just recently inked a deal to sell P-8A Poseidons to the RAF.  Ironically, these are based on the 737.  While this sale may be safe, it is doubtful Britain will knock on Boeing's door for anything else in the near future.  


The largest casualty in all this may ultimately be Boeing's reputation.  

A fitting pair?
By speaking out so loud against Bombardier, Boeing reminded the world that it too was the recipient of government largesse.  Its protests against Bombardier came across as pure hypocrisy.  Moreover, Boeing's actions confirm the world's worst fears regarding Trump-era America:  That the USA believes it can play by its own set of rules, other nations be damned.  

This may come to a shock to Boeing, Trump, and the rest of America; but the rest of the world can get along just fine without them.  

In the end, Boeing's aggression towards Bombardier may have only benefitted its competition at Boeing's own expense.  Bombardier will likely build more C-Series than it ever would without Airbus's help.  Airbus will steal more sales away from Boeing's bread-and-butter 737.  Boeing's military division will watch helplessly as Canada looks elsewhere for much-needed fighter jets and maritime patrol aircraft.  Other nations may soon follow suit

Instead of relying on its engineers to build a better aircraft, Boeing decided to let its small army of lawyers and lobbyists to stifle competition.  That mistake will end up costing Boeing BILLIONS.  

But hey, at least they still got Air Force One...


Sunday, October 15, 2017

FIXING THE CAPABILITY GAP.

RAAF F/A-18 Hornet
Canada has officially begun the process to acquire used F/A-18 Hornets from the RAAF.  It has presented the Australian government with a "Letter of Interest".  This tire-kicking will give a sense as to how much these second-hand fighters would cost us and how soon they would arrive.

Let me save the Trudeau government some trouble:  Don't bother.

This is not to disparage the Australians or the RAAF.  Like Canada, the Aussies have continuously upgraded and refurbished their fleet of Hornets.  While there are minor differences between the two, integration into the RCAF fleet should be relatively "plug-and-play".

As far as costs go, second-hand F/A-18s would likely seem like a bargain.  It would certainly be a lot more affordable than the mind-boggling $5.23 billion quoted for 18 Boeing Super Hornets.

So why give the RAAF Hornets a pass?

It is a simple matter of availability.  The whole point of the interim fighter is to increase our fighter capability NOW.  This would give us the time to hold a proper fighter competition and take deliveries.  This is the tripping point.

RAAF F-35 (based out of Arizona, USA)
Australia is currently replacing its F/A-18s with F-35 Lightning IIs.  Like Canada, Australia is a JSF Industrial Partner.  Unlike Canada, Australia has ultimately decided on the F-35.  So far, only two F-35s have been built for Australia...  And those are currently parked in Arizona.  These two aircraft will be joined by the next eight RAAF F-35s within the next year.   It will not be until December 2018 that a pair of F-35s will arrive in Australia for "operational test and evaluation".

At this rate, the RAAF will not have any usable F-35 assets until 2019-2020 at the very earliest.  Given the program's history of delays and setbacks, it would not be surprising to see this pushed even further into the future.

If Australia is willing to sell a sizable portion of its current fighter fleet to Canada quickly and at a fair price, then it is well worth looking into.  However, it would seem unlikely that any high-ranking officials in the RAAF would sign off on selling any fighters whilst waiting for replacements.  That would leave Australia with its own "capability gap".  While Australia would likely be more than happy to help Canada with its defence, it will not likely do so at the cost of its own.

While it is not a bad idea to look at the RAAF Hornets as an option, it is hard to imagine it as our best option.  Even if Canada were able to acquire these used fighters for a reasonable price and in a timely manner, they would still be a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Wait...  WHAT?
Oddly enough, Canada may be better off purchasing the F-35 as an interim fighter.

No...  Wait...  Stay with me...  Let me finish...

Lockheed Martin, the USAF, USMC, and countless other parties would like nothing more than to increase F-35 production.  Thanks to Trump, that looks like it will finally happen.  This means that if Canada actually did want the JSF, we could likely get them just as fast as anyone else.  Heck, we could probably take deliveries sooner than we could used Hornets.

This would be a bitter pill for the Liberal Party of Canada, however, as they promised to do no such thing.  This could be mitigated somewhat, however.

Instead of framing the F-35 as a CF-18 replacement or as an interim fighter, the Federal Government could instead label it as a permanent stand-alone purchase.  This small number of F-35s (a single squadron) would serve alongside Canada's main fighter fleet.  These would not be the "workhorses" of the RCAF but serve as a "high-end" fighter much like the American F-22.  This single squadron would be tasked with "coalition duty" operating with F-35s with other nations and utilizing the same infrastructure abroad.  These fighters would not be tasked with more mundane (but no less important) duties such as air policing or training.  This hypothetical squadron would operate out of a single base (Cold Lake or Bagotville). This would mean less need to modify existing RCAF infrastructure at our Forward Operating Locations and other bases.

Best of all, securing a small number of F-35s would likely be enough to secure Canada's place in the JSF industrial program, thus keeping its various Canadian subcontractors happy.

There may even be a way for Canada to procure the F-35 quickly and cheaply...  If we are willing to lower our expectations somewhat.

Thanks to the JSF business model, there are now almost 200 F-35s in the American inventory that are likely to become "Concurrency orphans".  These early production aircraft have been left behind as newer F-35s come off the line with a higher "Block" status.  The Pentagon has little desire to upgrade these aircraft, however, as they feel that money would be better spent on new F-35s instead of retrofitting the old ones.

Perhaps Canada could acquire these "demo" model F-35s at a substantial markdown?  The choice could then be made to either pay for the upgrades ourselves or simply leave them at their current "Block 2B" status.  While Block 2B is not considered the "Full Warfighting" version, it is considered combat capable and was deemed worthy enough to enter IOC with the USMC.  Still, given the JSF's bumpy beginnings, it may be wiser to simply stick with new build models.

Like the Aussie Super Hornet, this is not an ideal solution, but it is an option.  Going with new or slightly-used F-35s at least has the benefit of providing longer-term capabilities.

Eurofighter Typhoon
As far as the "eurocanards" go, it would be hard to justify a short-term purchase to fulfill the "interim" role.  Buying a small number of used or new aircraft for short-term use would pretty much be a non-starter given the added difficulty and expense of operating a mixed fleet.

The only way a Eurocanard would make sense as an "interim" solution is if it was part of a larger deal to replace Canada's entire fighter fleet.  Older, "surplus" fighters could be delivered to the RCAF almost immediately while orders are placed for more advanced variants of the same fighter.

For example, Saab may be able to provide a number of Gripen C/Ds on a short term basis to assist in transition and training while waiting for the Gripen E/Fs to come off the assembly line.  Saab has a history of offering leases to countries with modest military budgets, so it is not too hard to imagine.

Eurofighter would likely be able to offer a similar deal with the Typhoon.  Some Typhoon operators have decided to trim their fleets, and this has resulted in a few surplus Typhoons available.  Like Saab, Eurofighter could entice a new buyer by offering Canada a few older fighters to tide us over until new-build fighters arrive.

This strategy would require Canada's Federal Government to add this stipulation to its CF-18 replacement competition.  This would allow any of the manufacturers to bid on providing both a long-term and short-term fighter.  This added complexity would undoubtedly slow down the process even more.

 There is another possibility.

Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine
Instead of focusing on a supersonic multirole fighter, perhaps Canada would be better off addressing its "capability gap" with something a little simpler?

Given the recent history of asymmetric warfare utilized in the war against terror, it would make sense to look into a simpler, cheaper aircraft to fly those missions in which a $100 million jet fighter would be overkill.  Aircraft like the AT-6 Wolverine and EMB 314 Super Tucano are prime examples of this type.  Sporting advanced optical sensors and guided bombs, these small, inexpensive aircraft are just as capable of taking out a "technical" as a jet fighter costing ten times as much.

While this type of aircraft would not be able to replace the CF-18, it would certainly take the pressure off for future missions.  Best of all, Canada already flies the T-6 in the form of the Harvard II trainer.  All RCAF pilots coming out of flight school are already trained on it.  It may even end up being a Snowbird replacement.

Like the F-35, this solution should not be looked at as an "interim" solution but as a long-term addition to RCAF capability.  Unlike the F-35, it would be much easier to fit in the budget.

With a supposed "capability" gap complicated by the grim realities of budgets and politics, there is no longer time to stall.  Now is the time for Canada to get creative in looking for a solution.







Sunday, October 8, 2017

WHY BOEING FEARS THE C-SERIES.

It sure doesn't look scary...
[Note:  Sorry to dwell on the Boeing/Bombardier dispute instead of jet fighters...  But what is happening with the C-Series will have lasting repercussions to Canada's aerospace industry.  The Federal government's response to cancel its plans for an interim Super Hornet not only shakes up Canada's upcoming fighter competition, it puts the entire thing in a blender.  This point in history will be remembered as a pivotal moment for Canadians, right up there with the cancellation of the Avro Arrow.]


Bombardier got hit with another tariff this past week.  The US Commerce Department imposed an 80% anti-dumping tariff on the CS100.  This is in addition to the 220% "countervailing" tariffs imposed the week before by the same office.  These tariffs come at the behest of Boeing; which accuses Bombardier of both receiving unfair government subsidies and selling the CS100 at below market prices in order to gain market share.

Boeing does have a fair argument.  Bombardier has been the recipient of tax breaks and government loans.  The aerospace firm has been derided (rightly so) for crying poverty amply rewarding its upper executive.  Canada does seem to have a love/hate relationship with Bombardier.

Of course, Boeing does the exact same thing.  

Boeing has received massive tax breaks on the state and federal level.  Boeing "dumps" its airliners at a loss in order to break into new markets.  After selling a fleet of 787s to Air Canada recently, Air Canada was able to immediately sell some of these airliners for a profit.

Almost immediately after "dumping" airliners into the Canadian market, Boeing is now crying foul because Bombardier is doing the same.

We will not even touch on Boeing's defence division, which receives an enormous amount of Government largesse.  Even Donald Trump criticized the $4 billion cost of Boeing's new Air Force One.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Boeing.

The Boeing 787.  Each one sold to Air Canada at a loss.  
Many are now accusing Boeing using the Trump administration's protectionists leanings to bully its competitors out of the lucrative US market.   There is merit to this, as Boeing has long been doing similar battle with European-based Airbus.  One could be excused for wondering if Boeing as just as many lawyers as it does aerospace engineers...

So why is Boing making such a fuss?

Boeing does not currently manufacture a direct competitor to the CS100 nor does it have a similar aircraft in development.  Its closest competitor to the CS100 would be the 737-700, a significantly larger plane (149 seats vs. 133) that lacks both the composite construction and the geared turbofan of the C-Series.

One could commend Bombardier for fulfilling a niche that both Boeing and Airbus seem to have little interest in.  The CS100 fills the gap.  It is larger than regional jets like Bombardier's own CRJ Series and Embraerer's E-Jet; yet it is smaller than full-sized airliners like the 737 or A319.  The CS100 presents itself as the "Goldilocks" for routes with too much demand for an E-Jet but a 737 would likely have empty seats.  The C-Series' use of lightweight composites and geared turbofans help push its operating costs down, making it even more attractive to an industry where efficiency is king.

While the C-Series' groundbreaking design helps efficiency, it also introduces risk.  Planes that cannot fly cannot earn revenue.  No carrier wants to have to ground their planes due to an unforeseen issue with new technology.  This makes it difficult for even the best designs to find buyers at the start of a production run.

It is for this reason Bombardier and Canada's aerospace sector had reason to celebrate when Delta Airlines ordered 75 CS100s.  This was seen as a huge vote a confidence for Bombardier's new jet.

The 160-seat CS-300.
What is likely scaring Boeing the most about Delta's order is that it has the option of substituting for the "stretched" version of the C-Series in the future.  While the CS100 may not go head-to-head with any of Boeing's current offerings, the 160-seat CS300 gets uncomfortably close to the 737-MAX range.

Boeing's protests likely have more to do with preventing the CS300 from entering the US market than the CS100.  While the smaller C-Series may not pose much of a threat, the CS-300 certainly does.

Ironically, the C-Series follows Boeing's example in following current trends in commercial air travel...  Only on a smaller scale.

Airbus A380.  
For years, Boeing enjoyed a near monopoly on the "jumbo jet" market.  The 747, with its wide-body and double-deck design, was able to carry more passengers than any other aircraft on the market.  Even contemporaries like the Airbus A340 and DC-10 could not match the 747's capacity, nor its sales.

What made the 747 so successful was widespread use of the "hub-and-spoke" airline model.  Passengers would embark at smaller airport, fly to centralized "hub" airport, then towards their final destination.  Larger "wide body" aircraft like the 747 were perfect aircraft for travel between "hub" airports, taking hundreds of passengers with a single flight.  Jumbo jets make for an incredibly efficient means of travel when every seat is full.

The Boeing 747 enjoyed this near-monopoly until the 2000s, when Airbus unveiled its A380.  Where as the 747 incorporated a distinctive "hump" with a single-aisle cabin, the A380 utilizes a complete "double-decker" design with substantially more seating than even the largest 747 variant.

Oddly enough, Boeing has no plans to compete against the A380 with a successor to the 747.  In fact, Boeing may soon end 747 production altogether.  This may seem like Boeing is conceding the market to Airbus, but the A380 has not exactly been a raging sales success.

The Boeing "Triple Seven".
Instead of trying to "one up" the A380 (and its own 747), Boeing instead concentrated on smaller airliners like the 777 and 787.  Both are long distance "wide body" aircraft that utilize fly-by-wire control and computer aided design for increased efficiency.  These aircraft can match the range of jumbo jets at a much lower cost.

Aircraft like the 777 and 787 have opened the market up for more "point-to-point" routes instead of the typical "hub-and-spoke".  Instead of flying a smaller plane to a hub, boarding another plane to another hub, then another towards a final destination, passengers can do the trip in a single flight.

This is a huge deal.

Increased security following 9/11 combined with the arrival of discount "no-frills" carriers has made air travel a much different beast compared to the 70s and 80s.  Customers no longer look at air travel as a luxury, but as a necessity.  They simply want to pay their money, get on the plane, and get to where they need to go.  Who wants to spend an entire day struggling through mind-numbing layovers, security gates, and overpriced gift shops when you can simply just get there.  

By offering more point-to-point routes, airlines are meeting the customer demand.  To do so they need smaller, more efficient aircraft then what has been the industry norm for the last 30 years...

Starting to sound familiar?

The Boeing 737...  Circa 1967.
Boeing's ubiquitous 737 first flew in 1967.  (Let that sink in for a moment...)

This 50-year-old aircraft has since become the best selling commercial airliner in history.  Throughout the years, the 737 has evolved into countless variants and sizes.  It has been used as the platform for several military aircraft, including the P-8 Poseidon.  If you have ever flown on an aircraft, there are good odds it was a 737.

Despite its age, Boeing still builds dozens of 737s a month in order to meet demand.  Since demand is so high, it has pushed forward a replacement until 2030...

Enter the C-Series.

Like Boeing's own 787, the C-Series is a modern jetliner utilizing composite materials.  This lets it fly the same routes with less passengers while still being profitable.  It also helps meet the demand for more point-to-point routes.  According to officials at Air Canada, the C-Series has a "CASM (cost per available seat mile) rates that are equivalent to much larger airplanes".

Scarier still to Boeing is Bombardier's interest in further expanding the C-Series line with the CS500. This 189-seat variant would strike right at the very heart of the 737 market.  While Boeing has managed to achieve a duopoly with Airbus for the full-size airliner market, the C-Series has the potential to shake up that market.

Having already conceded the "jumbo jet" market to Airbus in order to concentrate on the more "midsize" airliner market, Boeing now risks losing part of its substantial share of the "compact" airliner market.  A position it seems to have (until now) taken for granted.

Boeing has had 50 years to develop a successor to the 737.  Instead it has chosen to bet by on a series of upgrades such as more efficient wings, engines and other evolutionary changes.  Now that a newcomer has come forth, Boeing has been caught with their pants down.

Boeing could have followed the free-market mantra of "competition encourages innovation" and developing its own "right size" airliner.  Instead Boeing has chosen to meet the challenge using lawyers and lobbyists, instead of aerospace engineers.

Korean Air CS300
While the tariffs imposed by the US Department of Commerce may have hurt the C-Series, they are far from a death-blow.

The US Department of Commerce is far from a impartial entity, it is a politically appointed organization that is concerned solely with American interests.  Its decisions are often overturned by the US Court of International Trade (CIT).  Due to the 1988 Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the USA, cases involving "dumping or countervailing duties" can be heard by a panel with representatives from both nations.

As per Chapter 19:
In Article 1904, the two governments have agreed to a unique dispute settlement mechanism that guarantees the impartial application of their respective antidumping or countervailing duty determination by a bilateral panel with binding powers.  This will mean that producers in both countries will continue to have the right to seek redress from dumped or subsidized imports, but any relief granted will be subject to challenge and review by a binational panel which will determine whether existing laws were applied correctly and fairly.  Canadian producers who have in the past complained that political pressures in the United States have disposed U.S. official to side with complainants will now be able to appeal to a bilateral tribunal.  

In the meantime, Bombardier is still marketing the C-Series to international buyers.  Korean Air has ordered 10 CS300s, Air Canada has ordered 45, China's Loong Air has committed to 20, and so on.  Bombardier is said to have "doubled its efforts" to sell the C-Series to the emerging Chinese market.

In the end, Boeing's attempts to stifle the C-Series may backfire spectacularly.

By invoking the ire of both Canada and Britain, Boeing has jeopardized future sales of its defense division.  Not only has it all but lost an almost guaranteed Super Hornet sale to Canada, but it has put future contracts in danger as well.

Not only that, but Boeing may have given Bombardier the unintended gift of "street cred" in the competitive airliner market.  This battle has given the C-Series a lot of publicity over the last few months, and potential customers have to be asking why Boeing is so afraid of this little jetliner.

Sometimes it takes a newcomer to shake things up.  American car manufacturers were caught off-guard by more efficient cars built by the Japanese in the 80s.  GM and Ford lost enormous amounts of market share and have never recovered.  Bombardier's C-Series has the potential of doing similar damage to Boeing.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

"INTERIM FIGHTERS"... NOW WHAT?

Welp...  So much for that!
Thanks to "Trumponomics" the plan to acquire 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets is now effectively dead. While not yet official, Boeing has now positioned itself persona non grata to Canada's Liberal government.  After months of rhetoric and threats, the Liberal government would be foolish to back down on their threats to cancel its Super Hornet buy if Boeing continued its suit against Bombardier.

Procuring the Super Hornet at this point would be political suicide to the Liberal party.  They would be roasted, and rightly so, all the way to the next election.  In the meantime, they risk appearing weak in NAFTA talks.  Who would back down against a government full of empty threats?

Barring any last-minute compromise, the idea of a Canadian Super Hornet dead on arrival.  And we were so close, too.

What is Canada to do now though?  We still have a fleet of rapidly aging fighters and a "capability gap".  We need new jets.  Sooner, rather than later.

With that in mind, let us look at some of the options and how easily they could be amalgamated into the RCAF within a short time frame and limited numbers.

Maybe...  But probably not.
F-35 lovers have reason to celebrate.  Many still see the JSF as the de facto choice now that the Super Hornet is out of the running.  They may be right.  Canada is still part of the JSF industrial program, after all.

In its favor, the F-35 is much further along than it was two years ago (has it been that long) when now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated his party would not buy the troubled stealth fighter.  This recent kerfuffle with Boeing gives the Trudeau government ample reason to renege on that promise.  The JSF program has its problems, but at least it is not actively trying to scuttle Canada's only major indigenous aerospace company.

Lockheed Martin has even offered the F-35 Lightning II as an "interim" fighter solution.  This option seems downright laughable considering that the JSF is still nowhere near ready for primetime.  They would also require a gargantuan amount of effort to fit into our existing infrastructure.  That effort may be worth it for an entire fleet, but not for a temporary addition of 18 aircraft.

Quite frankly, the only way a F-35 purchase would make sense as an "interim fighter" would be to buy a small amount (18) to operate alongside a more affordable fighter as part of a mixed fleet.  This would fulfill Canada's commitment to the JSF program and hopefully put the issue to bed.

Even without the the technical issues, settling for the F-35 would undoubtedly leave an incredibly bad taste in the government's mouth.  Not only would they be breaking an election promise, but they would be still be capitulating to the American government.  The same government that went above-and-beyond the 80% percent tariff petitioned by Boeing to a staggering 220%.

No less than the American government has set out to destroy Bombardier's (and by extension, Canada's) attempt to compete in the airliner market.

As I have stated in my previous blog post, Canada needs to reconsider the origin of any future military purchases.  Defending our economic interests is just as important as defending our military interests, if not more so.

Kuwaiti Air Force F/A-18C
Possibly one of the easier options is to opt for used legacy Hornets.  Both Australia and Kuwait plan on selling their current F/A-18C/Ds as they are replaced.  This idea has several advantages.  The aircraft would fit right in with Canada's current Hornet fleet.  While the aircraft would require some modifications to meet the RCAF standard, these would be relatively minimal compared to any other choice.  Additional training would likely be a non-issue, as would any logistic concerns.  For all intents-and-purposes, these used Hornets would be "plug-and-play".

As quick and easy adopting used Hornets into the RCAF would be there are several caveats.  Not the least of which is availability.  These aircraft are not available now, but "soon".  Both Kuwait and Australia are replacing their legacy fleets (with the Super Hornet and F-35, respectively).  They will not be willing to part with their old aircraft until new ones are delivered.  If Australia faces delays receiving Lightning IIs, Canada would have little choice but to sit and be patient.

Even if there is no delay, ordering used legacy Hornets does little to alleviate Canada's fighter problem.  Yes, we would have a few more fighters...  But they will still be decades-old aircraft with a dwindling parts supply.  Canada would also still be flying Boeing aircraft.

There is also a large political factor to consider.  Consider that the Trudeau government promised to cancel the F-35 purchase in favor of a smaller Super Hornet purchase...  Only to cancel that in favor of buying used fighters.  This would be ill-advised strategy for a political party that has been guilty of skimping on military spending in the past with disastrous results.

Used Hornets would be an easy option...  Just not a particularly desirable one.

The Dassault Rafale...  C'est bon?
Now more than ever, the European aircraft have a chance of securing a Canadian sale.  With both American fighter jet manufacturers out of Canada's good graces, we may be ready to see an upset.

The biggest upset would be Dassault's Rafale.  While it is an excellent all-around fighter, adopting it as an "interim" fighter makes little sense.  Its need to be thoroughly "Canadianized" to fit into the RCAF (weapon compatibility, etc) would seem to be an awful lot of work for just a handful of possibly temporary aircraft.

There is also the question of availability.  The Rafale has been on a bit of a roll lately, with sales to Egypt, India, and Qatar.  Canada may be forced to simply wait in line while Dassault fulfills current orders; a process that could take years.


One of the most enticing options for Canada's interim fighter could be the Eurofighter Typhoon.  The Typhoon would be an excellent fit for the RCAF as it checks off all the pertinent boxes.  It is already in wide use throughout NATO, it uses much of the CF-18s armament, it is a stellar performer, and it has two engines (for those that care about such a thing).

As far as availability is concerned, the Typhoon presents a several options.  Eurofighter is actively seeking customers for new-build aircraft but there are plenty of older Typhoons available.  This is thanks to the Typhoons bewildering amount of variants.  It is often more economical to replace older Typhoons instead of upgrading them to newer standard.  This means there are more than a few older models up for grabs.

One could be almost assured that Prime Ministers Trudeau and Elizabeth May touched on the possibility when they met a short while ago.  Considering that the UK has placed itself firmly in our corner of the Bombardier dispute, the idea of an RCAF Typhoon has now become a very real possibility.

Unfortunately, part of the reason why there are so many Typhoons available seems to be because there are a few disgruntled costumers.  The Typhoon has been notoriously finicky and costly to run, with reliability issues forming a dark cloud over the fighter.

Admit it...  You saw this coming.
Regular readers know of my fondness for the Gripen.  Like a piece of well designed IKEA furniture, the Gripen is a no-nonsense, low-frills, and low cost option.  Saab is remaining quite bullish regarding its Gripen E, marketing the aircraft as a low-cost option to the F-35.  Flight tests are currently underway and deliveries are set to begin in 2019.

Like the Typhoon, the Gripen would be a rather easy fit into the RCAF.  Most of the CF-18's arsenal is already in use on the Saab.  The Gripen is smaller aircraft with similar runway requirements, so it should not have any problems utilizing existing infrastructure.  Existing Gripen C/D models utilize an engine based on the CF-18s GE F404, reducing issues regarding parts and training.

As far as availability, the Gripen has it in spades.  Saab should have plenty of production capacity available thanks to Switzerland cancelling its order for 22 Gripen Es following a referendum.  Sweden is also in no particular rush to replace its own fleet of nearly-new Gripen C/Ds.  Saab is also in the habit of leasing Gripens so there is always the possibility of off-lease models becoming available.  Due to the nature of many Gripen buyers (not the aircraft itself) many Gripen airframes do little more than sit around doing nothing.

The biggest detriment to the Gripen (specifically the C/D models) is that it is not as capable as the CF-18 in some ways.  Less payload capability and range (both issues addressed with the E model) are the biggest strikes against it.  Like the F-35, the Gripen may work better as part of a mixed fleet.  It also does not the same political clout as the others.  Thus far, Saab has been hesitant to aggressively market the Gripen to Canada.  Hopefully this will change, as there has never been a better time to do so.

"Does anyone want to be my friend?'
The remaining option is to merely dismiss the "interim fighter" selection altogether.  The best way to do this would be to fast-track the selection of the full-time CF-18 replacement, using the information already available to pick a winner within the next year with deliveries starting in 2020 at the latest.

One can dream.

Hopefully, this whole messy business with Bombardier and Boeing will give the Canadian government incentive enough to give non-traditional options a thorough look.  The excuse that Canada needs American-sourced fighters for "interoperability reasons" only goes so far.

One thing is for sure, any further delays are unacceptable.

Pitter-patter...  Let's get at 'er.






Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Boeing/Bombardier Brouhaha... (RANT)



Well...  Shit.

The U.S. Department of Commerce sided with Boeing and imposed a whopping 220% tariff on all Bombardier C-Series airliners sold to American-based airlines.  Needless to say that effectively tripling the cost of the C-Series seriously jeopardizes the plan to sell 125 units to Delta airlines.

This was very much a make-or-break moment for the the troubled C-Series.  Delta would have been considered the aircraft's first major sale; encouraging other prospective buyers to get on board.

Boeing claimed that Bombardier was "dumping" C-Series airliners on the US market.  The argument was that since Bombardier was the recipient of government assistance during development of the C-Series, it is able to sell the aircraft at below market value.

The sheer hypocrisy of all this is mind-blowing.  Boeing, America's largest recipient of corporate welfare accused Bombardier of an unfair advantage for doing the exact same thing that Boeing does.  This, despite the C-Series not actually competing with any existing Boeing products.  Boeing's closest competitor to the CS-100, the 737-600, ended production five years ago.

Boeing's legal action in this matter serves a single purpose:  To stifle competition.

Boeing has done the same with European-based Airbus for decades now.  Both companies accusing the other of receiving unfair government assistance (they're both right).  The difference here is that Bombardier is a much smaller fish.  Boeing is not just trying to outmaneuver a competitor...  It is making sure that Bombardier never becomes one.

From Business Insider
One cannot fault Boeing too much.  After all, business is business.  While the CS-100 may not have a direct Boeing competitor, the stretched version of the C-Series, the 130-160 seat CS-300 roughly matches the 737-700.  The last thing Boeing wants is for Bombardier to steal sales away from their highly profitable (and long-in-the-tooth) 737.  Better for Boeing to slam the door on Bombardier before they get a foot in.

What really hurts here is the extra mile the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The fact that the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a tariff is not the biggest news.  What is truly stunning is the sheer size of the tariff.  Boeing itself was petitioning for 80%.  The fact that the US Government nearly tripled that should be a clear message that American protectionism is in full effect.

This situation is similar to the 60's and 70's era "Chicken Tax".  During the beginning of the energy crisis, American car makers were caught off guard and had nothing to offer for fuel efficient light-duty trucks.  Instead of encouraging domestic car manufacturers to step up their game, the US Government imposed a 25% tariff on foreign-made trucks.  This tariff exists to this day, and is largely responsible for the dearth of small pick-up trucks.

The next time you wonder why its so hard to buy a "right-sized" truck...  Blame American protectionism.


We should have seen this coming.  The Trump-era is marked by an America that is angry at the rest of the world.  Despite having the largest economy in the world and the largest military, the American mentality is that they are being taken advantage of by the rest of the world.  This is the same mentality that makes them believe that economics is a zero-sum game.  That in order for Americans to win...  Someone else has to lose.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost.

Bombardier has plenty of options to appeal the US Department of Commerce's decision.  That is why things like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization exist.  Bombardier has plenty of support.  Not only has Delta been supportive, but so has the United Kingdom.  Bombardier may also have other interested customers as well.

Nope.
In the meantime, Canada needs to make good on its promise to cancel a proposed interim Super Hornet buy.  While some might argue (rightfully so) that military procurements should be free of being politicized, the Government of Canada has no other choice here.  Boeing and the US Government's actions against Bombardier present a real and present danger to Canada's aerospace industry and our economy as a whole.  To reward these actions buy purchasing 18 fighters for a staggering $5.23 billion is sheer lunacy.

(Even if the Boeing/Bombardier spat was not a factor $5.23 billion for 18 Super Hornets is a complete ripoff...  Australia paid significantly less than that for significantly more fighters.)

No.  Trade is a two-way street.  It would be unwise to deal with an entity that insists we buy from them when they are unwilling to buy from us.  In what can be seen as an opening salvo of a trade war between the USA and Canada, our best strategy is to hit the USA where it hurts:  Right in the Military Industrial Complex.

Canada's CF-18 replacement, and any major military procurement henceforth, should be sourced elsewhere.  There are plenty of other defense contractors based in Europe and elsewhere that would absolutely love our business.  While a Canadian order for 88 fighters is a relative drop-in-the-bucket for American manufactures like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, it represents enormous opportunity for Saab, Dassault, or Eurofighter.

Saab Swordfish utilizes either the Bombardier Global 6000 or Q400 platform.
Moreover, non-US defense contractors may be more willing to work with Canadian aerospace rather than against it.  Consider Saab and its Swordfish Maritime Patrol Aircraft that utilizes Bombardier underpinnings.  They also utilize the Global 6000 for their GlobalEye AEW&C aircraft.

Whom would you rather see Canada do business with?  A company and government that actively stifle Canadian innovation and business...  Or someone that is willing to work with us?

The choice seems pretty clear to me.

In order to be a truly sovereign nation, Canada must be in full control of not only its military might, but its economic might as well.  We cannot simply abide by American interests that seek to bully us into buying their stuff while simultaneously stifling Canadian economic interests.

While the USA may be content with an "America First" trade policy, it may be time for other nations to take an "America Last" trade approach.


ATLANTIC AIR SHOW PICTURES!

Sorry (not sorry) about my summer hiatus.  I've been enjoying the weather and spending time with friends and family.  

Anyway...  Here are some pictures from the 2017 Atlantic Air Show!  

I have posted them without watermark so anyone is free to use them.  Consider them "open source".  (I still have the unedited .RAW files so I'm not too worried about someone claiming them as their own.