• Eelongate 9 days ago
    This article is about the F-18 Super Hornet, which Boeing manufactures. However I think it's interesting to note that the F-18 and F-15 were both designed by McDonnell Douglas. The last time Boeing designed a successful fighter jet on their own was never.
    • missedthecue 9 days ago
      Tanker and bomber aircraft complimented their business better. Those products have been fantastically successful.
      • nradov 9 days ago
        That had been true, but the recent KC-46 tanker is far from successful.
        • ethbr0 8 days ago
          The KC-46 is somewhere at $5B in losses to Boeing (the USAF wrote the program contract defensively, for once) and years behind schedule.

          And as for bombers, Northrop Grumman is at the pole position with the B-21 Raider contract.

          The B-52 will be flying forever, but that can't be a major revenue win for Boeing.

          The F/A-18E/F is getting a bit long in the tooth, and the Navy (and Air Force) are both starting up new fighter programs (aka Next Generation Air Dominance, separate for each service).

          • missedthecue 8 days ago
            The maintenance contracts on the B-52s alone are worth tens of billions of dollars. And like you pointed out, they're going to keep renewing those contracts for decades to come.
            • ethbr0 8 days ago
              Yes, but there are apparently 76 active + 18 reserve. And notably only used by the USAF.

              That's a lot of planes, and a huge contract, but it's not a recipe for growth.

      • Jeema101 8 days ago
        True but they just introduced their very successful piston-engined P-26 fighter [1] a mere 89 years ago. Barely even had time to design a follow up! /s


      • boboche 9 days ago
        Boeing went dirty against Canada’s bombardier big time with the c-series regional jet which they did everything possible to block them out until they ran our of cash and basically gave the complete project to airbus in exchange to save the jobs (this is an oversimplification but the general idea). Going with boeing wouldn’t have fared very well with a lot of canadians.
        • jollybean 9 days ago
          Canada should have banned Boeing outright on the basis, including purchases by Crown or quasi-Crown corporations like Air Canada etc..
          • sofixa 8 days ago
            Boeing really shot themselves in the foot with the C-Series fiasco. It's sad for Bombardier because they were so close to actually making it ( or at least having a chance of making it). The biggest winner is of course Airbus, because they got an awesome plane, with existing customers and orders to boot, for basically free. They can extend it and shrink it, and use it to replace the sub-A320 range.
            • jacquesm 9 days ago
              And it's a winner too, very nice plane.
              • sudosysgen 8 days ago
                I got to talk to a few Bombardier engineers as a teenager when it still was in development and they showed me some parts, it's truly amazing. At the time what impressed me the most was the carbon fiber honeycomb floor, it was impossibly light. It felt like foamboard yet it was insanely strong. They were challenging people to break it in half and no one could.
              • calyth2018 8 days ago
                Not only that, I fly to see family, and there's no way in hell I'd get on a Max 8 or whatever they're going to try to call that steaming pile of shit.
              • dmoy 9 days ago
                There is some confusion in the comments here.

                Before today, the planes remaining were:

                F-18 - unit cost is somewhere around $70m

                F-35 - unit cost is somewhere around $80m

                Gripen - unit cost is somewhere around $85m

                The plane rejected with this announcement is the first one, the F-18.

                These are made by Boeing, Lockmart, and Saab respectively. This is Canada rejecting the oldest and cheapest plane of the three remaining.

                I think some people are commenting here by just stating what they want to be true, rather than looking at what's actually happening.

                Personally I'd rather the whole thing be scrubbed and they spend the $19b on something else. But for now, it looks like they're going to either spend billions on F-35s, or even more expensive Saab Gripens (unless they go with a very old model cheaper Gripen, but I dunno if that'll happen).

                • mthoms 9 days ago
                  It's not quite that simple. Regarding the Gripen:

                  >During the design process, great priority was placed on facilitating and minimizing aircraft maintenance; in addition to a maintenance-friendly layout, many subsystems and components require little or no maintenance at all. [...] According to Saab, the Gripen provides "50% lower operating costs than its best competitor".

                  >A 2012 Jane's Aerospace and Defense Consulting study compared the operational costs of a number of modern combat aircraft, concluding that Gripen had the lowest cost per flight hour (CPFH) when fuel used, pre-flight preparation and repair, and scheduled airfield-level maintenance together with associated personnel costs were combined. The Gripen had an estimated CPFH of US$4,700 whereas the next lowest, the F-16 Block 40/50, had a 49% higher CPFH at $7,000


                  I'll admit I don't know all the ins and outs here, but I do know that "unit cost" is not the same as "final price tag".

                  • riku_iki 9 days ago
                    > the F-16 Block 40/50, had a 49% higher CPFH at $7,000

                    and F-35 is probably around $30k/h

                    • sudosysgen 9 days ago
                      It's at 33k/h right now.
                      • riku_iki 9 days ago
                        So, given usually life of aircraft is around 10k hours, difference between 5k and 33k is very large: 10000*(33000-5000) = 280M
                  • Mikeb85 9 days ago
                    Where are you getting these numbers? Most have the Gripen at $30-60 million, depending on specs and things.
                    • bdamm 9 days ago
                      In what currency?
                    • jollybean 9 days ago
                      'Total Cost of Ownership' not 'Unit Cost'.
                      • The Gripens expense per hour of flight is roughly 1/2 - 1/5th of the other 2. That's where the Gripens savings come in.
                      • nickff 9 days ago
                        Canada's fighter procurement saga is a fascinating tale of arbitrary and spiteful requirement definition. The initial pledge not to purchase the F-35 was basically a signalling of anti-Americanism, and a way to differentiate the Liberals from their Conservative predecessors, by saying the F-35 was 'the wrong airplane'. Then the Liberals got mad at Boeing over their dispute from Bombardier, so the F-18E/F were 'wrong' too.

                        As far as I can tell, nobody has actually defined what they want to see or get out of a Canadian fighter, and there isn't a broad vision for the Canadian armed forces either.

                        • sudosysgen 9 days ago
                          A vision of the CAF would require a well defined goal for the CAF. There are only two, really - defending the Canadian Arctic for which we don't need a new fighter and which opposes us to Russia (and US that contests our claims), or being a token for the US to gain legitimacy on its adventures. There's really nothing else.

                          A rejection of the F-35 is a rejection of the second vision and it's not anti-americanism, it's a lack of pro-americanism.

                          Hilariously enough the airplane that's best suited to the first mission would have to be able to sink Russian icebreakers from a long range at great speed, and would probably be the Tu-22M and it's assorted supersonic cruise missiles. Sadly no nation will sell you weapons that can only be used against itself.

                          Outside of these two missions all we need is a jet to do basic airspace defence, interceptions, and that can carry some kind of antiship missile. Basically any jet will do the job, there's not much point buying the F-35 for that with all that entails.

                          • MegaDeKay 9 days ago
                            Your last point is probably true for domestic missions. However, Canada has also deployed the CF-18s in missions abroad, most recently (?) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


                            • sudosysgen 9 days ago
                              The CF-18s were also deployed in Yougoslavia and Serbia IIRC.

                              For the very basic and extremely infrequent strike missions that they are used for, the CF-18s and the F-18s we got from Australia will realistically be enough.

                              • nickff 9 days ago
                                The problem with the Australian ones is that they're old and worn out, so they're very expensive and unreliable to operate. Those planes are approaching their fatigue limits, and they're not going to become more reliable.
                                • sudosysgen 9 days ago
                                  Yes that's true, but the F35 is not exactly cheap to maintain either at 42 000$ per flight hour and the air-frames themselves are basically free and can be cannibalized.
                                  • nickff 9 days ago
                                    I completely agree, but if Canada is unwilling to spend the money to buy and maintain a capable and reliable fighter, it may be better-off without any. The F-18A/B is just an antiquated platform, parts are getting hard to come by, and the main wing spars will need to be replaced.
                                    • The electronics suite on the F-18 A/B is not antiquated. Particularly on the Growler variant.
                            • MattGaiser 9 days ago
                              This is really the problem. What is the purpose of the CAF? We don't have anything close to an agreed upon one besides coastal defense.
                              • josephcsible 9 days ago
                                > (and US that contests our claims)

                                There is zero chance that a land dispute between the US and Canada will ever have anything to do with which fighter jets either side has available.

                                • darwingr 8 days ago
                                  It's not a land dispute. The USA has been making the claim that as an arctic nation it has an at will right to use the Northwest Passage through Canada's most northern shore and the archipelago. This shipping route is MUCH cheaper in fuel compared to using the Panama Canal, which is not obvious on a map because the world is round. Now let's say the canal has a million dollar toll, well Canada sure wouldn't mind having our own toll since keeping that channel clear isn't free. But that just ignores the whole natsec/sovereignty issue of are we just ok with having people pass in and out as they please and how will international courts treat it if we allow that but later wish to change our minds.

                                  The issue comes down to whether the passage is qualified as territorial waters or just exclusive economic zones and how the islands are connected to the mainland may determine that. Regardless, the US is pushing it because it's a useful way to get concessions on other issues. Like him or hate him, understanding and using that aspect of negotiation is one thing Trump was always very good at and in this case Mike Pompeo was the one putting it forward and lobbying other countries to see it their way.

                                  Purchasing the F35s has been discussed here since at least 2007 when Russia was flying bombers into Canadian northern territories. Something is needed to respond assert sovereignty over the area. A potential issue in theory of purchasing the F35s is a strategic one of maintaining those water rights if in the moment Russia starts moving in suddenly the planes don't work or need parts and the US suddenly has a great point leverage.

                                  • sudosysgen 8 days ago
                                    It's not quite that. The US isn't claiming that they should have access to the Northwest Passage as an arctic nation, but rather that there should be international right of passage through the Northwest Territory, ie, between Canadian landmasses.

                                    There is militarily 0 need to use an F-35 to intercept Russian bombers. Actually the F-35 is pretty bad at interceptions. The F-35 has a pitiful 1100km combat radius, and cannot supercruise. The Gripen is a bit better and may be able to supercruise meaning that it's effective interception range is significantly better, and most importantly can usefully utilise drop-tanks. Even the CF-18 is a better interceptor than the F-35.

                                    The F-35 is not the right choice to deter Russia in the arctic. It's the right choice if you're planning an invasion or need to do strike missions past enemy air defences, or if you're going to be doing air-to-air combat far from home.

                                  • sudosysgen 9 days ago
                                    Agreed, but that just makes a fancy jet even less of a need.
                                • stormbrew 9 days ago
                                  > The initial pledge not to purchase the F-35 was basically a signalling of anti-Americanism

                                  Yeah no sorry, not buying the f-35 is just sensible decision making. The idea that Canada is in a position to be playing with the most expensive death toys in the world is just comic absurdity. That's no world in which we use anything like the f-35 effectively, even if it lived up to the hot air that was blown about it.

                                  Conservative hype about it was about as well placed as their attempts to get anyone excited about celebrating the war of 1812.

                                  • nickff 9 days ago
                                    It all depends on what you think Canada's military is there to do:

                                    If you think Canada is a nation of peace-keepers (which it really hasn't done all that much of), it doesn't need fighters at all.

                                    If you think Canada needs to defend North American aerospace, the F-15EX (or maybe Eurofighter Typhoon) looks quite good.

                                    If you think Canada needs to be able to support her NATO allies in an armed conflict overseas against a peer adversary, the F-35 is the best fit.

                                    • stormbrew 9 days ago
                                      I think your third scenario is imagining scenarios that aren't really realistic, even if its premise is accepted.

                                      It doesn't really make sense for Canada to have fancy toys to "support NATO allies overseas". If we want to make sure our allies have sufficient armament to defend themselves it'd make more sense for us to just give them money to buy it themselves. Then they'd at least actually be where they're needed and not stuck halfway around the world unless the US decides to ferry them there.

                                      For Canada to have projection into Europe or Australia we would just need so much more than just some fancy jets. We'd need carriers that are worth a damn to bring them there, battleships to support the carriers, bombers to support the battleships, etc. A whole whack of infrastructure we don't really have anymore, if we ever did, and that after buying the f-35s we probably couldn't afford anyways.

                                      If the only way Canada can support NATO is by propping up the US military-industrial-complex then we probably don't belong in NATO.

                                      • nickff 9 days ago
                                        >"It doesn't really make sense for Canada to have fancy toys to "support NATO allies overseas". If we want to make sure our allies have sufficient armament to defend themselves it'd make more sense for us to just give them money to buy it themselves. Then they'd at least actually be where they're needed and not stuck halfway around the world unless the US decides to ferry them there."

                                        Canada used to have fighters in Germany, to forestall or intercept Soviet aggression, and they were relatively well-equipped and well-trained units. I am not 'imagining scenarios', I am just laying out alternatives.

                                        • stormbrew 8 days ago
                                          Is there any particular reason it's better for Canadian jets to be sitting in Germany than for Germany to just have more jets if they feel they need them for defence? This is a thing that makes sense for European countries to do with each other, or north american countries likewise, but it's just downright silly to buy billion+ dollar jets ostensibly for the defense of Canada and then stick them in Germany.

                                          Like, other than symbolic ones where we try to pretend we're contributing in a way similar to the US with its little plots of american land in half the countries of the world even though we have neither the means nor the stomach to do so.

                                          • nickff 8 days ago
                                            All of this depends on what you think Canadian Armed Forces are there for. Canada could have a number of aircraft available as a quick-reaction force, and forward-deployed in Germany for convenience (as well as to help out an ally). Alternatively, Canada might forward-deploy to Germany to set a 'tripwire' against Russian aggression, or maybe to improve cross-training with other European countries.
                                        • nradov 8 days ago
                                          Canadian F-35s wouldn't need aircraft carriers to deploy to trouble spots in Europe. They have a decent ferry range with external tanks, and could just fly there with one or two refueling stops. Of course they would still need logistical support from NATO allies for any sort of sustained operations.
                                          • stormbrew 8 days ago
                                            This feels like a very early post-WWII way of looking at conflict to me. If a conflict is in desperate need of help from countries across the ocean with no projection power themselves (ie. not the US), it's likely "a trip across the ocean with 2 refuelling stops" is going to be too little two late. If we want to contribute to ongoing conflicts then we need more than the ability to fly a jet out and maybe back.

                                            The main thing that kind of capability is useful for is a first strike, I'm pretty sure. And I'd argue that's not the kind of thing Canada should be involving itself in.

                                            • nickff 8 days ago
                                              You seem to have come up with a decision matrix (which is very different from my own), and that is much better than I can say for Canada's government!
                                        • mthoms 9 days ago
                                          What if the answer is NA defence and meeting NATO commitments? Why did you frame it as either/or?

                                          (Peace keeping has nothing to do with a jet fighter acquisition. The only reason you brought it up was so you could add a jab - very classy.)

                                          • nickff 9 days ago
                                            I was just trying to lay out different mission profiles, along with the best jets for the job. If Canada only wants to do peacekeeping, it doesn't really need fighters. In addition to that, trying to get a one-size-fits-all aircraft usually ends up with an expensive 'camel'.
                                            • mthoms 9 days ago
                                              >one-size-fits-all aircraft usually ends up with an expensive 'camel'.

                                              Isn't that precisely what the F-35 has been criticized for? :)

                                              So if you accept the "mission profile" of defending NA and meeting NATO commitments while having a reasonable price tag, is the F-35 still the obvious winner in your opinion?

                                              • nickff 9 days ago
                                                My personal paradigm is a bit different from the conventional ones. I think that if Canada wants to do air defense/Arctic interceptions, the F-15EX is a great plane, with long legs, very powerful radar, and great weapon load capabilities. Canada could then choose to specialize in a niche role for NATO purposes; close-air support would probably be the best one, given Canada's recent commitments. Canada could then purchase surplus A-10 Warthogs (I mean Thunderbolt IIs of course) and Super Tucanos for that mission.
                                                • mthoms 8 days ago

                                                  You are now conceding there is no straightforward answer to this question — That maybe, just maybe, it's a very hard problem to solve given the criteria and constraints?

                                                  Perhaps your earlier observations would have been better served to acknowledge this fact, instead of chalking things up to "Anti-Americanism" and other garbage.

                                                  • nickff 8 days ago
                                                    >"You are now conceding there is no straightforward answer to this question — That maybe, just maybe, it's a very hard problem to solve given the criteria and constraints?"

                                                    I think there are a number of straightforward answers, but you need to define what you want the Air Forces to do, instead of coming up with post-hoc rationalizations (disguised as requirements) for why you chose one aircraft or another.

                                                    >"Perhaps your earlier observations would have been better served to acknowledge this fact, instead of chalking things up to "Anti-Americanism" and other garbage."

                                                    Canada isn't the only country to politicize defense acquisitions, it's just one of the clearest. From the endless support for, and subsequent cancellation of the Avro Arrow to the Chinook contract cancellation in the 1990s, Canadian politicians have always played political games with defense acquisitions.

                                                    • stormbrew 8 days ago
                                                      I mean, for a country that hasn't been truly forced into a war in basically a couple hundred years pretty much all defence acquisitions are "political games". That doesn't mean that this particular one was the particular game "anti-american".

                                                      You don't even seem to really disagree that it wasn't a sensible purchase for canada, if only because you don't seem to believe that Canada has a plan for its military that is sufficiently fleshed out to justify it.

                                                      If you want a cynical reason there are much simpler ones. The Liberals are a center left party that continues to be at least a little in love with austerity, and it was an easy high price tag to axe with basically no meaningful consequences in the short or medium term (because it's not like we were going to get them in that timeframe anyways).

                                                      Never mind that as half of a quasi-stable two-party power structure they pretty much always benefit from taking easy stances that are opposite their conservative pair.

                                                      • nickff 8 days ago
                                                        >"You don't even seem to really disagree that it wasn't a sensible purchase for canada, if only because you don't seem to believe that Canada has a plan for its military that is sufficiently fleshed out to justify it."

                                                        That is a pretty fair assessment of my position, though I do think there are reasons why the F-35 makes sense, depending on what the Canadian air forces are supposed to do. The F-35 is a very capable aircraft, it's just not clear if the capabilities are suited to Canada's missions.

                                          • FpUser 9 days ago
                                            >"If you think Canada needs to be able to support her NATO allies in an armed conflict overseas "

                                            I have an idea. How about not starting armed conflict?

                                            • bavell 9 days ago
                                              Speak softly and carry a big stick - sometimes you're not the one starting the armed conflict.
                                              • FpUser 9 days ago
                                                Since WWI NATO countries either together or separately had participated in truckloads of military conflicts. Now remind me please how many of those had started because some country directly attacked NATO member.

                                                I am not against having big stick just in case. That is what nukes are for.

                                        • mthoms 9 days ago
                                          Since when is cost effectiveness an "arbitrary" requirement? The plane was years late and massively over budget.

                                          It has nothing to do with Anti-Americanism. I have no idea where you got that from.

                                          • dmoy 9 days ago
                                            The plane being over budget for the US doesn't necessarily affect the unit cost going forward though.

                                            For a specific example here, the F-35, which costs more than the F-18, is still cheaper than the Gripen, which is still in contention for this bid.

                                            In fact of the three planes remaining, the F-18 was the cheapest. The only remaining planes are substantially more expensive.

                                            • mthoms 9 days ago
                                              As I understand it, The Gripen has a much lower operating cost than the others [0].

                                              At any rate, I never said cost was the only factor - only that it was an important (read: non-arbitrary) one.


                                              • sudosysgen 9 days ago
                                                The F-35, if not localized, is slightly more expensive than a localized Gripen, yes. However it will cost much more to maintain in the future.
                                                • nickff 9 days ago
                                                  Maintain, almost certainly, but sustainment costs could be higher for the Gripen. They’ve only made 270 Gripens, so any upgrades will be amortized over a smaller installed base.
                                                  • sudosysgen 8 days ago
                                                    I don't think that Canada will need or go for any updates beyond weapon integration anyways.
                                                    • nickff 8 days ago
                                                      The CF-18 got two rounds of modernizations, so I’d assume any replacement that served for a similar period of time would get at least one.
                                            • sofixa 8 days ago
                                              > Then the Liberals got mad at Boeing over their dispute from Bombardier, so the F-18E/F were 'wrong' too.

                                              Can you blame them? Boeing basically ruined ( or at least were the final nail in the coffin) Bombardier, a Canadian national champion that was pretty good at two things - rail and aviation. They were so close to having the chance of a sustained success with the C-Series, which could have been scaled up in a few years to be in competition with the 737 and A320 series. They could have broken the duopoly in civilian airliners!

                                              And Boeing killed them with protectionism because they were afraid airlines were buying from Bombardier instead of their vastly inferior not even a competitor to the C-series due to being larger and more expensive to run 737. Which was later deemed illegal. And which drove Bombardier to the brink of bankruptcy and them giving the C-Series to Airbus for free. Airbus won, Boeing lost, customers and passengers lost. If i were the Canadian government, I'd have banned Boeing from even competing in any Canadian government procurement programme.