Boeing Aims to Kill Canada’s F-35 Jet Contract
The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing varient does testing aboard the USS WASP (LHD-1) in October 2011.
CREDIT: Lockheed Martin
Is Lockheed’s F-35 – the much hyped but long delayed fighter jet – little more than a “paper airplane”? That’s what Boeing, the company’s biggest competitor is saying about the long-awaited stealth aircraft. And those fighting words seem to have reached their target audience.
Canada, one of the countries slated to buy the F-35, says it’s “hitting the reset button” on its defense contract with Lockheed Martin. And Boeing is doing everything in its power to persuade Canadians that their F-18 Super Hornet is the perfect solution to an expensive problem.
But just how much would Canada save by swapping out F-35s for F-18s? According to CBC News, a deal with Lockheed’s rivals could mean $23 billion in savings for Canadian taxpayers. That’s half the official estimate of buying an initial fleet of 65 F-35s from Lockheed and operating them over the next 42 years.
But does the steep price difference mean that Canada would be purchasing an inferior product? Boeing’s vice president, Mike Gibbons, said that although the F-18 wasn’t built for stealth, it can still keep up with its yet untested competition.
“We know that the Super Hornet has effective stealth, and that’s really the key,” Gibbons told CBC News. “In fact, we believe we have a more affordable stealth than many other platforms that are being designed specifically and touted as stealthy platforms.”
And while Gibbons continues to promote the plane’s price point, test pilot Ricardo Traven, who has actually flown the F-18, said that a jet that’s a little less stealthy and a bit more agile isn’t such a bad thing.
“You want an airplane with large control surfaces, large flaps,” Traven said. “These things give the airplane a lot of maneuverability.”
And maneuverability is an important quality in a jet that must land on Canada’s frozen runways.
But Boeing isn’t the only company pitching its planes to the Canadian government. European manufacturers of the Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen fighter jets have also been asked to participate in the bid for Canada’s new multi-billion dollar defense contract.