Given that Canada is looking for 88 jets would there be value in having two subfleets, say 40 F35 and 48 Gripen (or say 40 F35 48 SH, just making something up here)?
Does that make sense economically (for Canada and the manufacturers) and militarily (in terms of capabilities required)?
Good question and already answered a while ago by an RCAF study available here, army.ca/forums/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=120786.0;attach=53025 You have to access it via this link because when Trudeau came into Office they pulled from the RCAF website a lot of these reports.
The intent of the study was really to examine the cost implications of operating a high end jet for high threat operations such as NATO commitments, it is really referencing the F-35, and a low threat jet, it is really referencing the Gripen, for NORAD commitments. The suggestion was the high end jet would cost more to acquire and a low threat jet which would cost less to acquire and between them they could fulfil the required NATO/NORAD mission expectations.
The result of the study, which is well worth a read, is the following,
The previous section showed a mixed fleet of 74 aircraft does not deliver the same capability as a single fleet of 65 aircraft. This section examines known cost considerations in an effort to compare the single and mixed fleets. Despite having a sub-fleet of lower cost aircraft, the loss of economies of scale combined with the cost of duplication may result in a mixed fleet that is more expensive than its single fleet counterpart as was shown in a recent estimate of sustainment costs of future Australian fighter fleets (Ref. R).
Figure 1 presents a fitting analogy that helps one understand that reducing acquisition costs alone is completely insufficient to ensure mixed fleet costs are comparable to those of a single fleet. The studies at Refs. S and T provide evidence that is consistent with the existence of significant fixed operating, support, and infrastructure costs associated with any aircraft fleet. In the case of a mixed fleet, extra costs result from duplication: infrastructure; aircraft maintenance support equipment; operational and maintenance training; supply lines; project management; engineering support; aircraft certification; test and evaluation; storage and management of spare parts, weapons, and expendables; and electronic warfare and systems reprogramming are just some of the many sources of duplication amongst the two sub-fleets.
This report compared a single fleet of aircraft, capable of fulfilling Canada’s NATO and NORAD commitments, against a mixed fleet consisting of these higher capability, higher cost aircraft combined with lower capability, lower cost aircraft.
The analysis found that a mixed fleet of 38 higher capability aircraft, chosen for their ability to fulfill the most challenging of the NATO missions, and 34 lower capability aircraft, capable of fulfilling Canada’s NORAD obligations, could not provide the same capability as the single fleet of 65 higher capability aircraft.
The initial purchase price is likely lower for the Gripen than for the F35. Not sure about useful life, maintenance, long-term support, etc.
You may not always need a F35, especially for patrolling the Arctic?
So the problem with your suggestion is that today we know the F-35 is cheaper to acquire than a Gripen E. The F-35 may cost more to sustain than a Gripen but that is a much more debatable question than the acquisition cost. The F-35 will have a fleet size likely ten times that of the Gripen as well as require less intensive capability upgrades over the life of type to maintain capability as well as being an overall more capable aircraft, range, payload, sensors etc, to begin with.
If patrolling the Arctic for air threat is the requirement ironically the F-35 is actually a better option than any of the other jets. The MADL data link brings with it significant advantages, one of which is the F-35 formation in flight is now much more widely dispersed. Instead of being ten miles from your wingman, standard separation for western 4th gen aircraft, you are now sitting at seventy miles away, all while sharing and fusing all the information each jet is detecting across the whole flight via MADL. Now those four F-35s you sent up to patrol the Arctic have a spread of 210 nm between them, with the corresponding enhanced radar coverage, compared to 30 nm for the other aircraft.
Last edited by Ozair
on Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.