Letters: Canada only wants F-35A

Dear Editor,

Your columnist is out to lunch on a lot of things he wrote about the F-35 [Does Canada need a new fighter jet?, Jan. 8 Painful Truth, Langley Advance].

There are three variants: the F-35A, which uses conventional runways; the F-35B, which does short takeoffs and vertical landings; and the F-35C, which operates off an aircraft carrier deck.

The RCAF is only interested in the conventional F-35A.

The STOVL F-35B cannot take off vertically, except with no load and almost no fuel, but it can hover and land vertically.

The aircraft is not just a “fighter” for dogfighting, which hasn’t been a big thing in recent wars, but it is called the Joint Strike Fighter because it can also act as a ground and naval attack plane.

It has two huge internal weapons bays plus seven external stores positions (which must really play havoc with the stealth features). It is intended to replace at least seven different aircraft in the U.S. military, plus others used by European partners.

Current plans are for it to be in production until 2037, long after my time.

The thing is a flying computer, with over eight million lines of computer code. Its predecessor, the F-22, only has about two million lines of code.

Some of the things it is expected to do boggle my mind, and I have been involved with the RCAF and electronics engineering for more than 60 years.

It is not surprising that there have been hundreds of problems, many in the software, but some hardware, too. 

The current drawn-out test and development program with low-rate production aircraft is intended to sort out and correct all of those problems.  

One thing we should be concerned about is the engine. 

Modern jet engines have an impressive Mean Time Between Failure number, but sooner or later, some will fail.  There is only one engine, so the aircraft will probably be lost.

Jerry Vernon, Vancouver Chapter, Canadian Aviation Historical Society 


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