Monday, 11 March 2013

Of haters, picking nits, and fanboys...

I can't express how happy I am with the response this site has gotten.  The Facebook group has far exceeded any expectations both in the amount of members and the quality of the posts there.  There has been some excellent, intelligent discussion along with some nice camaraderie among a bunch of folks who just happen to like airplanes.

Future jet fighter blogger...

Of course, there has been the occasional naysayer as well.  One of the blogger tools lets me see who is linking to the site and from where.  Out of sick curiosity, I can trace the link back and see what some others are saying about the site.  Many are positive, some are just presenting it as "hey, what do you think of this?" and some are quite negative...  Hey, it's the internet.

What surprises me most about much of the negativity is that it is often not backed up with actual facts, research, or even a coherent argument.  Most of it centres on "Canada will always buy American" (not true) and "The F-35 is going to be the coolest!  Just you wait!"  Then there are the statements that are backed up by Lockheed Martin PR releases, right-wing think tank articles, and (god help me) anonymous forum posts.  These same people will then dismiss well-established news agencies like Reuters, Time Magazine, and Wired as being biased and ignorant on the subject.

Being dismissed puts me in good company however.  I was once called "a wannabe Canadian APA (Air Power Australia)".  I took this as a compliment.  Yes, the Air Power Australia website is controversial, but its articles are thoroughly researched with plenty of evidence to back up their opinions.  Pierre Sprey, an outspoken critic of the F-35 program, is often dismissed as some sort of doddering old man, who's thoughts on military aircraft are stuck in the 50s...  Never mind the fact that he was once one of the Pentagon's "Fighter Mafia" team responsible for the now legendary F-16 and the A-10.  Winslow Wheeler, another outspoken critic on the F-35 is dismissed just as readily, despite a bipartisan service to both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate.  Wheeler resigned his position after criticizing U.S. defence spending practices for being wasteful.

I will freely admit to my own bias and ignorance.  I am not in the military, nor the aviation industry, so I have no "inside knowledge" about how things are done or why "plane x is better than plane y".  What I report on this blog is strictly my opinion based on the facts that I have seen through researching the subject.  All those hyperlinks are there to click and see for yourself.  I would encourage anyone reading this to do their own investigating and to make up their own mind.  My goal with this website was never to convince people that the Gripen was the only choice for a Canadian fighter aircraft, but to get people thinking about it, talking about it, and getting involved.  This is our money being spent on these jets, we should have some say in it.

As to my own bias?  Well, years ago when I first heard Canada was going to be involved with the JSF program, I was honestly quite excited about it.  I watched Nova's "Battle of the X-Planes" more than a few times, and I was happy that Lockheed's bird won.  As I've followed the F-35's progress, I became increasingly disappointed that this aircraft wasn't going to be what I hoped it would be.  When Canada announced that it was purchasing the F-35, I wondered if the Eurofighter Typhoon wouldn't be a better choice.  While researching the Typhoon, I kept being amazed at how well the little Saab Gripen seemed to fill the same role, but with more versatility and value.  The more I discovered about the Gripen, the more I realized that it, not the F-35 or Typhoon, would be the best fighter for Canada.

Of course, that's just my opinion.  If anybody is willing to convince me otherwise, I'm more than happy to listen.


  1. Being called a "Gripen" fan-boy sucks. But really I went through the same process as you did. Started out thinking the F-35 was perfect, to realizing it is very wrong for Canada. Than the Typhoon which is a great plane but just costs to much to buy and operate. I still believe the Rafale is the best plane for Canada's requirements (twin engines, great range) but has too many other factors in the way. The Super Hornet is a bomb-truck and was design as a stop-gap for the US Navy. So when you get down to it the Gripen is the best choice on cost and its built by a country with a similar climate to ours.

    1. I don't mind being called a Gripen fan-boy, to tell you the truth. My respect for the airplane didn't come from seeing a cool picture in a magazine or on the internet. Nor did I fall in love with it by watching one perform at an airshow with rock music blasting over the PA. I have yet to even see one in real life. No, my respect comes from actually learning about the aircraft, its development, and its rather simple charm.

      That, and it does look pretty cool.

  2. Well said, Doug. Remember, this is the internet and you'll always have your fair share of trolls. I started out much like you, excited about the F-35, but was gradually worn down as more and more problems popped up. After a certain point, I lost confidence in the F-35. For a while, I was in the Super Hornet camp. I actually came to find out about the Gripen by accident; a random stranger whose artwork I had commented on at DeviantArt mentioned it, and I began researching it. The more I read, the more I became enamoured with it. So perhaps the naysayers are those who simply haven't done the research or don't want to do the research? There will always be naysayers, but I do sympathise with those in the F-35 and Super Hornet camps because I was once right in there with them. However, one should never be too confident or set in a belief to be unwilling to change one's mind in the face of new data. I came across new data on the F-35 and as a result, my opinion changed to incorporate that new data. The same thing happened with the Super Hornet. I'm certainly open to the possibility that the Gripen isn't the right choice, but all the data currently available to me says that it really is the right choice. If you want to convince me otherwise, then all you have to do is prove it.

    1. It always amazes me how many people who support the F-35 seem to do so while turning a blind eye to all its issues an problems. "It's still in development!" they say, ignoring the fact that it was supposed to be operational YEARS ago. "Military programs are always overbudget and finish behind schedule!" they say, ignoring the spec downgrades. "It doesn't matter if its slow and clumsy, its got stealth!" they say, ignoring the fact that it's stealth might not be that great. "But its got internal weapons!" they say, ignoring the fact that it only holds 4 munitions inside. "It's sensors and data-link will let it get the first shot!" they say, despite the fact that legacy fighters are being fitted with similar systems that actually work.

      I love learning about this stuff. I gladly follow any link and read all I can. Even the most biased of sources usually have some sort of kernel of truth behind them, and investigating that truth can lead to more legitimate information.

      Again, I started this website, not primarily to promote the Gripen, but to get people talking. With that, I think I have succeeded. If someone wants to start up a "Typhoon4Canada" or "SuperHornet4Canada" I will wish them nothing but luck and hope to be one of the first members on Facebook group.

  3. Doug, Lets do a quick openness check:

    I would take it easy on the F-35 in development. the original gripen has development issues as well (including a crash), and yes the Gripen NG will also have development issues, and it will be delayed and over budget --the only question is by how much. We don't hear about Gripen NG issues the way we do the F-35 issues because the Gripen NG isn't flight testing yet. Right now it exists in sales pamphlets, the NG will fly well provided you fold the pamphlet correctly of course.

    The first actual Gripen NG (not a demo aircraft mind you, but an actual Gripen NG)has yet to be built. If a person told you he had never fallen on the ice, been checked, or mishandled a puck it wouldn't be because he is the most awesome player on the ice, it would be because he has never played hockey.

    Wrapping up the Gripen NG is its enormous cost. the Swiss are paying 105 million dollars for it (when they actually officially order it), and the swedes are expected to pay 15-30 percent more after giving the swiss a discount on the development cost. 3.24 billion dollars for 22 LIGHT aircraft is anything but cheap my friend. SAAB got into a little trouble with Canada recently when they kept adding cost and time to their estimates

    on APA: Their research is bunk. pure poppycock, you don't need to take my word for it though, read through a lot of the articles and you will see their own research collides with itself often and contradicts routinely. Kopp, recieved a ride in a Super Hornet and raved about the aircraft, saying it could easily handle any Flanker, then the RAAF bought Super Hornets and Kopp put a warning on the top of the article that it should not be used as a promotion of the super hornet, and then wrote a piece that contradicted that, showing the Flanker dominating the F-18E/F in every phase. So which is it Kopp?

    1. The Swiss declared the Gripen NG the winner of its fighter competition against the Rafale and Typhoon based primarily on price. It was considered the best value of the three, even if the others were slightly more capable fighters and the fact that the NG was still in development.

      That "$105 million per plane" Swiss Gripen deal is more complicated than you make it out to be. The cost includes Switzerland picking up part of the development costs (without which the NG might not have been approved), parts, support, training, and even a lease of several Gripen Cs to ease transition and replace aging Swiss F-5s until new build Gripen Es are available. It also included a very generous industrial offset package, and Saab is already looking to fill jobs in Switzerland.

      As far as the APA is concerned, I find their articles well thought out, and they provide plenty of information. I don't always agree with them, but they at least try to make a compelling argument using facts. Message boards can be useful, but so few people cite sources on their "facts".

      You will notice that the article depicting Kopp's ride in the Rhino is dated 6 years prior to the Flanker/Super Hornet comparison. The Flanker has received a lot of updates over the years, and is likely to continue to do so. In the meantime, the Rhino has done without and will likely continue to do without, upgraded engines, thrust vectoring, and a proper IRST.

    2. "That "$105 million per plane" Swiss Gripen deal is more complicated than you make it out to be. The cost includes Switzerland picking up part of the development costs (without which the NG might not have been approved), parts, support, training, and even a lease of several Gripen Cs to ease transition and replace aging Swiss F-5s until new build Gripen Es are available. It also included a very generous industrial offset package, and Saab is already looking to fill jobs in Switzerland."

      The agreement has also been criticized in Sweden for handing over very pricey merchandise at discount rates.

      "Switzerland has no plans whatsoever to contribute to Gripen's development costs," Anna Dahlberg, a commentator with the Swedish daily Expressen, lamented after the August announcement.


      I was also told that the deal does not include the leasing of the older Gripens.

      The Flanker has received a lot of updates over the years, and is likely to continue to do so. In the meantime, the Rhino has done without and will likely continue to do without, upgraded engines, thrust vectoring, and a proper IRST.

      As has the super Hornet which has better AESA radar and is slated to get a IRST mounted on a fuel tank soon. A Block III F-18E/F is nothing to sneeze at. ITs also a lighter jet, so it doesn't need thrust vectoring to move its bigass through the sky. Super Hornets are excellent slow speed handlers as well since you need fine control and slow speed to land on a ship. In the mean time is avionics are getting better and better and more upgrades are going in the future. Not to mention that its signature is vastly better than the Flanker.

      Kopp and Goon were both trying to win contracts with the Australian Government, and lost, and continue to lose. Their impartiality, and ability to use X-ray vision to see all the classified material they pretend to have access to are in serious doubt.

      You don't need to defend APA to promote the Gripen.

  4. Pierre Sprey, has essentially been proven wrong by history. his vision of a super simple light daylight fighter in the F-16 has seen F-16s constantly being unpgraded with more equipment to make them deadlier in all weather along with being multirole, we actually see this as well with the Gripen NG, more weight more features, higher cost, but better in quality. had Sprey been right we would constantly be upgrading F-16s to be lighter faster and more manuevrable, but its been the opposite. I always find it ironic that Sprey is famous for "challenging the old guard" and "daring to be different" when the JSF does indeed challenge the old way of thinking and is different from previous types, naturally he hates it and thinks it should be more like "his" F-16, which of course was never what he envisioned. He also bashed the F-15 to death but the F-15 is one of history's greatest fighters and has never been bested in air to air combat. That hurt his credibility more than a tad, and people didn't pay attention to him again until he had something to say about the F-35. Not shockingly he is using the same argument against the F-35 that he once used on the F-15.

    Winslow Wheeler... Is so out of touch I can't even begin to describe it. Bill Sweetman wrote an article about the F-35B super heating concrete and destroying runways/tarmacs etc. It has since been disproven of course, with F-35Bs about as harmful as a Harrier in this regard, and yet Wheeler sought to bring up this already disproven myth just recently in a Time article. He is recycling garbage. Time was also horrifically dead wrong on the V-22 osprey in Iraq after slaying it in a 2007 article, that featured an osprey flying with a christian cross as its shadow.

    Wired: I have caught wired (david axe specifically) being extremely "fact selective" he likes to leave out or add key facts. For example when an F-22 crashed he said the cost was 619 million dollars. Thats not true. that number comes only after a lifetime of service and upgrades over decades. so unless the USAF is watering the crashed F-22 with JP-8 and throwing spare parts on the grave for the next 30 years, that is not the cost, and yes, David knew that and printed it anyway so it would be a more sensational headline. He recently wrote an article about CFTs on the F-18E/F and neglected to mention that it would need billions in development and new engines to maintain performance.

    My Gripen NG story is actually opposite yours, I was excited about the NG (admittedly not as as excited about it as I still am the F-35) until I saw what the Swiss paying. I think a prerequisite for a cheap light fighter is that it should be cheap. SAAB was also playing up the twin seat version (which they are not developing due to costs) and the carrier version (also not being developed)

    1. Both Sprey and Wheeler seem to have enjoyed rather stellar reputations before they spoke out against the F-35, you ever wonder why they suddenly become so un-credible?

      Don't forget that Sprey was also partly responsible for the A-10, an aircraft that has needed very little in the way of updates and is still in very much demand and respected by ground troops. It has enjoyed little love from the USAF's top brass, who prefer fast and expensive jets like the F-22, but plans to retire the A-10 from active service have yet to happen. The aircraft has proven to be too valuable over Afghanistan and Iraq.

      The F-16 has indeed been made more complex over the years, but it has continued to be popular and useful because it was such a great platform to start with.

    2. I would say check your history, Sprey and many others predicted a tremendous failure, be it with the Bradley, Abrams tanks, F-15 and many other weapon systems that passed with flying colors in 1991. Their reputations took one helluva a hit after that. When you bet your reputation on something failing miserably and it actually works, that would be a problem to your credibility in professional circles, which is why these guys talk to the press now. It doesn't surprise me at all that their 15 minutes of fame aren't up as they use they same argument again and again. hey eventually they may get it right, but then again a broke clock is right twice a day, and even people who don't know anything about a subject know that if they always guess the same answer statistically sooner or later, they will get the answer right.

      so no there is no "suddenly uncredible" this isn't my first BBQ, they have been uncredible for years now.

      I just wouldn't go calling them experts.

      The A-10 is great where there is no opposition. Its highyl specialized and relies on other aircraft to suppress SAMs and protect it from other aircraft. the B-52 is the same way. and yes A-10s get upgraded.

      Agreed but Spreys ethos was proven wrong. An F-16 is not the same as he wanted. If we want to be Sprey purists and only his original early F-16s count, we can say that his aircraft concept was quickly obsolete.

    3. I'm going to throw in my two cents here. I was interested in military aviation for a long time, and my first link to it was model of the F-15 I had as a child. F-15 remained my favorite fighter aircraft for the long time; but after an early report on the F-22, I became an F-22 fan. But I always kept researching, and with time I began to doubt wether F-22 is really as good as I thought. After doing more research in that direction, I concluded that it is nowhere as good as I believed it to be, and my preference switched to Eurofighter Typhoon. But again, after lot of research and ping-poinging from aircraft to aircraft, I decided that Typhoon is also not as good as I believed it to be, and currently I am still in process of deciding wether I prefer Gripen or Rafale; both have their pros and cons, and while Rafale is definetly superior to Gripen in one-on-one comparision, I am still undecided on wether it is as good choice strategically as Gripen is.

    4. I was a HUGE fan of the F-35, believe it or not, back when it was still the X-35. I've followed the JSF program closely, knowing it would likely be Canada's next fighter.

      Along the way, there just seems to be more and more disappointment involved with the program. Too many compromises, too many unrealistic expectations.

      I like to think I've gone beyond playing favorites, at the end of the day, every aircraft is flawed and imperfect.

      The Gripen isn't a perfect fit for Canada. Not by a long shot. I merely chose it because it is "less wrong" for Canada than the others. The Typhoon comes VERY close, but its costs and other issues are maddening.

  5. Let me correct something, Pierre Sprey NEVER advocated WVR-only dogfighter. What he wanted was a small, simple fighter with passive beyond visual range engagement capability, using opponent's radar fir engagement (he called it "beyond radar range"). Capability is present in Dassault Rafale.