Monday, 29 July 2013

Used jet fighter "Thrift Shop"?

Thanks to European austerity measures, along with a need for lower-GDP nations for new fighter aircraft, there seems to be few surplus fighter jets hitting the market lately.

Low mileage...  Only $61 million O.B.O.  Serious offers only.

The Eurofighter Typhoon, especially, seems to be flooding the market right now.  With the Tranche 3 version on the way, some countries appear to be looking to offload the older Tranche 1 model.

Germany is reported to be looking at Eastern Europe.  Spain has offered some of its surplus fleet to Peru, while Eurofighter partner EADS has offered used Typhoons to Switzerland in lieu of the Gripen NG.

South African Gripens, bought for the 2010 World Cup...  Then mothballed.

In more depressing news, South Africa is said to considering selling part of its fleet of Saab Gripens.  South Africa has had issues with its Gripen fleet, as it lacks both the financial resources and the trained pilots to maintain its fleet of 26.  With 12 of the jets currently mothballed and only 6 pilots trained to fly the remaining 10 aircraft that are operational for a total of 130 flight hours a year, South Africa has way more jets than it can conceivably use.

So where does Canada fit in in all this?  As politically dangerous it would be to buy another used piece of major military hardware, the option should be given serious consideration.  Not in the long term sense, but possibly as an "interim" solution.  The F-35 is going to be late.  Not only that, but it is not going to be fully ready until some time after its initial procurement.  In the meantime, the Canadian Ministry of Defense seems to be still on the fence, with no permanent decision made until after the next Federal election (likely 2015).  With roughly 4 years (at least!) of lead time needed between a decision and initial deliveries, that puts us precariously close to the CF-18's "best before" date of 2020.

Canada may be in need of an interim fighter.  Especially if there are any more delays.  Although used fighter jets may not be the most attractive solution, they would allow us to increase our air capability for  a fraction of the cost and without any painful procurement delays.  The purchase of a few surplus South African Gripens would likely be very affordable, and those jets could prove useful later on as more of a "lightweight" fighter akin to the RCAF's CF-5 in the '70s.  Of course, a purchase of a few used Tranche 1 Typhoons would certainly make a full purchase of the Tranche 3 version look all the more attractive for commonality's sake.

In these days of "sequestration" and "austerity" measures, the potential is there for Canada to take advantage of military hardware "Thrift Shop".  Should we take advantage and...  "Pop them tags"?

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