Sunday, 21 September 2014

Running out of runway.

Hat tip to Eric Palmer!

Eight-thousand feet.

That is the minimum amount of runway required to safely operate the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version of the F-35, the F-35A.  For training purposes it is preferable for the newbie F-35 pilot to have up to 10,000 feet to allow for a margin of error.  This is according to RAAF documents, found here (warning:  PDF download).

For those not keeping score, the CTOL F-35A was (is?) the planned replacements for the RCAF's aging CF-18s.  Being a carrier-capable aircraft, the CF-18 has little problem operating out of shorter runways.  Strengthened landing gear, low stall speed, and an arrestor hook make for snappy take-offs and landings.  The F-35A lacks these benefits, as they are not required to operate out of large USAF airbases with more than enough runway to go around.

For Canada, things are a little different.

Canada's current fleet of CF-18s are operated out of two airbases, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta and CFB Bagotville, Quebec.  From these two bases, CF-18s are often rotated to CFB Comox (BC), CFB Goose Bay (NL), CFB Gander (NL), and CFB Greenwood (NS).  CF-18s also often find themselves in CFB Trenton (ON).  All of these bases meet the 8,000 foot requirement for the F-35, some of them, just barely.

Here is a list of these bases along with the length of their longest runway, in feet.

  • CFB Cold Lake:  12,600
  • CFB Bagotville:  10,000

  • CFB Comox:  10,000
  • CFB Goose Bay:  11,051
  • CFB Gander:  10,200
  • CFB Greenwood:  8,000 (the minimum)

  • CFB Trenton:  10,000

Things get hazier when we look at Canada's Forward Operating Locations (FOL) up north.  These FOLs allow the fighters to operate in Canada's northernmost territory.  These locations share a runway with a civilian airport and simply do not have the resources of a full military base.  These runways are built with small, commuter aircraft in mind, not stealth fighters.

  • FOL Yellowknife:  7,503
  • FOL Inuvik:  6,001
  • FOL Rankin Inlet:  6,000 
  • FOL Iqalut:  8,605

Notice that Iqalut is the only base the meets the minimum requirement.

"A detachable pod that deploys a chute directly behind the jet nozzle in order to keep the multi-million dollar fighter from careening off the runway and into the landscape?  What could possibly go wrong?"

Of course, Lockheed Martin is working on a drag chute to help reduce landing distance, these of course, cost extra.  They are also rather unique in the fact that they need to be constructed out of kevlar instead of the usual nylon.   This is due to the chute's position directly behind the F-35's engine nozzle.

Like much else attached to the F-35, the drag chute "pod" still needs to undergo testing before it is cleared for service.

By the way, here are some distances needed by other fighters at Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW):

  • Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet:  3,680ft (Maximum Landing Weight)
  • Eurofighter Typhoon:  2,300ft
  • Dassault Rafale:  1,475ft
  • Saab Gripen NG:  <2,000ft

Of the above, the Super Hornet, Rafale, and Gripen are all capable of "rough field" conditions.  Both the Super Hornet and Rafale (M) can use tail hooks.  The Typhoon already has a drag chute installed. The Gripen simply does not need any additional stopping aids.

So what shall it be?

  1. Retrofit a few runways?
  2. Install a (so far untested) drag chute?
  3. Procure an aircraft that manages just fine as is?
Given the extra costs associated with the first two choices, this really is not much of a choice at all.  


  1. Doug you must have all of your facts wrong as Mr. Billie Flynn ex CF-18 pilot who now is a mouth piece for Lockheed Martin has just come out publicly and stated "the F-35 is perfect for Canada's Arctic". Are you suggesting he may be representing the best interests of Lockheed Martin share holders and not Canada do you? Maybe Mr.Flynn could one day expose the F-35 for the scam that it is? When he does I will be proud that he wears a maple leaf on his flight suit but until then I would prefer he removes the maple leaf off his Lockheed Martin uniform.

  2. Doug did get his facts wrong the numbers quoted are for an aircraft that is taking off, reaches full lift speed, and then needs to abort the take off. In which case you will need 10,000 feet of runway in order not to go over the end:

    "The required length of the runway is 3,048m (10,000 feet). This

    distance allows acceleration to take-off speed, plus the distance required to safely

    stop the aircraft if take-off is aborted at the LATEST POSSIBLE TIME, with an allowance

    for the reaction time of trainee pilots. "

    Is that LM propaganda?! No, thats ^From the PDF Doug and Palmer posted^

    Reading. Its hard. Now even if Canadians were the stupidest people on earth (and they aren't, no matter how hard this blog tries to prove me wrong) I would like to think they are smart enough to understand subtraction. And god willing they are smart enough to READ and know that a 10,000 foot runway is needed for TRAINEE pilots that have to abort a take off.

    So an F-35 doesn't need 10,000 ft to take off, it needs 10,000 ft to NOT take off.

    Do you really think an F-35 needs 3 KM to take off?!

    Fun to watch you throw a guy who actually served in the RCAF under the bus though there, Pragma. Flynn served your country honorably, have you? Maybe you should remove your maple leaf there Mr. Holier-than-thou

  3. Go away, troll.

  4. Who thinks they have tested landing the F-35 on an wet/icy runway yet? No hands?

  5. Just a heads up, the Pentagon released a report not long ago that states the F-35 has jumped in value to $238 Million / unit and has been condemned for having very poor rear visibility which makes it a guaranteed kill if any aircraft get's behind it. Cracked turbines, fuel system fires and seats that could cause pilots to drown if they eject over the water as they have issues getting free. The design is flawed in so many ways it's pathetic.

    The Pentagon also estimated that it would cost the US $1 TRILLION, not billion, trillion dollars to maintain them until 2050 in that same report. Canada should run far away from that one.

    I'd be down with the Saab AND Super Hornet. The Saab having a single engine poses a significant risk to pilot safety in the arctic, but they would make a great choice for most standard OPS. Having a smaller fleet of Super Hornets would do well for Arctic operations and help balance out the fleets. Considering they share an engine (though the F414 in the Saab is modified to work as a single) the benefits are there for a split feet.

  6. There are reports in Swedish press today of Argentina intending to procure 24 Brazilian made Gripen. Stated source: Brazilian Dept of Defence. Saab has no comments.

  7. F-35, it's hard to survive in air combat. F-35 have used too much technical. If there are some technical failure Maybe it's a plane crash it all. It should be at NASA to the appropriate .

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