Friday, September 23, 2016

F-35s can't seem to stop catching fire...

I just started vacation...  Then THIS happens. 

At least there will be plenty to discuss while I'm away!  

Meanwhile, at the Joint Program Office...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Me, looking for some vacation.

The time has come for me to take a brief break from my adult life and responsibilities.

For the next couple of weeks I will be on vacation.  I will be "unplugging" from the internet and will be unable to post or edit comments.  So...  Have a field day guys.

In the meantime, I will be stress testing my liver and catching some sun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Modest Proposal: The RCAF should adopt a light attack aircraft.


Sometimes, once in a blue moon or so, news coming out of The Pentagon actually makes sense.

The folks at Defense News recently reported that the USAF is in the preliminary stages of evaluating a light attack aircraft to supplement its A-10 fleet.  These new aircraft would then partially replace the aging Warthog over low-threat environments.  Aircraft like the F-15E and F-35 would take over duties in higher-threat situations.

The reasoning is simple.  Aircraft like the F-35 and F-15E are complete overkill when it comes to dealing with violent extremists that use pickup trucks armed with machine guns ("technicals").  While there is no debating the tactical need, one has to question the financial argument of using a multi-million dollar aircraft that costs $30k per flight hour dropping a bomb that costs more than its target.

As much praise as the A-10 receives for its mastery in the CAS role, even it has been complete overkill for most of its missions in the "War on Terror" (Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, etc).

In order to keep costs down, the USAF would most likely adopt an off-the-shelf option for its "OA-X".  The two most likely choices would be the AT-6B Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano.  Both of these aircraft are in widespread use as both trainers and light-attack aircraft.

Other possibilities include the Textron Scorpion or a variant of the T-X.  These are unlikely however, due to the desire to keep timelines and costs as small as possible.

AT-6 Wolverine
Both the Wolverine and Super Tucano seem like wild departures for a USAF that has focused more on uber-expensive stealth fighters and bombers.  Even more mundane aircraft like the KC-46 tanker have been plagued with cost overruns.  By comparison, an aircraft that costs less than $15 million and costs a few hundred dollars per flight hour seem downright quaint.

While piloting a prop-driven aircraft derived from a basic trainer may not be as prestigious has flying a state-of-the art supersonic stealth fighter, it makes little difference to the 500lb Paveway guided bomb.  Either way, the end result (one destroyed target) is the same.

A-29 Super Tucano
The concept certainly is not new.

In the past, aircraft like the OV-10 Bronco, A-36 Apache, and the A-1 Skyraider have been used for the CAS role.  While certainly not as "sexy" as their jet-powered contemporaries, these aircraft nailed the CAS concept of flying low, slow, and close to the ground action.

Unfortunately, the USAF's love affair with fast jets have seen this capability taken up by larger and costlier aircraft like the B-1B Lancer and the AC-130 Specter.  Great aircraft, to be sure, but also INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE.  Like...  One-quarter-of-a-billion-dollars expensive.

The laws of common sense would seem to dictate that air forces around the world would be better served in adopting lower-cost options for the use in the CAS role.  This includes Canada.

With 77 CF-18s (138 at one point) being replaced with as few as 65 new fighters, it would behoove the RCAF to supplement that capability.  Unfortunately, that conversation is usually a non-starter due the extra costs in adopting a mixed fleet.

The good news is, there really would not be a mixed fleet.

CT-156 Harvard II
Canada utilizes the CT-156 Harvard II as its current trainer aircraft.  Despite the nomenclature, the Harvard II simply a variant of the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II.  This is the same airframe from which the AT-6 Wolverine is derived.

Incorporating a small number of AT-6 Wolverines into the RCAF would be an incredibly low-risk and low-cost endeavor.  The aircraft would already be familiar to aircrews and maintenance procedures and supply chains are already in place.  (Currently through a contractor.)

A small fleet of AT-6s (or similar) would be of great use during Canada's upcoming peacekeeping commitments.  Hotspots like Mali and Columbia certainly do not warrant top-tier multirole fighter aircraft.  That does not mean CAS would be of little use, however.  A few light attack aircraft, possibly delivered by C-17, could provide both close-air-support and aerial reconnaissance.  This would make the mission much safer and easier for Canadian ground troops.

Not only could these light attack aircraft be used in instances when sending in multirole fighter is unfeasible, but they would reduce wear-and-tear on the more expensive fighters.  This would be accomplished by doing the "lighter duties".

Airbus' C-295 based gunship concept.
Canada's FWSAR replacement program may offer another option.

Both Airbus and Alenia are studying gunship versions of their FWSAR candidates, the C-295 and C27J.  While not quite up to the same lethality as the famous AC-130, both versions would offer a substantial CAS capability while utilizing a platform already in use by the RCAF.

Alenia's MC-27J Praetorian gunship.

The biggest obstacle may be inertia.

For decades, military planners have built forces meant to combat an enemy with similar resources and technology (i.e.: Total War).  That has not synched with reality, however.  Since WWII, conflicts have been restricted to smaller "police actions" combating a more primitive foe.  Despite seeming lopsided, victory seems illusive and often short-lived.  Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have seen poorly equipped insurgents able to fight off the largest militaries in the world.

Despite this, allied military commanders still insist on more of the same.  What good is a stealth fighter against an enemy that does not even use radar?  What good is an aircraft carrier against an enemy that does not even use a navy?  Modern conflicts seem to use the same strategy as using a sledgehammer to swat a mosquito.  Not only is it harder to kill the pesky insect, but a lot more collateral damage will result.

Moving forward, Canada will need to drop this mentality.  While conflict with a superpower is always a possibility, it should not be sole focus of our long-term strategy.  We should devote a decent portion of our military capability towards helping put out "brush fires".  This means smaller, cheaper assets that can be deployed quickly and easily.  This would help Canada live up to its commitments while it continues to only spend a modest amount on defence.

If Canada wants to up its contributions to NATO while keeping defence spending low, it is going to have to get creative.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Guess who's grounded again? The answer will (not) surprise you!

[Cue sad trombone...]
Well...  This is embarrassing.

Mere weeks after declaring the F-35A's IOC (initial operating capability) the USAF has grounded fifteen of them (two belonging to the RNoAF).

The grounding was ordered when depot maintenance discovered coolant lines with decomposing insulation.

"[I]t was possible for this crumbling insulation to become lodged in the siphon lines connecting wing and fuselage fuel tanks...  This could result in excessive negative pressures in the fuel tanks during flying operations or excessive positive pressures during air or ground refueling. In either case, the under- or over-pressure could cause structural damage to the fuel tanks." 
-US Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek

At least nothing caught on fire this time!
Unlike the engine fire that grounded the entire JSF fleet two years ago, this issue seems to be more of a quality control issue rather than a design flaw.  The problem seems to be constrained to a single subcontractor.  The effected parts are unique to the F-35A CTOL version.  

While only 15 aircraft have been grounded, another 42 F-35's currently being assembled share the same faulty coolant lines.  

“the extent and nature of the repairs needed are not known at this point,”  said in an e-mail statement. “However, it is not unreasonable to assume the repairs will require
opening the fuselage and/or wings to access the fuel tanks to replace components or make repairs, which would be very intrusive and could require extensive downtime.”
-spokesman Army Major Roger Cabiness

Meanwhile...  At the Joint Program Office...
The biggest issue here is not the faulty part itself, but the fact that the JSF program lends itself to such a thing.

The Pentagon has been very keen on ramping up production on an aircraft that is still years away from true operating capability.  This rush to get units out the door before all the kinks have been worked out (i.e: concurrency) has led to a revolving door where fighters are built only to have to be taken apart again to incorporate new fixes.  The crumbling insulation itself was found during these "depot modifications".

Worse still, the business model of spreading out JSF contractors to as many districts as possible (to make it politically viable) has obviously had an effect on quality control.  This issue will likely worsen as F-35 subcontractors become more international.  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the JSF logistics chain has a lot of links built in a lot of different places.  Issues with a Turkish supplier could have ramifications for planes destined for Australia. 

It has been a matter of fact since the industrial age that manufacturing defects happen.  In order to minimize this, common sense indicates that product testing and a reliable supply chain are fixed in place BEFORE full production occurs.  The JSF's industrial model does pretty much the exact opposite by attempting to crank out as many units as possible first, while treating testing and logistics chains like an afterthought.  

Even if the Canadian government ultimately chooses the F-35, its hesitation to do so has already paid off.  Otherwise, like Norway, we would be the not-so-proud owner of a couple of hangar queens.  

If Canada insists on buying the wrong fighter, there is no point in rushing it.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016


We finally know what all the contenders to replace the venerable T-38 Talon will look like.

After teasing us for months, Boeing finally unveiled its entry into the T-X competition with much pomp and fanfare.  This follows a less ceremonial unveiling of Northrop-Grumman's clean sheet design.  The two other contenders, proposed by Lockheed and Raytheon, are modifications to existing designs.

The goal of the T-X program is to provide a "lead in" jet trainer for high performance aircraft found in the USAF.  This includes (but is not limited to) aircraft like the F-22, F-35, and B-21.  As military aircraft become more advanced, there has emerged a need for a trainer that mirrors these advances.  The venerable T-38 is no longer a suitable aircraft for this, being a 50-year-old design.

The requirements for the T-X dictate an aerial refueling receptacle and give preference for high maneuverability.   The ability to make a sustained 6.5g turn is a requirement with 7.5g being the objective.  Contractors will be awarded credit for exceeding this requirement.  Entries will also have to provide modern sensor and cockpit capability as well as simulators.

With cost being a major factor in determining the winner, many of the contractors considered existing, proven designs.

Lockheed Martin/KAI T-50A
After receiving much criticism for its (seemingly never-ending) cost and development issues surrounding the F-35 and F-22, it is easy to understand why Lockheed Martin chose to base its entry on an existing design.

Lockheed Martin partnered up with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to present a version of KAI's T-50 Golden Eagle trainer (which itself is derived from the F-16).  The T-50 is a proven design, already in use as both a trainer and as a light strike fighter.

For its entry into the T-X, the T-50 is fitted with a "humpback" that houses the refueling receptacle needed for the USAF's fleet of tankers.

Alenia Aermacchi M-346
For its entry into the T-X, Raytheon has teamed up with Italian aerospace company Alenia Aermacchi to offer a version of its M-346 Master trainer.  This aircraft was briefly codeveloped with famed Russian manufacturer Yakovlev, which went on to develop the similar Yak-130 "Mitten".

For its entry in the T-X program, the Master will be designated the T-100.

Like the T-50, the M-346 is already in use a trainer and a light strike fighter by several nations.

Unfortunately, the T-100 may be out of the running already.  In its current form, it cannot meet the USAF's sustained g requirement.

Northrop Grumman's T-X entry
It was likely that same sustained-g requirement that convinced Northrop-Grumman to shy away from its original strategy of partnering with BAE in offering an updated version of its Hawk.

Instead, Northrop-Grumman has developed a "clean sheet" design.  While this approach does offer considerably more cost and risk, it will result in an aircraft tailor-made to the desired specifications.

While Northrop-Grumman has not publicly unveiled its T-X entry, a prototype (designated Model 400) was recently spied in Mojave, California.  This prototype shows a clear family resemblance to previous Northrop designs like the T-38, F-5, and F-20.

With the T-38 still being flown for over 55 years in the USAF, Northrop is obviously adopting a strategy of:  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Boeing's T-X entry.  
With F-15 Eagle sales winding down, and its St. Louis plant at risk of shutting down, Boeing is taking the T-X program seriously.  This could be Boeing's last chance at building fighter type aircraft.  With a history of designing and building such legends as the F-15 Eagle, F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk, and countless others; this would be a shame.

In order to put its best foot forward for the T-X, Boeing partnered up with Saab in order to take advantage of Saab's experience in building high-performance single-engine fighters quickly and on budget.  While initial rumors speculated on simplified Gripen, like Northrop-Grumman, Boeing and Saab chose to go with a clean-sheet design.

At first glance, the Boeing/Saab TX contender is the most radical of the T-X entries.  Even still, the Boeing/Saab TX is still familiar.  Its high wings, canted twin-tails and leading-edge root extensions (LERX) evoke the F/A-18 family.  From the rear, the Saab/Boeing T-X's single engine nozzle could almost be mistaken for an unstealthy F-35's.  Even the landing gear looks eerily similar to that of an F-16's.

This familiarity may be the key to Boeing's success.  When the YF-22 Raptor beat the YF-23 Black Widow II in the USAF's ATF program, many assumed it was because the YF-22 looked like a stealthy F-15 Eagle.  This carries over the the JSF competition when the (mini-Raptor) X-35 won over the radically shaped (to be nice) X-32.

The twin-tail design goes beyond aesthetics however.  By adopting a similar planform as the F-22 and F-35, the Boeing/Saab T-X will adopt similar handling characteristics.  Not only that, but twin-tail designs offer easier and safer air-to-air refueling with retractable boom tankers.

While the T-X program is a major USAF acquisition program with roughly 350 aircraft expected to be ordered, the stakes are likely much higher.

The winner of the USAF's T-X program will likely go on to garner further sales both with the USN and the international market.  The T-X winner is also likely to see use as a light fighter for those nations with smaller defence budgets or as a supplement to more expensive fighter types.

Most importantly for Canadians, the T-X could end up in the RCAF inventory.  With programmes in place to replace both the BAE Hawk and CT-114 Tutor, there is even a chance the T-X could soon be seen in Snowbird livery.

The T-X remains one to watch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gripen: Sensible Swede?

The Saab Gripen does not even seem possible in this day and age.  A modern jet fighter built by a small nation with less than a third of Canada's population.  Not only that, this small fighter has stolen sales away from the like of Dassault and Boeing.

The Gripen (Swedish for "griffon") seems to be content with other fighters taking the high end of the market.  Instead, Saab is concentrating on marketing the JAS 39 to nations with more modest defense budgets that looking for a cost-effective, yet capable fighter.  (Sound familiar?)


During the Cold War, Sweden practiced neutrality.  Nevertheless, its close proximity to the then-Soviet Union made for an uncomfortable position.  If the Soviet Union was to invade with its full military might, there would be little a small nation like Sweden could do about it.  In order to make a foreign invasion as unattractive as possible, Swedish defence officials adopted a strategy of guerrilla war-type tactics.  As such, much of Sweden's defense arsenal can operate from austere bases with a minimum of personnel.  Amazingly, even supersonic jet fighters were expected to operate without a full airbase, publics roads would take the place of runways if need be.  

During the late 70s, Sweden needed an aircraft to replace its aging Draken and Viggen fighters.  While foreign designs like the F-16 and Mirage 2000 were briefly considered, the Swedish government opted for a home-built fighter.  This new fighter would be lightweight, single-engined, and capable of switching roles between air-superiority and strike mid-mission (swing role).  This new fighter was designated JAS 39 for Jakt (air-to-air), Attack (air-to-ground), and Spaning (reconnaissance).  

Despite early issues with the flight control software (FCS), the Saab Gripen has gone on to enjoy a stellar safety record.  Development of the NATO compatible and export-friendly JAS 39C and D models resulted in export sales to the Thailand, South Africa, and the UK.  Lease deals have made with Hungary and the Czech Republic.  The newest version of the Gripen, the JAS 39E will soon see service with both the Swedish and Brazilian Air Forces.  The aircraft was selected by Switzerland as well, but a referendum cancelled the sale.  

In 2011, the Gripen saw action over Libya when Sweden participated alongside NATO forces.  Swedish Gripen performed over 37% of Operation: Unified Protector's recconnasaince reports, surpassing 1,000 hours of flight time.  


Saab markets the Gripen as the "smart fighter".  It promises similar technology and performance as other strike fighters, but at a reduced cost to procure and operate.  This is possible thanks to its smaller size (smaller aircraft burn less fuel) and a keen focus on ease-of-maintenance.  All major components are easily swapped out.  The Gripen can be refueled and rearmed at an improvised road base in under ten minutes.  

The latest version of the Gripen, the JAS 39E (aka: Gripen NG), has undergone several changes to keep it competitive.  

Larger wings, fuel tanks, and relocated landing gear allow it to carry 40% more fuel than older models.  The GE F404-derived Volvo RM12 turbofan has been replaced with the 22% more powerful GE F414.  Two more hardpoints allow for 13% more payload.  Despite the extra power and fuel, empty weight has gone up a mere 3%.  

The Gripen NG's avionics and sensor packages have been upgraded as well.  Like the Typhoon and others, the JAS 39E can be considered a "4++ generation" fighter.  A swiveling Selex Raven AESA radar and Skyward G IRST provide "fifth generation" detection and tracking capabilities.  Defensive systems are enhanced with expendable decoys and an electronic warfare suite that utilizes Gallium Nitride (GaN), and industry first.  Its modernized cockpit features a "widescreen" touch display and the same HMD as offered on the Typhoon.  


Despite its relatively small single engine, the Gripen matches or exceeds the performance of much heavier and powerful aircraft.  This is thanks to simple physics:  A smaller aircraft weighs less and presents less drag, requiring less force to move it.  This allows the Gripen to just about match the aeronautical performance of Typhoon, despite getting by on about half the thrust.  

A top speed of mach 2, capable of pulling blackout-inducing 9g turns, and a service ceiling of 50,000 feet lets the Gripen compete with the big boys.  Unlike the bigger fighters, the Gripen is capable of STOL (short take-off and landing) operations.  At maximum take-off weight, the Gripen requires less than 2,000 feet of runway.  This is without benefit of a tailhook or brake chute.  To put that in perspective, the F-35A Lightning II requires four times that distance.  

Earlier model Gripens did have issues with range.  Thanks to its extra fuel capacity, the JAS 39E corrects this.  With external tanks, the Gripen NG has a range of over 4,000km with a combat radius of 1,300km.  This puts it in the same category of the much larger F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. 


With an eye on export sales, Saab has been very keen on ensuring the Gripen works with whatever weapon the end-user prefers.  The Gripen cleared for commonly used missiles like the American sourced AMRAAM and Sidewinder, European sourced IRIS-T, ASRAAM, and Meteor.  Not only that, but more obscure weapons like the Israeli-sourced Python and Derby, as well as the Brazilian A-Darter.

For strike missions, the Gripen utilizes larger "stand-off" missiles like the KEPD-350 right down to smaller missiles like the venerable AGM-65 Maverick and the diminutive Brimstone.  Also supported are various "dumb" and "smart" bombs like the Paveway and JDAM.  

Like the Typhoon, the Gripen comes armed with a 27mm Mauser MK-27 revolver cannon.

When compared to its heavier competitors, the Gripen cannot compete when it comes to payload.  It can only carry 13,200 pounds worth of ordinance.  This is rather less than the others, which hold anywhere from 16,500 pounds (Typhoon) up over 20,000 pounds (Rafale).  The Gripen E does come close to matching the current CF-18 (13,700 lbs) however.  

Is it right for Canada?

While Canadians may like to pride ourselves on a military in the same league as our NATO partners, fiscal reality paints a more dismal picture.  Defence spending is simply not a priority.  While NATO recommends spending 2% of GDP on defence, Canada gets by on half that.  

The Gripen seems almost built for Canada.  Lower operating cost, capable of operating from austere conditions, yet performance to rival "the big boys".  Like the Canadian military, the Gripen can "punch above its weight".  

If that was not enough, Saab offers impressive industrial offsets to buyers.  The recent deal with Brazil resulted in local assembly and transfer of technology.  

What are its chances of replacing the CF-18?

While the Gripen may not be getting the same press as the F-35 and Super Hornet, it could very well be the "dark horse" of the candidates.  

Like the Typhoon, the Gripen certainly looks good on paper.  Unlike the Typhoon, the Gripen has a reputation for reliability, easy maintenance, and low costs.

The Gripen also has some unexpected political pull in Canada.  

Unlike the all-French Rafale, Saab was not afraid to outsource parts of the Gripen.  Many of those parts are made by companies with a large presence in Canada.  The engine is a General Electric sourced F-414.  Its radar is made by Selex ES (which recently acquired an Ottawa-based Tactical Technologies.  Saab itself is using the Bombardier airframes as the basis for its Swordfish MPA and GlobalEye platforms.  

While the odds may be against it, the Saab Gripen may be capable of causing an upset.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Typhoon: Deadly storm or just blowing wind?

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a bit of a dichotomy.  Depending on the source, the Typhoon is considered either a deadly air-superiority fighter or an unreliable money pit.  As always, the answer is probably somewhere in-between.

BAe EAP (Experimental Aircraft Program)


The Eurofighter Typhoon is the collaborative effort of four European nations; Germany Italy, Spain, and the U.K.  This joint effort was formed as a way to (hopefully) breath life into Europe's aerospace industry.  At one point, France was also involved, but left due to differing requirements.  

The design goal of what was to become the Typhoon was a challenging one:  Develop an air-superiority fighter that combined the combat effectiveness of the F-15 Eagle, but in a size closer to that of a F/A-18 Hornet.  The end result was an aircraft resembling that of British Aerospace's EAP demonstrator.

The Typhoon's development was a troubled one, however.  Multiple partners with multiple priorities resulted in developmental delays due to disagreements over work-sharing and parts sourcing.  Things became even more precarious thanks to the economic turmoil following the the reunification of Germany.

After a great deal of uncertainty, the Eurofighter has finally entered service.  It has even managed to secure export orders from Austria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Oman.  With sales of over 700 aircraft and over 200,000 flying hours, the Typhoon is living up to its name as Europe's predominant fighter.  

Unfortunately, it is still the target of much controversy, thanks to issues with cost and reliability.  


By the time the Typhoon entered service in 2003, it almost seemed quaint.  After all, the USA was just about to enter the "fifth generation" with its F-22 Raptor.  Development of the F-35 was well on its way.  What good was a "fourth generation" fighter at this point?

As it turns out, the Typhoon can be considered a "4++" generation fighter.  While it lacks stealth, it does utilize many "fifth generation" features.  It incorporates a helmet-mounted display (HMD) and IRST, both of which the F-22 lacks.  Already praised for its impressive CAPTOR radar, future models will receive an AESA version that can be rotated for increased field-of-view.  

While it may lack true stealth, the Typhoon does get by with the EuroDASS advanced electronic warfare suite.  This system utilizes various jammers, decoys, and other systems to keep the aircraft safe.


Looking at its performance numbers, it becomes clear that the Typhoon is a hot rod.  Eurofighter engineers were tasked with designing a mid-sized fighter with performance matching that of larger fighters like the F-15 Eagle.  They succeeded.  

A top speed of mach 2, and the ability to supercruise at mach 1.5 puts the Typhoon at the top of the mid-weight fighter class.  Thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.15,  ability to pull 9turns, and a delta-canard design gives it top-notch maneuverability at just about any speed.  More importantly, these numbers are with a air-to-air combat load.  

For interception missions, the Typhoon can go from "brakes off" sitting on a runway to mach 1.5 at 36,000 ft in under 150 seconds.  

The Typhoon also has a capable range, able to fly almost 3,800km with a combat radius of almost 1,400km.  


For air-to-air mission, the Typhoon has an impressive weapon selection.  Not only is it capable of mounting the ubiquitous AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder, it can also utilize the IRIS-T, ASRAAM, and the ramjet powered MBDA Meteor.  

Earlier builds of the Typhoon concentrated mostly on air-superiority role.  Ground attack duties were (and still are) given to the Panavia Tornado.  As the Tornado approaches retirement, the Typhoon has been tasked with providing a swing role.  With that, it can now utilize a wide variety of bombs and air-to-ground missiles.  This includes stand-off missiles like the KEPD 350 and Storm Shadow; as well as smaller "low collateral damage" weapons like the Brimstone.

When all else fails, the Typhoon mounts an impressive Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon carrying 150 rounds of 27mm ammunition.  


Is it right for Canada?

On paper, the Eurofighter Typhoon seems to be an ideal candidate to replace the CF-18.

It has two engines, it is available in one or two-seat versions, there is an emphasis on air-superiority, it uses ordinance already in use by the RCAF, and it's roughly the size of the CF-18.  It even has a drag-chute built in to help it land on shorter runways.  The Typhoon does seem to "tick all the right boxes".  

The Typhoon could very well be the deadliest fighter available to Canada.  One notable incident with the Typhoon involved a within visual range (WVR) simulated combat exercise with the F-22 Raptor.  The Typhoon's agility; combined with its IRST, HMD, and high off-boresight missile capability, gave it the edge.  Impressive stuff.  

The main caveat with the Typhoon is the matter of cost.  It is an expensive aircraft.  Its unit cost not only approaches the F-35's but exceeds it (depending on the math).  Its operating costs are high as well.  Even if its performance approaches that of an F-15C or F-22, the Typhoon can hardly be considered a bargain.  Given Canada's limited defence budget, this is likely to be Eurofighter's biggest stumbling block.

What are its chances of replacing the CF-18?

The Typhoon has a lot going for it.  Blistering performance, an enviable pedigree, and connection to Canada's past history in the RAF.  From a lobbying standpoint, Eurofighter has the collective might of some of Canada's closest allies.  It also has industry giants like BAE and Airbus behind it.  

Unfortunately for the Typhoon, even Airbus does not have the entrenched presence of American defence giants like Lockheed and Boeing.  Past experiences with unreliable British submarines may also taint perceptions.  There is also the issue of simple inertia.  Apart from the home-built CF-100 Canuck, the RCAF has operated US-supplied fighters since WW2.  RCAF pilots do train in the British BAE Hawk, however.  

Realistically, the Typhoon does not seem like a likely replacement to the CF-18.  It's cost and reliability issues open it up to the same criticism as the F-35 Lightning II.  Promising to cancel the JSF purchase only to procure a similarly controversial fighter would likely not bode well for the Federal government.  

The Typhoon seems more likely than the Rafale to replace the CF-18, but the other contenders all have stronger political arguments.  As we know, politics usually trumps performance when it comes to military procurement.