Mulcair on the F-35

From the NDP leader’s interview with Tom Clark on the West Block.

Tom Clark: Let me take you to the other major story of the week and that is what’s coming up tomorrow, the F-35 report, the KPMG report is coming down. We basically already know what’s in it because the government has leaked most of the information. But what it comes down to is, that it’s going to cost this country about a billion dollars a year to have a fighter jet fleet. Is that an acceptable amount of money to you? 

Thomas Mulcair: The problem in this case is that they never proceeded as prudent public administrators. There are rules Tom that exist to protect the public money. And in this case, they’ve always used the half lie. They say well no money has been spent on acquisition. Well of course no money has been spent on acquisition, the plane doesn’t exist yet but you’ve spent $700 million dollars so far on the process. Seven hundred million dollars by the way is the exact sum of money required to lift every senior in Canada above the poverty line. That’s exactly how much it would take. So they are pretending that that’s not even real money. It is real money. You’re right, I mean it’s going to cost a certain amount to keep a fighter fleet and we need one. It’s part of our national defence but you proceed in the normal way of public administration. You say exactly what your needs are. For example, it has to be able to work in the arctic. Who knew the F-35 can’t work in the arctic. It has to meet Canada’s needs. We have to define what those are and then the lowest conforming bidder gets the contract. Who knew? That’s what public administration is about. The Conservatives talk a good game when it comes to public administration, public management, public money, but they’re abysmal failures when it actually comes to doing the job. And that’s what the F-35 debacle is about more than anything else. It’s a fiasco of public management and the Conservatives are going to wear this one for a long time. 

Tom Clark: So we know that they are going to be looking at alternatives but from your point of view, should the F-35 itself be off the table? Should we be only looking now at alternatives to the F-35? 

Thomas Mulcair: You define your need, you define your price range, and then you go to the lowest conforming bidder. I’m not saying anything should be off the table, that’s the mistake the Conservatives made. Even when they got caught in their series of lies the first time and they were derisive and dismissive and they were mocking anybody who dared even question them. And we didn’t know anything about this, how could we even ask questions of a great military genius like Peter MacKay. Now they’re going to have to wear it. Of course we should be looking at other options but if the F-35 can meet those criteria, that’s too but you have to say what they are. They’ve never even done that basic exercise. That’s the real problem here. We have the CF-18’s right now. There’s something called the super…that’s the Hornet. There’s something called the Super Hornet, it’s very close and a lot of the preparatory work is already done. We’ve got teams that are already prepared to do that. That would be one of the first ones I’d look at. There are other planes in the world Tom that could be looked at, but again if we haven’t even defined what our own needs are, how are you going to be able to say that you’ve got the lowest conforming bidder?




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Mulcair on the F-35

  1. Mr Mulcair: “There’s something called the super…that’s the Hornet. There’s
    something called the Super Hornet, it’s very close and a lot of the
    preparatory work is already done.”

    The bearded one certainly is out to lunch here. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has been in US Navy operational service since 2002 and is still in production:
    http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/fa18/
    http://www.dodbuzz.com/2012/02/23/the-ends-in-sight-for-the-super-hornet-or-is-it/

    Mark
    Ottawa

    • I didn’t take him to mean that a lot of the work’s already been done on designing the plane, I took him to mean that, in terms of equipment and training, moving from the F-18 to a newer version of the F-18 would be easier, as a lot of the training would be redundant, and even perhaps some of the equipment.

      Is that wrong?

      • Your guess is as good as mine; he certainly was not very clear and does not seem au fait with the subject.

        Mark
        Ottawa

        • But you didn’t say you didn’t understand Mulcair, you merely attributed a meaning to his words they didn’t necessarily bear. Jumping to one of the less likely conclusions doesn’t make the other guy the weak link,

        • I guess it comes down to what “it’s very close” means.

          If it means that the F18 E/F is “close to being ready” (which I don’t think it does) then no, that’s not accurate. If it means “close to the current F-18s”, then that seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to say.

    • While we’ve got you here Mark, as I know you know this stuff backwards and forwards, I was wondering, what do you think about the air force hypothetically having more than one fighter?

      I understand the disadvantages in terms of parts, training etc… but is it totally crazy, in your opinion, or might there be a smart option along those lines? I wonder how the disadvantages mentioned stack up when considered in the context of the disadvantages inherent of trying to find a single fighter that can fill a very wide variety of roles.

      • A mixed fleet might make operational sense (e.g. one plane for defence of North America, a smaller fleet for expeditionary ops). But the disadvantages you note would drive costs up substantially and this gov’t (or any other one) is not going to be giving more money for defence for a long time. And that I fear makes the option impracticable.

        Also, if we do not assume that the RCAF needs a “first day of war” strike capability requiring stealth, see see first bullet here,
        http://www.jsf.mil/program/

        then the various other fighters available would probably do fine for both roles (I’m not sure about Gripen’s range, but with external tanks and refuelling?). The Super Hornet would provide excellent interoperability with the US Navy (the second largest Western air service), the Typhoon with the Brits, Germans, Italians and Spanish. For what that’s worth, as most Western fighters have a high degree of interoperability with each other anyway, see Libyan campaign.

        Mark
        Ottawa

        • I kinda figured it would be cost prohibitive.

          I guess what I wonder if there’s a relatively cheap option we could go with for the defence of North America part. After all, what are the realistic threats to North American airspace? If it’s Russian and Chinese bombers, then arguably ANYTHING we get will be insufficient, and short of quadrupling the air force we’re ALWAYS going to be reliant on the Americans for THAT kind of protection. So, while we need to shadow Russian bombers for example, just for sovereignty reasons alone, surely they know that we’re not going to shoot down a Russian bomber, almost no matter what it does, so even the F18s are arguably overkill in that instance. For all the fear we’re going to put into a Russian bomber pilot (almost none) is there something less ostentatious that we could use for that purpose, which might even, ironically, be MORE appropriate for the more practical roles of fighting drug smuggling, or “flying the flag” or intercepting high-jacked commercial flights for example?

          Not that I’m lunging around for an excuse to add something like the F-35 to our arsenal, I’m just wondering if a case could be made that it’s not cost prohibitive if we went with something even less costly than the F18s for North American uses, freeing up some money for a couple of squadrons of F-35s for overseas roles.

          That said, if we ever find ourselves in a situation where F-35s were really needed, I don’t think we’d be going in on our own, and the Americans could take on that role with THEIR F35s (and F22s!) while we support them (yes, perhaps slightly later) with Super Hornets or Typhoons or some such.

          I also worry that if somebody’s still really going to push for the F-35s it’s even counterproductive from an “expeditionary” standpoint. Try getting attack helicopters, or something like A10s passed Parliament after fighting tooth and nail to get F-35s. And I’d imagine that there’s a good argument to be made that some A-10s and some Apaches could be much more useful in supporting Canadian ground forces in some far away land than even the F-35 could be.

  2. “It’s a fiasco of public management and the Conservatives are going to wear this one for a long time.”

    I agree with the first part. Second part? Wishful thinking on Mulcair’s part, unless the NDP and Liberals can figure out a way for this stuff to stick (and that train wreck sure as hell should stick).

  3. I’m not an expert in the RCAF or fighter jets, so take what I have to say at face value. THe one things I havn’t understood is why we suddenly need to have an airforce with “first strike” capability. We’ve been fortunate to have the Americans as our neighbour and have always been able to rely on them to have a powerful airforce that we (and NATO) could count on. Is it really necessary, even fiscally prudent, to have aircraft that has “first strike” capabilities when the reality is that we would likely never use them to their full potential. I don’t see, as a matter of example, any conflict arising in the future that would be seriously enough that would actually see Canada strike first before Britain, Germany, the US or France (of Israel in the Middle East).

    I also never undestood the argument that only the F-35s were compatable with other F-35s. I understands that some aircraft have different operational requirements, but certainly through research of the need (as Mulcair is describing) we’d be able to discern what plane we’d need to work best with our alies and also protect our national interests.

    Best,

    Ryan L. Painter

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