One thing about new fighter jets—fighter pilots love them -

One thing about new fighter jets—fighter pilots love them

‘It helps a great deal, I can assure you, in recruiting’


The government’s elaborately orchestrated announcement today of its decision to spend $9 billion, plus undisclosed billions more in maintenance costs, to buy 65 fighter jets was heavy on touting the purchase as a boon to Canadian aerospace companies.

Interesting as the matter of defence industry jobs and profits might be, however, the more important question is surely why the Canadian Forces needs Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighters. After all, they’re not the sort hardware that’s obviously useful for the sorts of jobs—fighting insurgents in Kandahar’s orchards, say, or delivering emergency relief to Haiti—that seem most pressing in the post-cold war era.

So when Defence Minister Peter MacKay was pointedly asked in the news conference this morning for “specific examples of the uses of these aircraft,” I listened carefully for what I thought might be the key answer of the day.

I expected him to sketch some military scenarios. In what sort of likely conflict or anticipated crisis will we deploy expensive fighter jets? Instead, MacKay surprised me by stressing mainly the challenges of recruiting and retaining military pilots. I’ve read that air force pilots leaving for private sector jobs is an issue, but I hadn’t figured that factor would feature so prominently in the minister’s thinking on a massive procurement program.

He touched briefly on Canada’s need to patrol its airspace and participate in NATO missions—he didn’t mention what sort—with allies that are also expected to buy the F-35. But here’s most fully developed part of MacKay’s answer:

“We have very capable pilots currently serving in the Canadian Forces. We want to continue that trend. By the year 2016, 2020, they will be asked to fly 35-, 40-year-old aircraft. So it helps a great deal, I can assure you, in recruiting, to have new gear, new equipment, that is state of the art. That is a very important part of our regeneration of personnel and pilots in particular. So having that platform capability is something that is of great importance to the continued growth of the Canadian Forces and the development of our pilots.”


One thing about new fighter jets—fighter pilots love them

  1. who better to judge a weapons platform than the ones who will be using it? .. I mean really folks .. bottom line if you are a 35 and have to take out soem bad guys what is the best tool – DUH! – with this aircraft you could take a bunch of bad guys out and trhey wouldn't even know what hit them.

    • Yes, they'll be a great help against the Iraqi and Taliban air force.

    • who better to judge a weapons platform than the ones who will be using it

      How about people who are already in the Air Force, for starters. The very first pilots who will get their hands on this plane in 2016 are probably there, but the recruits that McKay is targeting are still in high school, and I don't want them deciding which plane we should buy.

    • Yeah, they'll be much better than those Sopwith Camels they are flying now.

  2. Oh WELL then!

    It's not toys-for-the-boys anymore, it's toys-to-GET-the boys!

    That makes all the difference…they're a recruiting aid.

    • And the girls, Emily. FYI women are fighter pilots too.

      • Yes, we're overrun with them.

        • Every one that applies, meets the initial qualifications, passes the aircrew selection, passes initial flight instruction basic flight instruction advanced flight instruction and the OTU. After this they can be a fighter pilot. Men are washed out as well.

          • Actually, the number will be exactly 65, won't it?

          • Actually, no. 65 fighters is not enough for 65 active duty pilots. Some will be used for training pilots, some for training ground crews and engineers. The actual number of active duty F-35 pilots will be lower than 65.

      • And we can even be Ministers of Defence. Once every century or so.

        • It's been less than a century since Kim Campbell was defense minister (however briefly) I'm pretty sure.

    • I suspect one could simply give a bag of money to incoming recruits, and it would cost less than nine billion dollars.

      I guess that makes me a fiscal conservative? Does that mean I have to vote Liberal instead of NDP now?

      • Agreed. A million dollars signing bonus would do way more for recruitment, I'd wager. It can come out of the savings we see from buying the planes we actually need, rather than these ridiculous American porkfests.

        • You should run for office.

    • Seems a bit bass akwards to me but what do I know – I'm a girl. I was very impressed by his manly response to the question of a single engine aircraft failing in the Arctic. He said they just won't. What a guy.

    • Anyone who would write off re-epuipping our airforce with state of the art planes as "toys for boys" is far to immature to be involved in this discussion.

      Mind you, MacKay invites just such ridicule (however misguided it is) when he makes dumb arguments like this. There's plenty of good arguments in favour of replacing our aging CF-18s with these new aircraft without playing up how "cool" they are.

  3. I couldn't believe he said that either. What a ridiculous statement.

    • Maybe he was trying to make Clement look less dumb.

  4. The CF-18s are nearing their fatigue life end, and must be replaced. But why does Canada need all-aspect stealth, which is wanted when making attacks in hostile aerospace? Frontal-aspect stealth is useful – it helps protect a fighter from long-range air-to-air missiles fired by oncoming fighters – but the F35 is single-engine, which makes one question its suitability for over-water intercept or Arctic patrol.

    We could probably get production-line Typhoons from the RAF batch fairly quickly and a a good price – and that would quite possibly suit Air Force requirements better.

    But we will get the F35, not because we need it, but because that is what the Americans have told us we will have to buy.

    • Canada bought a single-engine fighter? I actually did not know that. I'm actually old enough to remember when the F-16's sigle-engine designed made Trudeau rule it out in favour of the F-18. Times do change.

      • You might be interested to know that the F-35 is slower and has a shorter range than the F-18 too.

        • It might well be that the grand strategic requirements of keeping the Americans happy (and, in essence as it were, trading oil for fighters) outweighs the detailed requirements of the CAF and also allows the CAF to better act as a squadron/wing of the USAF – as it did a few years ago when the USAF F15s had longeron problems (an F15 came apart in midair – the pilot ejected – the rest were grounded) and the CF18s were sent to Alaska as replacements.

          But no politician is going to admit that – it will be the 'best aircraft for our needs" no matter what its tactical limitations.

          • I actually think that interoperability with the Americans is a PERFECTLY valid reason to cite in the F-35's favour. It may not override other considerations, or it may. I just dearly wish we'd had a competitive process so as to weigh those factors before deciding to spend $16 billion on 65 single engine fighters that are stealthy, but are also slower and can't fly as far as the two engine jets we have today.

            Also, I WISH there were some sort of oil for fighters program. My understanding is that we're actually paying MORE for our F-35s than the Aussies are for theirs.

          • Bob Rae brought that up on the news. The simple fact is that the competitive process starts way back in the decision process. There isn't an airaft manufacturer in the worlld that would enter a competitive design process for a market of 65 airplanes of this advanced design.

            As to Rae's other point (what would they do?) The only feasible role is in connection with the USAF. Certainly not in UN nonsense.

          • Interoperability with American forces is a worthwhile consideration.

            Usefulness against American forces, should it become necessary, is another.

          • *groan*

          • Usefulness against alien invaders is my major concern.

          • I am all in favour of looking into the feasibility of a planet-destroying death star, as long as it used for defensive purposes only, and any contracts are given out only after a proper bidding process.

          • Usefulness against American forces, should it become necessary, is another.

            Well, in that case, ANYTHING is pretty useless. Even if the just threw F-35s at us and nothing else (leaving all of their F-22s, and everything else they have at home) U.S. F-35s would have our F-35s outnumbered at least 15-1, and that's assuming they only throw about half their force at us.

            Unless we're going to buy our next generation fighters from the Klingons, there's no sense talking about how useful they'd be against American forces.

          • You're probably right. But surely any third world country we need to beat into submission can be done just as easily with older cheaper but still usable planes? And if we ever get into a situation where our borders are truly threatened and the advantages of the F-35 make an appreciable difference, would we not be better skipping the fighter jet stuff and going straight to nuking their cities?

          • What would the lefty say to that. Horror of all Horrors a Nuke!

          • I am not sure what an ideological leftist would say to that. I assert, however, that "a country with a sophisticated enough military that those F-35s that cost so much money would have been better than the planes we bought for cheaper has attacked us, what do we do?" crosses left-right boundaries.

            I should say, of course, how lucky we are to live in a country where no realistic chance of this ever occurred after the 19th century, and isn't likely to in the future.

        • You might be interested to know that the f35 is invisible to radar and has superior weapons systems

          • Oh, for sure, I definitely know that. As I've said elsewhere, I think I'm one of the most easily convinced Canadians when it comes to the F-35 (though, again, that 65 number worries me… My understanding is that it's not enough to keep 3 full active duty squadrons in the air).

            My biggest problem is that the government's not even going to go through the motions of a competition. They're not even TRYING to convince me.

          • The reason why there was no competition, in the traditional sense, is that there is no competition. The Russians are the only other game in town, and they are not going to sell us their most advanced, highly classified fighter plane even if we wanted it. No one else produces a 5th generation fighter. We could buy a 4/4.5 gen Eurofighter or SuperHornet now, based on 90's technology, which would be ancient technology by 2020/2030. Or…we can buy a 2017 fighter at 2010 prices that will fly until 2040 – 2050.

          • And hey, that'll probably convince someone like me. However, there are 33 million other Canadians out there, some of who believed the Minister of Defence when he stood up in the House of Commons in May and insisted that there was going to be a competition for this contract. I can move on because I think the F-35 is cool (though, once again, only getting 65 makes me nervous). I think the government's possibly bought themselves more trouble than they need with the rest of the country though.

          • In a perfect world, we would develop our own fighter to meet our needs, but that ain't gonna happen. And yes, we do have different requirements than the Brits or Yanks do, but at the end of the day, what are we going to do? For it's faults, the F-35 is the future until 2050 and probably to the end of manned fighters – at least for the western world.

            Just for perspective,

            16 billion for planes and 20 years parts and service
            20+ billion for the CBC for 20 years
            According to the fraser institute, Canadian taxpayers shell out 1.8 billion a year to effect official bilingualism in Canada – that's 36 billion in 20 years (not adjusted for inflation)

          • LKO, we can order 65 now, and if your concern bears fruit, we can order more later. And I agree with you that interoperability with our closest ally (that happens to be the world's superpower) and military alliance leader likely SHOULD win the game, hands down.

            If they won't work best for Arctic patrol, maybe we'll get something else for that job (which might mean that 65 of these babies would be an OK number, after all)

            I wonder if our Defence Minister felt (or was advised) that politically it would not be prudent to say so (play nice with USA). Which would be a shame.

          • The "cool" argument is retarded, and sadly, vintage MacKay. I keep waiting for the guy to grow up. He's not stupid, he's not incompetent, and I think he's perfectly capable of being an excellent cabinet minister. But he thinks with his mouth more than is good for him.

            So many good reasons to buy these planes. Those reasons are what they should be communicating to us. Instead, we have the Defense Minister providing fodder to the "toys-for-boys" crowd. Not that they're at all relevant to the discussion, but still…

          • I was not impress with McKay even way before this.

          • "f35 is invisible to radar"

            Stealth does not render an Aircraft "invisible to Radar" so much as it lowers the plane's return signal and minimizes it's Radar profile against historical methods of detection. This makes it harder to detect, especially for third world nations running comparatively archaic systems, but not impossible and detection technology has historically advanced; there are multiple countries claiming their current top of the line military Radar is quite capable of detecting the current fleet.

            Furthermore, the F35 is not a pure "stealth" design as such and merely incorporates aspects to minimize detection at range; particularly from a frontal intercept perspective. It also forfeits this advantage the second it chooses to carry any external armaments or fuel supplies.

            Whether or not it's weapons systems are "superior" is also a suspect claim in it's advantage given that avionics and airframe upgrades could theoretically bring any weapon you chose onto an existing airframe.

            That being said, the biggest problem with the F35 is that it's running vastly over budget, with a unit cost already 50% above what was tendered, and subject to increasing costs and program scrutiny every time the US and it's partners look at the out of control price tag and start subtracting units to try and compensate. When there are other competitive airframes out there already in service with much lower unit costs which we could easily add 60 units to the production run while having the avionics work done here you'd have to wonder why a "fiscally responsible government" would want to get further involved in what's quickly spiralling into a mess.

        • Huh? No it doesn't. Combat Radius on the F35 is about 600nm compared to 300nm on an F18. Top speed is a little lower (m1.7 vs. m1.8), but top speed isn't a particularly important metric, and the performance gap isn't terribly large.

          • Huh? No it doesn't. Combat Radius on the F35 is about 600nm compared to 300nm on an F18. Top speed is a little lower (m1.7 vs. m1.8)
            EDIT: Also, top seed for the F18 would be measured "clean," as in without a payload, to reduce drag. With weapons bays, it stands to reason that the F35 would have a higher useful top speed.

          • Interesting!

            Thanks for that. I was looking at "range", not "combat radius" so that's a fascinating comparison. It's interesting how the jet with the lower range nonetheless has a combat radius twice as large. Technology is great!

      • Trudeau? Trudeau was smoking a bowl with Streisand when this decision was made. When informed of it, he looked up and said, "two engines?? I thought I got rid of that air force years ago."

    • Typhoons are great air-to-air fighters, but are not very good in air-to-ground combat.

      Also we get to build parts for the F-35s. I believe that mitigates most of the extra cost.

      Also, I believe that the Lightning II would take down a Typhoon in a dogfight (please correct me if you know differently).

  5. While MacKay's statement is a welcome one, he is being honest about one of the things on his mind, and personel issues are of critical importance when we're talking about the armed forces: i hope there's more to this deal than just luring pilots and sucking up to the Americans in this deal.

  6. "So when Defence Minister Peter MacKay was pointedly asked in the news conference this morning for “specific examples of the uses of these aircraft,” I listened carefully for what I thought might be the key answer of the day."

    It does seem a little odd to be asking for specific examples of the conflicts Canada may be engaged with in 2020.
    Wouldn't the best answer be that it is better to have them and never need them then to need them and not have them?

    • With that logic you could justify anything.

      • It's the logic of deterrence. And legal abortion.

        • LOL no it's not, it's nonsense.

          You a hoarder are you?

    • At a time when the navy has had to keep its ships tied up because they have run out of money for fuel, how prudent is that?

      • Well ships would be more useful since we have the longest coastline in the world. They just take forever to get somewhere.

        • How about a canoe or a Kayak, it costs a lot cheaper, only needs one navy to operate, and could go places no ships could maneuver. Mobilize all nature lovers to do service to their country, and be paid at the same time while enjoying what they are doing. Can you imagine the savings, and its very green too.

      • The ships are tied up due to lack of sailors, not lack of fuel. Nobody wants to join the Navy right now…they all want to be army war heroes.

      • Maybe the ships are tied up because we don't want to blow the dough on fuel when we don't happen to have an overwhelming military need for a big honking navy. If that circumstance changes, my guess is we'll fill the tanks and draw anchor pretty quickly.

        Although if NiceGuy is correct, getting sailors gathered up in a hurry may be an issue.

        • …we don't happen to have an overwhelming military need for a big honking navy.

          Do you know how long our coastline is?

        • Why not have training for reservists made compulsory starting high school. This will also give the younger generation purpose and discipline, instead of busy doing something illegal or bored doing nothing? I just can imagine the howl from the left.

    • "Wouldn't the best answer be that it is better to have them and never need them then to need them and not have them?"

      A little off topic, but I have noticed that many posters make the same grammatical error, instead of 'than' they write 'then', for ex. rather than writing 'rather than', they write 'rather then". Confusing, good… it was meant to be.

  7. I've said this a gazillion times elsewhere, but the number that worries me most isn't so much 16 billion, it's 65. If there's to be no competitive bidding process, how am I to know that 65 F-35's is really a better procurement for our forces than, say, 85 Euro-fighter Typhoons? Heck, I can't even be certain how many Typhoons we could have gotten for 16 billion.

    I don't, necessarily, object to spending $16 billion on new fighter/attack aircraft. I don't necessarily object to purchasing the F-35 over other options. I DO object to doing both things without holding a competition for the bid, such that I really have no idea whether this is really what our men and women need, or if it's just an excuse for Peter McKay to get to sit in the cockpit of a REALLY COOL FIGHTER JET!!!

    The F-35 is an amazing aircraft, arguably "the best" on the market (particularly if price is no object) but I'm not convinced that it is the best choice for our forces and the things we'll be asking them to do. The people we're fighting now (and the people we're most likely to fight in the future) are hopelessly outmatched by our current F-18s. Unless one seriously thinks we're going to get into a major conflict with China or Russia in the next 50 years or so, it occurs to me that the F-35 could certainly be considered overkill (and if we're going to be fighting the Russians or Chinese, trust me, 65 ain't going to be enough!!!).

    Now, I'm all for spending generously, even lavishly, for equipment for our forces, I'm just not convinced that an Air Force with 65 F-35s is superior to a larger force of less expensive planes (planes that would still DOMINATE anyone we're remotely likely to fight, and which would be supported in any mission, no doubt, by hundreds of American and British F-35s anyway) and without a transparent tender process, I don't see how I'll ever be convinced.

    • "The F-35 is an amazing aircraft, arguably "the best" on the market (particularly if price is no object)…"

      Incorrect. That would be the F-22.

      " The people we're fighting now (and the people we're most likely to fight in the future) are hopelessly outmatched by our current F-18s. Unless one seriously thinks we're going to get into a major conflict with China or Russia in the next 50 years or so, it occurs to me that the F-35 could certainly be considered overkill (and if we're going to be fighting the Russians or Chinese, trust me, 65 ain't going to be enough!!!). "

      In both the first Gulf War and the Kosovo campaign, Canadian pilots were flying against sophisticated air defenses. When situations like this crop up and we have obligations to meet, we'd better be sending our soldiers into battle with up-to-date equipment. Anything less is unfair both to them and our allies.

      • Yeah, well, even though they're being modified for an attack role now, I'm just not totally sold on the F-22's ground attack capabilities (as compared to the Lightening II), so I'd still go with the F-35, given the choice. F-22's are awesome if you've already got F-35s, but if you're only going with one plane, I think the F-35 takes it.

        I also think a Typhoon would do just fine thank you very much against the future equivalent of Saddam or Slobodan's anti-aircraft capabilities, though I do agree that our Forces deserve the best. I'm just not sure 65 F-35's constitute "the best" when compared to X number of Typhoons, for example, and I'd like to have had a competitive bid process to convince me that they are.

        It'd honestly probably be really easy to convince me that $16 billion for 65 F-35's is an awesome idea, and I just wish someone had bothered to try.

        • Yep, I'm on board with you about how nice it would have been to see a straightforward weighing of the options. I'm also a little more skeptical than you as to whether this purchase was a good idea. Unfortunately I think the decision got made when the initial investment into the research program began under the Martin government.

          • Maybe.

            They were pretty explicit under Martin though that this was an economic spin-offs decision, not a procurement decision. Still, multi-billion dollar contracts awarded without competition are never a good idea.

      • As I understand it the F-22 isn't on the market; the US isn't selling that thing to anyone.

        • That was my understanding as well.

    • I agree with everything you said there. It isn't the money, and it isn't necessarily the number of planes. However, we like to talk tough about defending our Arctic sovereignty, which it is reasonable to think will surely be tested as the Passage opens up. Wouldn't it be neat to have some planes that could fly overhead and at least give a visual that we are a) serious about our sovereignty and b) prepared to defend it?

      But oh, well, maybe the Americans will lend us something. Unless, it is the Americans testing our resolve?

      Wouldn't 30 F-35s and 35 something-that-can-fly-in-the-Arctic work too?

      • Defend it against who?

        • Emily, is your argument that we don't need an airforce at all? Or do you even have an argument? The fact is, we do have an air force, and it is in need of new planes. So either we get new planes, or we make plans to scrap the air force altogether. If that's your favoured option, come out and state it clearly, so we can heap the scorn and ridicule upon it that it so richly deserves.

        • The Russians. You know, big furry hats, like to send submarines to the North pole to make territorial claims. Those Russians. It isn't a matter of fighting the Russians, incidentally, but of maintaining a military presence that secures our territory.

      • Yes, I'd like X F-35s and Y "some two engine plane for the Arctic" too (though operating two fighters is much more complicated than operating one, so that's a consideration). The F-35 is awesome, but let's not forget that we're replacing the two engine F-18 with a single engine F-35 which is slower, and has a shorter range.

        That said, if it comes to a point where we're contesting Arctic sovereignty with fighter jets against the AMERICANS, we've already lost the Arctic. Fighters may keep the Danes and the Norwegians away, and the Americans will keep the Russians away, but I'm not sure there's anything, militarily, that we can do if the Americans want something up there.

        • The Russians will keep the Americans away if it ever comes to a fight.

          However, it won't.

          • I suppose that's true.

            I guess I'm just more comfortable thinking about owing the Americans one for keeping the Russians away, than thinking about owing the Russians one for keeping the Americans away.

            You're right that it'll never come to a fight either way though (and if it ever did, Canada wouldn't win!)

          • The lesser we owe, may it be financial or debt of gratitude and other wise, the better chances of maintaining our sovereignty and independence. It is not amusing when you have to give up your principles to pay up a debt.

        • I agree with Emily that this won't come to a fight, so I think we're really talking about posturing here. And I'm surely glad we aren't England and this isn't the beginning of WWII if our response to our sovereignty is, "oh, Americans? Oh well, then, never mind."

          I'm all about being practical and picking a military fight with the U.S. certainly isn't that. But either we stand up for our country or we don't. I mean to say, let us at least respond to the fight and lose it, then surrender before we've even started fighting.

          • And I'm surely glad we aren't England and this isn't the beginning of WWII if our response to our sovereignty is, "oh, Americans? Oh well, then, never mind."

            Well, I take your point, but that's a whole lot different. I'm not saying the Americans are going to defend our airspace because they like us, I'm saying they're going to defend our airspace because, essentially, it's their airspace too. If England had fallen to Hitler it would have been to the never-ending shame of the Americans, and probably would have been HUGE trouble for them long term, obviously. However, the Atlantic Ocean would still lie between Hitler and New York. As a practical matter of the defence of their own homeland, the Americans can arguably survive the fall of the U.K. The fall of CANADA is a much more dangerous scenario for them. So dangerous that I don't think they can ever allow it to happen, not for our sake, but for theirs.

            As a practical matter, we'll lose our sovereignty to the Americans long before we lose it to anyone else (and, frankly, in any crazy scenario one can think of where that would actually happen, it would almost surely be the better alternative!).

          • Oh come on. That's what the labour ninnies tried to sell in the 1930s' – after WWI slaughter who would ever want to fight a war again, scrap the armed forces. Foprtunately Churchill woke them up time at least to have Spits and Hurricanes for the Battle of Britain.

            The point is that you don't know who the oppositions will be in the dark future. To walk into a dark room with enemies around without a weappon is foolishness – as is pacifism. Nice to read in a book at the big U but useless practically. Mind you, I would have preferred a mor explicitly ground support weapon. With VTO it is pretty good though.

          • Wow.

            Go re-read Jenn_'s post re the Second World War. You missed her point by, like, a MILE!!!

            Also, are we actually getting the VTO version, 'cause I don't think we are.

          • Thanks, I was trying to understand how that was a response to me. I had my face all scrunched up and everything!

          • Sorry, it was not a reply to Jenn but and opbservation re Emily. I haven't quite got the hang of the reply function as when I press it a former comment sometimes pops up.. My apolgies.

          • Thanks, Blacktop. No worries, you had a good point.

          • Your point is not a bad one, but your history is a bit off. The Hurricane and Spitfire were developed while Churchill was still a politically isolated back-bencher.

          • I realize that but the big production came because of his harrying the House, I believe. Churchill was quite active in 1938 and it would only be a couple of years until he took over.

            From Wikipedia, as easy as any other
            " . . ..t he first and most immediate problem was that the main Supermarine factory at Woolston was already working at full capacity fulfilling orders for Walrus and Stranraer flying boats. Although outside contractors were supposed to be involved in manufacturing many important Spitfire components, especially the wings, Vickers-Armstrongs (the parent company) were reluctant to see the Spitfire being manufactured by outside concerns and were slow to release the necessary blueprints and sub-components. As a result of the delays in getting the Spitfire into full production, the Air Ministry put forward a plan that production of the Spitfire be stopped after the initial order for 310, after which Supermarine would build Bristol Beaufighters. The managements of Supermarine and Vickers were able to persuade the Air Ministry that the problems could be overcome and further orders were placed for 200 Spitfires on 24 March 1938, the two orders covering the K, L and N prefix serial numbers.[34]

          • 1. Winston Churchill was active, but he was still isolated. In 1938, as Neville Chamberlain was pursuing a policy of appeasement, Churchill was one of its fiercest critics (incidentally, so was Clement Atlee, leader of the Labour party). The key moment for Churchill came with Hitler's invasion of Poland, which vindicated his anti-German sentiments. It was only at this point that he was returned to cabinet in his old post as First Lord of the Admiralty.

            2. Britain's government through most of the 1930's was the National Government party, which included a large number of "Labour ninnies", such as Ramsay Macdonald (the first-ever Labour Prime Minister).

            3. Aircraft are delivered long after they are developed, and military aircraft are certainly developed with military input. The Air ministry ordered Spitfires in 1936, when Churchill was still decidedly out of the chambers of power.

            4. The Spitfire and Hurricane did not have better specs than their German counterparts. However, they were well-engineered, more-maneuverable and cheaper to make (plus the British had radar). Moreover, Germany did not have real strategic bombers, and its escorts were not well-suited to the job. It is possible that had Churchill exercised more influence over policy, Britain might have gotten a more high tech plane that would have served the country worse. In that sense the metaphor to the current arms appropriation debate may not be entirely appropriate.

            5. The main stopping block to disarmament was not the opposition Labour party, which lacked a majority. It was public opinion, which was decidedly against rearmament.

          • Sorry, I should have said rearmament, not disarmament in 5.

          • Just an odd point. Churchill was not in power – I know that – but it seems he had plenty of influence in the industrial area. I remember a rant in the Vancouver Sun at the time (1938) something about "War monger" Churchilll trying to persuade someone to build more planes (Hurricanes probabl) for the coming war. And I was only 10 then. I guess it left the impression that he had heavy influence, if not with the public. He was still wearing the blame for Galliipopli. Anyway, it is off subject.

            My point is that the left and the blind find plenty of reasons for not keeping the forces up., After reading about the F35 I see it is a many-splendoured plane – ground support, attack bomber carrier based as well as a fighter in a pinch.

          • The labour Party in the thirties blocked every vote for rearmament of any kind. The Hitler lovers also. As for Churchill, for the record:

            Baldwin's statement began a period of obfuscation, dishonesty, and lying in the face of Churchill's attacks — one in which the government still refused to provide reasonable levels of funding to the RAF. Serving RAF officers, meanwhile, kept Churchill well informed on both the state of their service and German efforts to build up the Luftwaffe. He did not focus on the technical details of air rearmament due to his belief that what was crucial was that the RAF receive increased funding. In the end, the government of Neville Chamberlain made the crucial decision in late 1937 that Britain could only afford the buildup of a fighter, as opposed to a bomber, force, but it reached that decision because fighters were cheaper, rather than based on any belief in the efficacy of air defense. Churchill's constant hammering on the lack of preparedness in the air and the importance of air defense supported what buildup did occur and provided much of the narrow margin by which Fighter Command won the Battle of Britain in 1940.

          • I agree whole heartedly. Training as reservist for high schools might be an option also. Both sides could benefit from it. The kids will be taught discipline and given purpose, instead of being bored doing nothing or something else undesirable, while the country have reserves in case those specific services will be needed in the future – God forbid.

      • "Wouldn't 30 F-35s and 35 something-that-can-fly-in-the-Arctic work too?"

        It's pretty much all or nothing with modern fighter aircraft. Either they're good enough to hold their own, or they're outdated and can be taken out of play as soon as they get within range of enemy aircraft. Given the cost of every single plane and the time it takes to train a combat pilot, you're better off not even sortieing the fighter if it's outdated.

        If the plan is to send anything into the Arctic at all to challenge Bears that wander across, it had better be a 5th gen aircraft as of 2020.

        • I think a Typhoon would still hold its own just fine in 2020 against anything the Russians sent up, even if it's arguably just a 4.5 generation aircraft. I think the more important point is that we just don't have (nor need) an Air Force large enough to support two different front line fighters. It just doesn't make sense to have half our pilots in one plane, and half in another… we just can't support two.

          The other thing I'd point out about the Typhoon is that it is faster than the F-35, and its range is about 650km further. The Russians may not see the F-35 coming, but the Typhoon will get there faster, and it will also still get there if it loses an engine en route.

          The F-35 might still be the way to go, but I can't help thinking that I'd maybe rather send 3 Typhoons up to intercept that Bear than send 2 F-35s.

          • I'm not sold on the F-35 either, particularly on the single-engine issue. And I completely agree about sticking with one fighter rather than trying to go with several…although I think the F-35 is not designed to operate without F-22 support (which is more an argument against the F-35 than an argument for augmenting it with F-22's).

            But as to speed vs. stealth, I think it's no contest. Top speed is not a very important spec at all, whereas stealth is a defining characteristic of a 5th gen aircraft.

          • Obviously I know nothing about fighter aircraft (or any aircraft) but could we go over again why we can't have two different types of planes? If you are a fighter pilot in this day and age, you can't be rated or whatever it is called on more than one aircraft? And, we only have sixty-five pilots?

          • You can have different types of planes (and we do, e.g. transport vs. fighter aircraft), but each additional type adds considerable complexity and cost to your operations.

            Training has to be developed for each type, including different tactics. You need two stockpiles of spares at each airbase. Additional ground crew expertise to handle both types.

            In short, with one fighter you can build your fighting force around optimizing the use of that plane. With two, you have to have specialists for both and the equipment and facilities to match. We're too small to have that kind of specialization if we can just have one multi-role fighter and keep it simple.

          • I really can't explain the 65 part (we bought around 140 F-18s when we got them initially, and we still have over 80!). One possibility is that planners are planning for a robust force of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, like the Predator and the Global Hawk) which would actually seem smart, and would mean that many of our pilots of the future would pilot their crafts from offices in, say, Winnipeg (the U.S. has plenty of pilots who drive to work every day, take out some Taliban or Iraqi insurgent strongholds with Tomahawk missiles, and then drive back home to their families at night). If this is the plan though, I wish we were hearing more about it. (Also, it would presumably mean another big procurement in the future for some top of the line UAVs).

            As for the "only operating one fighter" argument, as Gaunilon says it's not just about pilots (who of course could be rated on multiple fighters, though they presumably do better if they specialize) it's also about mechanics and replacement parts. One plane means one training program for pilots, one training program for ground crews and engineers, one supply chain for parts, etc… It's just way easier and more efficient.

            Keep in mind too that 65 planes isn't actually even NEARLY enough for 65 active duty pilots. Some of those will be for training pilots. Some of those will be for training ground crews and engineers. Eventually, though not right away, some of those will probably be for spare parts! The 65 number is actually much lower than it even sounds. I've read elsewhere that 65 F-35s isn't actually even enough to keep three full active duty squadrons in the air. Which, to me, UAVs or no UAVs, is kinda depressing.

            I'm not sure we're going to have enough planes for all of the kids MacKay thinks we're going to recruit.

          • Thanks guys, that was helpful.

          • I agree with you, that more might be needed. But can you imagine, how much noise there will be if you purchase that much number at once. They are already howling at 9 – $16 billion, how much more if that's pushed up, even I will be howling with them.

          • The costs of maintaining two separate aircraft would be prohibitive. It's not a simple matter of two half-sized orders costing the same as one full-sized order. There are economies of scale (huge economies of scale) involved in this. In fact, it is difficult to imagine an industry with greater economies of scale than fighter aircraft. If Canada had a big enough population and tax base, we could operate two separate or more planes cost-effectively. But we're in that position were we simply can't. We must select one multi-purpose aircraft that can do most of what we need it for.

          • I agree that speed's not that important, it's just fun to throw it out there along with range, which for us I think IS important. I just find it weird that we're going to replace the F-18 with a plane that is slower, can't fly as far, and only has one engine!

            Stealth is important, I'm just not sure it's a deciding factor for Canada. We can't do EVERYTHING I don't think, and I kinda feel like any conflict we get in to where stealth is highly important we'll be going in with the Americans and other allies who have plenty of stealth. I'm not sure it's a problem for us to let our allies take out the air defenses, with us going in afterward to mop up and provide close air support for ground troops. I can see the ethical argument against not being at the tip of the spear, but I'm not sure it's really necessary.

            I'm just not convinced that, for us, stealth is more important than range and redundancy (i.e. two engines).

          • I agree that stealth may not be the most important thing for us. Without carriers, our fighters seem intended for use domestically, prized for their "get the heck off my lawn" properties.

          • A. If you want to call hemispheric defence and Arctic sovereignty "get the heck off my lawn" operations, fine, but I think it denigrates their importance.
            B. Our allies have carriers, and an extensive network of air-bases, were Canada to operate abroad.

          • " just find it weird that we're going to replace the F-18 with a plane that is slower, can't fly as far, and only has one engine! "

            Well when you put it that way…

            Anyway, we're entering the next era of combat aviation. Judging from the way things are going, it looks to be an era in which stealth, datalink, vectored thrust, supercruise, and avionics are going to rule the day. Fighter tactics are evolving such that the target gets hit by a plane that never even lit him up with radar, having been guided in by a distant element or a decoy fighter operating as AWACS. The attacker is effectively invisible. In terms of defense, the fighter pilot needs to be able to evade missiles launched from close range and little warning (i.e. thrust vectoring), avoid information overload while accepting data from multiple sources (avionics), share info with all allies in range (datalink), and close/escape quickly without excessive heat signature and fuel burn (supercruise – which the F-35 does not yet have).

            So stealth is a pretty big deal.

          • The F-22 wasn't ever intended to be sold outside the US while the F-35 was specifically intended to be a multi-national project to create the next-generation fighter for US allies. I highly doubt it was designed to rely on the F-22, considering.

          • Well, I'd say a little yes, a little no on that one. I mean, it's certainly how the U.S. is likely to us them, and they certainly had the most influence on the design. I don't think the F-35 needs F-22s by any means, but they certainly are somewhat complimentary.

          • (1) When a US company designs fighter aircraft, they do so primarily with the US military in mind. Nothing precludes them from designing two aircraft as complementary even though they know that outside the US only one will be operational.

            (2) F-22's have been sold outside the US. Israel, for example, now has some.

          • Israel does not have F 22s. Clinton made am offhand comment that he would have nothing against selling them back at the turn of the decade, but nothing ever came of it. Frankly I don't think the USA would trust Israel with an F22 given its opportunistic defense industry, the radar would probably end up in India!

          • Reliant and complimentary are two different things. And no, the F-22 has never been exported and possibly never will be because of the availability of the F-35.

          • You're both right – I think I misread a headline about Israel negotiating for F-22's as Israel having purchased them. So my point (2) above is wrong.

  8. I see the $9 billion contract for these planes was sole-sourced. Amusing isn't it that the planes that will replace the CF-18s will also be born under suspicious circumstances :)

    I seem to recall that CF-18 contract being awarded to Quebec instead of Winnipeg causing a *bit* of consternation…wasn't there some kind of popular political uprising that came out of it? Something about Western Populism?

    • The JTF project featured two fighters 'duking it out' for the contract a decade ago: the superior fighter won the contact.

      We bought into the JTF. Now we're getting the JTF. Would it really make much more sense to decide now to ignore the R&D and evaluation phases?

      • Alan Williams, the former ADM for Defence, was on CBC today and painted a very different picture. If it's up on the Power & Politics website you should check it out. It was pretty interesting.

        (and he had on one spiffy bow tie! ;)

    • Get real. You don't start a competition for a market of 65 airplanes. We couls probably equip all three services for just the development costs. The martket has to be BIG.

    • It was a maintenance contract for the CF-18s, not the actual delivery of the CF-18s. The f-18s were delivered in '81. The contract you speak of was awarded in 1986.

  9. He touched briefly on Canada's need to patrol its airspace…

    Ah, yes. We need to remain vigilant against those dangerous Americans and Russians, virtually the only significant forces remotely capable of reaching our airspace.

    So, we're getting sixty-five machines—sixty-five—in order to help guard the second largest national jurisdiction on the planet. Tiny Holland is getting eighty-five. Minuscule Turkey is getting 116 of them.

    I guess we can all sleep better at night knowing that, if ever attacked by elements of the Nigerian Air Force, we'll clean their clocks.

    • Made me laugh outright!

      But as Dion said, we aren't going to fight the Russians or the Americans and we're too civilized to fight the Danish.

      So Nigeria it is I guess.

    • That 65 number worries me, as I've said elsewhere, and I actually do worry that it's not a robust enough force (though I have to assume a big upsurge in sophisticated, armed UAVs in the future too, so that may well be a part of the calculation) but still, let's be honest here. The Americans aren't going to let an air force capable of shooting down ONE F-35 anywhere near Canada's airspace, and we all know it. That's what NORAD is all about. Even if we didn't buy a single F-35, any serious air force attempting to attack Canada would be met with so many F-35's (not to mention F-22s) they'd choke on them.

      • Basically, we're getting 65 aircraft designed for needs we'll rarely face for the price of 200 aircraft designed for needs we face daily.

        • That may be true.

          I do think we need to have some sort of fighter presence because, while we all know we don't NEED to defend our airspace (NORAD and the U.S.) at the VERY least we need to make a show of contributing to the defense of North American airspace. It may seem silly, but I do think it's important for the Americans to know that we're not just shirking our responsibilities.

          I'm also certainly not one who thinks we don't need fighter/attack aircraft. I want our troops on the ground in far away places to be able to call on CANADIAN pilots to take out fortified targets with air strikes. I think it's important that we have a robust air to ground, and yes, air to air capability. I'm just not sure the F-35 is the right choice.

          At the very least I would have liked to have found out how many Typhoons Eurofighter GmbH would have sold us for $16 billion.

          • At around 140M a piece around twice as much. I don't know if it's the VTOL capability, the stealth features, or the electronic warfare gadgetry that makes the F-35 that much more expensive, but like you I do wonder if we really need those features.

            It could be that we just didn't have that much of a choice:

            "As a result of the Canadian government investment in the JSF project, 144 contracts were awarded to Canadian companies, universities, and government facilities. Financially, the contracts are valued at US$490 million for the period 2002 to 2012, with an expected value of US$1.1 billion from current contracts in the period between 2013 and 2023, and a total potential estimated value of Canadian JSF involvement from US$4.8 billion to US$6.8 billion."

            I guess Cannon was tasked with keying in the ROI.

          • I don't think it's the STOVL. I'm pretty sure this order is for 65 F-35As, which don't have the STOVL capability (but can carry more fuel, and are rated for 9 Gs instead of the B's 7). Presumably the stealth features and more advanced avionics and weaponry is where the extra cost comes in. Still, if it's true that what we're paying is DOUBLE what we'd pay for Typhoons, I have to still wonder if perhaps 130 Typhoons wouldn't have been worth serious consideration!

          • Also, we already have those contracts as a result of ou participation in the JSF development program. We may get MORE contracts as a result of deciding to purchase the F-35 (maybe) but we wouldn't lose the contracts we already have by deciding to go another route.

          • You have toouched upon a very important factor probably overlooked by most. In any kind of fight, on land or at sea, you MUST have air superiority. Proved so many times it gets tiresome. I myself fall into this as I said in a previous post that my preference would be for attack helicopters as they pertain to Afghanistan. But without air superiority as we have in Afghanistan, the chopperse and every other piece of equipment is potential toast. Without air superiority it is a free ride even for Nigeria! And this superiority would undoubtedly include co-operation with the US – or whomever, and common equipment is a maintenace boost.

          • From what I understand, the F-35 will be the best air-to-ground fighter in the world for quite some time to come. The Typhoons have been rejected by some countries (like singapore), due to it's poor(er) air-to-ground capabilities.

            Add in that the F-35 will be the plane of NATO, and I think this cost can be justified, as the price of sitting with the big boys. I wouldn't trade those 65 F-35s in for 150 Typhoons. Plus with more aircraft, comes higher maintanence costs. the more I think about this deal, the more I think it's about right. I was shocked a bit at frist by the cost thou, so I feel where you're coming from.

      • Maybe we should foot some of the bill for defending our own soverignty. What do you think?

        You also seem to have addressed your own concern about 65 being enough BTW. Add in that we get to bid on parts contracts, and this deal doesn't seem too bad at all. Plus, we get a bunch of the possibly the 2nd best fighters in the world, for our airforce to fly around in, while intercepting Russian bombers, and feeling really cool doing it. ; )

    • Just so I'm clear, these planes are an outrageous purchase because…

      1) We're spending too much money on these $250M planes

      2) We aren't buying as many of these $250M planes as we should

      Got it.

      • Paraphrase fail.

      • Got it.

        I suppose congratulations are in order. What you got was virtually the opposite of what I argued, but you at least appear to be aware that the inverse of what I said is illogical. Bravo.

        • I'd prefer 200 or so planes myself, and maybe we'll get them some day. For now, we need a replacement for the 60 or so functioning CF-18s (out of the 100 or so we originally purchased) and the air force seems to think this is the best plane for the job. I'd also like more frigates, more armoured vehicles, and more tanks, more personnel, and those icebreakers we were promised. But we've got budget constraints to deal with.

    • Why do you say "minuscule turkey?" They are the second largest NATO nation and border the most unstable region on earth.

      • By "minuscule", I just meant that Turkey can fit into Quebec about five times. I was speaking in purely geo-spatial terms.

  10. I'm also concerned about Canada procuring only 65 F-35 fighters, when it seems other countries, such as Australia and Israel, are planning on purchasing more F-35s (Australia plans on a fleet of approximately 100 aircraft – yet they only have 66% of Canada's population). Not only that, the Australians and Israelis seem to think they will be able to acquire more aircraft than Canada for less money. Does Canada have to pay more for these planes than other countries? Something isn't adding up here.

    • I worry about the number 65 a lot too, but as to the comparison to Australia and Israel, they are a lot more isolated than we are, which has to come in to the calculation. The U.S. can't scramble F-22s out of Alaska to help Australia respond to an encroachment of their airspace the way NORAD can. Of course, we shouldn't just ride the Americans' coattails, but I think even they understand that we have to take our proximity to them into account when making procurement decisions, and I'd like to think that we actually ARE in consultation with them on things like this (sorry conspiracy theorists) so as not to be just redundant in our security purchases.

      If we were in the South Pacific and the Australians shared a border with the U.S., I rather suspect the numbers would be reversed.

      Now, your concerns about the relative COSTS of our purchase, those I'm curious about.

    • The pitchforks and torches are out over the 65, buying the comparative number based on territory to patrol might start an uprising.
      All joking aside, a lot of these questions could have been laid to rest if the Armed Forces had come out and said they told Ottawa these were the planes picked by their own selection process but it's quiet on that front isn't it.
      Don't write blank checks to a teenager to buy a car unless you want the Ferrari.

    • I think the 65 was what they figured we could reasonably afford at this stage. I'd love to see about 150 or 200 of them on the way, but I'm less enthusiastic about paying for that number. Yes, the marginal cost per unit should be substantially less with a larger order, but the overall cost just might make Canadians gag. You can bet the folks over and DND haven't forgotten the stink over the cost of the new helicopters back in 1993. They don't want this purchase to become the modern version of the EH-101 fiasco in the next election. They likely arrived at the 65-for-9-billion figure after a fair bit of political calculus.

  11. Buy 2 simulators – the toy fly boys can play all day.
    Save – rough guess – 20 billion!

    • True, but the Princess Patricia's can't call in an air strike by simulators on a fortified Taliban position.

      • Wabbit would have us replace the Princess Pats with GI Joe dolls. A flight simulator makes perfect sense in his fantasy world.

    • Yeah, I'm sure training the military with computer games will have no possible negative side-effects.
      "General, the enemy shot down half of our air-force"
      "Hmm, this calls for desperate measures. Load our previous saved game."

  12. What about the fact that the new choice has only ONE engine!

    I see that as a problem. Also, weren't the F 18 refurbished and supposed to last another 7 years?

    • I too worry about the one engine factor (I understood it was a big reason we chose the F-18 over the F-16 back in the day). We're replacing our F-18's with a more sophisticated plane, but one that is also slower, with a shorter range, and only a single engine.

      As to the F-18s, the were refurbished (actually, I think some are still in the process of being refurbished) and will last roughly another 7 years (a bit more, I think, for the most recently refurbished ones). However, we're not scheduled to take delivery of our first F-35 until 2016.

      • Canada has lost 16 CF-18s, incurring eight pilot deaths as of 4 April 2009.

        None due to combat….I guess two engines won't save you all the time. But if you insist on the two engines we can always pick up some F-22's.

        As for being slower, can any present day aircraft out run a missile? No? Well I guess then it would be beneficial to be INVISIBLE to radar, wouldn't it?

        • Stopped swearing at people, have you?

        • You do realize that the number of pilots we've lost tells one nothing about the number of pilots we didn't lose because they flew safely home after one of their engines cut out, don't you?

          Also, I think it's possible to make a perfectly reasonable argument in favour of the F-35 without being quite so hostile about it.

    • 2010 + 7= 2017. Targeted IOC for the F35… 2017. Its almost like that's not a coincidence…

  13. It was a previous Liberal government headed by his mentor, Jean Chrétien, that originally signed the deal for the F-35 fighters to replace the CF-18s. Under then prime minister Chrétien, the Liberal government signed a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin to develop the Joint Strike Fighter. And in February 2002, former defence minister Art Eggleton signed a deal in Washington with former U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld that ensured Canada would be a partner in the joint strike force

    • Alan /Williams, the former ADM for Defence who was in charge of this said today on CBC that there was no obligation to purchase these and it was planned to go to bid.

      • There was no obligation, but we've been involved in this process from the get-go (to the tune of $500 million in development contributions).

    • It was a previous Liberal government headed by his mentor, Jean Chrétien, that originally signed the deal for the F-35 fighters to replace the CF-18s.

      That's just not true. We never committed to buying F-35s, ever, we committed to contributing to their development so that Canada could benefit from the economic and technological spin-offs from the development process. Everyone was quite clear and explicit at the time that this was NOT a commitment to actually purchase the planes for Canada's Forces, and that the procurement decision would be made at a later date. Being a partner in the development of the JSF is ENTIRELY different from the decision to actually PURCHASE the F-35, and everyone knows that.

      For Pete's sake, even PETER MACKAY stood in the House of Commons, just this past May, and insisted that this decision would come only after a competitive bid process.

    • …the Liberal government signed a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin to develop the Joint Strike Fighter…

      …although Harper and the CPC shall be more than happy to take full credit for the delivery of the aircraft to our Forces, thereby taking another step away from the "Decade of Darkness" that reigned under the regime of the folks who…well… made Canada a partner of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

  14. The author, along with other Canadians, does not realize that Canada and the U.S. have had integrated air forces for 50 years. There is nothing new here, except the author's astonishment and ignorance of the military.

    • Of course interoperability with the Americans is an important factor in a procurement like this. Maybe even the overriding factor. However, even if it was just for show there should have been some sort of competitive bid process.

      It was always going to be a hard sell to convince a skeptical public that spending $16 billion to replace 78 F-18s with 65 planes which are stealthy, but are also slower, have a shorter range and only one engine is a good idea. It's an even harder sell if the decision is made by the government in some back room rather than through an open and competitive process. And it doesn't help matters that the Minister of Defence stood in the House of Commons just two months ago and insisted that there was going to be an open and competitive bid process for this very contract.

    • Canada and the U.S. have had integrated air forces for 50 years.

      Canada and the US have had integrated armed forces for over 30 years. That's irrelevant.

      American taxpayers don't pay for Canadian military procurements. We do, and we have a right to expect value for money, quite regardless of what Americans think we need. Buying a few dozen over-priced planes with capabilities unsuited to what is required for the protection of Canadian sovereignty presents a prima facie case of a Pentagon-style, $80-hammer-type boondoggle.

  15. Geddes is right….what's the point of defending your airspace when you know the Americans will do it for you? Maybe we can invest in technology we are sure about…I believe Billy Bishop did some wonderfu l things with the bi-plane. If we're really smart, we'll cancel this program for 16 billion right away. Then in 10 years when our other fighters are falling out of the sky, we can purchase 30 F-35's for 25 billion. Ahhh liberal economics.

  16. Quick question, I'm obviously not an expert, but is there some kind of treaty blocking us from considering su-30 or su-35s? They seem to be engineered for a country with similar geography.

    • Do you think the Russians would sell us their most classified plane knowing that we are allies with their military rivals the USA? The minute it arrived on Canadian soil, a team of american military and CIA experts would have it in pieces and on a truck back the US for study.

      • I don't think the CIA needs us to get their hands on an advanced Russian plane. Not the Su-30 at any rate.

        Besides, isn't the easier argument against the Su-30 and the Su-35 that neither is even as advanced as the Typhoon?

        • Well then just buy the Super Hornet…our pilots are already familiar with the plane and the transition would be easy. The Eurofighter ain't gonna happen…we have no stake in it.

          • I don't think the Super Hornet would fly (ha!) just because it sounds so much like we're not really getting anything new.

            This is part of the reason I'm so frustrated that there wasn't a competitive process for the contract. I actually do think it's entirely possible that the F-35 would have blown away the competition. And, more importantly, that it would have been SEEN to blow away the competition.

            As it is, the way the Tories have handled this makes it look like a none too transparent government trying to force through a gigantic procurement project with too little due diligence.

            Optics matters for Pete's sake. In this case, especially for Pete's sake.

      • Do you think the Russians would sell us their most classified plane knowing that we are allies with their military rivals the USA?

        "Military rivals"? Hey, Rip Van Winkle—it's 2010, not 1990. You obviously slept through your alarm.

        The US and Russia are such deadly rivals that, as Putin slaughtered Chechnians with gleeful abandon, Dubya cheered him on from the peanut gallery. They may be economic and geo-strategic rivals, but they're hardly military rivals

        • Well, the Chechans did a pretty good job of slaughtering Russians too. And did you think the US was going to militarily intervene in Russian territory?? Start WW3 over Chechniya? Yeah, that indicates that the US and Russia are in bed together….

          • They're not in bed together, but they've certainly settled into a pretty friendly modus vivendi and are far from military belligerents. Hell, Dubya even liked what he saw when he gazed into Putin's eyes, as you'll recall. I half expected them to start some heavy petting.

          • Dubya? God, will you people give it a rest? The guy hasn't been president for over a year and a half. Last I saw, Obama was having a burger with Medvedev – and a couple of weeks later spies were being exchanged. They ain't friends…

          • Spies, eh? Do you really think the CIA doesn't have assets operating in "friendly" Canada?

          • Do you really believe that Canada have no "friendly" operatives in the US either?

  17. Out of curiosity, does anyone know which VERSION of the F-35 we're getting? I assume we're getting the F-35A, not the B, but I haven't seen it specified anywhere.

    I actually hope it's the A, personally. STOVL is cool and all, but I think I'd prefer the increased fuel capacity and higher G rating (9 vs. 7) of the A over the B.

    • I was wondering that too…they haven't said. I would assume that it's not STOVL, but I know that the military is wanting to get an aircraft carrier or short deck assault ship at some point. So they might be buying these now with an eye to buying STOVL in the future?

      • See, now THAT's interesting.

        65 F-35A's now, and some unspecified number of F-35Bs in the future for the navy (which is to say, for the Air Force, but launched off of ships). That would put my fears around the small number to rest, though I fear the way the government's gone about this they've cooked up enough trouble that there's just NO WAY they'll be able to justify another multi-billion dollar purchase of fighters in the near future. I rather assumed that the relatively small number was due to an assumption of a much more robust UAV force in the future, but your supposition is interesting.

        Good luck to them getting more fighters for new CARRIERS in the future though, after the kerfuffle I think this current procurement is going to cause given how they've handled it.

        • I am a fan of this gov for the most part, but they have handled this badly. That being said, I think that this has upset the media and chattering classes more than average Canadians. We'll know in a month if the 'anger' is legit. Personally, I don't think the anger is real – Canadians want to be players in the world. People bitched about paying Regis and Kelly to come to PEI, and now that is mainly considered a success. Canadians aren't happy unless they're bitching about something.

      • An aircraft carrier? What a waste of money. All you can do with those is run away from anybody with 1% of the cost of the carrier's worth of missiles.

        • I tend to agree that a full-on carrier of the variety one traditionally thinks of would be overkill.

          Something like an Invincible class, or the Canberra class the Aussies are working on might not be crazy though.

        • Ah the dangers of drinking and posting. Many medium sized countries have aircraft carriers…in fact Canada once had aircraft carriers until Trudeau ruined our military.

          • If Sir Francis gas to get over Dubya, you need to get over Trudeau.

          • Yeah, Trudeau was a real SOB for scrapping those three WWII-era hand-me-down Royal Navy carriers. We've never been the same.

    • I'm sure it will be As. We don't need the Bs. They are very cool thou. (remember the last Die Hard movie?)

  18. Did we get the Icebreaker for arctic patrol that Mulroney and then Harper promised? How much did it cost?

    • Of all of our forces, the navy is the least integrated into the American "defence" (i.e. pre-emptive) establishment and is thus at the very bottom of Harper's priority list.

  19. A thought occurs – if the next war large enough to justify lots and lots of fighter jets is over oil, there won't be enough of it to keep all of them in the air past day two.

    • You already howl with 65, can you imagine your volume if Canada purchase more than that?

  20. I've seen multiple variations of: "You don't start a competition for a market of 65 airplanes.", and the like out there.

    The response to that is: sure you do. While, yes, you're not going to get from the paper design for your needs, you do ask for existing production line or soon to market product and take tenders from every company out there that meets your requested specs and then you either tack your units onto an existing production run or pick up the new hotness. Heck, I mock answered the question here as to what plane (The F35 or not), we'd be be buying earlier this year with something like "A competitive process will be laid out to purchase an appropriate new airframe for our Forces soon. *cough*it will be designed to favour the F35*/cough*, because that's what usually done with these things anyways!

    The idea that we can't do a tender for this, even the usual completely stacked in favour of what someone's already decided they want scam, is a non-starter.

    • Yes, the thousands of engineers, pilots, politicians and defence analysts who have been studying this for a decade are all wrong. You and the CBC should draw up some specs and submit them to Europe and Russia. I am sure they will be more than happy to conduct R & D and alter their production lines for the 65 fighters you want.

      • If you don't understand optics, then you don't understand optics.

        I wish the government luck with their next procurement announcement after the hash they've made of this one.

        "Uh, excuse me Minister, you want to spend how much on WHAT so soon after pushing through a sole sourced $16 billion fighter jet contract?!?!?!"

        • I do understand optics, and what is your point? What fighter plane would the CBC, NDP, Liberal crowd 'approve' of then? Answer – zero. They want Canada to go back to the good ol' days of the 80's and 90's when Canada was weak and defenceless…that made them proud. To them, the money should be spent on important things like safe injection sites, sex change operations, and free abortions for all comers.

          What do I think of their complaints? Don't really care to be honest…most of them probably aren't taxpayers anyways. You can't please everyone, and I don't recall left-wingers caring about the concerns that millions of conservative Canadians have had about their idiotic social engineering policies. Well, we're in power now, and the country is slowly evolving to our point of view…the new Sun TV will probably help. Anyways, the west holds the hammer now, not Quebec…the Trudeaupian dream is over.

          • They want Canada to go back to the good ol' days of the 80's and 90's when Canada was weak and defenceless…

            You mean the Mulroney (Progressive-Conservative) years? Yeah, they were bad indeed.

            But, boy, Canada's a veritable martial power-house now: we've got a couple dozen new Leopard tanks that could easily fend off a determined Ugandan ground attack, and those brand spanking new F-35's should be able to put up a good fight (unless it's against the Turkish airforce's fleet of 115 F-35's, of course), and our navy is at least as well-equipped as Iceland's. So, yeah, you really don't want to mess with Stephen Harper's Canada.

            To them, the money should be spent on important things like safe injection sites, sex change operations, and free abortions for all comers.

            …which are impossible to get in Stephen Harper's Canada. Abortions are virtually unheard of now.

          • You are correct! Double or triple the Dept of National Defence's budget immediately!!!! I never thought it would be so easy to get people to invest in our military! We can end stupid socialist programs like the Dept of Indian Affairs and transfer payments to the provinces to pay for it…saweeeet!!

          • "Abortions are virtually unheard of now. "

            Do you have any statistics to back this up, or are you just fearmongering? I have to say that sounds pretty unlikely, as i'm not aware of any Canadian laws restricting access to safe, free abortions.

          • Umm…I was being ironic there. The point was that we're still paying for things like abortions, even in Harper's "conservative" Canada.

            I'm not a Liberal, by the way—just in case you're tempted to mistake me for one. I'm an independent Tory.

          • Mulroney did at least try to replace our sea-kings. How did that work out again? Oh ya, Canada paid a heavy price, due to the gotcha politics of the moment. Let's hope that doesn't happen again

          • What fighter plane would the CBC, NDP, Liberal crowd 'approve' of then?

            Hey, NG! Skill-testing question for you: The prime minister that entered Canada into the Joint Strike Fighter Program was from which party?

            Take your time.

          • So what are you complaining about? Canada just bought on one of your party's program. Are you just howling for howling sake?

          • I'm not a Liberal, sweety.

          • How many did they purchase?

            Take your time.

          • How many were ready by the time Paul Martin was voted out of office four years ago?

            Take your time.

      • "I am sure they will be more than happy to conduct R & D and alter their production lines for the 65 fighters you want."

        Actually, they would because they're either paying for the R&D as is and wouldn't mind additional financing OR the production lines already exist and have been amortized against existing/produced orders so adding an additional 65 fighters (or, maybe we can get more at a cheaper unit cost), to the production run is as close to pure profit as a manufacturer gets even if it were to require some minor retooling to suit specific requested features.

        These are basic business practices in the manufacturing sector you're arguing against here. You do realize that, yes?

  21. Does anyone know where 65 F-35 will be deployed? Coastal Defence??? Greenwood? Bagotville? Cold Lake? On Vancouver Island? 65 Aircrafts is enough for 3 Squadrons. I suppose that 5 A/C will be used for Spare Parts. 10 Aircrafts for training. Not enough.

    • My understanding was that 65 is BARELY enough for 3 squadrons, if that.

    • As I understand it, there's only 4 currently active fighter squadrons so odds are 2-3 will simply get upgraded and 1-2 will get downsized/reassigned to drones/fly F18's until they fall apart.

  22. The G & M had an editorial about this subject today and said that the purchase was the right decision. Maybe we can use those upgraded CF118's to shoot down the pigs flying by my patio this morning.

    • Yeah, those insane leftists at the G&M finally got on side with the government eh? I mean, check out the crazy socialists they endorsed in the last two elections!!!

      • I remember their ringing endorsements…essentially it was vote for the conservatives cause they are slightly less awful than the Liberals. If it was up to the G&M though, PM Bob Rae and Senator Elizabeth May would be busy outlawing electricity and disbanding the CF as we speak.

        • [I]t was vote for the conservatives cause they are slightly less awful than the Liberals….

          …which describes precisely the motivation for at least 20% of the circa 35% the CPC has been polling since '06.

  23. They end the funding for women's groups and other socially beneficial programs but they have money for a bunch of really expensive planes. The economy is still wobbly, they said that the deficit is their priority but then they announce that new toys are really more important than that other stuff. Why are these idiots still in power?

    • Now if we can just get them to stop funding bilingualism and the Dept of Indian Affairs, we'd really be on to something…

    • Never mind that Canada spends the least on its military as a percent of GDP (lower than two countries that have constitutional limits on their ability to use military force), let me hash out your priorities for the government. The fact that the government places national defence above funding women's groups so that they can make constitutional challenges to the government is a sign of misaligned priorities? Or perhaps you think these women's groups can also be used offensively in warfare? Perhaps what Canada really needs to do in Afghanistan is air-drop feminists to criticize the Taliban till they surrender.

      • Had they done that, I would have hailed all feminists who volunteer to go to Afghanistan and start living up to their names; promote women's rights and help women who direly need their support and where their voices matter most. If they mobilized feminists all over the world to go there and make a change and difference, in no time Taliban and Al-queda will be seeking asylum in the west for protection. I hope feminists will start practicing what they preached. Well it's not too late yet.

      • That was an AWESOME comment. Best chuckle of the day for sure. Thanks.

  24. Simply because the military is presently engaged in a conflict that will end next year does not mean that all military planning should revolve around that conflict. There is some chance over the next 40 years of a great power conflict. We don't necessarily know what that conflict might look like, and musing about scenarios in the press would be impolitic (partly because China, Russia, Pakistan and India are the best candidates for major war, but are also important trading partners to Canada). It is absolutely necessary to prepare for such a conflict in some limited fashion, by ensuring that we have a core of well-trained pilots and an industry capable of building top-of-the-line fighters.

    A military should not be equipped entirely on the basis of present, or near-term needs for a few reasons. Firstly, things change over time – and sometimes quite rapidly. In an uncertain world it makes sense to devote at least some resources to core functions like say, the hemispheric defence of North America. Secondly, the best kind of military investments are precisely those that don't get used. By maintaining a military edge over potential rivals the western alliance can deter conflict.

    • To paraphrase bigcitylib, the cheapest and most flexible plan would be just have three long range missiles – one aimed at Moscow, one aimed at Beijing, and one aimed at Washington.

      • I assume you mean nuclear missiles, if that is BCL's argument he clearly doesn't understand nuclear deterrence. If you have nuclear missiles you need a second-strike capability (ie. nuclear submarines, or some delivery platform that would survive a nuclear war). Why? Because if you only have first strike capability others will have a strong incentive to hit you first (particularly if you only have three missiles). So for starters, BCL's plan would require nuclear submarines, and could easily be more expensive than joint strike fighters.

        Secondly, it is far from clear that nuclear weapons are an ironclad safeguard. There are serious risks associated with misperceptions. Both KAL007 and the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world quite close to nuclear war. Canada should not add another three possible dyads (ie. Canada-Russia, Canada-China, Canada-USA) wherein such misperceptions might operate and make others falsely believe that a nuclear attack was imminent.

        Additionally, for nuclear weapons to make a difference, others must believe Canada is willing to use them. Nixon's move to defcon III (arguably) deterred the Soviets from intervening in the Yom Kippur war, because there was some possibility that Nixon was serious. I would suggest that Canada probably doesn't have a lot of credibility in that department. Moreover, it would be uncertain as to what Canada's breaking point would be. Would the Arctic be an issue that so threatened our existential survival that we would resort to nuclear war? I think not.

        Finally, a nuclear deterrent is not a realistic strategy for Canada because of the kind of domestic dissent it would entail – see the furor over the Bomarc missiles and multiply by 1000.

  25. I'm not a military expert – maybe someone else here is? But don't we need better armored vehicles (to protect against IEDs), helicopters, and icebreakers more than 65 new jets? How many Candians have died in situations where they could have been saved with a better fighter jet? And how many have died from roadside bombs in Afghanistan?

    • 1. The two are not mutually exclusive.
      2. Canada is pulling out of Afghanistan, at least in terms of having a military role.
      3. A military generally has multiple tasks and Canada is no different. One might be nation-building in Afghanistan, but defence of the homeland is always going to be job number 1.
      4. The best way to save lives is by maintaining peace by deterring potential attackers. We have saved far more lives through the wars we have avoided than we ever could through the wisest policy in any given war.

  26. The decision might have nothing to do with what the military needs? If saving money is our priority in providing weaponry to our military, then we might be able to save more money by strapping them with bombs, just like Al-Queda does. Saves from questions, complaints, money, and other things. Let alone an automatic entry to heaven with 72 virgins to boot.

    • It's an interesting idea but I think we can come up with a better and more cost effective strategy that doesn't involve the automatic death of the operative.

  27. Typhoons might be cheaper, but does it have more functions than F35? Or will it cost more money in integrating those typhoons with the military system of our allies. How about maintenance? European machineries are known for its costly parts and maintenance. We might like it or not, US is still our ally and we are sharing borders with them, it is only practical that our system should work alongside them. Canada is part of the chartel in the creation of F35. In buying products other than what we have helped build, will it say then that we do not trust anything our country build? I do have a beef on the government on how they handle its procurement and its lack of explanation, but I doubt whether any of their answers will appease those whose mind are already made up. I really hope that we do receive more explanation from the defense minister though.

  28. What's with the trivial chatter on these posts about fighter jet performance and other irrelevant matters? You're sounding like a bunch of pseudo-analysts on the Military Channel. You're missing the point here, it's about priorities.

    I say oust these warmongers. They're old-school, military-minded political has-beens, remnants of the 20th century. It's a dinosaur mentality that belongs in the history books, not in today's world. This is not where we should be spending our time, energy and money. We're talking tens of billions of dollars.

    • A good point and it's nice to bring the discussion back to reality. It's a sad fact of modern existance that every country maintains some sort of standing army. But do we have to spend a nine followed by nine more zeroes on a small part of it?

  29. Bottom line, building these lethal toys only succeeds in feeding the war machine and giving a raison d'être to the arms manufacturers. Remember, these fighter jets are meant to be deployed, along with the weapons they carry. Also remember that the weapons industry is funded through taxpayer money, our money, and LOTS of it. The arms manufacturing business is war and their mission statement obviously is to promote wars, which is not in the best interests of common mortals, what they euphemistically refer to as ‘collateral damage'.

    Instead of promoting death and destruction, we should instead clean up our act and strive, along with other progressive nations, to restore the health of our planet.

    Enough already with this primitive ideology, enough with the right-wing fearmongering.

    • Do arms manufacturers actually benefit from war? I would suggest that they do not. War is expensive, and typically paid for in higher taxes. That will take a large bite out of profits. Secondly, total war tends to result in command economies, and the forced sharing of military secrets. Worse, even if war provides a temporary boost to the industry, there is inevitably a postwar crash. Finally, arms manufacturers probably don't like the idea of being on the losing side of a war.

      No, arms manufacturers benefit from the possibility of war (and possibly certain kinds of limited wars), which is a different kettle of fish. The Cold War was fantastically profitable for arms manufacturers – not because there was a war, but because people thought there might be a war.

  30. Speaking of dinosaurs, when Lord, will you pinko hippies get zapped back to the past? Go do some yoga and get yourself a latte, the adults here are talking.

    • Listen, Little Man (Wilhelm Reich)

  31. Like nuclear submarines, all fighter planes are considered obsolete. There is absolutely no use for them in any current or potential conflict. Air-to-air attack no longer occurs anywhere, and precision air-to-ground attack is now handled by pilotless drones costing only $1 million per unit.

    Watch for the U.S. Defence department to cancel the F35 as soon as they have sold enough to cover their development costs. Then Canada and all the other minor NATO powers will be left servicing immense loans to buy these machines and paying $35,000 per hour to fly them in pointless training exercises.

    Buying obsolete fighter planes to recruit pilots to fly obsolete fighter planes is federal bureaucracy at its nightmarish worst. This mind boggling waste of public money must be opposed by the free press and all aware citizens.

  32. You need to keep in mind that the reason why this contract is not being tendered and why Canada is choosing these planes is because they have invested over 150 million dollars into the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program along with other countries since 2002. If they did not end up purchasing these planes that investment is lost. And something tells me that loss of 150 million would have deeper repercussions in the media.

  33. Arctic oil. Russian militarism. Threat to Canada's property, territory, and economic future.

    Double the number of F-35s.