Talking F-35s with a former head of the air force -

Talking F-35s with a former head of the air force


Lieutenant-General Angus Watt retired about a year ago as chief of air staff in the Canadian
Forces. That gives him a particular vantage point on the government’s plan to spend about $16 billion to buy and maintain 65 F-35 fighter jets—close enough to know the details, but a bit detached from the ferocious debate that’s erupted over the sole-sourced procurement.

Not surprisingly, Watt is a big fan of the Lockheed Martin jet, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. He’s a sharp critic, though, of the job the federal government is doing selling the deal to the Canadian public. This is an edited version of his conversation with me earlier this week about the controversial F-35 project.

Q. Do you think the F-35 arrangement as it now stands makes sense for Canada?

A. I do. It’s the best of all the available choices. It provides the best value for money, the best platform to address the security needs of Canada through to 2050, which is probably how long we’ll have this airplane.

Q. I’ll come back to why you think it’s the best jet. But you mention best value for money. We usually make sure of that by holding a competitive bidding process. Why not do so in this case?

A. That’s a good question. I’m not personally opposed to a competition. But the circumstances of a competition would be difficult to manage. There aren’t a lot of competitors, apart from the F-35. In fact, it’s questionable if there are any.

Q. So if we had a proper competitive process, wouldn’t the F-35 be the clear front-runner or even the only bidder?

A. What happens then, and I’ve seen this before in other aircraft programs, is when the government specifies [its requirements] and it turns out that only one aircraft is even close to meeting them, then the other, lesser competitors will start to attack the specifications. Rather than competing the aircraft, they compete the specifications. Then we end up in a big debate about whether we need fifth-generation technology, sensors, all that sort of equipment, rather than competing on the basis of the available aircraft.

Q. For which aircraft purchase has disputing the specs become the issue?

A. Fixed-wing search and rescue. It has paralyzed the department.

Q. But how can we know that all those specifications the F-35 apparently meets—the attributes of a so-called fifth-generation fighter—are really what Canada needs?

A. The Department of National Defence, I know, did a very extensive analysis—not a true competition, I understand—of all the available platforms. It clearly showed the F-35 was head and shoulders above all the other ones. If they wanted to run a competition, fine. But I’m worried about that matter of attacking the specifications.

Q. On the need for a new fighter jet, some critics have pointed to the government’s emphasis on patroling the Arctic as an outmoded Cold War preoccupation. Isn’t the threat of Russian bombers long past?

A. One of the problems is that the government has not had a very good communications strategy here. They essentially went out with the announcement, with very few details, and asked everybody to accept it. I personally have seen the work that underpins the project and I know they have a very good outline of what capabilities are needed. There is enough of a package to show the Canadian people what the needs of Canadian security are for the next 30 or 40 years.

Q. And what are those needs?

A. It’s not just the NORAD need of chasing aging Soviet bombers in the Arctic. That’s a very narrow view. Canada’s interests are global. Our prosperity and security come from our engagement around the world. You can’t just draw a line around North America and say, ‘We’re not going to participate in any security operations outside those borders, but we’re certainly going to take economic advantage of that security in order to gain prosperity for our nation.’

So [without new fighter jets] when NATO decides to intervene—like they did in Kosovo the late nineties, and did a bombing campaign with our F-18s participating—we would not be able to participate. To me that undermines our credibility and our influence. Other nations, our allies and our potential foes, notice. Participating in an alliance of like-minded nations under the rubric of UN or NATO is very much in our security interests.

Q. And exactly how does the F-35 fit into that sort of scenario?

A. If we send our troops abroad on some operation in the future, I don’t think it’s good enough to say, ‘Well, we’ll send our troops over there, but we’re not going to provide air support because some other nation will.’

Q. Is the Afghanistan experience one of the reasons we haven’t heard a lot about the F-35’s capability to providing close air support for ground troops engaged in counter-insurgency fighting? I’m thinking of how using air strikes in Afghanistan has become very controversial because of civilian casualties.

A. I spent six months in Afghanistan as deputy commander for air. I was essentially the air component commander for ISAF in 2006. I can tell you that air power saves soldiers’ lives. There is a good case to be made but it just hasn’t been made.

Q. You don’t hear the Conservative government making that case now?

A. Overall communications have been weak. But we’ve seen that before with the government. They are very parsimonious, shall we say, with their communications. We need a rigorous debate. We need to hash it out in public.

Q. Let’s say the case for new jet fighters was more compellingly established. Wouldn’t that still leave open the option of buying a cheaper, less cutting-edge fighter than the F-35, one that’s already on the market?

A. The F-35 gives us a jet at the beginning of its technological life span. If you buy a jet at the end of its life span, that means in five to ten years it’s going to be obsolete. That means you’re going to have to try to add technology and that’s really tough. The growth potential, the ability to evolve this jet over the next 30-40 years, far surpasses anything else on the market.

Q. There are defence analysts who say the really technologically advanced idea would be to shift to relying more on pilotless drones. What about that option?

A. It’s not there yet. There’s going to be one more generation of manned fighters, carrying through to 2030, 2040. The technology is not mature enough yet for what we call UCAVs—Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles.

Q. There’s another line of criticism—that the F-35 is a basically an expensive toy, and Canada just doesn’t need a cool stealth fighter.

A. Stealth is not some voodoo technology that lets you go in and willy-nilly take over Third World nations at will. It simply allows the pilot to survive. It isn’t necessary for every mission, but for some. For instance, reconnaissance. They can go quietly into territory, undetected, and come back safely. Or they can do a mission like the Kosovo bombing campaign, where there was a fairly sophisticated air defence system, and come back completely safely.

Q. A final question. The F-35 purchase, if it goes ahead, will be hugely expensive. Even if it’s the best choice among fighter jets, isn’t there a strong argument that, in a time of spending restraint, Canada could make more practical use of other new equipment, like icebreakers or those search and rescue planes?

A. That’s a false dilemma, one often posed about military spending. If you do this, you preclude that. One of the key elements that the military struggles with is to preserve a balance in all areas. Having an incredible capability in the air, while denuding the army and sinking the navy, doesn’t work. There’s a whole range of programs that seek to maintain that balance. In the planning cycle, there is that balance, and buying these fighters does not preclude those other things.


Talking F-35s with a former head of the air force

  1. I have an natural inclination to go with expert opinion, but it sure came off sounding like he really wanted a cool toy.

    In particular, the argument about spec. deflation was weakly presented. If the original assessment of the military needs was really that strong, one shouldn't have to worry about it standing up in a rational debate. In my experience, when the higher ups don't want to share details about their decision process, it is an indication that they have followed a flawed process.

    • There's also quite a bit of of doubt (among other potential buyers of the F-35) that 5th generation stealth as manifest in the F-35 will even be effective when the planes enter service, let alone in 2030-2050. Stealth defeating technology doesn't stand still and there's some evidence that two new models of Russian aircraft can already neutralize the stealth component of the F-35's capabilities. As for close air support for ground deployments abroad, the F-35 is a marginal performer (as would be an multi-role aircraft).

      Mr. Watt's criticisms of the communications on this file is compelling, but also reminiscent of what passes for public policy analysis these days: It's not the policy that's flawed; it's the communications. This is the very approach that ultimately took down Tony Blair's Labour, as they could not distinguish between policy-making and media-relations.

  2. Very useful article… tough questions, good answers. Best sum-up of the argument for purchasing the fighters I've read so far.

  3. Well.. that's a little more information I suppose.
    But it certainly does seem like the main requirement for having these is because that's what everybody else is going to have, rather than any specific and intrinsic need to Canada.

    That said, I still wonder about the wisdom of agreeing to buy something before you know what the sticker price will be.

    • The argument that it iw what everyone else is going to have is actually a pretty good one. Not just because, based on the last 100 years of our national experience, to be able to operate with our allies, but because when we do engage in combat it is necessary for our pilots to be flying aircraft that are as good or better than those of their opponents. For a government to provide them with anything less (as the Trudeau government did when it purchased the CF-5s) is criminal.

      And in this case the price has been generally understood for a while – although the cost of any new military aircraft is becoming astoundingly high.

      • If we ever go up against a country where our national survival absolutely depends on having the absolute best fighters available, we're probably going to lose under any circumstances (actually, we can't get even the best planes – our closest ally doesn't trust us with those F-22s.)

        And being able to go head to head with China or Russia, let alone the US, with conventional weapontry would simply bankrupt us.

        The "it is imperative we have absolute most expensive of everything" argument runs into a halt on that point.

        • We have had the "best" in our arsenals since 1940. There are no credible scenarios in which we will engage in conventional warfare with the US. There are in which we will have to fly planes in potentially hostile environments -as the CF-18s did in Iraq and Kosovo, or be a part of an effective deterrence to aggression against our allies – as we were in Europe for almost forty years. Yes, modern planes are expensive – but the F-35 is not much more expensive in real dollars than the CF-18 was thirty years ago. The notion that we would be bankrupted by such a purchase in not realistic. We still spend less on defence than the 2% of GDP committment by NATO members.

          • So the point about our survival not requiring these jets is well taken, then? In the best of all possible cases it's about choosing to perform certain tasks in non-essential activities abroad.

          • Was the defence of Britain in 1940 a "non-essential activity"? Or the deterrence of the Red Army from 1949-1989? I think you underestimate the importance of collective security to Canada and the role it plays in the defence of our own sovereignty.

  4. Great interview–very informative. Lieutenant-General Angus Watt makes a strong case for a fifth generation fighter, and I completely agree that rigorous public debate is needed on this point.

    • "I personally have seen the work that underpins the project and I know they have a very good outline of what capabilities are needed. There is enough of a package to show the Canadian people what the needs of Canadian security are for the next 30 or 40 years."

      Without seeing the capabilities outline, we're basically being told, "trust us". Second, these are merely capability requirements. Which policies and missions are the capabilities tied to?

      The proper place for these debates are Parliamentary and Senate Committees. Defence policy should certainly be informed by those tasked with executing the missions (in this case DND's air sector), but not driven by them.

      • I am also concerned about his statement about seeing that far into the future. Could military capability of, say, 2000, been adequately forecast in 1970 or or 1960? He should have said "our best guess into the future says this is waht will happen…"

      • We're also being told they can predict the future with enough accuracy to justify billions and billions in spending.

        Could our military needs in 2010 have been adequately foreseen in 1970 or 1980?

        • Your two similar points here are fair enough, Mike, but the opposite would be worse: "We don't have crystal balls so we won't acquire what we really feel would satisfy our best-guess requirements."

          • my computer glitched and I thought the first one hadn't gone through…oops!

            Even worse than those though, is not doing overall cost benefit analysis of huge spending items.

          • You are correct about what would be worse, but do you really think the military brass are pulling these specs and the number of birds to order just out of thin air? If so, why stop at the number they stopped at? Why not go for twenty more, or a hundred more?

            (PS no worries on the duplicate point-making; Intense Debate is really good at confusing us commenters and mangling our submissions from time to time)

          • I have no reason to expect the specs aren't fine.

            I'm thinking about questions like "why not the icebreaker promised for 20 plus years" or even supra-military questions like "do russian planes occassionally over our arctic justify such a colossal expense – could a cheaper display of chest thumping do the job or could we just ignore it?"

          • Conservative fears of "TAX AND SPEND TAX AND SPEND TAX AND SPEND!" aside, the quickest way to economically destroy this country would be to try to build a military capable of holding our own against China or Russia.

          • I've got an even quicker way to destroy our country in all aspects: let's not even bother to make it hard for our potential foes, and invite them to just come on in and take over. You take the Cantonese lessons, I'll go for Mandarin; that way we'll be ready to welcome our overlords. Look at the military budget we've just erased!

            But, then, these planes will more likely see action fighting other enemies than Russia & China, if current trends are worth any predictive value. And I submit that, imperfect as they may be, they are not worthless predictors.

          • it's definitely an interesting question. If it can be proven that having F-35s vs. more of something cheaper but older is the line between foreign invasion and no foreign invasion, then the 35s are definitely the better deal.

          • No, my bigger point was my 2nd paragraph. These very expensive gizmos are not only to be able to throw something at a potential invader (thereby reducing the risk of having a potential invader at all). Canada will continue to have foreign policy interests that require the use of sharp spear tips.

          • Oh, and I think you just gave a good description of how the Gipper helped encourage the Soviet bloc to implode.

          • exactly – should we follow suit?

          • The arms race is overstated as the cause of the end of the Cold War. The true cause was the computer revolution. The Soviets relied on Western computer technology because their system of government did not allow their own to develop.

          • "You are correct about what would be worse, but do you really think the military brass are pulling these specs and the number of birds to order just out of thin air?"

            If you ask, what do you need to achieve missions X, Y and Z, then the techies will tell you in very fine detail what gear they need to perform the missions. You can they determine which gear available off-the-shelf or in development to acquire.

            If you ask, on the other hand, what would you love to have, the the brass will go for the hottest, sexiest models.

            Consider what happened with military transport. DND analysts specifically stated that the C-17 was a fine aircraft, but was far too expensive and primarily a strategic asset, whereas Canada's military roles are mostly tactical. When strategic airlift was required, there were many cheaper options (exclusive leasing being one). They preferred to spend the cash on many more C-130s. Harper and Hillier quashed this and bought C-17 Ferraris.

            Where Parliamentary defence committees were in this mix is a mystery to me.

          • And, of course, the C-17 has proven to be a very valuable asset. And the government bought C-130Js as well. The reluctance to commit to the C-17 was as much a concern that it would be bought instead of C-130s, not that it wasn't a valuable aircraft in its own right. They aren't Ferraris – they are simply capable aircraft – and a better option than leasing.
            Its not a matter of buying the "hottest sexist" model. When it comes to combat aircraft there is no point on having something that is second best to your adversary – that will simply result in the destruction of your own aircraft and the death of your pilot. When we can't have large numbers of aircraft or pilots we have to ensure we have at least a qualitative edge. There is no point in entering your Honda Civic in a Formula One race. Sometimes a Ferrari is what the job requires.

          • The C-17 and F-35 are capable aircraft. Perhaps we're getting bogged down in details. It's entirely valid to question whether the the procurement process is working well (by the AG's account, it isn't) and whether the equipment being acquired is tied in any way to an articulated defence policy. The answers may well be, yes, the F-35 is what we need, in these numbers at this schedule and at this cost for these missions. Such a conversation should involve Parliament. Moreover, the planes are the cheapest part of this sale. The maintenance contract and our access/costs for future upgrades are projected to cost 3 time what the planes themselves cost … and in the past, these types of upgrades and service contracts have ballooned in price. A more fulsome approach to the tender process could lead to better terms … long term.

          • Weren't those C-17s the ones that zipped right down to Hati, after the quake?

            I'd say they seem to be a good strategic asset and probably worth having.

            I'm sick of our boys having to hitch rides off of the Americans anyway.

          • Like many NATO countries, Canada had leased access to heavy-lift aircraft (Antonovs and Ilyushins) via Canadian based companies. These were used in Haiti 2003 and to deliver the DART team post Asian Tsunami in 2005.

            The C-17s were used in Haiti in 2010, though they were too big to access many regions. Much of the aid work was performed by C-130s. C-17s have mainly been used in support of the last two years of the Afghan deployment.

        • Isn't uncertainty actually a strong argument for getting a multirole fighter like the F-35?

  5. As an aside, I remember seeing Angus Watt on CBC's The Fifth Estate saying how he and others in the Forces felt betrayed by Russell WIlliams. Watt had helped Williams move up in his career. Thus I am left with a bit of a creepy feeling when I read his words.

    • Because you are ready to blame Watt for Russell's personal monstrosities? Hello?

      Sounds from your words like Watt feels terrible about it, even though it wasn't his fault. Would you feel better if Watt said he was proud of Russell's military and personal accomplishments?

      • I think you're overreacting. "leigh" did say it was an aside, duly credits Watt with feeling horrible about Williams' conduct, and simply notes that reading the same guy's words in a different context stirred bad feelings.

        • If it was so much of an aside, why do you suppose leigh felt compelled to share his or her sense of creepiness in a discussion of the merits of F-35s?

          Your defense makes me wonder if it's ok to get creeped out seeing a nun saving cholera victims' lives in Haiti because some priests have abused altar boys. At some point, the disconnect should be recognized

          • I was trying to be charitable and not assume the worst of someone.

          • I agree with your point madyoulook. Leigh is trying to discredit Mr.Watt and thereby discredit his opinion.

  6. The F-35 is going to turn out to be a lemon. There are other 5th generation fighter planes out there that are much better suited for Canada, for instance the F-15 Silent Eagle is a superior plane when it comes to high altitude interception.

    5th generation planes are defined by anything built after 2005, it is not about stealth or new technology, it only means when they built.

    • No, "5th generation" generally refers to the technology incorporated into the new generation of aircraft, including, but not exclusively, stealth. You could build a replica Spitfire after 2005, but that would not make it a "5th generation" fighter. There are, in fact, no other fifth generation fighters available for purchase by Canada. The F-22 is not for sale. The F-15 SE is an upgrade of a 1970s airframe. It is capable, but by the end of the life span of Canada's next fighter – which will be in service likely until 2050 at least, the F-15 design would be nearing ninety years old Given the limited resources available to the Canadian Forces, and the fact they will only be able to buy one type of combat jet for the next several decades, it makes no sense to buy an aiframe design at the end of its life cycle, no matter how capable it may be today.

      • True, but I think most would expect anything built after 2005 to include the new technology.

        In regards to the F-15 SE, it is a re-engineered airframe and includes all the new technology and stealth capability that the F-35 has. Add to it, that it is the superior plane when it comes to high-altitude interception and can still be used in ground assaults, it is a plane that can provide Canada with the requirements it needs. But the main point being that there are alternatives out there for 5th gen fighters, the F-15 SE being one of them.

        I stand by my belief that the F-35 will be a lemon. One of the major reasons why is because of the carbon-fiber parts. When they quickly lose their integrity the whole piece has to replaced, not just parts and yes they will lose their strength quickly, g-force has shown not to be too good on the new carbon-fiber exoskeleton.

  7. Specifying everything can be equivalent to specifying nothing – a hedge in other words. Or an insurance policy. And could turn out to be a rather expensive insurance policy. Time will tell.

  8. My understanding of Gen. Watt's remarks is that Canada needs the new fighters to meet its NATO obligations – they aren't needed for national defence. Have the NATO leaders gotten together and agreed on what their global security requirements are, and on what portion of these requirements has been allocated to each NATO member state? Unless this discussion has taken place, Canada's military leaders are just guessing how many fighter jets need to be purchased.

    And a parallel discussion that needs to take place: if Canada goes ahead and purchases the jets, what economic tradeoffs need to be made? Given that Canada is already in a deep deficit position, what programs would need to be cut in order to pay for these jets? How is this spending being budgeted?

    Gen. Watt envisions that the new fighters will meet Canada's security needs until 2050. By then (depending on who you believe) the global economy may have collapsed, or climate change may have rendered large parts of the world uninhabitable, thus threatening human civilization. State-of-the-art fighter jets won't help solve either of these problems.

    • NATO is an essential part of our national defence, and that has been recognized by every government since 1949. It is a false dichotomy to suggest Canada's defence interests are substantially different than those of NATO.

    • Addressing your three points separately:

      1. NATO is governed by a Parliamentary Assembly, where delegates from member countries make these decisions.

      2. Canada is currently in a deficit position, but is unlikely to be beyond 2015. The spending on these jets is not expected until beyond them. The Conservatives have only announced that they intend to buy the F-35.

      3. You are certainly 'out there' if you believe that in the next 40 years the global economy will collapse or climate change will threaten human civilization. In the last millennium, individual countries and empires have collapsed, but never world trade. Alarmism regarding global climate change tends to occur when you take all of the predicted effects and imagine what would happen if they all occur right now! The reality is that the predicted effects (rising sea levels, changes in average temperatures & rainfalls, etc) will occur slowly over the next century, and humans will change in response through migration and mitigation.

    • Out There –

      Try to separate the replacement of the mid-term retiring CF-18 Hornets with alternative tactical airframes with the hypothetical future events of global financial crises and global warming disasters. Not having a Hornet replacement in operation will not in any way help Canada's position in either one of the two potential scenarios mentioned. If you're going to gamble, it's better to bet on the smarter money always, bro.

  9. Very informative.

    Still, I remain unconvinced by an argument that distills down to: if we had a competition, then the competitors may actually compete and that might be a distraction for DND.

    Governments have an obligation to defend the nation. They also have an obligation to use our tax dollars efficiently. Suggesting that the latter is difficult, so we'll just focus on the former is simply unacceptable.

    • The argument would be more aptly described as" There is no point in having a competition when it is obvious what the outcome will be". The other example which Gen. Watts could have given of the dangers of competion is the American air tanker debacle. Aerospace companies are quite happy to cripple any defence procurement project by litigation and lobbying, legal and illegal, if it keeps a competitor from winning and keeps the prospect alive that they might win a competition. If there were real alternatives available, there would be a good argument for a competition. In this case there does not seem to be that need – and the real risk that attempting to hold a competition will simply allow the project to slide further and further behind schedule – for no appreciable benefit to Canada.

      • Why test when "we" already know the likely outcome? Why shop when we already know we're getting the best price?

        I presume you make the same argument for testing in schools, maybe elections, trials. That would simplify things! .

        Really, it's nonsense.

        • The examples you give are different because we only kind of know the outcome of tests, elections, etc. in advance. Military procurement requires that the DoD specify certain minimum specifications on what they want. The F-35 is the only aircraft that satisfies our requirements period. The risk in having a competition is that potential competitors will allege that the competition was unfair because the specifications were tailored to a particular plane. They would be correct too, although their being correct is somewhat incidental, since there is only one fifth generation aircraft out there.

  10. The F-22 is leaving production in the near future. The US is planning to stop buying them (last one being made scheduled for 2011 currently). Furthermore the F-22 is not 'better' than the F-35, it's different. It's a pure interceptor while the F-35 is more general purpose. It's also more expensive per-unit because the unit cost is not watered down by being purchased as the main weapon of many western allies.

    If the jet purchase was meant for dogfighting with Russian pilots the F-22s increased maneuverability could be important. But as you seem to have caught on, air supremacy is hardly going to be a battle we're going to win. Where the F-35's stealth capability will matter is against ground-to-air defense systems that are common even in the unstable areas of the world our forces may be expected to act. It's easy for me to accept that if Canada is to continue having an air force (which for the purpose of being able to meet our commitments to help our allies that keep us safe we probably should) the F-35 purchase is the right way to go.

  11. Oh, we are getting new planes, and yes, the Liberals have bigger things to worry about!

  12. I'm an American who follows military aviation alot. I've posted about this before, but I think the Canadian Forces would be much better off with the latest F-18 model. The F-18E/F/G SuperHornet is not 10-20 from being obsolete, it's getting less expensive to make.

    124 aircraft for USD 5.3 billion, or USD 42.72 million per copy was the last US DoD contract with Boeing in September. F-35 is going to cost what, $138-145 million a piece?

    F-18E/F/G has the range, two engines, single or two seat and can be used for reconnaissance or even refueling other aircraft that have a refueling probe.

    • You present good points for Canadian Gov to consider, those not yet openly debated in detail, imho.

  13. Is your solution to sit and pout until the Americans sell us the Raptor? That's not gonna happen, but don't feel too down, they won't sell it to anyone else either.

    The F-35 is the best multi-role aircraft available. I think this contract should have a close eye kept on it after Shelias revelations. I also believe that the F-35 is "the best jets to keep our pilots alive", and it's hard to put a price tag on that.

  14. LtGen Watt made the best articulated argument thus far for the need of an advanced tactical jet replacement of the CF-18 Hornet.

    Fair enough, most could concur with that… that Canada's Air Defences and global participation still need to be relevant and capable, etc, but I disagree with his conclusion: that the F-35 absolutely needs to be 'that' jet at any cost!

    I'm sorry General, but you need to better defend the need for Canada to NOT go to tender on this selection and NOT to hold a competitive flyoff based on both performance and price by 2013!

    Yes, Canada still needs a modern tactical jet to replace the Hornets. But No, there is not a credible justification nor analysis in this interview here, to say that future systems upgraded on other alternative 4.5 gen platforms can't be a more cost-effective alternative for a long-term operational Hornet-replacement.

    God speed.

  15. Yeah, but Canada would be more strategic minded to 'hold over' until she can develop here OWN military aviation base by the mid-20s! See??

    Besides, I won't go into the technical details here in public, but if I were going to take a fixed budget and custom fit Canada's block III Super Hornet to go against your entry level F-35A force equipped under the same fixed budget, my 4 ship of block 3 Supers would unfortunately own your 4-ship of F-35A block III in an Air to Air contest. (budgets being equal). Yes, there are other valid, cost-effective options. Go to competition, Canada will win.

  16. I have a problem when a general seems to be determining requirements based on his own opinions about what future military engagements abroad he thinks will ensure our prosperity and security. This determination, about whether Canada will spend the next 50 years in bombing missions really has to come from Parliament, and this is a debate that parliamentarians have not yet had. We're done with Afghanistan and we have no other similar commitments on the horizon, but there is still a great demand around the world for peacekeeping, for disaster relief, and other types of missions.

    We really need to have this debate first, without the generals. Besides consuming ever increasing quantities of taxpayer funds, what do we want our armed forces to be doing in coming years?

    • Who's preventing this debate from occurring? In fact, it would seem as though the Liberals are reversing their position on this purchase in order to debate this during a campaign. What could be more democratic?

      And you seem to be predicting certain types of uses for the military, while completely dismissing others. Yes, we need humanitarian uses for the military. But we need military uses for the military, too. Unless, of course, this world will change its nature some time soon.

    • So you want Parliamentarians debating openly in the House of Commons about who we may have to engage in combat over the next fifty years? – That would make interesting headlines to say the least, and give our Diplomats a good work out too!
      Of course MP's will make the final decisions, but they're smart enough to know they need expert opinion from a range of professionals including generals. At least the MP's who are responsible for the government's decisions know this, the Opposition MP's don't have the restraint of being responsible for anything or protecting anyone, they can blather bromides all day long.

  17. The reality is that people who are against buying the F-35 are against the Air Force having any offensive capability at all. Do you think that all those curdled hippies from the 60's and 70's just disappeared? They are still around, but they attempt to cloak their communism in phoney altrusim. I don't see there being any point in trying to convince non-believers in the legitimacy of national defence – screw them. Personally, I see zero importance in paying for the CBC, Dept of Indian Affairs etc, yet none of the pinkos who created these programs feel the need to justify them to me. When the commies are in power we get stupid, useless social programs and government depts…when my boys are in power, we get prisons and fighter jets. My boys are in power now – deal with it.

  18. Jan, first of all, it's "weigh in." Second of all, you're more than welcome to "weigh" in on my post instead of farting on it, as per usual. Thank you.

    • Sorry – Dennis – I must have had the word weight – as in light – when I posted this. I see your new obsession is flatulence. Irony is alive and well.

      • You're more than welcome to post some substance for a change, "Jan," instead of doing your usual knee-jerk pro-Liberal nonsense.

  19. The comment…"the best value for the money", shows how out of touch and irrelevant Mr. Watt is. We have no idea what said money will be. The purchase price is based on units sold. Countries all around the world, including the US are reducing or outright canceling their orders. The final price may be double of what is being tossed around now.

    On the technical side…isn't there more to our needs then just attacking some villagers/"terrorists" in another godforsaken country halfway around the world? How is a single engine aircraft, with poor fuel consumption going to help patrol our north?

    The F18 SuperHornet is a much better plane for Canada, not the US or NATO, for Canada at a fraction of the cost.

    Before I listen to any ex military type, I want to know who signs his paycheck, is he a registered lobbyist and what are his ties to the US military complex. I do not want a sales pitch, I want an objective analysis void of any influence direct of indirect.

  20. These Military 'Wags' have simply lost their way when it comes to 'cost containment'
    and their so called military requirements seem to be so arbitrary.
    1) when we previously purchased the F 18 our Military leaders indicated a basic, necessary
    requirement was to purchase a two (2) engine aircraft. However now this basic, critical requirement
    is out the window with the Single engine F 35.
    2) how can we rationalize paying $125 mil + per Aircraft for something that has only One Engine?
    The Pilot somehow stalls or some other mishap and instead of having an Additonal Engine to allow
    him to safely land – we lose an expensive aircraft. Where is the basic sense in this?
    2) a) the Cdn Govt could purchase Qty 100 of the F 15s, with 50 of those being the latest Stealth version (F15SE),
    for approx $8 billion.
    b) this would thereby provide $8 bil in savings to the Cdn taxpayer by not spending $16 bil on F 35.
    c) The F 15, built by Boeing, would have all the 'bells and whistles' our Pilots would
    possibly need – whether it be interception of Russian bombers, probing our Airspace, or for another
    Bosnian type military requirement. Also the F 15 is a highly proven, reliable, 4.5 Generation aircraft.
    d) by being able to purchase Qty 100 F 15s we of course would have more aircraft to meet Cdn Military
    requirements – both foreign and domestic.
    3) why is it that we don't read about the Chinese Military not getting involved in these incredibly expensive,
    'boondoggle' programs? Because they are just sitting back laughing at the US's out of cost control Military
    Industrial Complex. And we get sucked into these 'boondoggles' because we don't want to upset the Americans?
    4) the Americans wouldn't buy our Avro Arrow – thereby dooming our state of the art interceptor – so why should
    we be so committed to the F 35 'boondoggle'?

    • Isn't this the kind of thing that would be covered if we had an open bid? As a taxpayer, it is a little unsettling that our government is the only one still cheerleading the F 35 on. Everyone else, including the U.S. government has been putting on the breaks. Can't help but wonder who is exerting the pressure on us.

      • brakes, brakes…

      • They've been covered extensively without a bid, which is simply a process involving private companies pursuing their own interests.

        You Liberals would buy the exact same planes, and you know it. This is politics at the expense of our troops and workers in the aviation industry.

        And since when did someone like you speak on behalf of the taxpayer? lol