The Commons: Think of the F-35 as a Senate with wings

Though at least the Senate can operate in cloudy weather


Perhaps the F-35 is best understood as a Senate with wings. Or perhaps the Senate is the F-35 that we mistakenly assigned to guard our democracy.

Either way, they are both now easy jokes.

“Mr. Speaker, yet another report from the United States is raising disturbing questions about the F-35,” Thomas Mulcair reported at the outset this afternoon. “Serious problems have been identified with the aircraft’s radar, helmet and cockpit design. Pilots report that the plane is actually incapable of flying through clouds.”

The New Democrats laughed.

“Who knew that this was one of the requirements,” Mr. Mulcair quipped.

The New Democrats laughed again.

“Worse yet, the former head of the U.S. Navy is now suggesting that the F-35A, the model Conservatives plan to buy, should be scrapped entirely,” the NDP leader concluded. “Will the Prime Minister give a straightforward answer? Will he admit that he has made a mistake and agree to full, open and honest competition to replace the CF-18, yes or no?”

The Prime Minister would do no such thing.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Harper declared, “the government has been very clear.”

Indeed. Mr. Harper’s government has been very clear. And not just once on this file, but twice.

In the beginning, it was very much clear that the F-35 very much needed to be purchased or this country was very much doomed. “This is the option that was selected some time ago, because it is the only option available,” the Prime Minister said almost exactly two years ago. “This is the only fighter available that serves the purposes that our air force needs.”

So maybe Mr. Harper was thinking then that our air force doesn’t need to fly through clouds. But since the auditor general’s report of a year ago, the government has been very clear again: this time that it’s actually not sure what kind of plane it wants.

“In response to the Auditor General’s report, we have laid out a process for the procurement of the next generation of Canadian fighter and that obviously involves looking at all the options and also making sure that we receive a full range of independent advice,” the Prime Minister explained this afternoon. “The most important thing for us is that when the CF-18s reach the end of their life expectancy, that there be aircraft there for our men and women in uniform.”

The New Democrats, alas, were not quite ready to let this go. Later it was Christine Moore who stood to recall that the Defence Minister had once proclaimed the F-35 to the best plane for this country. In his seat, Peter MacKay, no longer the minister to stand and take these questions, nodded along and shared a few thoughts with his seatmates.

According to that Pentagon report, Ms. Moore reported, the F-35 was no good in temperatures under 15 degrees and pilots should avoid clouds even in good weather. It was Rona Ambrose’s duty to fend this off.

“Mr. Speaker,” she said, “my understanding yesterday was that the opposition wanted us to just ban one particular aircraft and that is not what we are going to do.”

Indeed. Who would think of so rashly limiting the procurement of a new fighter jet?

“We have embarked on a full options analysis before the purchase or any decision to replace the CF-18s,” Ms. Ambrose explained. “We are using the expert advice of a panel that is looking at every option available to replace the CF-18, and we will be guided by its advice.”

There is apparently no option, but to consider all options.

“Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives committed to buying the F-35 multiple times,” Matthew Kellway corrected. “They told us it is on the right track multiple times. According to the Pentagon, the F-35 needs a heated hanger in Florida, it cannot fly at night, and the pilots stay out of the clouds.”

The New Democrats laughed along as Mr. Kellway went.

“They got the headrest wrong,” he lamented. “How can the Conservatives claim to have a legitimate procurement process when they are pitting real fighter jets against paper planes?”

Ms. Ambrose was once more unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker,” she explained, “unlike the opposition we will be guided by an independent process that is in place.”

The official opposition chuckled once more.

Perhaps this is all a bit unfair to the F-35. It is still early yet. Perhaps, like the Senate, the F-35 is not being treated with due respect. Maybe it just needs to be reformed. But then at least we can say that the Senate might periodically save us from an errant clause. As yet, we can’t know whether the F-35 will ever be able to save us from the Russians.


The Commons: Think of the F-35 as a Senate with wings

  1. ‘A Senate with wings’. Perfect!

    • When pigs fly!

      • By the sound of it, pigs fly better than the F-35.

        • And they really have the stealth down.

      • To justin Flontek
        When Australia at the time had the F-111s, the aircraft was called the “Pig”.

  2. It is disappointing that the discussion about the replacement for the F18s has descended into a debate about the technical merits of the F35 and its contenders.

    The more important discussion that we all should be having is why Canada needs such a capability.

    The Russians, Chinese, and the USA all covet our resources. They are not stupid. They have discovered that it is far easier to buy our resources and the companies that produce them than it is to bomb us into oblivion! So that is what they are doing. No role for fighter aircraft or submarines here.

    The other more insidious threats we face can also NOT be countered with high tech fighter jets or, for that matter, submarines.

    Are we planning to go bomb some third world nation? That makes no sense. I believe that most Canadians want no part of that insanity.

    If I am right then please lets start thinking outside the box and come up with a useful, affordable, realistic role for the CAF. Let us not buy equipment for traditional symbolic reasons!

  3. Not only can the F-35 not fly through clouds, or come within 25 miles of the thunderstorm, or fly at night, or even so much as launch a weapon yet… It also needs to be stored in a nice warm, heated hanger if the temperature is expected to drop below 15˚C.

    Maybe we should consider buying our fighters from a country that has a limited defence budget, cold weather, and loves hockey. Since Canada doesn’t have one, how about Sweden and their Saab Gripen?


    • Russia ?

  4. Hey Arron, in your little joke of an article you failed to mention that the F-35A aircraft tested only had the basic Block 1A software and so didn’t have a lot of it’s advanced systems operation for practical reasons. Which proves my point that politicans and jouranlists are not qualified to comment on the F-35.


    • Best leave to cowboys and CONmen then.

      • or Aeronautical Engineers and test pilots…….

        • You should read the report. The test pilots were complaining loudly that they would be dead meat in those aircraft if they were in combat, and that the helmet created more problems than it fixed.

    • Isn’t the point really that perhaps we should hold off on picking the F35 as our replacement fighter until it’s shown that it can perform advanced functions such as flying at night, flying through clouds in good weather, or sitting on the ground in weather colder than 15 degrees Celsius?

      I’m not saying that we should wait for any unreasonable milestones before picking it (like, pilots being able to see what’s behind them, or the ability to, say, fire weapons) but being able to park the thing outside in Canada in months with an R in their name might be a nice feature to see successfully accomplished in testing before we make any commitments.

        • Yes, I’m quite certain that the F35 will go through extensive testing in cold and hot environments.

          The key word there is WILL.

          I’m not saying that the F35 shouldn’t be considered for the RCAF. I’m saying that it shouldn’t be CHOSEN before the testing is at least far enough along that the ability to park it outside is a feature that it HAS, not a feature that it WILL have, in the future.

          • Why do you hate the troops, LKO?

          • Troop-haters don’t need a reason.

        • Used car salespeople must love you….

  5. yes let’s reform the f35. We can vote for our favorite

  6. The F35 procurement was primarily to find an alternative supplier to Boeing for the American military. For planes all other suppliers have lost all capability to design or manufacture fighters. This procurement was to fix the problem. It is a problem if there is only one supplier. It has ended up to be a disaster.

  7. I prefer to think of the Senate as an F-35 that flies.

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