Idea alert

Paul Mitchell, a defence studies professor at Canadian Forces College, says now might be the time for turboprops.

Still, there are real concerns about the F-35 program, despite the benefits outlined above. Just 65 airframes will be purchased: we are not getting a lot of capability for the money we will spend and that will be all the offensive air capability we will get for the next 30 to 40 years. Our 79 CF-18s already have difficulty meeting our Norad commitments as well as having sufficient numbers for international operations. Further, there will be no room for losses — a sobering thought considering we have lost 17 CF-18s since 1982 in just peacetime operations…

The most likely avenue of attack from the air on Canada today is not from a lumbering Bear bomber, but rather a small privately owned commercial aircraft. The American Norad commander, Admiral James Winnefeld, recently called for aircraft that can fly “low and slow” in order to counter this threat; “F-16s don’t fly slow very well,” he said. The same could be said of the F-35. A turboprop aircraft like Embraer’s “Super Tucano” or Beechcraft’s AT-6B (whose engines are manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Canada in Nova Scotia) would easily fit this bill. At roughly $6-million per copy, we could outfit the air force with 10 times the number of airframes.

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