Promises, promises (2)

Dunne_1---Lockheed-Martin-F-35_Lightning_IIs2011-09-30Well, well, well, who woulda thunk it? The F-35 is back in the news … for Canada. You remember the F-35? It’s the aircraft that, just last year, on the campaign trail, Justin Trudeau promised not to buy … instead, he said, Canada would hold an “open and transparent” competition (but one which, somehow would be rigged to exclude the F-35) to pick the right airplane for Canada.

Screenshot 2016-05-27 08.16.54There’s only one slight problem … well, maybe two or three or four …

First: it appears that the US didn’t get the message. Oh, Lockheed-Martin, the giant US aerospace contractor was polite enough, but now, the Globe and Mail reports, “A top American officer who leads the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, based in Virginia, travelled to Ottawa on Oct. 14 to meet with Canadian officials who are working on the purchase of Canada’s next fleet of fighter jets. Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan discussed the ongoing development of the state-of-the-art fighter jet, which has clients around the world but is still facing a series of technological problems, officials said … [and] … The visit from Lt.-Gen. Bogdan came at a crucial time, as a small team of Liberal ministers are set to choose one of three options to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s: launch a full and open competition; buy a small number of fighter jets for an interim fleet; or purchase an entire fleet of jets through a sole-sourced acquisition.” I suspect there have been some phone calls, too. The F-35 is an important programme in the Pentagon. The steadily escalating costs of sophisticated, 21st century military hardware means that joint projects, procuring things that all three services need and can use, literally must work. The days of the USAF, USN and USMC flying different jet fighters are gone, ditto for attack helicopters and many electronic systems … one size must fit all budgets. The F-35 must be a success as both a joint (Navy, Air Force, Marines) and combined (multi-national) project … and the multi-national bit matters a lot. One of the F-35’s great strengths is its “data fusion” capabilities ~ networked combat is almost with us, having allied fleets of F-35 is a force multiplier. Many very senior people in the US, in the permanent, unelected power structure, have a lot invested in the F-35. They will not look kindly on Canada screwing the project.

Second: there are, really, no better alternatives, especially not on price ~ there are a couple of good, capable aircraft out there and one of them might be “good enough” IF a vendor can do a deal to rescue Bombardier at the same time. The pressure is intense to ‘do something’ for (about?) Bombardier but my sense is that many, many senior officials in Ottawa are very unhappy with the management of the family run company and are telling ministers and the PM to withhold money until Bombardier restructures itself to allow more professional, less capricious management.

Third: the clock is ticking on the CF-18. As the Globe and Mail says, the government is weighing options but one of them, which is doubtless being raised by Finance and the Treasury Board …

… is to buy the cheapest aircraft, and my sense, (based on what I read and hear on the rumour net) again, is that the F-35 might be the least expensive option, over time.

promises_promises_revival_logo-1This is about a lot more than just a jet fighter. Our relationship with the USA is the most important one we have. Campaign promises may be small things compared to that. A these things go, the promise to not buy the F-35 was a small thing …

2 thoughts on “Promises, promises (2)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s