According to a report in the Toronto Star, Team Trudeau may have found a way to (at least) appear to square the fighter “capability gap” circle. The report quotes RCAF top dog, Lieutenant General Michael Hood as saying that ““The government has announced a policy whereby the Royal Canadian Air Force is required to simultaneously meet both our NORAD and NATO commitments,” Hood told senators … [and] … “I am at present unable to do that with the present CF-18 fleet. There aren’t enough aircraft to deliver those commitments simultaneously.”
But, the article goes on to say, quoting General Hood’s testimony, again: “Before the change, while the air force had standing commitments to NORAD and NATO, Hood suggested there was more flexibility to manage the fleet … [but] … “That commitment is now a firm commitment with respect to this policy change so we will meet it,” he said … [and] … “I’ve been told I will be given all the resources I need to increase the numbers available. I’m happy the government is investing in the Royal Canadian Air Force,” he said.” That does solve the problem of General Hood’s previous statement that there was no “capability gap;” the government just changed the rules and created one.
There is some conjecture, over on Army.ca, about what those numbers might mean: is it, say, 70± (the number of CF-18 Hornet aircraft we might still expect to have “flyable” in, say, 2020 + 18 new Super Hornets ≈ 80± instead of the 65 the previous government promised?
The previous government did not pull that number of 65 completely out of thin air (or some other place where the sun doesn’t shine). You can see some logic to it: 2 squadrons, each of 12 aircraft (24) dedicated to NORAD (only 24 because the F-35 Lightening is very, very much more capable in the NORAD/interceptor role than the CF-18) and 2 more squadrons (24 aircraft for a total, thus far, of 48) in “general” roles ~ available for NORAD or NATO or other tasks, and one squadron (12 aircraft) as an “operational training unit” and 5 aircraft for logistical and maintenance stock. At $9 Billion for that fleet it was seen to be pretty much the top end of the fiscal load that the Canadian taxpayer might be asked to bear.
But, the devil, as they say, is in the details, and numbers and money are two of those devils. The Star article goes on to quote Dave Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute: “Defence analyst Dave Perry said the revelation helps explain the government’s complaints of a “capability gap,” that the existing fleet of CF-18s are unable to meet Canada’s commitments even though upgrades will keep them flying until 2025 … [and] … In fact, it appears the Liberals themselves created the gap with the policy change, requiring the air force to have fighters ready to meet demands to protect North American airspace while also responding to NATO needs abroad … [therefore] … “This government has decided as a matter of policy, it’s now a firm commitment rather than a flexible one,” said Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute … [further] … if Canada now requires more than 65 fighters, Perry wonders about the budget … [but] … “They made clear that 65 won’t cut it, I’d be very interested to know where all the money for this is going to come from,” he said.“
The implications of this policy change are large: more aircraft, even a few more, means more people and more facilities and more supply chain and, and, and … I, personally, simply do not believe that the Trudeau regime intends to spend an extra red cent on the military so this is nothing but smoke and mirrors: a conjurer’s trick to make the feeble minded, disinterested (in defence) majority think that the Liberals actually have a plan to get the right aircraft for Canada at the right price, etc.
In fact, I think that Prime Minister Trudeau wants to emasculate the military ~ he will try, I suspect, to do by neglect what his father tried, circa 1969 and 70, to do by policy: to make the Canadian Armed Forces irrelevant and, eventually, too expensive to restore to utility. I also believe that retired Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie, the Chief Government Whip and retired Lieutenant Colonel Harjit Sajjan, the Minister of national Defence, understand what the PM is trying to do and I guess that they, combined, lack the political capability to change his mind, and also, I fear, they also lack the moral courage to do the right thing and resign in protest.