Back in 2015, during the election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised that …
… now, of course, I knew, and many of you knew and most Canadians knew, in their heads, that Justin Trudeau, then and now, knows nothing and cares even less about fighter jets and the defence of Canada, but the media ~ 99% of which also knows and cares nothing about fighter jets ~ was all over the project because the costs didn’t make sense. In fairness, it is very likely that the Conservative cabinet and the RCAF were both “cooking the books” a bit to make the costs seem low, while critics, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, were also “fiddling the figures” to make the costs seem higher. But Canadians rarely vote with their heads, and their hearts told them that it was time for Stephen Harper’s CPC government to spend a while on the opposition benches while the really, really nice, good looking, albeit slightly air-head celebrity got a chance to entertain us with his sunny ways.
The F-35, the Liberals say, is not the best fighter for Canada and, now they have decided to spend several billion on Super Hornets which may serve only for a decade and then only as a political stop-gap.
But Business Insider (quoting the authoritative Aviation Week) says that “Early results came in from the US Air Force’s realistic, challenging Red Flag air combat exercise — and it looks like the F-35 slaughtered the competition.” To be fair, just because it “slaughtered the competition” in a very realistic, ‘many-on-many’ battle simulation, and just because “the Joint Strike Fighter killed 15 aggressors for each F-35 downed … [and] … The F-35 achieved this remarkable ratio in a drastically increased threat environment that included radar jamming, increased air threats, and surface-to-air missile batteries,” doesn’t mean that it is the best fighter to protect our sovereignty by intercepting enemy intruders, even when our air defence radars are being jammed, and to support Canadian naval and ground forces even when, again, radars are being jammed, there are many opposition aircraft, and hostile surface-to-air missile batteries are firing at our planes … I mean there is a possibility that Justin Trudeau and Harjit Sajjan are not talking through their hats. I don’t think so, but one must allow fore that possibility. I think this was a cynical promise made to sink another spear into Stephen Harper’s credibility as a manager because, thanks to his own ministers and officials having “fun with numbers,”* and thanks to a generally ignorant and often openly hostile media, Canadians had become convinced that the F-35 was some sort of boondoggle ~ and, to be fair, “The F-35 repeatedly hit cost and schedule overruns during its production and is now years behind schedule,”~ and they, Canadians were happy to vote for someone who would make it “just go way.”
But, Business Insider suggests, “the latest performance at Red Flag shows that even a handful of F-35s can improve an entire squadron’s performance,” but Canada is going to buy a handful of older, 4th generation, Super-Hornet fighters, which don’t have the technology to integrate weapons and sensors and information that the F-35 does, to fill a “capability gap” that the RCAF said never existed but which the Liberals created by redefining the operational requirements. In effect we’re going to spend billions on an aircraft we don’t need in order to kick an embarrassing political can down the road so that yet another Liberal promise will not be broken.
* And there were persistent reports that admirals and generals (and officials and even ministers) tried to “direct” requirements towards specific ships or tanks or aircraft. Were all those rumours just lies? I don’t know, and neither does the media, so some of the “mud” stuck in the public mind ~ a public which often sees “big ticket” military hardware projects as just more “toys for the boys.”