First as tragedy then as farce

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Murray Brewster, reporting for CBC News, tells us that the CF-18 replacement saga has gone from a tragedy ~ a lie about capability gaps, anyway ~ to farce because, he says, “If Canada ever buys Boeing Super Hornet jet fighters, it would be better off with the two-seat variant because they would fetch a better price on the resale market, military planners told the commander of the air force earlier this year … [because] … An internal defence department analysis, obtained by CBC News, also spells out clearly that the 18 warplanes Canada hoped to buy would not be kept once a permanent replacement is purchased for the existing fleet of CF-18s.

“Oh, what a tangled web”, and all that …

Formal Portrait of LGen Hood

Back in the late spring of 2016 the Trudeau Liberals, who did not want to follow through with a major upgrade of the CF-18 Hornet fleet which would keep them flying until theplanned purchase of 65 F-35 Lightnings came to pass, decided that it would be better to buy 18 Super Hornets as an interim measure, despite the fact that just weeks before Minister Sajjan’s announcement of a “capability gap” Lieutenant General Hood, the Commander of the RCAF, had “told a Parliamentary committee Canada has enough fighters to meet its national and international obligations until at least 2025.”

But the Trudeau Liberals were trying to “end run” the process. They had promised, in 2015 …

Screenshot 2016-05-27 08.16.54

… they knew that, based on that promise, “an open and transparent competition” would be impossible but they guessed that Canadians would’t really remember that bit so they decided that Canada, unlike almost every other important Western ally,  didn’t need a 5th Generation fighter and they planned (I have been told) to rig the process by creating a mythical  “capability gap” which they would “close” by buying 18 of the 4.5 Generation  Super Hornets and then, a few years later, after the 2019 election, they would “sole source” an order for 70 more Super Hornets to Boeing in return for some preferential deals that would benefit Bombardier. But Boeing, secure in its ability to sell military hardware to Uncle Sam and use the profits to prop up its commercial fleet against AirBus saw the rise of the Bombardier C-series commuter jet as a big problem … bigger than the profits from a 88 plane deal.

I need to be crystal clear about one point: strategic decisions, including how much of anything is needed to meet Canada’s defence capability requirements, is the government’s decision. Military people, including the commanders of the three services, are mere technical advisors. So, if Justin Trudeau wanted to say that Canada needed 88 rather then 65 first line fighter-bombers then that was his prerogative … as it must remain. Prime Minister Trudeau wanted more jets so more jets it is.

But,” Mr Brewster reports, “the documents, dated Jan. 26, 2017, leave no doubt what would happen to the jets“Canada would be required to dispose of the Super Hornets once the permanent fighter replacement fleet was acquired for the RCAF,” said the analysis. “Initial information suggest that the resale value of the two-seat FA-18F aircraft would be higher than that of the single-seat FA-18E model.”

It must be clear, even to Justin Trudeau, that Harjit Sajjan is, still, the weakest link in the CF-18 procurement (or “No F-35s”) chain. There needs to come a time when tokenism should give way to competence. But the same, I suggest, applies to much (not all, to be sure) of his cabinet and his executive team in the PMO. This government is, in matters of national defence, especially, disconnected from reality when it is not downright inept … but it has managed to prove Karl Marx right in one thing, anyway.

 

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