So, let us, as the bridge players say, review the bidding:
- Back in 2015 Justin Trudeau solemnly promised that Canada would not buy the F-35. It seems to me that he will look terribly weak and even silly if he breaks that promise;
- At the same time (same link) he promised to “immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft.” That promise can, I suspect, be much more easily broken ~ who knows, after all, or cares about open and transparent competitions?
- Next the Liberals created an 18 plane “capability gap” which they proposed to fill by sole sourcing (how open and transparent is that?) the purchase of 18 Super Hornet fighters from Boeing. There is a rumour (nothing more than that) floating around in Ottawa that the Liberal plan was that sometime after the 2019 election they (the Liberals) would make the “capability gap” disappear, but because the Super Hornets would be doing such a great job ~ a couple of RCAF generals and a tame defence “expert” or two would be paraded in front of a parliamentary committee or two to attest to that fact ~ they would buy 50 more of them, bringing the total up to the 65+ that theConservatives had promised way back when;
- But Boeing went after Bombardier, a company that Justin Trudeau had made the equal of Canada, itself, over government subsidies and now Trudeau has promised not to do any business with Boeing … see my first comment about appearing weak and even silly which now seems to apply to a decision to buy any (available) US made fighter jet;
- Canada will not buy any of the Chinese fighter jets, and since South Korea’s 5th generation fighter isn’t flying yet that leaves only a handful of European 4.5 generation aircraft ~
- The Eurofighter Typhoon,
- Dassault’s Rafale, and
- Saab’s Gripen-E …
… all of which are competing for international sales as alternatives to the F-35.
The choice ought to be totally out of the military’s hands by now … operational requirements and logistics, even costs and interoperability with the USA in NORAD, must be the very last things that bother the Liberals. The only question is: which of these might bring the Liberals the most benefits or, at the very least, do the least damage to the party’s credibility.
Bombardier might be part of the answer.
While Saab appears to no longer produces civil aircraft it might be interested in re-entering the market, despite the overwhelming competition from Airbus. Dassault still produces the Falcon series of small jets and is now testing a large cabin aircraft ~ something akin to a Bombardier C series jet. Korean Aerospace already partners with Bombardier, building parts for several Bombardier products. Might one of these companies be willing to “sweeten” the deal by selling Canada a fleet of first line fighter jets, partially built or assembled, in Quebec, and taking over the troubled Canadian aerospace “champion?”
Prime Minister Trudeau has dug a political hole from which it will be difficult and messy to extract himself and Canada. It seems pretty clear to me that he will need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to solve this. Will France, Korea or Sweden provide the hat?