I speculated, a few days ago, that Canada was facing some stark choices ~ only some (expensive) European 4.5 generation jet fighters are currently available to meet the RCAF’s stated (just implied? I haven’t read the Chief of the Air Staff’s Statement of Operational Requirement or whatever they are called now) requirement for a 5th generation aircraft.
But it occurs to me ~ and I’m still speculating, even a bit wildly, I guess ~ that there might be an alternative… a readily available, 5th generation, US fighter plane that is part of a project in which we are current, paid up, participants. It’s the Lockheed-Martin F-35, of course … oh, I know, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau solemnly promised to not buy the F-35, but he’s broken so many promises that I doubt that anyone will really notice if he does a sharp about turn and announces that “things have changed.”
And, of course, things have changed: Boeing, to whom the Trudeau regime had planned, according to some rumours, to sole source an order for 65+ Super Hornets, went after Bombardier and got massive (220%) support from the Trump Administration, in what amounted to being an attack on Canada’s aerospace sector. (Thanks to Greg Perry who draws for the Toronto Star.) But why should Trudeau change horses in mid-stream? Because Bombardier needs help … more help, I suspect, than the Canadian and Quebec governments can provide.
The global civil aviation sector has been contracting since the 1960s … remember Douglas, maker of the legendary DC-3 Dakota? and McDonnell who made the Banshee that the Royal Canadian Navy flew in the 1950s and the CF-101 Voodoo that the RCAF flew for over 20 years? They merged into McDonnell-Douglas in the 1960s (and produced our current CF-18 Hornets) before being absorbed by Boeing. Both Douglas and McDonnell were big players in the civil aviation marketplace, too ~ who didn’t fly in a DC-8 or a MD-90?. What about Northrop and Grumman? Although both were primarily military aircraft companies, Grumman did make the Gulfstream series. And what about Chance Vought and North American and Dornier and Fokker and Hawker Siddeley? Some still exist but most of their civil aircraft have gone out of production, the markets are swamped by a handful of Chinese and Russian firms and, mainly, by Airbus Industries and Boeing, and all those once great aerospace companies have either disappeared, been taken over by one of the giants or forced into niche markets. That is not a healthy thing. The markets for both civil and military aircraft and for spacecraft should be larger and more open and much, much more competitive. Even though support for free(er) trade is declining in America and in other countries, too, responsible leaders should want healthier, more competitive global markets for the entire global aerospace sector. A takeover of troubled Bombardier by (relatively) strong Lockheed-Martin (the two companies are already allied on several major projects) might solve Bombardier‘s management difficulties and give Lockheed-Martin a way to reenter the civilian airline market and provide some much needed, head-on, North American competition for Boeing and Airbus.
It could be the elusive “win-win” situation … something for which politicians always search (albeit usually in vain). But it requires that Justin Trudeau breaks yet another promise and that Canadians, especially Quebecers, hold their nationalist noses a bit as yet another Canadian company is absorbed by bigger, foreign firm. It might also go a long way towards repairing Canada-US relations … it would mean a climb down for some, but it might be worth it.