David Pugliese, writing in the National Post, says that “Canada has taken the first official step to purchasing used fighter jets from Australia as its dispute with Boeing continues unresolved … [and] … The Canadian government has now submitted a formal expression of interest to Australia to acquire the aircraft, Public Services and Procurement Canada confirmed … [further] … “On Sept. 29, 2017, Canada submitted an expression of interest, formally marking Canada’s interest in the Australian equipment,” Public Services and Procurement Canada announced in a new statement. “Canada expects to receive a response by the end of this year that will provide details regarding the availability and cost of the aircraft and associated parts that Canada is considering.”“
“The Australian jets,” Mr Pugliese writes, “are being considered as interim fighters. They would supplement Canada’s existing CF-18 fleet until a new aircraft could be acquired.” That would be fine, I suppose, IF there was a capability gap, but almost a year ago the same David Pugliese reported, in the Ottawa Citizen that “Testifying back in April to a Commons defence committee, [Lieutenat General Michael] Hood [Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force] never mentioned anything about a capability gap. In fact, he said he was comfortable that the CF-18s could continue operating until 2025 – or even beyond. That was more than enough time for a full replacement of the fleet, he suggested … [thus, later 2016] … the committee went back for clarification on that point. The RCAF obliged with an answer this week [in November 2016] … [saying, on the record] … “The Commander of the RCAF is confident that, based on the latest information available, there is sufficient capacity to support a transition to a replacement fighter capability based on the ongoing projects and planned life extension to 2025 for the CF-18.”” So, there never was a capability gap … it was a Liberal lie.
Why would they lie?
A rumour that circulated in Ottawa earlier this year said that the Liberals wanted to keep their “No F-35” promise and not get too badly burned on their “open and transparent competition” promise so they cooked up a phoney “capability gap” which they proposed to fill by buying 18 Boeing Super Hornets (which, while still called F-18s, are Generation 4.5 aircraft, quite a lot better than Canada’s current, ageing CF-18s). The Liberals planned, according to this rumour, to report, after the 2019 election, that since the Super Hornets had closed the gap so well it was no longer necessary to hold any competition ~ Canada would just buy 50 more of the Super Hornets using a sole source contract. If true it was a neat plan that would have fooled enough people for long enough … but Boeing threw a spanner in the works.
But it is equally plausible that the Liberals just wanted to impose another delay … again to delay decisions until after the next election. That’s not quite as bad as conspiring with Being to rig a major, multi-billion dollar procurement contract but it is still an abuse of the public trust.
There is no capability gap.
The Liberals need some wiggle room because they have absolutely no idea ~ and even less interest ~ in what the RCAF needs: they just know that they want the problem of fighter jet procurement to go away until after the 2019 election.
This proposal to buy used F-18s is arrant nonsense … the Liberals are, as one wag put it, sniffing around the commonwealth’s scrapyards … again (referring, I suppose, to the purchase of four the Upholder now Victoria class submarines (1998 ~ on Jean Chrétien’s watch) from the UK).
I assume, perhaps only hope, that if this proposed, senseless purchase goes through then the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Deputy Minister of National Defence, the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and sundry other RCAF generals and very senior civil servants will resign in protest and disgust, because they are all honourable men and women who will not want to be complicit in such a silly lie.