So, now, according to what Daniel LeBlanc reports in the Globe and Mail, “The federal government will officially punish Boeing Co. for its trade dispute against Canada’s Bombardier Inc., replacing the planned order of 18 new Boeing jets with the purchase of up to 30 second-hand fighters from the Australian military, sources said … [and] … Government and industry sources said the Australia deal will be announced as early as next week, with the Royal Canadian Air Force needing 28 to 30 used F/A-18 fighter jets to meet its international commitments.” That, of course, is in reference to a (strategically or militarily unnecessary) policy change in November 2016 that, suddenly, created a “capability gap” where none had existed before. A rumour which floated around Ottawa in early 2017 suggested that Boeing and the Liberals had cooked up a deal: the Liberals would buy 18 of Boeing’s Super Hornet jet fighters as “interim” aircraft to fix the newfound “capability gap” and then, in about 2020, they would say to Canadians, “Oh, look, the Super Hornets we bought are doing a great job; there’s no need to have a long, convoluted competition we’ll just buy 48 more of these Super Hornets from Boeing and the Air Force will be fine until about 2050 and it will be someone else’s problem … but we will not have bought that dastardly F-35.” Of course they wouldn’t have bought 80+ new fighters, either, as they suggested they might, just 66 (only one more than the 65 F-35s Prime Minister Harper planned to buy) but no one would really notice that and a disinterested media would let that pass unnoticed. But that all went south, as they say, when Boeing‘s commercial division decided that stopping the heavily subsidized Bombardier C series jet was “worth” more than the sale of a few jet fighters.
Well, this is, in my mind, a +1 for the Liberals: getting the Super Hornet off the table is a good move … it was never the right answer to anything except the phoney capability gap.
Do we need 28 to 30 used F/A 18 Hornets from Australia? “No,” some experts say, they aren’t needed except to fill a totally partisan political capability gap, but “Yes,” say some retired RCAF generals, anything to avoid buying the useless Super Hornets … so, in that case, “Yes,” we do or, at least, we can use them, they will do no real harm, plus, Harjit Sajjan needs them to pin together whatever slim shreds of credibility he might have left.
What’s the right answer to the jet fighter follies?
I really, really do not know. My personal, layman’s guess is that the F-35 Lightening II is the best aircraft out there but I suspect that buying it may be one broken promise too many, even for Justin Trudeau. Maybe it isn’t a cabinet decision any more, anyway … maybe Airbus SEs CEO Tom Enders will decide for us and, as Kevin McCoy, President of Irving Shipbuilding did, he will announce government policy for the minister and tell us that Canada will buy his (Airbus is part owner of Eurofighter) Typhoon.