Back in June of 2016 Canada’s brilliant leader, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted the F-35 stealth fighter,” according to a report by Lee Berthiaume reproduced in the the National Post “as a plane that “does not work.”” That was after he had been prime minister for more than six months and after, one assumes (just hopes?), he had been briefed on important issues by senior officials and his chief of the defence staff. Not quite two months later David Pugliese reported, also reproduced in the National Post, that “The F-35 stealth fighter, described by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “far from working,” has been declared by the U.S. Air Force as ready for combat … [and] … In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said the air force version of the aircraft has met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability.” Initial operational capability is a somewhat technical, official military-bureaucratic term that means that the item actually works according to the validated Statement of Operational Requirement. It says, to the government concerned, that it is OK to pay the contractor and that full scale production and delivery should continue. When a very senior officer, like Gen Carlisle, used the term it meant that Justin Trudeau was talking through his hat.
Now, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review, “Japan is preparing to order another 100 F-35 stealth fighter jets from the U.S. to replace some of its aging F-15s, according to sources … [and] … The 42 fighters Japan originally planned to buy are all F-35As, a conventional takeoff and landing variant. The additional 100 planes would include both the F-35A and F-35B, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.” And, of course, Ottawa announced, back in February of this years that Lockheed-Martin, maker of the F-35 Lightening II, was one of five firm invited to bid on the CF-18 Hornet replacement project ~ that’s down to four firms, now, after it was announced that the French firm, Dassault, had withdrawn its Rafale fighter from the competition because the firm felt that a European fighter could not win in a competition in which “Five Eyes” information exchange rules might apply.
So, what has happened to this promise?
The Nikkei Asian Review says that the Japanese plan “can be considered a response to China’s military buildup, as well as a nod to U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for Tokyo to buy more American defense equipment.“
Although I wish and hope it will not happen, some experts predict that China and the US led West will engage in open warfare in what is left of my lifetime. But I guess that even though we will allow Lockheed-Martin to bid we, unlike the Japanese, understand that the F-35 is “far from working” and does not “match Canada’s defence needs” because, presumably, Justin Trudeau understands that in a war against China or Russia Canada’s defence needs will differ markedly from those of Japan, Australia, Britain, Germany and the USA.
I have made a straw-man case for not buying the F-35, but I have, pretty consistently, explained that I do not know which fighter is best because I lack the qualifications to make such a judgement. So, of course, did Team Trudeau lack any qualification to say the F-35 did not meet Canada’s needs in 2015 when they promised not to buy the Lightening II, and Justin Trudeau was equally uninformed ~ but with far less reason, because he should have known better ~ in 2016 when he said the F-35 would not work.
The fact is that Justin Trudeau is playing the worst sort of partisan politics with Canada’s security policy. He made a stupid promise from which he is trying to back away, by stealth, by extending the length of the jet fighter replacement . competition until well after the next election despite the fact that the Nikkei Asian Review says that our most likely potential adversaries, those, anyway, against whom first line fighter jets will be necessary, “are busy introducing their own advanced military aircraft. China deployed its homegrown J-20 stealth fighter in February, and by 2030 some experts expect the country to build a fleet of more than 250 fifth-generation jets — as the latest generation of fighters like the F-35 is known … [and] … Russia, too, is expected to introduce its fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 in 2019, at the earliest.“
The only smart thing that Justin Trudeau has done is to raise the target number of jet fighters to be purchased from 65 to 85+; that’s a good thing for which his government deserves our applause.
It is past time for Canadians to wake up and understand that this is another file that Prime Minister Trudeau has bungled.