The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s 5th Generation fighter, is the best warplane available to Canada as a replacement for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornets.
I know this because the F-35 beat out rivals—Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet—as the fighter of choice of Canada (under a Liberal government), the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Holland and several other allies.
So convinced was Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government that the F-35 was the right fighter for us, it signed-up Canada as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) Program in 1997 and made us a Tier 3 partner in 2002, a decade before the current Tory government confirmed its commitment to the warplane.
Yet we see the Liberal leader Bob Rae agitating for an open competition to replace our CF-18s, even though his predecessor, Jean Chrétien, showed no sign of ever intending to take such a step once he had signed on to the F-35 program.
So why such an about turn? Well, some assume the Grits want to give Boeing’s F-18E/F Super Hornet yet another kick at the can. Though, as Mathew Fisher points out in the National Post, the “Super Hornet was never considered by the U.S. or the eight countries in the Joint Strike Fighter consortium [including Canada] because it was based on old technologies. It also lost out to the F-35 in a Japanese competition.”
Why the Grits favour Boeing is anybody’s guess. It certainly isn’t that company’s superior technology.
The Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet is based on technologies developed in the 1970s, though it must be said, with a considerable number of updates. They are very formidable weapon systems and are a good fit for Canada’s current needs. Both the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy have placed small orders recently for Super Hornets to fill gaps caused by delays in the development of the F-35.
Neither of these purchases, however, can be seen as a move to use the Super Hornets as a replacement for those nations’ F-35 commitment. The Grits pretend this is the case, but it just is not so.
And why would they be? Would any responsible government do so when the F-35 or replacement would be expected to be in operation for 20 to 30 years from now? Can you imagine a Canadian government sending our pilots off to do battle in 2025 in a warplane based on technologies developed in 1975? Well, actually, I can, but it would be akin to a criminal act.
Boeing has already lost out twice to Lockheed Martin’s F-35, so what’s it offering now that it didn’t when Jean Chrétien’s Liberals rejected its bid in the form of its X-32 multi-purpose jet fighter in favour of Lockheed Martin’s X-35 demonstrator, which was developed into the F-35 Lightning II? Nothing so far as I can tell.
But the Grits stubbornly insist Boeing be given yet another opportunity to compete against the F-35. Why is anybody’s guess.