Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What’s prompted the Grits’ campaign against F-35?


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.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell


  1. Good points; my question: Why do the opposition parties not bring this into their arguments and why does the consensus media (CBC, CTV etal) call out the opposition parties when they stand in Parliament and on political talk shows?

    The consensus media also forgets that Canadian Aerospace firms mostly based in Quebec and Manitoba have garnered around 150 contracts valued at something close to 400 million dollars from the joint strike fighter program: again nothing from the consensus media.

  2. I would looks for financial connections with Power Corporation and Boeing. I would further check for Quebec manufacturing that produces common components between the CF18 and the super version. The area I'd concentrate in is structural replacement parts. Because the libs never do anything less there's brown bags of cash involved.. follow the money

  3. I'm starting to think its lockheeds competitors behind the opposition. Think about it. Without individual jets for each service & country Lockheed has locked out the competition for a generation. The whole concept of the f35 is to eliminate all these expensive individual design & procurement tax hogs.

  4. Going by Liberal history,I'd guess that no Liberal businessmen,such as the Bombardiers or the Desmarais' are going to benefit from the purchase of the F-35.

  5. Do we really need stealth? It's a first day thing, and I can't see the RCAF taking part in a first day bombing campaign. 65 A/C for the 2nd largest country on earth is also a joke, how many CF-100's and Sabres did we have in the 50's, even in the 60's and 70's we could field over 200 fighters.

    Personally I'd druther see us buy the TyphoonII, or the Gripen, we'd get more bang for our buck.

    1. Perhaps "more bang for our buck" for the next 5-7 years, but beyond that they'd second rate against the best we'd go up against.

      The replacement jets need to still be in service 20 years from now--these warplanes would not be first rate at that time.

  6. It's just about what they figure will stick with potential Liberal voters. It's worked before with the EH-101. I don't think it will work out for them this time. The program will be well along by the time the next election comes around and they will look like incompetent boobs again.

  7. Does Boeing have an 'in' through Power Corp? I thought of the LPC as being a wholly owned subsidiary of Power Corp from the time of Trudeau through to the present. Doesn't Bob's brother work at Power Corp?

  8. Absolute gibberish, every single participant in the JSF program did so on a paper promise of the F35s eventual capabilities. So far the plane handles poorly, climbs poorly, has a relatively small payload compared to 4th generation peers, has air frame cracks will never be strong enough for a carrier version, short range, single engine and rarely mentioned may be obsolete by the time it goes into operational use due to the Russians and Chinese fitting out new fighter models with L band radar that can see the F35.

    There is no proof at this point that the F35 is "the best plane". Canada should wait and see if the plane lives up to its hype before blowing 25-40 billion

  9. "Absolute gibberish," really. Clearly, then, not worthy of your readership so why bother to comment, Anon 9:26.

  10. The Keystone GarterMay 16, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    I'm happy we paid $350M or whatever to get an option for first dibs. New generations of jets happy less frequently than human new generations, so every purchase is a learning experience. But cost over-runs are on the order of 1.5-3x or whatever from initial estimates. So paying 2-3% for the option not to purchase seems minor here. Here, the stealth seems to have ruined the F-22 Raptor, at least for early F-35 customers.
    It appears building the F-35 with stealth makes it less upgradeable than our own CF-18. I'm not convinced the F-35 can beat our own Jets in a dogfight, if we upgrade our CF-18s with 1970s radar technology bands, that you ridicule. It looks like the sweet spot for buying this model is later customers, at least whoever buys after the 1970s stealth vulnerability is fixed if possible. I'd like to be able to pay 2-3% for the option to buy every major fighter jet programme, on Earth. All 7 or 8 of them. Why would you use 1997 F-35 projections and prototypes in your argument instead of May 15th 2012?! I would like to see us run surpluses so we can keep our future options open. Then I would like to tell Lockhead to fix the 1970s band radar flaw. If it can't be fixed I would not like many Stealth aircraft. I would like a new design for upgradeable aircraft. Failing that, I would like to know when the USA is junking their F-15s, and if we can buy them instead.

  11. Or.. we can shitcan the CBC, save a billion a year and pay for the F-35 over the next 30 years as per Kevin Paige and the AG's projections and it would be revenue neutral.