Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Fighter Jet Farce

There's a lot of squawk from the right about the virtue of paying billions of dollars to have fighter jets constructed somewhere else. The argument seems to be a) Chretien scrapping the helicopter deal cost us some money, therefore don't scrap the jets, b) we've already put this much in we may as well keep going or c) the Russians are coming! These arguments don't hold water and they hold even less ice.

In order to justify buying 65 fighter jets, you need someone with an air force to fight. The Taliban may be a menace, but there's no red baron in their midst. Future missions in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo would be similarly free of significant air-to-air challenges. Thus, we have Stephen Harper's great Russian canard. "Arctic sovereignty" is a wonderful idea. It gets political scientists all hot and bothered. I mean how can you be a country if you can't protect your own borders? Logical? Maybe, but completely irrelevant. The people we would have to theoretically protect our "sovereignty" from are the Russian Federation and the United States of America. In case we've somehow forgotten, they are nuclear powers. Canada is not. Let me get this scenario straight: The Russians send fighter aircraft into the Northwest Passage to prevent... well I'm not quite sure... maybe us bombing their boats? (This is a naval passage after all, you can fly over the pole right now.) Anyway, there are Russian fighter jets in the northwest passage. Are Conservatives actually suggesting we threaten to shoot them down? Are we going to unilaterally declare war on Russia? The answer is of course no. A policy of "shoot down the plane and hope they don't retaliate" is almost as stupid. There are almost no conceivable scenarios where a top of the line jet fighter would protect our "arctic sovereignty".

So, if there's no purpose to these jets why are we wasting taxpayers dollars on it? It costs money to cancel any program. I don't hear Conservatives decrying Rob Ford's attempts to stop Transit City, in spite of the cancellation fees involved. Yes, cutting government waste long term may have short term costs, but our deficit, thanks to Tory tax-cut and spend policies, is a long term problem. This is pork at its worst. I don't care who originally signed the deal. It needs to end.

Finally, the sea king ghost. Canada's military actually does need helicopters. It also needs armored personnel carriers. We could probably use some more air lift capabilities if you want to spend the money on the RCAF. If you don't want to cut the military budget because that's somehow sacred, spend it on things we actually need. Fighter jets have got to be just before inter-planetary spacecraft on the most needed list. We can debate whether or not ending the misconceived helicopter contract 20 years ago was a good idea or not. There are two sides to that argument. It is not relevant to the current discussion.


CanadianSense said...

Those who don't learn from history are fools. Wisdom is gained from including mistakes in judgment.

The planned CF-18 replacements were not developed six weeks ago. The MOU has a penalty clause of $511 million?
The last time your party put politics ahead of procurement we paid a penalty of $ 500 million. Military went ahead and ordered same helicopter but time and technology drove costs up?

The AG report in 2003 regarding military spending of $ 5 Billion and your party gave $ 1.5. Just prior to the campaign Paul Martin decided to open the purse strings and promise to spend money. Convenient or political stunt to undo decade of darkness?

Repeat the Sea King debacle? Several senior Liberals agree the JSF developed with seven countries is the best option.
The delays and cost over runs are valid objections and they can take place in large, multi-year military purchases.

Lockheed beat Boeing. Boeing is pushing their Super Hornet as good enough.

Is the manufacturer is being asked to make changes in specs? Who is responsible for delays and costs?

If you were a homeowner and kept changing the floor plan for your new home, who do you hold responsible?

I understand why Liberals don't want to review the past mistakes by all governments. Wisdom has been forsaken for political games on the hill.

The Mound of Sound said...

The F-35 is looking like a bad option that's only going to get worse before it ever goes into service. Much of the expense relates to technology we have very little chance of ever applying.

I disagree with your suggestion Canada doesn't need a fighter force. That's simply untrue. However the F-35 isn't the answer. We need far more than 65 airframes but the cost of this aircraft limits us to just a few squadrons. It also has the single engine problem and a paltry cruise range of just 730-miles. That's hardly relevant to any conceivable threat Canada would face. Stealth in the Arctic is beyond frivolous.

In fact, we would be far better served going for the latest version of America's venerable F-15 or even the Russian Su-35. Both have twin engines and long range.

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