The Canadian Government’s $46 billion new toys that don’t work

top-gun-maverickWhen you were young there was always money as a birthday present. No matter if it was in a piggy bank, a real bank or a jar, you were concious of that money and felt the urge to spend it. Of course, even at an early age you weren’t looking for last years toy. No, you wanted the latest and greatest. Now imagine that instead of a child, you are a grown up who, with a number of other grown ups, have decided that you have some money burning a hole in your pocket. Do you spend it on the tried and tested, but old, version or go wild and buy the new version of something? What if the money in your piggy bank is over $40 billion? What do you buy a government who has everything? How about the latest fighter plane? Doesn’t that sound like a good idea, or rather didn’t it?

First flown in 2006, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the new fighter plane that sports the latest technology. It apparently looked so good in the shop window that the Canadian government ordered 65 of them, at a total cost of $46 billion. That is billion with a ‘B’. So what does $46 billion get you? Apparently a long wait as the F-35 is yet to be put into service due to numerous technical issues.

Admittedly on paper the F-35 looks like something any countries air force would want. It comes in three flavours, the (A) is the plain vanilla varient while the (B) can take off on a short runway and land vertically and the (C) is designed for carrier based work. It is the latest and greatest so can you blame the Canadian government for spending the equivalent of $1300 for every person in Canada on 65 planes?

The alternative, and there is always an alternative, was to purchase more of the Boeing F-18 planes that the Canadian Air Force already flies. With 103 planes already, adding 65 more would seem to make sense, rather than 65 planes that are untested and are actually grounded at the moment. Did I say 65? What I meant to say was over 220 planes, for the equivalent $6 billion. Now obviously the F-18 was first flown in 1995 so it is much older technology, but technology that has been tried and tested and is being used all over the world right now. Compare this to the possible introduction into use for the F-35 in 2016, fingers crossed.

I am sure the government weighed the pros and cons of both planes before deciding which to purchase. After all, the F-35 is a one seater while the F-18 is built for two. That is more money spent on training the second occupant, so the F-35 is the winner here or is it? After all, the F-18 is already in use so the training will be perfected while the F-35 isn’t even in use yet so training is going to be a lot more expensive for a while as the air force learns all the nuances of the plane.

Engine wise, the F-35 has one engine as compared to the two of the F-18. In the culture of bigger is better, surely a bigger engine is better than two puny ones? Perhaps it is but the F-18 can fly on one engine, it is doubtful that if the F-35 ever gets into the sky it will be able to fly with no engines.

After that it is all small advantages to one or the other. So obviously the reason why the Canadian government decided on these planes with the go faster strips that apparently stop it from flying is that they have a specific use in mind, perhaps a conflict that Canada is embroiled in? Well, on the Canadian Forces operations page (http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/operations/index-eng.asp) these are the operations currently underway by Canadian Forces.

 

Operation Location Description Personnel
ARTEMIS At sea The Canadian Forces’ (CF) participation in maritime security and counter-terrorism operations in the Arabian Sea region with the multinational coalition task force CTF 150. 250
ATTENTION Afghanistan Canada’s participation in the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A), which delivers training and professional development support to the national security forces of Afghanistan: the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Afghan Air Force (AAF), and the Afghan National Police (ANP). 925
BOXTOP Canada -CFS Alert & 8 Wing Trenton A biannual replenishment operation for the world’s most northern permanently inhabited location, CFS Alert, Nunavut. Due to its remote location and inaccessibility, CFS Alert must be resupplied by air, which is currently done by personnel and aircraft from 8 Wing Trenton. N/A
CALUMET Egypt -Sinai Peninsula Canada’s contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula. 28
CARIBBE Caribbean Basin and East Pacific Ocean A Canada Command counter narcotics operation, is Canada’s contribution to an ongoing U.S.-led, multi-national effort to stop drug trafficking in the waters of the Caribbean Basin and East Pacific. N/A
CROCODILE Democratic Republic of the Congo Canada’s support to the U.N. peace-support mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 9
DRIFTNET North Pacific Ocean, Canada Operation DRIFTNET is a Canadian Forces domestic operation in support of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to halt the destructive effects of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing on the high seas. N/A
FOUNDATION United States -Tampa, Florida Canada’s liaison team at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command. 7
GLADIUS Israel and Syria Canada’s contribution to UNDOF, the U.N. mission on the border between Israel and Syria. 3
HAMLET Haiti -Port-au-Prince Canada’s participation in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. 5
JADE Israel, Syria, Lebanon Canadian military observers serving with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, the U.N.’s oldest peace-support mission. 8
KOBOLD Kosovo -Pristina The Canadian team serving with KFOR, the NATO force in Kosovo. 5
LAMA Canada – Wide Op LAMA is the code name for Canadian Forces’ support to civil authorities for hurricane recovery efforts anywhere in Canada. Under Op LAMA, the CF may provide support to all three levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal. N/A
Mali Mali, Africa Following a request from the French Government, the Canadian Government committed one RCAF CC-177 transport aircraft, in a non-combat role, to transport equipment into the Malian capital of Bamako. N/A
METRIC At sea Canada’s participation in international efforts to enhance security in the eastern Mediterranean region, specifically the Middle East and North Africa. N/A
PALACI Canada – Rogers Pass, British Columbia The Canadian Forces assistance to Parks Canada to prevent large avalanches through Rogers Pass, protecting travellers and keeping Trans-Canada Highway 1 and CP rail links between British Columbia and the rest of Canada clear. N/A
POSEIDON Canada -West Coast Canadian Forces’ support to Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP for counter-illegal migrant operations on the West Coast is named Op POSEIDON. N/A
PROTEUS Jerusalem The Canadian team working with the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator to build security capacity in the Palestinian Authority. 18
SOPRANO Republic of South Sudan Canada’s participation in the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. 14
SATURN Sudan -Darfur Canada’s support to the U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur. 6
SCULPTURE Sierra Leone -Freetown Canada’s participation in the British-led military advisory and training mission in Sierra Leone. 10
SNOWGOOSE Cyprus Canada’s contribution to UNFICYP, the U.N. force in Cyprus. 1

None of these operations appear to require armed fighter planes but perhaps there is a plan to use them to stop illegal fishing?

It is difficult to imagine a scenario where Canada is drawn into a shooting war where our neighbours to the south are not involved. The much larger United States air force probably won’t need help from it’s much smaller Canadian counterpart unless perhaps attacked by aliens on July 4th.

It is always good to have the latest toys, the ones that have gadgets that the previous toy didn’t have but if given the choice between having last years model now, or waiting an unknown number of years for the new one, even five year olds with a toonie clutched in their hand would pick up the older model and try to open it before paying for it!

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