What is Canada buying? F-35 or Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon?

OTTAWA ($1=1.36 Canadian Dollars) — A background story is needed to delve deeper into the title, as well as the liberal politics, let’s call it that, of Canadian PM Mr. Justin Trudeau. Because what Canadian taxpayers will be paying for in the coming years is not exactly what Mr. Trudeau personally promised them. A backstory is needed to counteract the short memory living in lies.

Future F-35's AIM-132 Block 6 missile has new British-built seeker
Photo: MBDA UK

In 2015, the then leader of the Liberal Party made a promise to Canadian taxpayers and taxpayers that one of the priorities of the incoming government was to end participation in the F-35 program by Lockheed Martin and the US.

To be even more specific, Mr. Trudeau then referred to the F-35 program as “the Conservatives’ program.” These words of his, as well as the following, he said on September 20, 2015 in Halifax. Mr. Trudeau has promised that if the Liberals take over, the government will hold an “open and transparent competition” for new fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force to replace the aging CF-18s.

“Our Canadian forces are in a state of stagnation,” said the future Canadian prime minister at the time, uttering these heartfelt words on Pier 21 in Halifax. Mr. Trudeau announced that the money that would be saved from a possible purchase of the F-35 would serve to increase the budgetary costs of the entire Royal Canadian Air Force.

Thus, in 2020, the Swedish SAAB JAS-39 Gripen fighters hoped for a bright future in North America. The Swedes had just come to an agreement with the Brazilians and started a procedure to build a new production in Latin America. Stockholm was seeing busy production facilities if Ottawa and the now “maple leaf” prime minister, Mr. Justin Trudeau, followed through on his political promise.

F-35 will carry solid rocket-ramjet AARGM-ER: INS/GPS, 250km range
Photo credit: USAF

So a year later, the Swedes tasted victory when only two participants remained in the final – they and Lockheed Martin with their F-35. And oh surprise – a politician did not keep his promise. The potential savings were hastily ignored and Canadians were hastily lied to that the F-35 would not only give the Royal Canadian Air Force air superiority, but the cost would be within the normal range, although it would be inflated.

For some reason, the narrow military experts in Canada kept quiet. I do not know personally, writing these lines, whether Canadian society realizes that choosing the F-35 means choosing a fundamentally different aircraft. The F-35 is not a multirole aircraft like the proposed Gripen or the aging Canadian CF-18. The F-35 is a strike aircraft and don’t expect it to engage in air combat with an enemy fleet. The F-35 will fire beyond visual range missiles and if it misses, it will most likely run away from the approaching enemy fighter. The F-35 is primarily designed to attack ground targets, not air combat.

Mr. Trudeau’s government has pledged $89 million for one F-35 jet. Now, however, it appears that Canadian taxpayers will pay close to $450 million for one F-35 aircraft. This price includes ancillary costs. Very often they are related to building a new or maintaining an old depot, costs of ground support equipment and spare parts.

Italy will assemble 24 of the 36 Swiss F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters
Photo credit: Il Manifesto

It turns out that not only will Canada spare nothing to give its Air Force, but it will pay extra to reward physical and digital infrastructure. Brand new facilities must also be built to support the new Canadian fighters.

In reality, Canadian taxpayers are preparing to pay $7 billion for the purchase of 16 F-35 strike aircraft. Of course, a large part of these funds will not go to the acquisition of the aircraft, but to the subsequent maintenance. But that 7 billion is perhaps the least of the problems. Why? Well, Ottawa intends to upgrade its fleet inventory with 88 brand new fighter jets. If 16 are worth $7 billion, how much does Mr. Trudeau’s calculator show for the other 72?

Currently, Canadian analysts are racing to explain to the public where and how this $7 billion will be spent. It’s great, even though it’s at least seven years late. For example, Carlton Philippe Lagasse, a supply expert, says the billions of dollars include infrastructure upgrades and bundling. But he also makes an important point – “until we get the details, nobody can comment on what that entails in terms of unit cost”.

In truth, Canada has outdated military bases dating back to the 1950s. The hangars at Cold Lake and Bagotville are one such example. An investment for their renovation is necessary, regardless of whether or not Ottawa would buy the F-35. “There is a lot of spending in physical and digital infrastructure. So it’s billions of dollars to build all the bases, operational sites, deployed operational sites,” said Mr Andre Deschamps, a former commander in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

But the focus of the debate in Canada has also shifted to Europe. Canadians continue to question how Germany will pay $8.5 billion for 35 F-35 fighter jets when Germany has not been an operator of this fighter either. Yes, most likely Germany’s bases are in much better technological and physical condition, but the price difference remains huge again.

And as Carlton Philippe Lagasse says “until we get the details we don’t know the price of the plane”, so I will add – are the Canadians crazy that they are buying the F-35 and not Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon?


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