Security Policy Rationale; Why the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter?

The Conservative government’s announcement to purchase the controversial F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is again making news. A recent incident calling for the scrambling of Canadian CF-18 fighter planes to escort a cargo plane carrying suspicious packages through Canadian airspace has rehashed the debate surrounding the need for Canada to update its’ fleet. The refurbished CF-18s will near the end of lifespan beginning in 2017. The question of the purchase of new aircraft is not so much if we should buy fighter jets, but which fighter jets we should buy?

As with any government funds, there are plenty of competing interests, and some of them make a pretty good case. Post-secondary education, a flagging health care system, improved benefits for veterans and a respectable commitment to climate change are all deserving causes worthy of a share of the tax dollars. New jets will cause a massive hit of $9 billion dollars to the nation’s coffers, with the potential for that price tag increasing to as much as $18 billion once maintenance contracts are included. It is very basic responsibility to hear more than one proposal and utilize a fair procurement process.

Along with the financial obligations, another question we are not hearing answers for is why this jet? So far the only rationale behind the purchase of these particular jets is “interoperability”. To my knowledge, Canada has been part of NORAD since 1958 and we have never had trouble working together before. The fact of the matter is that the F-35 is a first strike, shock-and-awe, stealth fighter. There is even questions about it’s versatility in Arctic conditions. This does not sound like the type of aircraft we need to “replace” the CF-18. There needs to be a discussion about just what type of missions are foreseen for these aircraft?

The bottom line is quite simple. The Stephen Harper Conservative government has committed to the largest procurement deal in our nations history without tendering so much as a second offer. As the leader of our country that is not only irresponsible, it is just plain unprofessional.