Government and Military: Bad Decisions

So I just read an article that says Canada is going to buy sixty-five Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets and at one time, I might have been excited about this, but since the fighters were first created, a number of issues with them have appeared, and for the cost of sixteen billion dollars, I think we could do some better things with that money.

The Ottawa Citizen reported earlier this week the Harper government is set to give approval to the largest military purchase in Canada’s history with the F-35, a stealth plane built by U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, considered the top contender to replace the CF-18s.

The biggest debate around the F-35 right now is being waged with military writers and others who say a big minus for the jet is the fact it has only one engine — unlike the CF-18 — leaving it vulnerable if engine trouble occurs.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau, an astronaut and systems engineer, told reporters the Harper government has to justify this sole-sourced contract, arguing there is no rush for these jets since the CF-18s have been retrofitted and are good for another seven years.

What does Canada need with the last manned fighter jets? Should we not spend the money to continue to maintain and overhaul our current fleet of planes, and then add the latest unmanned aerial vehicles to our fleet rather than buying manned jets that have been proven short in so many ways?

Nearly 30 percent of all the test flights have required more than routine maintenance to get the aircraft flyable again. Currently each F-35 takes a million more work hours than predicted and flight testing is expected to result in further design changes. The United States Navy has projected that lifecycle costs over a fleet life of 65 years for all of the American F-35s will be $442 billion higher than the U.S. Air Force has projected.

I can’t believe that the Canadian Government and Military can continue to be so short sighted and spend such vast amounts of money without true consideration for the future of warfare, and the issues and costs associated with its continued involvement. While I do believe we need defenses to protect our country, and provide support and aid to our partner countries, I feel like this purchase is just to justify the money we spent ($475 million USD) on the development of these new fighters, and not because they perform in roles and situations that the Canadian Forces requires jets to complete.

While I am sure there will be people that fall on either side of the issue, in the end, I don’t feel, as a citizen of this country, that I was given an opportunity to have my say regarding the purchase of such equipment, and I wonder if anyone else did either. This is as much my country as anyone else’s and I want to see us spend tax dollars wisely, and I am not saying that the F-35 is inherently a poor purchase, but I would love to see some proper justification on why we need to buy them, more than just “to replace our aging fleet of fighters”.

Interested in reading more about the purchase, check out this The Star article.

Interested in learning more about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, check out this great listing on Wikipedia.

6 responses to “Government and Military: Bad Decisions”

  1. First I can believe you qouted the Citizen and Wikipediea. tsk tsk. The cost for the planes is only 9 billion. not 16 and you can’t compare the cost to maintain the american fleet to our 65 planes that we are going to buy.
    We spend more money than that already keeping the aging F18s we have servicable and they are so out of date that they can not be upgrade to meet the standards required for combat. That is why they are sitting in canada and not in use in Afghanistan.
    As for UAVs, they are not suited for the role that a fighter can do. An intercepter and potential ground attack maybe but they require more man hours to keep in flight. Then even an F22. Not only do they need the same maintenance crew that a manned aircraft does. They require a pilot and a payload operator for every 6 hours of air time. Plus a different crew for landing and taking off.
    Of course the F35 has problems, ever things has problems when it is first designed. From a military perspective, which I’m sorry should be the only perspective for buy military equipment. The F35 is the best choice for us. It has VSTOL tech, which allows it to take off and land anywhere. And with our ever changing operations enviroments this is a necessity if we ever want to use our own aircraft to support our own troops again.
    Also just so everyone is clear, the Liberals are the ones that signed the contract years ago, to be able to purchase these airframes.

    • The $9 billion initial purchase price doesn’t include inflation (we won’t even receive the first plane for 6 years!) Also, the maintenance will make up the other 7 billion dollars. $5 million per plane per year for twenty years.

      Look at how UAV’s have progressed in the last 6 years and imagine where they will be in the next six, and then tell me that they are not potentially suited for assisting manned fighters. Maybe not completely taking over, but as an added resource. I am not sure how many dog fights there are anymore, but it seems to me that reconnaissance and bombing are much more important these days.

      Do we really need planes with VSTOL tech? How many operations per year do we currently run (not including Afghanistan or Iraq) that require a fighter with such specifications?

      Some of the countries are fighting/have fought don’t even have jets equivalent to the F18’s we have in service. If they were in a better state of repair, they could easily outmatch the ones we traditionally compete with.

      I mean, just last year it was mentioned that the Iraq is going to buy some F-16’s and that is the most advanced fighter they’ve ever had the opportunity to purchase. How many jet fighters have been officially shot down in the last five years?

      I really want Canada to have respectable equipment, but I worry that this money is being spent on tools that aren’t really needed. And by the time Canada gets them, they’ll be nearly obsolete.

      I’d rather see the money go towards maintenance of current technology, and towards better information systems, ground vehicles, combat training, and other potentially “higher need” items. You’d know better than I what the Canadian Forces needs. Should we be spending even 9 billion on new fighters right now? Do you think we will need them in six years?

      I know you might not be able to make a comment about the specifics, but aren’t there things you’d rather see the government buy for the Forces?

      Sidenote: Not trying to wage a political war with any specific party (Liberal, Conservative, NDP, et al.) Just stating that I am sure the money could be put to better use.

    • Second Sidenote: REALLY appreciate that you commented on this! Your insights are probably way more valuable than anyone else’s that I know, and even my own. 🙂

  2. Honestly, Right now, we need planes and helicopters to make us independant. We can’t go anywhere without our allies, which limits where we can be of use. People want us to stop following the Americans and do missions that are important to the canadian public, then we need modern equipment of all types to do it. But Aircraft are probably at our highest priority.
    Plus if we don’t buy something that is brand new, in otherword we wont recieve it until it is built and then we get it straight of the production line, we end up with the wonderful subs that were purchased 5 years ago, that I think two are in the water. Or the lovely LSVW which is a truck that has had the shortest life span in the military because it is being replaced after only 10 years. Because it is crap.
    You are right, the opponents we have fought, have not been the most advanced and the aircraft they had were neutralized on the ground, because our side had more advanced fighters and bombers to take them before they even knew what hit them. Which is something our CF-18s tried in Bosina and failed at. The munitions we use are more advanced than our platforms and couldn’t communicate.
    Plus it doens’t matter what we went up against in the past, its what we could go up against in the future that you need to worry about. Its like buying a computer, you don’t buy one with the specs to run programs that are already out, you buy one that will be able to handle stuff that comes out in the future.
    As for the UAV thing that is a discussion you and I will have to have in person. There really isn’t enough space here to write everything. 🙂

    • Thanks again for the response. I totally agree that we need to keep up, but without proper aircraft carriers, aren’t the fighters less useful (other than protecting sovereign soil?). How do we get fighters and whatnot overseas currently?

      I really love the computer analogy and think it is a perfect argument for why Canada needed the F-35 purchase. You should pass that to the media department that will no doubt be working on responses to the various news agencies that have questioned this purchase.

      On the flip side though, I find it funny that you used the fact that the Canadian Forces have made bad choices in the past regarding purchases as an argument to make this major purchase now. 🙂 I can only hope that unlike previous purchases, the F-35 won’t be a flop in any sense of the word.

      Thanks again for the responses and I really hope you are doing well.

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