There are many disturbing reports that indicate that the new Northrop-Grumman F-35 is a dog. It is apparently slower and less maneuverable than the 30-year old CF-18 that it is currently scheduled to replace. This is not surprising as it is designed to be everything: air superiority fighter, close air support, carrier-based fighter and VTOL aircraft for the Marines. Aircraft that are designed to be good in every role rarely work out satisfactorily (think F-111, a medium bomber that was originally meant to double as a fighter!). How can the F-35 be better than an F-22 in air superiority, an A-10 in ground attack, an F-18 in a carrier role and a Harrier as a ‘jump jet’? The short answer is that it can’t; a jack-of-all-trades is the master of none. Therefore, it is in Canada’s best interest to get out of the F-35 contract as soon as possible.
There are many options. First, there is the F-18 Super Hornet, an upgraded version of the CF-18 fighter the RCAF already flies. That is the conservative option.
If Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama enjoyed good relations, this would present Harper with a dilemma. The F-35 program is a huge deal. In fact, it is the most expensive military procurement contract in history and it is under pressure due to the aircraft’s poor performance. If Canada backed out of a deal now, it would look bad for the President, and might precipitate a death spiral for the project as other potential F-35 buyers follow Canada’s lead.
But Harper faces no such dilemma. Obama disses Canada every chance he gets. He leaves the post of Canadian ambassador vacant for many months, he does everything to delay the second (and much needed) Windsor-Detroit crossing and, most infamously, he is preventing the Keystone XL pipeline from being built. I guess Canada isn’t enough like those third-world dictatorships that he favours.
To date, Harper has been patient and nice. I have argued that he should start getting tough with Obama. One way to get even on Keystone would be to choose the Eurofighter Typhoon, a much superior aircraft produced in Europe. Ouch! Take that Barack!