Canada doesn’t need Fighter-capable aircraft
Canada does not need to replace the CF-18s with fighter-capable aircraft.
I recommend that: - An audit be conducted of the “lifetime cost of maintaining fighter capability.”
- The CF-18s, modernized and in storage, be surveyed with the objective of extending their life a few years. The interval so provided would allow time to conduct a thorough assessment of the global state and trend in affairs relevant to Canada’s defence planning. On the basis of that assessment, the defence posture should be developed of what Canada really requires for the reasonably foreseeable future.
- Before proceeding with any replacement of the CF-18s, a study be conducted on the use of drones for the protection of Canadian sovereignty and territory as well as for combating terrorist attacks on Canadian cities and important infrastructure.
- If it is decided that Canada will continue having a fighter capability, the announcement should describe why that capability is being retained and why the sovereignty and terrorist protection roles could not be fulfilled by drones or other than fighter-capable aircraft.
Canada does not need fighter capability to protect sovereignty, for minor armed conflicts, or for conflicts between major powers.
Canada’s greatest threat would be a terrorist copycat 9/11 using either a drone or an aircraft. Fighters, unless in the vicinity of the target, could not protect against this threat.
The sovereignty of Canada’s airspace can be affirmed by any aerial vehicle carrying an official logo of Canada. A non-credible event of a rogue Russian scouting aircraft actually entering Canada’s airspace would be addressed by a diplomatic response.
Minor armed conflicts involving Canada probably would not include aerial combat but, more likely, would require support of ground operations by armed helicopters and/or aircraft specialized for that role.
War between Russia and NATO is improbable because Russia has serious internal problems and hasn’t the resources to mount the capability to confront NATO. Moreover, Russia is attempting to retain an influential effect on world affairs while moving more and more to find accommodation with other industrialized nations, despite current tensions regarding Ukraine.
War between China and Russia as well as between China and India also seem improbable. Tensions and threats may continue, but indications are that they will be resolved by negotiations as previously has been the case.
The United States and China are vying for hegemony in the western Pacific and in the waters from Korea to the Philippines as well as into Southeast Asia where India also strives to have some influence. In these regions, there are likely to be tensions as China attempts to achieve some de facto control. Such unilateral actions by China must be resisted by neighbouring countries and by the U.S. acting both in its own interests and due to treaty relationships.
Except for the most improbable event of a pre-emptive attack on China by the U.S., I can’t envisage a credible scenario involving F-35-type aircraft or other advanced fighter-capable aircraft. And, should a war erupt in the Asian region, I do not see how Canada could become involved, or to where Canadian fighters could be effectively deployed.
The “lifetime cost of maintaining fighter capability” or LTCMFC, the indefinite unit cost of F-35s, and the prospect of drones dealing with some aerial activities, are further reasons why the CF-18s should not be replaced by fighter-capable aircraft.
The (LTCMFC) is the “lifetime cost” of a new fleet of aircraft, plus the 30-year cost of required operating bases and facilities as well as the accumulated training costs of personnel uniquely required at those bases. The LTCMFC is important in itself and, more so, because that expense would pre-empt funding for other equipment required for the readiness of the Canadian Forces. Moreover, dispensing with the fighter capability would release the bases for other important activities such as for drones and the basing of armed helicopters and ground support aircraft.
Should Canada proceed with an F-35 procurement, the unit cost to Canada would be that cost being experienced in the production line when the planes for Canada would be produced.
If the production schedule should be delayed or the planned quantities be reduced, the unit cost for Canada could be higher than would have been expected.
Remotely controlled drones have the potential to combat terrorist attacks by having them located in the vicinity of major cities and infrastructure. Drones also could be effective in protecting Canada’s airspace sovereignty if located at various points in Canada’s northern territories and along its east and west coasts.
C.R. (Buzz) Nixon was deputy minister of national defence 1975-1983.
Source: By Charles Nixon, Ottawa Citizen News – 30 March 2014
Photo: The Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet Fighter Aircraft (Photo by rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca)