Stephen Harper’s Jet Set

Peter Worthington makes a good point today about the controversial new F-35 stealth fighter-bombers that the Harper Conservatives are so desperately keen to purchase.

Aside from the fact that these expensive toys will cost anywhere from $16 to $30 billion, which works out to $500 to $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada; or to put it another way, $16 to $30 per year for every single person in the country for a period of 30 years… although the cost could actually be higher, so let’s say $40 a year per person for 30 years or so…

Where was I? Oh, yes… putting aside the actual cost, why do we even need these things in the first place? Sure, they look cool, but what imaginary “enemy” are we defending against with these stealth bombers?

Couldn’t that money be better spent on beefing up our Coast Guard fleet and investing in search-rescue helicopters? You know… stuff that might actually be useful and may have some potential benefit for people.

By the way, whatever happened to all of those “slightly used” Leopard 2 Kampfpanzers we purchased from the Dutch and Germans several years ago for half a billion dollars (not including the hapless “CF upgrade” program that cost… well, who knows what?) I believe that a handful of these useless behemoths were eventually deployed in Afghanistan… What the heck are the rest doing? Apart from rusting, that is.

When so-called “Conservatives” talk about “fiscal responsibility” as they’re stealing lunch money from the poor (so to speak), I like to bring these kinds of things up.


22 Replies to “Stephen Harper’s Jet Set”

  1. I would love to be able to like Worthington. He’s got an adorable “cuddly, cranky old man” vibe going. He’s also got a modicum of journalistic cred: look for him in the famous newsreel footage of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination; Worthington was there, reporting live for the CBC. Basically, though, he’s a Canada-hating, continentalist sack of ordure.

    He’s right about the F-35s, of course—but then only a fucking idiot would endorse this colossal boondoggle. I love, love the morons who natter on about how important it is for the Canadian component of the F-35 manufacturing program that we purchase some planes while neglecting the math by which the public cost of the things offsets the private profits, big time.

    As for why we’re ploughing money into these flying tin cans rather than investing in our Coast Guard or navy—think “interoperability”. Ottawa’s reigning “defence” philosophy is that our Forces must be woven as seamlessly into the American military machine as possible; thus, our land and air assets, which the Pentagon is most likely to call upon to assist its foreign interventions, are given funding and development priority. Americans give not a shit about our Coast Guard and navy, which consequently languish as underfunded jokes, with the overall security capability of a troop of Johannesburg Girl Guides.

    Those used tanks were indeed shipped to Afghanistan. Whereupon NDHQ brainiacs discovered that they were bereft of air conditioning systems. Thus, they sat in parking lots while being retrofitted with what was required to make them usable. God knows how much that cost, and God knows why they were sent to help quell an insurgency prosecuted by a largely mountain-dwelling foe in the first place. Shades of the futility that attended the Soviet fiasco.

  2. Another issue with those jets is that they aren’t suitable for patrolling the Arctic, having only a single engine and limited range. They are a useless waste of money.

  3. So… everybody (almost regardless of political colour) agrees that this is an imbecile idea but… even under a minority govt we can allow it to pass?… Have we actually signed the papers already? if we are concerned about a few jobs that are created (not terribly likely anyway) or saved with such a program, I trust we could create those by pursuing way more productive endeavours: i.e. why not team up with the French and a few others to invest heavily in controlled fusion, it looks to me that as a species, we are only 2-3 years away from accomplishing it and since such a result would mean the practical end of the Candu venture, why not switch to something like this? is this too progressive for a party that is proud to call themselves “conservatives”? How about the rest of us, are we so stupid to allow for something like this to actually happen?

  4. Another issue with those jets is that they aren’t suitable for patrolling the Arctic…

    That’s irrelevant. The Americans are happy to patrol the Arctic for us, thank you very much. We recently signed over responsibility for “perimeter” security to the US in any case. The north is now entirely and officially American property and thus an American responsibility (the consummation of a process begun with the establishment of NORAD).

  5. … and I would take it even one step further in terms of how irrelevant the whole military argument is: we just do not need to spend one extra dime on the Canadian military: just bring back home all those people stranded in various places around the world, reduce its (already rather small) size to half, pay the few left, a better wage and give them better/safer equipment (geared mainly towards search and rescue) and be done with all this nonsense… truth be told, who is going to invade us (the only one even theoretically possible is beyond our capability to defend in a conventional armed way) and why the hell would we care about that potential Arctic threat?

    Makes no sense whatsoever, even if we want to stay in a conventional/traditional “practical” way… whoever wants to stay conservative and sane at the same time can use this angle to support plain common sense.

  6. They’ll do a crap job as arctic inceptors, they are the swiss army knife of planes, meaning they can do a lot of things poorly, and the pilots have just got to love the single-engine design for those long, lonely trips out over the Arctic Ocean. Someone should ask Harper if he has any evidence that the Russians are going to vastly modernize the Tu-95 or something.

  7. I’d love to see a “Conservative” supporter step up and defend this purchase… Any takers?

    It just amazes me how they will vehemently belly-ache for AGES about having to spend a dollar or even a fraction of a cent on the CBC, but when it comes to forking over $40 a year for what could be the rest of their lives for these useless toys all one hears is [crickets].

  8. I would argue that we do need modern jets, but not these. My friend works on our CF-18s and they are getting haggard, with many of them designated for “parts” at this point. They’re done and need to be replaced, but a more affordable choice would be prudent. We have NATO obligations that constitute some kind of contribution when called for. Our military cannot be merely for search and rescue, or useless UN Peacekeeping. In short, get some jets but show us (the public) that there was some kind of bidding process prior to obligating our kids to pay for them.

  9. My biggest problem with the F-35 is that I see them as a luxury and somewhat the result of what I think is an inferiority complex on the part of those that make the decisions in regards to Canada’s military. It is not a quantifiable point but it is an opinion I have held since reading “Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar” as well as the watching with interest the debate surrounding Canada’s potential participation in the war in Iraq and the purchase of diesel submarines.

    While the F-35s have some excellent features, and I was put more at ease with the plane after watching a documentary on the x-plane competition, I still view it as a luxury. Why is the Super Hornet and the Eurofighter left out of the discussion? Both are proven technologies at the moment and would come with less surprises as well as potentially being cheaper to acquire. There are so many unanswered questions, partly because we don’t know what the defense department needs in a multirole fighter and more specifically what Canada’s foreign policy is going to be in the future. Are the F-35’s going to be patrolling Canada’s borders or are they actually going to be used in conflicts which has been rare for the current CF-18s.

    Yes, we need new planes, but do we need the F-35 specifically and at what point do we stop and realize there are diminishing returns to defense spending just like everything else.

    However, although I think the F-35 is expensive, it is all relative. I realize the cost is amortized over ~30 years, but I wan’t to know how that compares to a potential purchase of Super Hornets or any other plane. It is one reason I have yet to get fully on board with the oppositions bemoaning of the price outside of the obvious significantly higher flyaway cost in comparison to a Super Hornet. I also think that even though the Liberals would hold a competitive bidding process, they would likely buy the F-35 anyways.

    Bottom line though is there needs to be a lot more transparency in this purchase.

  10. I totally do not understand why we need fighter/bomber jets at all. I mean, who do we intend on fighting and/or bombing? Don’t we have better things to do? Surely all that money be put to better use. It just seems completely insane to me.

  11. “$16 to $30 per year for every single person in the country for a period of 30 years ”

    So you shouldn’t mind the fact I have to pay $30 per year, every year, to have the CBC broadcast left wing propaganda.

    I’m sure the new fighter jets will be non partisan so I shave no problem with the purchase.

    You don’t seem to mind a billion dollars a year going to the CBC.

    If the CBC is privatized, then the fighter jets will be free after 30 years.

    Sounds like a legit trade off to me.

  12. TPP…..that’s actually not a bad point. Further, how can a sovereign nation of 35 million people ask to be taken seriously in the world without at least a token airforce? This may not be THE plane, but we need something or what the hell kind of country are we? One that borrows planes for transport? One that pays others for protection? One that builds wells in Uganda, but waits to be butchered by the locals because we lack any testicles at all? I’m not advocating a military build-up AT ALL, but pacifism and peacekeeping do not solve all worldly problems, nor do they scream to the heavens that this land, this country are ours either.

  13. One that pays others for protection?

    You do realise that our military has not been deployed in self-defence since the Fenian Raids.

    It’s fascinating to me that anyone can be aware of the recent history of NATO and of Canada’s absorption into the American military-industrial complex and still speak of our “defence” agenda as if it had anything to do with defence.

  14. I’ve been asking myself often of late, why do we have a military at all? Do we have a need for a military force that is only used for oft-gone-awry feel good foreign interventions? I’d rather a strong Coast Guard and Search and Rescue myself.

    Maybe a military is one those “have to have” because everyone does. Doesn’t seem like much of a reason to me.

  15. “This may not be THE plane, but we need something or what the hell kind of country are we?”

    The kind that’s up $30 billion?

    But seriously, do you not think that this is the sort of thing that requires at least as much consideration as picking out a brand of shampoo?

  16. What a different word it may have been had we bought the AVRO Arrow for the RCAF in 1958 …
    Speaking as a conservative thinker, but not a Conservative voter, I would retain the CBC any day over this purchase – which is not the right one for our Country, Patrol Enivronment, and Treaty Obligations.

  17. If we’re going to have an air force that can at least potentially take part in a significant war, then they will need modern equipment with which to train and fight.

    Just as important, our armed forces need to learn countermeasures and defensive tactics against stealth aircraft, which is more easily done when we have those types of weapons ourselves.

    Armed forces morale, recruitment, and retention are also considerations. To attract and keep good talent, it helps if there is modern equipment. Otherwise you eventually end up with blustering, blameshifting, ladderclimbing incompetents, such as Rich Hillier, eventually rising to the top of your national defense organization, by default. GIGO.

    The F-18’s are nearing the end of their service life, and they should be replaced. Lead times for weapon system acquisition are too long for us to undertake a new fighter jet programme during an actual crisis. Whether the F-35 is the best aircraft to replace them, is another question.

    As for bugs and problems, remember that during the early years of the F-18 program, those looked like overpriced lemons, too.

    Re: Leopard tanks. The tanks without aircon were Leopard I’s, of which we sent a small number to Afghanistan.

    We never planned to send tanks to Afghanistan. But experience facing even a very poorly-armed enemy in Kandahar demonstrated the errors of 1990’s era theorizing about replacing main battle tanks with cheaper, lighter, wheeled gun platforms.

    Hence Canada (and some other countries) have abandoned plans to phase out MBT’s. Scrambling, we dispatched a handful of obsolescent Leopard I’s to Afghanistan, and went shopping for something to replace them with. In ’07 we bought some discounted Leopard II’s that the Dutch had mothballed. The Leopard II is a much more formidable tank than the Leopard I. However, the replacement and upgrade programme has been so badly bungled (Gen. Hillier was too busy posing beside Don Cherry at the world’s most heavily fortified doughnut shop) that none of the ex-Dutch Leopard II’s saw action in Afghanistan.

  18. The F-18′s are nearing the end of their service life

    Talk about “planned obsolescence”…

    A relatively inexpensive (albeit multi-million dollar) “life extension” program is all that’s needed to deal with this total non-problem.

    There is no “need” for new fighter jets or previously mothballed tanks. It’s all just a complete waste of money.

  19. Those F-18 airframes have a lot of flight hours on them by now. They need replacement.

    I don’t think this is planned obsolescence. The F-18 is now genuinely obsolescent, compared to the current generation of combat aircraft of other powers, which are now entering service.

    Right now, our F-18’s can be used in a battle only if someone else’s air force has already helpfully destroyed most of the other side’s air defense. Our F-18’s are no longer well-suited to fight battles against someone who could actually fight back.

    The cheapest thing would be some new F-18 ‘s, or the new variant of F-15. But that means spending a fair bit of money, only to have to revisit the question in another ten years.

    I’m not saying the F-35 is necessarily the plane to buy.

    What I am saying is that if Canada wants to have an air force that can fight a battle, then Canada needs to replace our current F-18’s with something else.

    Of course, we might not even want to have an air force that can fight a battle against an opponent who can fight back.

    That would involve a much bigger discussion about national defense, foreign policy, etc. Canadians seldom discuss that stuff, except in terms of their habitual self-identification with something bigger and more powerful–whether that’s the British Empire, the American hegemony, or the Blue Helmet Brand of Global Intervention Services, depends on when and with whom one speaks.

  20. Roland: I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this issue. Obviously, you buy into the premise of the “need” for latest high-tech military equipment, whereas I am much more dubious about such things being an essential requirement. In fact, I just think that war itself is kind of an obsolete concept. Who are we fighting? Who are we defending ourselves against?

    As I said from the outset, I believe that our military expenditures should go into other, more practical areas such as our woefully underfunded, under-equipped Coast Guard. We don’t need heinously expensive fighter jets to combat imaginary enemies in the future…

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