There are so many ridiculous talking points coming from the Conservative government and from the defence analysts and pundits trying to justify the $16 billion F-35 fighter purchase, it's hard to know where to start when it comes to knocking them down.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I'd like to start with one of the oft-repeated ones though: all our NATO friends are buying F-35s, so it's vitally important that we buy the same jet as them so we can play together and be "inter-operable" because, if we have a different jet, we won't be able to work together and madness will ensue.
Really, since when? This strident necessity for everyone having the same jet and not being able to work together otherwise must have suddenly popped up recently, because it has never been the case in the past.
As an Air Force brat I lived on Canadian fighter base in Germany in the late 1980s, and the dizzying array of different NATO ally aircraft that would pass through was impressive. Canadian CF-18s. American F-15s, F-16s and F-111s. German F-4s and Tornados. British Tornados and Jaguars. And the odd French Mirage and Swedish Viggen on the non-NATO front.
All these many different fighter types (we're not even including Navy aircraft here) and yet, still, they all managed to work together and conduct regular successful joint exercises. Canada deployed CF-18s to the first Gulf War and to Bosnia, operating jointly with different allied aircraft.
Look at all the types of aircraft operated concurrently by just the United States Air Force over the years -- somehow, they managed to work with themselves and be all interoperable and what not.
Would there be some benefits from operating the same type as the Americans and the British? When it comes to joint deployments, sure. We could borrow spare parts and share munitions. But such joint deployments would be rare. The more important element of interoperability is around internal systems to let pilots cooperate on the battlefield, which IS independent of fighter type.
The fact is, interoperability has never been dependent on having the same fighter type. And, more importantly, it should be a lesser consideration to what should be the primary mission for our next-generation fighter: domestic interception and sovereignty patrol. With that mission in mind, there are a number of possible cheaper alternatives to the F-35 that we could consider. Alternatives, in fact, that will also be operated by some of our allies.
This whole "we need the same aircraft" argument really has nothing to do with interoperability. And interoperability wasn't the primary reason the F-35 consortium came together. The argument of putting everyone on the same type was really economic: the U.S. and British each want to replace several types with one multi-purpose craft. Operating one type saves on training and maintenance, and buy buying in bulk they can get a better deal.
There are other arguments to be made for the F-35, but the interoperability talking point is a weak one, and it's not worth paying a cost premium for.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers