Home > News and politics > The New CF-35: Good Deal for Canada?

The New CF-35: Good Deal for Canada?

18-Jul-10 10:55 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments
CBC’s Eric Solomon interviews Allan Williams, a former Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for hardware procurement with Canada’s Department of National Defence during a regular episode of “Power & Politics” on CBC Newsworld. (July 16, 2010–Source: CBC Power & Politics)

new controversy erupts with an announcement by Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter MacKay this week with the announcement Canada will purchase 65 F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter” jets from Lockheed-Martin, a major defence contractor based in the United States.  But critics of the proposal argue that nobody can know for certain that it’s a good deal for Canada — because the bid process was closed.  In this article (updated periodically as debate ensues in forums online), I will share my views on the matter and commentary from the pundits; including both professional and casual commentators, using CBC News video and forums content.  Excerpts will be aggregated here over the next few days, so check back and see how the online debate evolves…


Table of Sources


Selections from CBC Forums Commentary

Story Headline: F-35 Jet Canadian Spinoffs Expected (CBC Money)

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/19 at 10:43 PM ET:

RadMan wrote:Posted 2010/07/19 at 9:28 PM ET:

“The attack is intentional, the types of weapons used we know will cause "collateral damage". The West knows that the methods being used will cause devastation beyond belief to peoples that have done nothing to deserve the wrath being brought upon them.”

I find this kind of thinking extremely presumptuous and ignorant. It’s all well and good to join the "blame the west" (and never “blame the terrorists”) club for the aforementioned collateral damage, but there’s simply never been a war that didn’t involve unintentional casualties and damage to property. This expectation that bombs will fall and missiles will hit their targets with flawless accuracy is unrealistic. War just isn’t a safe endeavour, so if anyone wants to support a war, they need to do so with that expectation in mind.

But to think that because “collateral damage” is a feature of war that anyone advocating a war must necessarily also want the collateral damage is a gap in reason. War might not be safe, but neither is either appearing weak on the world stage or allowing ones enemies (and we _do_ have them) to commit acts of terrorism with impunity. Western leaders aren’t evil people in favour of strife and misery; they’re responsible to their country and ensuring its protection. And the reality is that in a world full of unreasonable, violently-minded people, doing that job will sometimes necessitate war and, just as surely, collateral damage.

Those people who think of themselves as proponents of peace would do well to occasionally check their high-minded ideals and acquaint themselves not only with the effects of war, but of its causes. Because it’s a huge oversimplification to think it’s all caused by a bunch of greedy, evil westerners.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#ixzz0uBiYJk9E

Agree: 1 / Disagree: 0

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/19 at 4:24 PM ET:

McWal_Job wrote:Posted 2010/07/19 at 9:04 AM ET:

“…I was lucky enough to have an old guy who was from Avro, take me under his wing…I would highly doubt there was any security leaks during the project because you were only allowed work on your own project, and the Russians considered Canada a backwards bush league country… It wasn’t until Diefenbaker went berserk and slaughtered the Canadian aviation industry in Ontario, that ant drawings got out.”

Yeah another comment posted here earlier by Kreistor mentioned this new "leak theory" concerning the *real* rationale for the Avro’s cancellation:

Kreistor wrote:Posted 2010/07/16 at 10:41 PM ET:

“"Actually, I’ve seen one very good explanation for the squashing of the Arrow.The Americans feared the design would fall into Russian hands. While it was a great aricraft, there were already aircraft in the NATO inventory that could take out Russian bombers. The Soviets, though, did not have an aircraft that could take out a US bomber, but the Arrow was capable of the job.”

The Wikipedia article on the Arrow cites the evidence more specifically:

“The [decision to destroy Arrow design materials] has been attributed to Royal Canadian Mounted Police fears that a Soviet ‘mole’ had infiltrated Avro, later confirmed to some degree in the Mitrokhin archives”.

I’ve created a digest of my responses on this subject at my blog site (http://bit.ly/9SChfL), which is where I’d refer you for my further comments concerning the Arrow.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#ixzz0uBiqvHaV

Agree: 1 / Disagree: 0

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/19 at 3:49 PM ET:

JustAnAverageGuy wrote:Posted 2010/07/19 at 10:50 AM ET:

“Although we both agree that the F-22 Raptor is the better jet, there’s just one small issue with Canada purchasing them. That being that the US congress won’t allow the US to export these units to any country, something which will not change for the foreseeable future.”

Now I’m not at all sure this is true. I’ve read on a few other websites that the option for certain countries to purchase the F-22 has been extended: the examples I am aware of are Britain and Australia. In fact, Australia, according to the "Australia Air Power" site reports that country is on the verge of making changes to its defence strategy and merging the F-22 into its fighter jet fleet instead of going with the F-35. (See http://bit.ly/cYbyX3 for more info. Thanks to kyle1984 for the source.)

And if those countries have access to the F-22, it’s a safe bet Canada can get it too (due to the nature of our alliance). But even if so, it’s also a safe bet we won’t be getting 65 F-22s for under $20 billion….or even a little more than $20 billion. Plus the F-22 doesn’t offer everything the F-35 does; and vice-versa — a decision would have to be made around how much budget there is to buy these aircraft to replace the CF-18s and whether they’re a better fit for our military needs looking ahead into the next 20-35 years (the estimated lifespan of the F-35 air frame). I think the Liberals might have said something of this sort recently… 😉

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0uA1oaKPx

Agree: 1 / Disagree: 0

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 10:21 PM ET:

kyle1984 wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 9:13 PM ET:

“…the UK, who is the biggest contributor the R&R project was saying that the procurement costs of the F-35 progressively converge with the unit costs of the F-22A Raptor, and that the F-35 was becoming less survivable as threats evolve.”

The website you were quoting from provides some new insight, but I’m forced to eye it critically because there was little critique I could find on the F-22A Raptor, which, as you probably know, has experienced serious cost overruns in its production (in the US).  In fact, the F-22 has only survived this long as a manufactured aircraft because parts supplies are spread broadly across the continental US providing jobs in many US states, making it extremely difficult to cancel for political reasons.  Also, a senior software developer, I often write proposals and recommend technology solutions for both private and public sector organizations and I would never write a paper that was quite as one-sided as the quoted source; regardless of what technology I was recommending.  So I’m doubly-suspicious because it was written by an Engineer/Fighter-Pilot who, in my view, oughtta know better. 😉

Not that this diminishes his analysis concerning the F-35 on its own.  It is of some concern that he cites UK sources as saying F-35 costs could rise to the level of the F-22; there certainly is nothing in the Canadian government announcement about the F-35 purchase, which is of course one of the major criticisms being put forth by the Liberals.

The survivability of the F-35 seems a bit of a weak argument to me too.  He’s suggesting that you can’t upgrade the plane as readily as the F-22, but I can’t quite figure out why that might be.  And I’d need to understand that better before changing my mind.

Agree: 10 / Disagree: 0

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 10:00 PM ET:

kEiThZ wrote:Posted 2010/07/18 at 2:26 AM ET:

“They just want competition for the sake of competition. It’ll be millions to have a fly-off or worse, we’ll only have one compliant bidder. There’s only one 5th gen jet on the market for us and that’s the F-35. Anybody that says they want competition is either being deceptive or intends to dumb down the requirement.”

I’ll refer you to what Allan Williams, former Assistant Deputy Minister, DND (chief procurement officer) said on Eric Solomon’s Power & Politics (used to be linked here, but it’s still linked off main article: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/07/16/canada-jets.html.  As anyone who’s ever had any experience with project management will tell you, it’s pretty silly to argue against due diligence and going through an open bid process.  Why?  A number of reasons (watch the video); but chief among them it helps prevent you from getting ripped off or taken advantage of.

So I’m afraid, I simply can’t agree that it’s a waste of money — even if it looks at the outset very likely that the F-35 would be the successful bid in any event.  And the Liberals are quite correct in pointing this out…not to mention reminding Canadians of the extremely risky pattern the Conservatives follow with respect to non-disclosure.  (As everyone now knows, the old Reform promises of "openness" and "transparency" in government were dead and buried pretty much the day the Conservatives took power for the 1st time and were faced with practicing what they’d preached.)

Agree: 7 / Disagree: 0

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 1:45 AM ET:

kyle1984 wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 9:13 PM ET:

“Has our government done any work evaluating this file or just pulled it off the shelf and jumped for joy as how sexi it looked. Their defence of, ‘It my decision and I’m going to make it whether you like It or Not’ is lame and getting real tired!
Sometimes there is a distinction between what you want and what you need.
I think it the Governments’ job to provide the financing but it should be the C-Forces making the decision as to what they need.”

Well, I dunno if we should just leave it entirely up to the military.  I think ideally, the political leaders should state what the policy goals and objectives are, and then ask the military about how to best equip Canada to achieve them, in the context of national defense.

I also just wanted to add that I did a bit more research after reading the article you quoted earlier, and the F-22 is actually not considered a direct 1:1 competitor for the F-35.  It turns out that it would cost Canada considerably more to purchase F-22s than F-35s and the interop features wouldn’t be as great, so there are some trade-offs — though it must be said there’s broad consensus that the F-22 is a superior air-to-air weapons platform.

But I couldn’t find any good cross-references for the notion being argued by Dr. Kopp, that the F-35 was a "technological failure" so for now I have to stand by my earlier comments that this analysis seems highly subjective.  And it now appears, insofar as the Canadian purchase is concerned, that the Conservative’s numbers on the maintenance costs (which are still secret) could lead us closer to the $16-18 billion mark than the lower $9 billion figure cited at the news conference.

Agree: 6 / Disagree: 7

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 1:28 AM ET:

ChrisinEdmonton wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 9:35 PM ET:

“NO WAY…for 18 BILLION we should be able to build our own jets designed specifically for our C-Forces needs. Be Canadian. Buy Canadian.”

Dude, what in the name of God are you smoking??? I want some!!!

Sorry, but there is a level of ignorance beyond which people really ought to keep their mouths shut and you are about $282 billion short of being allowed to open yours without being hollered at by me. =P Do you have the foggiest idea how much it costs to design a modern jet fighter, capable of operating in the modern theatre of warfare? Nope — didn’t think so. Well the Americans have invested well in excess of $300 billion just developing the F-35 to date; that doesn’t even begin to include manufacturing or maintenance costs for the 1200-unit fleet of F-35s they want deployed in the next 5-10 years.

It isn’t in dispute whether Canada has the know-how to build a jet fighter on its own (‘cuz we sure do!); but I’d have to seriously doubt that there’s 10 people in this country who’d get behind the idea of spend upwards of half a trillion dollars on what you’d call a "built-in-Canada" solution. We just don’t have that kind of money to spend without disastrous economic consequences.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5mYlAp5

Agree: 14 / Disagree: 5

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 12:27 AM ET:

JUST THINKING 01 wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 7:07 PM ET:

“I really wish poeple would remove their own political views when detailing with issues such as this. Whelther you like or dislike the Conservatives it has no bearing on this issue.”

I agree, in principle. Ideologically-based policy decisions seem to be happening with alarming frequency, and so goes the political debate — which isn’t healthy. Having said that, however, there’s more than one issue on the table here: whether to buy the fighters and whether the ongoing pattern of the Conservatives governing in camera is the right way of doing things. And while I may agree with the decision to buy into this F-35 deal, I remain vehemently opposed to the air of secrecy that is the hallmark of this government. It really wouldn’t have hurt anyone to have an open bid process (because I’m pretty darned sure Lockheed-Martin would’ve won anyways).

"The Liberal’s already sent us down this road long before the Conservatives made this purchase. They signed up us up for the Joint Striker program to start with, they approved the what 500M in funding to the program with the idea of purchasing the jets."

And I’m getting tired of this Conservative refrain that’s little more than typical Tory disinformation. The Liberals didn’t "send us down" any road. They simply made Canada part of the JSF R&D program, which, yes, was the right thing to do. But nothing in that agreement stated we were obliged or needed to buy fighters afterward; we had the option to do so. So it’s not really "hypocritical" as McKay keeps trying to paint it; though I admit it makes a great sound-bite.

Add to this a reminder that the Liberals aren’t opposing the F-35 at all, in fact — they’re advocating a review and an open bid instead of ramming the deal thru.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5nWFEDB

Agree: 10 / Disagree: 9

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 12:08 AM ET:

Kreistor wrote:Posted 2010/07/16 at 10:41 PM ET:

“Actually, I’ve seen one very good explanation for the squashing of the Arrow.The Americans feared the design would fall into Russian hands. While it was a great aricraft, there were already aircraft in the NATO inventory that could take out Russian bombers. The Soviets, though, did not have an aircraft that could take out a US bomber, but the Arrow was capable of the job.”

Yeah, I heard about that theory recently too. And I can’t argue the facts about whether the Arrow had been compromised (though the documentation of this theory rather sketchy so far); but if that really was the problem, it seems that it could’ve been dealt with a whole lot better than scrapping the programme. (Generally, ya don’t scrap production on a jet fighter because security leaks are suspected, though this was the rationale given by the RCMP for destroying the design materials.) Not to again mention that the Americans weren’t hugely keen on being upstaged by Canadian technology (which is well-documented), and there were strong economic incentives for Truman to convince Diefenbaker to purchase a number of Bomarc missiles for northern air defense instead. (Missiles that were obsolete within 10 years of deployment, and scrapped shortly thereafter.) As a student of history, I tend to buy into the economic incentives as being the stronger of the two motives for the Arrow’s termination; if, in fact, they were ever in competition.

After all, there’s still no declassified evidence that suggests the Americans knew or even suspected that Arrow security had leaks.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5uwMa9g

Agree: 5 / Disagree: 1

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/16 at 7:44 PM ET:

rnixon75 wrote:Posted 2010/07/16 at 6:32 PM ET:

“9 billion can go along way to our own economy not outsourcing it to other countries..BUILD the damn things here!”

As another posted pointed out, you’re talking about the Avro Arrow. And yes, Diefenbaker should have been hauled up on charges of treason both for killing the deal — and again for killing the deal because he was a Conservative PM manifestly doing what he was told to do by the U.S.! But this is the 21st century and your comment reflects the fact that most people just don’t understand that modern planes aren’t built by individual countries anymore. And nobody should be under the illusion that the F-35 is exclusively an American plane — they might’ve manufactured and assembled it, but plenty of Canadian design went into it too.

And I suspect more will follow with upgrades and maintenance in the years to come if we do the right thing and buy these planes.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5zEpuk9

Agree: 24 / Disagree: 4



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