Monday, April 18, 2011

F-35 purchase comes under fire

Toronto Star July 22,2010

Re: $16 billion for the wrong planes, Opinion July 18
Members of a political and corporate elite who define “leadership” as strict adherence to an ideology based on the permanent, unbroken attachment of government and business are currently leading many of the democracies in the Western world — and leading them away from their citizen’s hard-won democratic freedoms. Our dysfunctional democracies are in dire need of leadership and restructuring that is based on empathy for the majority of our citizens who have been marginalized, made poor, divided and conquered by an increasingly cynical, unaccountable, arrogant business and multi-national corporate establishment.
But this will not happen without a real and effective separation of state and business, in much the same way we have achieved separation of church and state. Political leadership that continues to ignore this problem is complicit in the erosion and destruction of our democratic freedoms, which, in turn leads to the erosion and destruction of our civilization.
We don’t need more fighter planes and weapons, more prisons, more billionaires, and more G8 or G20 conferences. We need long-term national civic leadership and progressive political stability that is based on inclusiveness and respect for all.
Chris DaCosta, Toronto
The Americans soon realized that it would be extremely expensive to design and develop the F-35. They asked their NATO friends to contribute. The Liberal government kicked in $150 million and the U.K. $2 billion. Estimates at the time were that each F-35 would be $90 million.
Three years ago, a serious breach of trust developed between the U.K. and the U.S. England realized that when it agreed to invest and buy the F-35 it had also agreed that the U.S. would keep the ownership and control of the aircraft’s technology and intellectual property.
This means that the U.S. decides if, when and why the aircraft should be maintained. After all, the U.S. will keep the parts, tools and engineering drawings for its repair. The U.S. refused to renegotiate. The U.K. publicly threatened to abandon the project. Condoleeza Rice, then U.S. Secretary of State, flew to London on three separate occasions to put out the fire.
The Brits were angry at themselves for two reasons. First they let themselves be duped again by the U.S. In the early 1970s, the U.K. bought U.S. Polaris nuclear submarines under similar terms of U.S. control. It turned out that the U.S. told them what to do and where to go. If not, the submarines would permanently end up in dry dock. The same control will be applied with the F-35.
The second reason is that the U.K. is building two new aircraft carriers. These new ships were designed for the F-35. The U.K. cannot redesign its Eurofighter to land on their decks. Unless it buys F-18s or Rafales, it is stuck with the F-35. To add to their problems, the U.K. is deeply indebted. It has cancelled one contact to build the second carrier.
The first has already been started. It mothballed its construction but has approved $25 million just to maintain it while they decide what to do with it. It is also negotiating to sell its Eurofighters to Japan. The Eurofighter is excellent and Canada would have benefited politically and financially if it had bought it at a discount price.
Canada was also duped in the past. In the 1960s, the U.S. reneged on its agreement to buy 600 of our CF-105 Arrow interceptors and then coerced us to buy their Bomarc missiles. We paid dearly for the underground missile installations and missiles only to have the Americans take control of our sites here in Canada and tell us what to do.
The F-35s are now $140 million apiece. It will cost us $16 billion to buy and maintain them for 20 years. Don’t you think that we could have used that money to design and build our own fighter? We did it before!
Is the F-35 the best aircraft? I don’t know. It depends on the mission. The old 1950’s design, huff and puff, French Etendard aircraft has a 72 per cent mission success rate in Afghanistan, better than the French Mirage 2000, the F-16, the F-18 or the F-15. Go figure!
Are the Conservatives to blame? In part. It is a sin to dupe and a sin to be duped. If the truth were known, they don’t have a clue about technical stuff and are easily misled.
I accuse our air force brass of duping us. These guys only want to be like their American counterparts. They are just go-boys for the U.S. government. Like the Bomarc and the Polaris, the U.S. will tell us what to do. If we don’t blindly obey, we will have 65 expensive paperweights sitting on the tarmac.
I am offended that our infantry is getting killed in Afghanistan while our Air Force is selling their country down the river.
Pierre Legault, North Bay
The F-35 is a “Joint-Fighter” aircraft whose purpose is to consolidate costs and standardize equipment across multiple organizations. In the U.S., the intent is the F-35 will be used by three military branches — the Air Force, Navy and Marines. There will be three versions of it.
A “standard” configuration will be used by the Air Force on normal air-strip facilities. A “carrier-based” one used by the U.S. Navy will have enhanced landing gear. And a STOVL (short take off/vertical landing) version is for the Marine Corps.
To spread out the cost of development, other countries were given the opportunity to participate in the program. Any photo of this aircraft clearly shows the flags of participating countries on its nose. Would Mr. Byers rather Canada walk away from the investment that Canada has put into the development of this aircraft in favour of another aircraft? The manufacturing of this aircraft will provide jobs to Canadians.
The Canadian version of the F-35 will be the standard one so the range will not be sacrificed by those optional things. No matter what aircraft we use, air-to-air refueling is a fact of life.
Mr. Byers talked about KC-135 Hercules aircraft to refuel them. I don’t know about the KC-135 Hercules, but the KC-135 Stratotanker is an older 707-based aircraft that the USAF used to refuel its aircraft. The C-130 Hercules is a propeller driven cargo plane. Taking eight hours for a tanker to arrive on station, depending on where it is coming from yes, but all sorties are planned in advance, including refueling assets.
There are few options out there for new fighter aircraft. We bought CF-188s in the ’70s. If we buy fighters every 40 years, maybe we should buy something new and something that we have had a hand in developing.
Bruce Orrell, Aurora
Want a priceless example of irony? Picture Steven Harper at the recent $1 billion G20 boondoggle smiling and urging world leaders to exercise fiscal restraint. And his version just weeks later? The purchase of 65 unneeded jet fighters from a U.S. company for an alleged $9 billion (experts say it the figure could be double that). Hmm, maybe the $1 billion was a bargain after all.
Bruce Mather, Ardoch
The intention to purchase F-35 jet fighters for Canadian defence reveals a failure of basic thinking in Canadian politics. Defence needs follow in great measure from foreign policy, and weapons of the F-35 kind imply an intention to project power abroad, a polite way of saying: to attack other countries. Canada has no reason to attack any other country and most of our citizens would oppose such action.
Derek Paul, Toronto
Canada’s deal with an American aircraft manufacturer seems overpriced at $9 billion. Perhaps Karlheinz Schreiber can do better for us in Europe, considering his impeccable connections.
George Dunbar, Toronto
The Harper government is spending $16 billion on an excellent jet fighter. It just might not be the one Canada needs. The 65 F-35s we are about to purchase are a strike fighter. Excellent for sneaking up on adversaries.
But that’s not us. Canada’s primary role in the sky is North American continental defence — as in NORAD. Has the new F-18 Super Hornet been considered? The F-18 (CF-18 configuration we use) is well known to our fighter pilots, mechanics, and to our military infrastructure.
There might be cost saving too as the two 18s share many parts and would reduce money spent on retraining to service a completely different aircraft.
Jim Fraser, Simcoe
Fifty one years ago, John Diefenbaker cancelled the superior Canadian AVRO Arrow program in favour of the U.S. developed Bomarc Nuclear Missile program. Today, Stephen Harper’s government has chosen, without competition, the inferior U.S. F-35 single engine stealth fighter over a number of superior and more appropriate jet fighters.
I can’t tell the difference. Can you tell the difference?
John Redmond, Bolton
What could we do with $16 billion that the feds are spending on 65 fighter jets?
Here are some suggestions, taken from the Alternative Federal Budget 2010:
  $2 billion for affordable housing;
$500 million for a guaranteed farm income program;
$89 million to further the “creative economy”;
$551 million for renewable energy;
$700 million to improve aboriginal education;
$1.7 billion to transfer to provinces to provide affordable daycare;
$615 million to the ODA (Official Development Assistance) to ensure Canada spends 0.7 per cent of our GNI;
$1 billion to extend EI benefits to cover 60 per cent of a worker’s best 12 weeks of income; $1.5 billion to extend EI benefits to those who have worked 360 hours in a year;
$2.73 billion to give grants to post-secondary students based on income-testing; $300 million to transfer to the provinces to support post-secondary education;
$2 billion to transfer to the provinces to reduce poverty;
$300 million to the Canada Council to provide more access to the arts and help for artists;
$77 million to upgrade and enhance Canada’s national museums;
$20 million to launch a federal-provincial commission to investigate how to fund health care needs not funded now such as prescription drugs, physical therapy and more;
$900 million to extend drug, and other non-insured medical coverage to all Canadians;
$500 million for a green manufacturing fund;
$847 million to increase all single pensioners’ GIS benefits by 15 per cent.
The total for all this is $15.7 billion.
I’m sure most Canadians can tell which would offer a better bang for their bucks.
Judy Haiven, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Management, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax
The Star’s excellent articles on our government’s profligacy with “security” funding (including the Michael Byers op-ed on July 17) show up the contrast to its shameful shortchanging of the public, including inadequate hospital funding and the negative implications of changes to the census. It has become apparent that our “public servants” have become private servants to agendas other than that of the welfare of Canadians.
While tens of thousands took to Toronto’s streets during the G20 to protest this corporatism, more Canadians have to speak up to demand that those running for office — at all elections — put a higher priority on public needs rather than corporate agendas.
Karin Brothers, Toronto
As a Canadian Forces aerospace engineering officer who works in procurement, though not in any capacity connected to the F-35 purchase, I would like to respond to Michael Byers’ opinion piece.
He focuses on the stealthy aspect of the F-35, labeling it an aircraft used to create “shock and awe.” Yet, he completely misses out on the defensive nature of stealth. Stealth increases survivability in air combat and improves the chances that our fighter pilots will come home after a fight.
He also brings up concerns about range and cites several alternatives. However, their range figures are deceptive. Hanging ordinance on their wings incurs significant drag penalties that significantly reduce their top speed, range and endurance on station. The F-35 overcomes this issue by giving the option of storing all its ordinance internally.
Finally, he applies the label of “sole-source,” which is really a half-truth. The CF’s requirements call for a 5th generation fighter. There’s is only one on the market that Canada can buy: the F-35 Lightning II.
Were the CF to hold a competition with this requirement, there would only be one compliant bidder: Lockheed Martin and its F-35. The only way to have a contest is to significantly reduce requirements, running the risk that the CF may end up procuring an aircraft that will be obsolete in the first decade of its 30-year life or will require expensive and regular upgrades to remain relevant.
Finally, Mr. Byers fails to consider the perspective of other users. The U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Royal Navy all face operating conditions that in the past have resulted in similar demands to those Canada faces. Indeed, in some ways carrier operations can be significantly more demanding. They’ve insisted on range and twin engines in the past too. And today, they are committed to the Joint Strike Fighter program as well. That should tell him something.
Keith Lobo, Scarborough
I am so outraged by the latest stupidity of this government. As so clearly addressed in the article by Michael Byers, this is a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money. What exactly are these fighters going to be used for — defence against Russia? The U.S.? Not only is the cost exorbitant, but it appears as though the planes are not suited for our country.
Our hospitals, social services and infrastructure are all in desperate need of more funding, yet $16 billion is being wasted. Instead we should have invested some of that $16 billion on a high-speed rail for the Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa corridor. This F-35 purchase has more to do with supporting U.S companies than Canadian ones.
Kieran Kennedy, Burlington
Michael Byers writes that “Canada’s most desperate procurement need is for fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft that could be built in Canada by Bombardier.” While a new aircraft of that sort is certainly required by the air force, Bombardier is not the company to build it. Such planes require a rear ramp for the rapid and accurate release of rescue materiel and personnel. Unfortunately the only aircraft Bombardier might offer for the role is an adapted version of its Q Series turboprop airliner — which has no rear ramp and cannot be fitted with one.
Professor Byers goes on, “opportunities for Canadian industry would be created by sourcing search-and-rescue planes here.” A major thrust of his piece is to argue against the sole-sourcing on our military aircraft, yet here he sees to be advocating it. Does he not want a fair competition that Bombardier would be free to enter? What gives?
Indeed he criticizes the government for the purchase of the air force’s new C-17 strategic airlifters and C-130J tactical airlifters. He states, “sole-sourcing ensured that the planes would be purchased from American firms rather than Europe’s Airbus.”
The A400M is the Airbus plane that might have been considered. But it is several years behind schedule and is still in flight testing. The first delivery, to France, is now not expected until 2013. Any aircraft for Canada would be some time after that and we needed our new transports rather sooner.
Our first C-17 was actually delivered in 2007, all four by 2008. Our first C-130J arrived at Trenton early this June. Does Professor Byers really think Airbus was such a good idea?
Mark Collins, Ottawa
This looks a lot like bid rigging, that is if there were any bids. This airplane also looks a bit too much a war maker and not enough the peacekeeper that Canada requires. Somebody’s got a nasty case of U.S. war envy.
Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough
Governments are failing their citizens. They are pursuing failed economic policies that create obscene profits for banks and corporations at the expense of working people; they are exploiting world’s natural resources for quick-term jobs and revenues rather providing stewardship and protection of the environment; and, they are preparing for permanent war instead of developing alternative solutions to conflict. There are different ways to manage this beautiful suffering world but they require vision and noble aspirations.
The Canadian government’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets will ultimately cost taxpayers around $18 billion. Peter McKay, in defending the expenditure, spoke about “defending our sovereignty,” “living up to our NATO commitments.
and “ensuring that the Canadian Forces have the best.” But this is language from the past. It is not what we need for the 21st century.
Instead of “defending our sovereignty” we should be ensuring the survival of our planet. Rather than being concerned with living up to our NATO commitments, we should be focusing on providing the necessities of life to the millions struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day. And, should not we be making certain that all of our citizens have the best in education, healthcare, childcare, eldercare and housing?
The July funding bill in the U.S. Congress authorized additional money for the war in Afghanistan at the expense of cuts in education, which will result in the layoff of 140,000 teachers. Although this is example is from the U.S., it shows clearly just how misguided our priorities have become.
Our world is now too small, and far too fragile, to continue our archaic reliance on military strategies in devising the way forward. The costs of perpetual war in human lives and suffering, in the destabilization of entire populations, in the drain on financial resources, in the assault on the environment, are just not sustainable. Most ordinary citizens realize that the challenges we face will not be resolved with more sophisticated weapons or better-financed armies. However, powerful entities continue to perpetuate the mechanisms of war and violence. There is an urgent need for governments to develop a coordinated and coherent paradigm for sustainable peace. Until there are fully funded ministries with specific focus on disarmament, nonviolent conflict resolution, human security and peacebuilding we will not attain these critical goals.
Our political leaders are too concerned with maintaining the status quo to take us in a new direction so change will have to come, as it always has, from ordinary citizens. One group gathering attention is the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative, which is part of a global movement calling on governments to organize around principles of nonviolent conflict resolution and peacebuilding. We need to seriously look at what is being proposed.
A good start would be that we contact our MPs and demand that a debate is held in the House of Commons on Bill C-477, An Act to Create the Department of Peace. This initiative is gaining momentum around the world. Let Canada lead the way in forging a new way forward.
Rob Acheson, Pickering
In an age when your new iGadget is no longer cutting edge as soon as the box it is opened, why are we buying weapons that target yesterday’s war — and someone else’s war, at that?
Canada’s energy, environment and defense policies are now decided south of the border. What other pieces of our Canadian right to self-determination have been sold to U.S. corporate interests by our successive federal governments? Are there not rules — and penalties — for those holding federal office who subordinate Canada’s interests to those of a foreign power? And in law, what might such behaviour be termed?
Ordinary, yet still engaged Canadians — from both the right and the left — would like some answers, eh? And preferably before the next election.
Wayne Scott, Toronto
Michael Byers’ opinion that the Canadian military has not the need for aircraft like the stealth fighter, which is utilized in spearheading large attacks by the American military in “ shock and awe operations,” rings true. Canadian forces are now in its final days in Afghanistan — a conflict now deemed unwinnable.
Canada’s entry into this unfortunate conflict was noble in intent but in sharp contrast to our peacekeeping role in the post World War II era. I believe Canada’s future military operations should focus again on peacekeeping, not on another huge conflict like Afghanistan.
There are, and will be, the need for future peacekeeping roles for our military. Just recently Mr. Abbas, the leader of the Fatah party in the West Bank was calling for peacekeepers in the Middle East should the Israel-Palestinian conflict ever be developed in that positive direction.
Our military has had a sound peacekeeping role in the recent past and the return to such a role would not require the attack function of the F-35 stealth fighters. And $16 billion would be of greater use in dealing with our debt-deficit situation than assisting the American military’s next major operation.
Ted Hassall, Niagara Falls
Re: One-engine jet perfectly safe, MacKay says, July 17
It is hard to believe that Canada will spend approximately $16 billion on 65 F-35 fighter planes and their future maintenance. All this during a recession. As far as I can recall, the previous CF-18s owned by Canada saw precious little action. In other words, the F-35s will probably not be used to their full potential and capabilities.
Enemies, who wish to invade Canada, are largely imaginary. However, I believe anti-Canadian terrorism is a real threat and unfortunately F-35s might not be very helpful in this regard.
The primary reason for spending $16 billion is: A lot of money is going to be made by a lot of people. This purchase is mostly business. Let’s face it. Canada could be just as secure for far less than $16 billion.
The Canadian government, which supposedly serves Canadians, should be helping the poor and the many Canadians who are in need? Were Canadians consulted on the Afghan war? Are they being consulted on the acquisition of F-35s? Are the opinions of Canadians, on anything, ever considered by the government? Is Canada a democracy?
Nathan Borenstein, Richmond Hill

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