A Legacy Decision: The Long-Term Strategic Rationale for the F-35
This is an excerpt from the CDA Institute's recently released Analysis on the replacement of the CF-18. Click here to read the entire paper.
The intent of this paper is to shine a light on the critical aspects of the CF-18 replacement initiative that appear to have been buried in the public debate surrounding this multi-billion dollar project. Beyond the rhetoric are the immutable consequences borne by future generations of Canadians if we choose poorly. The world is becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats that will likely increase in frequency and scale. Although military force should always be the last resort to resolving such threats, it behooves future generations of Canadians as well as our closest allies that we ensure that our military response remains credible and effective well into the future. As such, my argument as someone who was directly responsible for developing the requirements for new replacement aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and who has no direct interests or obligations with any of the companies seeking to bid on the project is simple; there is only one viable choice, the F-35 Lightning II.
Recent arguments have focused on the domestic role of our fighter force in defending our sovereign airspace and bilateral continental interests through Canada’s commitment to the North American Defense (NORAD) agreement. While both are important roles, any analysis of the FFC operational requirements would be woefully incomplete without including Canada’s explicit and implicit obligations to international defence and security interests through its relationships with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations (UN). Canada’s military history is an instructive frame of reference; other than the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 and a few skirmishes with German U-boats in our sovereign waters, every other peacekeeping, peacemaking and combat mission involving Canada’s military has been overseas. More specific to the FFC project, the CF-18 has been in no less than four armed conflicts overseas since the end of the Cold War including the first Gulf War, the 1999 Kosovo campaign, Libya, and more recently in the ISIL bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. The CF-18 has also proven to be a welcomed contribution to allied deterrence missions from the Cold War through to Canada’s most recent commitment in Latvia. Notwithstanding the important roles of Canada’s army and