OPINION By Stu Salkeld The Stettler Independent
The Canadian government discussed last week purchasing “a fleet” of 88 new fighters within the next 10 years, plus immediate purchase of old F-18s from Australia. Canada already uses a version of the diminutive F-18 Hornet, which was originally designed as a carrier-based fighter.
When it comes to acquiring decent military gear for our women and men in the armed forces, our fearless leader should spend less time pandering to eastern voters and more time finding the most advanced technology for the best price. Relying on fourth generation technology, developed in the 1970s in the waning days of the Cold War, is a recipe for disaster.
Trudeau’s government shows an eager willingness to let politics overrule military wisdom, as feds said the fine print on these 88 new fighters will include how that particular supplier affects the Canadian economy (for example, if you’re American company Boeing and you like to file grievances against, say for example, Canadian perennial corporate welfare candidate Bombardier, that’s bad according to Trudeau). Disappointing, considering our fearless leader, nose angled highly in the air, last week made comments deriding “populist” politicians; that is, politicians who are solely concerned with getting re-elected.
The jets that Justin acquires will face two old adversaries over the next 50 or so years, Russia and China. Both have shown a willingness recently (Russia in Ukraine and Crimea, China in South China Sea) to extend their international influence at the expense of the west. As Russia has shown, some of these old adversaries don’t have a problem with violence either.
Depending on whom you ask, the Chinese will field old, fourth-generation fighters like the J-10 and J-11 that match up well against archaic designs like the famous F-15 and F-16. However, the Chinese are also said to have an advanced fighter in the pipe, the J-20. It looks amazingly like the aircraft from the Clint Eastwood movie “Firefox” and has been flown at certain official ceremonies but no one was allowed to get near it. If you believe what experts say about this thing, it could be one of the most advanced fighters in the world. If it actually enters service.
Plus, as military hardware expert Justin Bronk recently pointed out, the West may know more than expected about the J-20 because it’s possible much of the jet was stolen from the United States, Great Britain and Germany through espionage. “We don’t know how much (American) technology the Chinese have managed to steal,” Bronk recently said. If the J-20 exists and it’s ready to go in 2018, F-18 Hornets stand no chance against this monster.
Canadian jets could very well face off against other old enemy, Russia. Russia still fields SU-27, MIG-29, and SU-35s from the fourth generation of fighters. Dangerous jets but still based on 1970s level technology.
But Russia is also said to possess the ubiquitous Sukhoi T-50/SU-57, which some military pundits group with the J-20 above: if it really exists, it could kick some serious butt. It’s a true fifth generation air superiority fighter, including some stealth capability and thrust vectoring.
Other nations generally considered possible enemies, including North Korea and Iran, for example, field aged Cold War jet designs like the MIG-21 that even the F-18 could deftly handle.
But if the day comes in the next 50 years when Canadians have to face Russia or China in angry skies, one hopes the decision to purchase a fleet of 88 modern air superiority fighters was based on the proper facts, and not essentially so Justin Trudeau could get more votes from suburban Ontario.
Stu Salkeld is the editor of the Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.