Does Canada need the F-35?

 F-35 JSF Lightning II Pictures, Images and Photos

Canada plans to buy about 65 of the yet to be released F-35 fighter jets. They are intended to replace the aging CF-18′s and improve Canada’s overall military power somewhat. They likely will succeed at doing that as these planes are state of the art and have a lot of benefits. However, major news outlets are reporting that an independent research agency concluded that it is not the right thing for Canada to do.

At a cost of $9 billion, which could grow to about $16 billion with a maintenance contract, it is no small price to pay. The research agency, called Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says that Canada should instead look at unmanned drones as they will better suit their needs and may cost less. The Liberal Party was obviously happy to hear this report and is jumping on the bandwagon. They are accusing the government of not looking at alternatives or reaching out to competitors before they made this deal. They also suggested that they may kill the deal if they have the chance.

It is tough to accurately predict what Canada’s needs will be because sometimes you never know how things will work out. Sure, an attack by the Russians over Arctic sovereignty isn’t likely, but would a fleet of F-35′s possibly deter them from thinking about it? Honestly, I think the stars and stripes to the south of Canada are a much bigger deterrence for Russia than any military power Canada may have. Can these F-35′s destroy terrorist networks? Maybe, but only in very specific situations which are not likely the majority of cases. It definitely does do a good job for Canada’s responsibility in protecting North American airspace outside of the Arctic, but is that enough?

Unless the 80 or so CF-18′s currently in use are mostly sitting in hangers collecting dust rather than having real work to do, it seems that the 65 F-35′s are a needed replacement. However, if some of the CF-18′s are not being utilized right now, then maybe the government can trim the order a little and put that money to unmanned drones which can better fight terror networks and can patrol the Arctic in a more cost effective way. The F-35′s are not scheduled to arrive until 2016 so Canada still has time to change course if they choose to.