The Council on Hemispheric Affairs doesn't pull any punches in a new report about Canada's membership in the F-35 club: It doesn't belong, the study concludes.
In addition to the many questions about how much the CF-35 will ultimately cost -- just like Washington, Ottawa has competing sets of numbers that come from different sides of the political spectrum -- the Council's study argues that Canada should wave off because it just doesn't need the kind of capability the F-35 offers.
The Lightning II, as Buzz readers know, is designed to drop the first ordnance of the war or have the first dogfight -- that's why it needs to be stealthy, agile, networked, etc. But let's be honest, the Council's report says: Canada shouldn't be committing itself to an aircraft based on this kind of strategy: It's a bad idea in principle and practically speaking, Canada doesn't have the firepower to follow through on the kinds of major campaigns for which the U.S. designed this aircraft. "The F-35 is unsuitable for Canadian military operations and marks an unfortunate shift in Canadian foreign policy towards single-mindedly backing the U.S. military," wrote the Council's lead author.
Canada’s foreign policy should not be tied closely to that of the U.S., especially when conducting Canadian military operations. The goals and orientations of these two militaries are completely different. The F-35’s fundamental role is a day-one stealth bomber used to penetrate enemy air defense, which later secures air cover and provides the opportunity to bomb important military targets. Therefore, the F-35 purchase suggests that the Conservative government is willing to conduct further NATO operations in bombing or suppression of air defense. However, Canada lacks the capacity to follow through with this type of invasion or large-scale operation.The is only the latest shot fired in what has been a long, public battle over the CF-35, but at the moment, the jet's backers in Ottawa appear to have the upper hand. There's every indication that despite the long controversy, Canada will keep its membership in the F-35 club and move forward with its planned buy of 65.
The Canadian government should have instead used its resources to invest in areas that would benefit Canada overseas, such as the land forces. Steven Staples points out, “as the second largest country in the world, a significant portion of [Canada’s] military spending should be dedicated to disaster relief, search-and-rescue, and constabulary patrols along [Canada’s] three coasts. [Canada’s] potential military contribution to expeditionary missions will be neither necessary nor sufficient for the success of operations involving significant use of force.”
With the current budget deficit and Canada’s historical role in peacekeeping missions, the Canadian Forces should focus on missions sanctioned by the United Nations. Canada could make a greater contribution to UN missions by having the Canadian Forces specialize in general use capabilities. General specialization will allow Canada to offer greater support for humanitarian missions – an option that investing in concepts such as “first-strike capabilities” renders impossible. However, even though these UN missions are very important, Canada has dramatically reduced its contributions to UN operations since 1997, partly because of the NATO-led mission in Bosnia. By 2005, Canada committed only 83 military personnel to UN peacekeeping missions, in comparison 500 Canadian soldiers participated in stabilizing Haiti from 1993 to 1996. Once again, Staples recognizes that Canada stopped operating strategic bombers after the end of the Second World War, and retired the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonadventure forty years ago. Until recently, previous administrations reoriented the Canadian Forces to conduct smaller peace-keeping operations. Its critics say that the F-35 purchase marks a grave mistake by the Conservatives, as Canada does not need the F-35 in any shape or capacity in its inventory. Instead, Canada’s scarce resources should be invested in existing sectors of their armed forces.