F-35: Multi-Billion Dollar Mistake

Maj Stephen Fuhr (ret) served with the Canadian Air Force as a fighter pilot, flight instructor, and Operational Fleet Manager for the F-18 for over twenty years. He is increasingly frustrated with the government's promotion of the F-35 as the only solution to Canada's urgent need to replace its aging F-18 fleet.

"The people who are supporting it are in love with the idea of the F-35. The problem with it is that it can't deliver the capability it promised on time and on budget, and that's extremely clear to everybody on the planet except the current government."

There are cracks appearing today in the Defense Department's resolve to go with the F-35. Finally, the Chief of Canada's Air Force, Lt-Gen Andre Deschamps, conceded that we are reaching the limits of what would constitute a minimum size for our air fleet with only 65 jets. As costs continue to grow, Canada may find itself having to make a decision about taking fewer planes or increasing the capital budget, a decision that Julian Fantino said is now being deferred to 2013. Deschamps noted that "The number 65 gives us the capacity to cover all our missions with confidence." The corollary? The Air Force could not fulfill its missions if the number of jets dropped below that level.

It is time for the government to evaluate alternatives to the F-35 or risk an operational capacity shortfall: as the F-18's currently in our fleet are decommissioned, we risk not having enough fighters to cover the gap before delivery of our next generation aircraft.

Australia, a country of comparable size and disposition, has elected to defer a decision on the F-35 and take delivery of F-18 Super Hornets instead.

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