“Ready, aye ready, Mr. Harper, sir.”

We have a tradition in Canada that the military serves at the will of the civilian authority. It means that currently Prime Minister Harper and his defence minister are the boss as far as Canada’s military is concerned. There are times though when you wonder what is behind it when the military brass appears to be too obsequious. Maybe it is the only way they can make a point.

Obviously the Defence Minister’s minions have been slow at the switch and have yet to give the right talking notes to Canada’s new air force chief. He seems to be well behind the curve in how to talk about the acquisition of F-35 fighters for his pilots. At a time when the politicians are pulling back from their earlier confidence in the purchase, the new head of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin is still sounding gung-ho for the F-35 fighter.

It is not that we would accuse a lieutenant-general of being a suck-up but he does seem to be trying a bit too hard. To admit that the F-35 is already costing far too much and its delivery dates continue to be pushed into the future is really saying that the ultimate purchase might not happen. And that would be the good news for Canadians.

Blondin’s funniest comment to the news media at his swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa was that the lighter, single engine F-35 was better than a heavier twin-engine craft. He explained—with a straight face—that the lighter craft can carry more fuel and have greater range when patrolling the Arctic. And well it could—if it carries no armament.

But the truth is that to effectively patrol the Arctic, the general knows very well that these stealth fighters would require air-to-air refuelling and there goes the stealth benefit.

Mind you Blondin seems to understand that his political masters want him to be ready to attack, not defend. Stealth fighters such as the contemplated F-35 are supposed to be on the enemy without warning. That means the most vulnerable enemy for the Canadian air force would have to be New York State. Mind you, that might cause the other American states to be annoyed with us and they have far more planes and bigger weapons.

But to go around the world hoping to find more people to bomb and strafe such as in Libya is not the role Canadians prefer for their air force. Hopefully the government that replaces the Harper government in a few years will find a more suitable aircraft to replace our air force’s aging F-18s. How about a modern version of the Avro Arrow?

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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