F-35? ‘No’ is logical, fair

Letter to the Globe and Mail, published 28 February 2016.  

Re Canada To Stay In F-35 Buyers’ Club (Feb. 25): Canada remains, as your report notes, a member of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. But that is a U.S.-led 12-member consortium where Canada had little influence over the aircraft the group finally produced – the F-35. Joining the JSF never meant automatically buying whatever aircraft emerged. Had that had been the case, the CF-18 replacement decision would have been made in 1997.

Canada entered the JSF program in 1997 for two reasons: to get access for the Canadian aerospace industry to a major U.S. military development and production program, and to monitor developments in contemporary fighter technologies. Canada was not joining a buyers’ club; it was joining a producers’ club. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada “will not buy the F-35 fighter jet,” it wasn’t an illogical rejection of the JSF, it was the eminently logical rejection of the F-35, given the Liberals’ conclusion that “stealth” and “first-strike” capabilities do not fit Canadian requirements.

Is it unfair to reject the F-35 before a selection process has even begun? Only if you think it’s unfair to go into a showroom and announce you’re looking only for a four-cylinder sedan. The dealer may want to show you a V-8 SUV, but there is nothing unfair about declaring in advance you’re not interested.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.

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