View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – An interesting turn of events – Libya and the F-35 – March 1, 2011

Ottawa ON – It must be a bit embarrassing these days for those who have been criticizing the Conservative’s purchase of new military equipment.

As the situation in Libya deteriorates and Gadhafi counters the efforts of the population to remove him, western powers must now consider if they will use military force to protect the population. In the initial stages this usually involves the use of air power to enforce a “no fly” zone. If Libyan military aircraft violate that zone they would be shot down.

This requires combat trained pilots in sophisticated jet fighters, flying aircraft suitably equipped for air to air combat. It is more than likely that Libyan ground forces would deploy antiaircraft missile systems to protect their fighters. As such, you also need aircraft capable of a ground attack role to knock the launchers out. A fighter that has stealth technology that makes it difficult for enemy radar to lock onto and destroy it is certainly an asset. Come to think of it that does sound a lot like the F-35!

Back when the F-35 debate first started who would have thought Canada might be asked to participate in such an endeavour. Certainly the Liberals didn’t with their promise to scrap the contract nor did some of the lefties who went so far as to suggest we didn’t need any such aircraft, but perhaps we should use drones instead.

I also remember all the criticism directed at the Conservatives over the purchase of the C-17s and the new Hercules aircraft. These are the same aircraft that Canada is now deploying to evacuate civilians from Libya.

The Liberals are now on their soapbox demanding that Canada be front and center in the Libyan issue and they are demanding that Canada do more. Nice, but besides pounding the table and sounding important you must be able to back your words up. If the UN or the western countries or NATO decides that force must be used we would look pretty stupid waving our flag from the sidelines telling the rest of the world to “go and get them boys”.

Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and one reason you give your armed forces the very best equipment is that you never know when they might be needed. You never know when another Libya or Bosnia will come along. The other reason you give them the very best equipment possible is that any government needs to do everything it can to protect our brave men and women and bring them back alive.

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  1. I’m afraid your article doesn’t make much sense; you argue that the situation in Libya proves the use of the F-35, when in fact the F-35 is currently UN-usable in Libya, because it is years behind schedule (not to mention billions over-budget).

    You mustn’t think much of our pilots if you think that they can’t handle decrepit 1970’s era Soviet equipment (most of it grounded) operated by a disintegrating regime. They do train for these things, you know. The CF-18 we have are long in the tooth, but are solid planes which will tide us over until replacements are purchased.

    I quite agree with you that our pilots deserve the best equipment, which is exactly why critics of the F-35 decision are pressing the government to follow established DND procurement policy and hold a properly tendered OPEN COMPETITON for the CF-18 replacement, not a ridiculous sole-sourced agreement..

    $16B for 65 F-35 fighters? To last 40 years? That’s not enough to fill three squadrons. At least the Libs got 130 of the CF-18s back in the day. The Harper government’s F-35 boondoggle is a reduction in our capacity, not an improvement, and will GUARANTEE that we merely wave our flag from the sidelines telling the rest of the world to “go and get them boys”. We could get 150 advanced Gripen NGs for that amount, have them all built in Canada, get full tech transfer, and have enough multi-role planes that can actually dogfight (unlike the F-35) to maintain operational sovereignty.

    Pie in the sky? Maybe, maybe not. I’m just some guy surfing the internet. The only way to guarantee that we make the right choice is to hold a real competition based on clearly articulated roles and capabilities. Anything less would be a great dis-service to those who have committed their lives to protecting this country.

  2. George: For “some guy surfing the internet,’ you make a lot of sense to me. Keith, I’m afraid your piece is caught up in CONspin.

  3. Keith, please do yourself a favour and read Erna Paris in the March 2011 issue of “The Walrus.”

  4. Perhaps some of you experts should put yourself in the drivers seat – driver being the term that jet jockeys use to describe their profession –

  5. I think most “jet jockeys”, and others of sound mind, would agree that 150 twin engine jet fighters with slightly less than “cutting edge technology” would be far more useful than 65 untried single engine “Star-Wars” fighters for the same price.

  6. I know how to settle this debate. Let’s ask the preacher what Jesus would fly.
    Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  7. CPC MP Keith Beardsley seems not to have any knowledge or understanding of the issues involved or the equipment. With respect to the qualities or their lack of the F-35 and their inappropriatness to Canadian service, please my letter published by this paper and reply below it.

    Regarding the capability of the antiquated, maintenance-free Libyan air force see the Wikileaks documentation reported by The Guardian in the UK at

    Regarding the C-17, note that this highly overpriced airframe is really very capable, can carry very impressive payloads, and is an end of production purchase of equipment like the Victoria class submarines, although the latter were better priced because they were not yet fully ready for service (but are now doing yoeman work) when purchased as the Cold War came to an end. The submarines will serve us well in the North, F-35s cannot and CF-18s or their eventual replacements (Super Hornets, the natural progression, Eurofighter Typhoons, a wish list fighter that would serve us well, or, ideally the F-22 Raptor, which is what we should be purchasing if top-of-the-line, US willingness to sell their best equipment to even allies, cost and far higher priorities weren’t there).

    The C-17’s may have been locally available, but the handful of people it moved could have been carried in a Canadian-built DeHavilland Buffalo with room to spare.

    Incidently, it was the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives whose open competition resulted in purchase of the CF-18, which will need to serve us well for another decade or two if we purchase the F-35 single-engine arctic flying coffin money pit.

    If this is what Mr. Beardsley is doing to waste his time and the privilege of being a Member of Parliament in the Parliament of Canada, he needs to be replaced by someone who respects Canadians.

  8. he F35 needs to be refueled in the air if it to complete a Canadian flight mission. Canada has no fuel planes that can do that. This means that it has to land to refuel and that makes it a very vulnerable, offensive weapon. The answer to this simple and stupid logistical problem is to a) buy refueling planes (and what does that cost?) or b) to allow the U.S. to service our planes mid air. For b, we will have foreign military in our airspace continually and do not think they will do that for free.

    No details have been provided as to what model we will receive for this amount, bare boned?

    I’ve never heard the military tout this plane. What about more jumbo transport planes that can carry personnel and food and water and evacuate people in time of disaster relief instead of linking our military with the U.S.’s. That’s what this is; 65 more planes for the yanks to use in missions.

    There will be more natural disasters coming than wars that need F35s. There’s just more profit in war. There aren’t any more super powers militarily unless you think China is going to invade…

    Could we please NOT subsidize the US war machine, it is NOT who we are. Spend far less on ensuring that our ground troops have the best of the best, that we go back to Blue helmets and get back on the path of being peacekeepers. Those are the size of the battles to come; small regimes that need policing and citizenry protection, not all out invasion tactics.

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