Tuesday, 11 December 2012


 It has been reported that “In an attempt to head off public skepticism that Ottawa’s “options analysis” is something less than a rigorous rethink of which jet is best, the government is enlisting four independent monitors to vet the process.”

There is little doubt that a host of self-appointed experts are lining up to give this new F-35 panel advice. Canadian Defence Matters is jumping on the band wagon and will do its best to guide Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, who led the NATO mission in Libya, and University of Ottawa professor Philippe Lagassé, an outspoken critic of the jet procurement, Keith Coulter, past chief of the Communications Security Establishment and a former fighter pilot who was also a member of the Snowbirds aerobatic team; and Rod Monette, a former federal comptroller-general and chartered accountant who served with the defence department, in the right path.

 Over at Information Dissemination they recently made an interesting point on “soft power” and the U.S. Air Force.

Simply put, the United States Air Force is not a tool honed for “soft” or “smart” power. Its understanding of the commons is at odds with the idea of a positive sum game. This is not to say that airpower (whether manifested in the USAF or otherwise) does not have a critical role to play in the future of U.S. defense policy.  Rather, it is important to specify the contribution made by each instrument of foreign and defense policy. The Air Force has yet to develop a conception of “soft power” more complex than “friends make the exercise of hard power easier.”

On the other hand it would appear that these concepts are not new to the R.C.A.F. In  

“Unless it is a fight for national survival, last seen during the Second World War (WWII), it is unlikely that the aerospace element of national power will be employed in its entirety. Certainly, in Canada’s case only select elements of the CAF have deployed overseas on combat operations. Therefore, although our current and desired future capabilities need to be effective in a combat battle space, they need to be able to prove their utility and efficiency in the potentially more unforgiving environment of domestic politics”

As the introduction points out:

“Currently, the Canada First Defence Strategy emphasizes the importance of a domestic, or North American, role for the Canadian Forces (CF). Of the six core missions listed in this document, none of them specifically addresses combat, and four of them focus on a non-kinetic role at home. The remaining two are more expeditionary in nature, but are broad enough to include everything from humanitarian assistance to peacekeeping to operations involving the use of kinetic force.”

It should be noted here that in military speak kinetic effects usually means “dropping bombs on people who don’t do what we want” although to be fair sometimes it means “shooting down airplanes that are trying to stop us bombing people who don’t do what we want”

On paper the Canada First Defence Strategy has six core Missions;

1. Conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including in the Arctic and through NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command).
2. Support a major international event in Canada, such as the 2010 Olympics.
3. Respond to a major terrorist attack.
4. Support civilian authorities during a crisis in Canada such as a natural disaster.
5. Lead and / or conduct a major international operation for an extended period.
6. Deploy forces in response to crises elsewhere in the world for shorter periods.
Canadian aerospace doctrine

As this paper says;
“What the Defence Strategy does not state specifically is that the CF and the CAF would be called upon to conduct many of these core missions simultaneously. Unfortunately, this means that often the same resources (personnel, equipment, and treasure) have to be stretched to meet Governmental demands. This in turn means that we have to be much more efficient and effective in how we do business both at home and abroad. Logic, therefore, dictates that we should spend as much if not more time studying the peacetime, non-combat elements of aerospace power as a key element of national power

It is not enough to state that the F-35 fighter will provide the CAF with the ability to fight alongside the best against the best, we must also be able to argue that it will enhance our contribution to NORAD, contribute to Arctic sovereignty, improve our ability to respond to potential terrorist threats, and contribute to the economic well-being of a domestic aerospace industry.”(emphasis added)

To what extent does the F-35 enhance our contribution to NORAD with its short range and single engine? The same features affect its contribution to Arctic sovereignty. Its ability to respond to potential terrorist threat is exceeded by other less expensive platforms with equal or better ISTAR capabilities. As has been pointed out the F-35 does not guarantee a “contribution to the economic well being of the domestic aerospace industry”
The “panel of Wise men” overseeing our F-35 purchase have to ask themselves if spending five to seven percent of our Defence Budget every year for the next thirty to forty years for sixty-five F-35’s is a wise investment for a service that is trying to recognize the importance of “smart power”.