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Our CF-18s: A Different Perspective

Web posted on February 17, 2016

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

Young Trudeau has decided to bring our CF-18s out of the fight against the Terrorist State. Let's approach this from an entirely different perspective. Our six CF-18s are a symbolic contribution at best. Even though they have been updated, they are probably the oldest aircraft doing any of the bombing. The airframes are getting old and tired and need to be replaced as soon as possible. I wonder what the reliability rate is for these aircraft?

If Young Trudeau had come out and actually said that we had some of the oldest aircraft in the coalition and we needed to pull the aircraft out to save airframe hours because it will be years before we get a replacement, it would have looked really bad. The first CF-18 entered service in October of 1982. Of the 138 aircraft ordered, only 80 were upgraded starting in 2002. These aircraft are supposed to run out of airframe life between 2017 and 2020. It is quite possible that we may have used more airframe hours than expected. Bringing home the CF-18s to extend the airframe life might not be a bad idea even if it's just six aircraft. As far as I know the US Navy has retired most if not all of their original F/A-18 aircraft which are of the same vintage as our aircraft.

The replacement program seems to have been put on hold. Our previous government had significant issues with trying to replace the original 138 CF-18s with 65 F-35s, a program (started in 1997) they inherited from the Chrtien government. The current government first promised to cancel the F-35 program, then the said it would not rule out the F-35 in any new competition. (let's see, a Liberal government wanting to cancel a program started by another Liberal government) Not a peep in the news media of late about the fighter selection program. This will take years based on how our system works, and we are already at least decade behind. The F-35 is the wrong aircraft for our needs, and should not be in any new competition. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have friends who work for Lockheed-Martin in Fort Worth were they make the aircraft. Sorry guys. As for the remaining potential aircraft, the Super Hornet and the Saab Grippen are probably the best choices. We should be buying at least 80 aircraft. The clock is ticking.

We have two bases for our CF-18s, one in Cold Lake Alberta, the other in Bagotville Quebec. Our external threats will be approaching one of the oceans. We need long range aircraft with two engines. We used to have fighters based at CFB Chatham NB (now closed) and CFB Comox BC (currently used for maritime patrol and search and rescue) during the Cold War to defend our coasts. Currently we have CF-18s deployed to CFB Comox, Goose Bay, Gander, (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Greenwood (Nova Scotia) plus locations in the arctic on a rotating bases, in support of NORAD. The world is not the safe place we thought it would be at the end of the Cold War.

Admitting that we cannot keep up our international commitments would have sounded a lot worse than saying we are reassessing and changing our policy. It would have highlighted the fact that our entire Canadian military has been neglected (by both Liberal and Conservative governments) for decades and is in a very sorry state. Yes, the previous government did purchase some new Chinook helicopters for use by the Army (long overdue), and some C-17s (not enough) and replaced some of our oldest C-130 Hercules (again not enough). They also gave the Army and Air Force new uniforms, wow. Australia with a smaller population and territory is much better equipped than we are in every way. Look it up for yourself. It will open your eyes.

No matter what Young Trudeau says, we look bad. We will send more trainers and advisors, putting more of our people in possible harms way. We will keep one CC-150 Polaris (former Wardair A310s - entered service 1992) tanker and two CP-140 Aurora (entered service early 1980s) maritime patrol/surveillance aircraft in place. We will also throw a lot of dollars in that general direction.

A lot of money is going to have to be spent to upgrade our military, and that is not likely under Young Trudeau. We will continue to fall further and further behind.

Of course all of this is based on information available on the internet (and we all know that everything we read on the internet is 100% true and accurate), and it is only a theory. I am NOT using the "C" word here. This was not what I had in mind when I started this column, but somehow it took on a life of it's own.

Without a real explanation from all concerned, it is as good an explanation as any. On the other hand if there is plenty of life left in the CF-18s we should stay committed to the fight. It is a complex situation and we are not getting all the answers. Do we have wimpy Prime Minister, or a seriously neglected military? Either way, I don't like the answer.

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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