Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Chief of the Air Staff said what?

This is one of those times I wish I had more context to work with. The Chief of the Air Staff is quoted in the Globe & Mail making statements that you could fly a bomber through. Further, as opposed to the head air honcho taking the route of laying expensive capital acquisitions at the feet of the cabinet, he has repeated the Soudas/Mackay/Harper spin of pointing at TU-95 interceptions in international airspace as being the axiom for purchasing a particular brand of fighter plane.

Unfortunately, Lt. Gen Deschamps is quoted without sufficient context. So... (Emphasis mine)
Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, the chief of the air staff, responded to critics of the government’s planned purchase of high-tech F-35 stealth fighters by asserting that the aircraft will provide a needed capability for defence at home, and not just for fighting air battles abroad.

“If they can’t detect us and don’t know where we are, it dramatically changes their potential tactics. So it is a deterrent,” Gen. Deschamps said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Problem. Speaking to people who do not understand deterrence in the first place. I would expect a much more defined answer from the Chief of the Air Staff in regards to a future fighter's capabilities than that. That answer is about as thoughtful as "they go really fast". We already have a deterrent. We just don't know how relevant it will be in 15 years. And the "stealth" qualities of the F-35 is still being debated. Notwithstanding, by the time the F-35 is wheels up over Canada potential adversaries will have already started to develop countermeasures. A more important point, (and one which seems to have slid by), is the ability to maintain relevant interoperability within a NORAD force and contribute effectively. Whatever the question was, the CAS apparent answer doesn't say much. If he is so confident that the F-35 is undetectable by current and future potential adversaries it could be argued that we don't need to fly to meet long range air patrols at all. Better reasons and rationale behind the requirements are here.

The Harper government has pointed to recent flights of Russian long-range bombers near Canadian airspace in the Arctic and off the east coast – intercepted by CF-18s – to assert the need for top-notch fighters.

Gen. Deschamps said he’s not seeking to amplify “the noise around the Russians,” but pointed to the interceptions to argue that the F-35s will let the Canadian Forces observe foreign planes unseen, and the potential surprise will deter interlopers.

Repeating the words of the prime minister's communications director is a fools play. This hang-up with "stealth" is getting really boring. Sometimes you want the opposition to know you're there. I understand where the CAS is coming from, but he needed to spell it out. Everyone is spinning those "interceptions" as the raison d'etre for buying that particular aircraft. Repeating the crap produced by some smarmy creature like Dimitri Soudas doesn't score points with any thinking individual. Again, lack of context clouds the picture. Deschamps may not have wanted to amplify "the noise around the Russians" but that's the only thing he succeeded in doing.

Despite analysts suggesting that the air force has some nefarious secret reason for pursuing a 5th generation fighter, the obvious answer is to get something which increases your overall capability, folds a multitude of roles into one asset and remains serviceable and relevant for as long as possible.

No country other than Russia will be a potential threat in Canadian airspace for decades, said Philippe Lagassé, a defence analyst at the University of Ottawa.
He doesn't know that.

Stealth capability won’t assert sovereignty against the occasional long-range Russian bomber that is intended to be seen, Mr. Lagassé said. “It doesn’t fit with the threat environment. Let’s be frank: The real value of this aircraft is inter-operability with allies overseas.”
Agreed. The stealth factor is being highly overplayed. The inter-operability factor however is just as important for domestic operations as it is for anything which might occur overseas. Lest we forget that we rely heavily on NORAD to maintain sovereign airspace and if we can't operate within the NORAD environment we either subcontract our defence requirements to the Americans completely or pay a whole lot more for an air force.

As has been said in post after post, the problem most people have is the sole-sourcing of this very expensive project after the minister of national defence said there would be a competitive process.

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