Finally, Military Upgrades by Nick Vandergragt
There has been much speculation about Canada’s decision to purchase the next generation fighter aircraft to replace the venerable CF 18 that has served us with distinction since 1978. There is also news on the building of at least two new resupply vessels to replace HMCS Provider and HMCS Preserver. Provider entered service in 1963, and Preserver followed in 1970 , so to say they are well beyond their best before dates, is to understate the case.
For some reason, Canada has never undertaken a small but steady shipbuilding program to replace the older hulls within the fleet as they reached the end of their useful lives. Instead, the 1950′s destroyers where kept in service until the last one was finally retired in the early 1990′s. In the case of our replenishment ships, now 50 and 40 years old respectively, they will have to continue in service for at least another decade, costing the taxpayer millions in maintenance and repairs that would not be necessary if we had looked to the future needs of the fleet years ago as we should have. So the announcement of the re opening of the call for tender for the next generation fleet replenishment ships, is long overdue but welcome news indeed.
In the case of the CF 18′s replacement, the F 35 Lightning II, it too is now overdue, but welcome news. Aircraft are similar to ships in that they have a limited life expectancy, and as marvellous as the CF 18 hornet is, it is now over 30 years old. It faces the same problem every weapons platform faces and that is that time is passing it by.
The F 35 represents not only cutting edge technology, but a performance envelope best suited to Canadian needs. It can fly for extended periods above the speed of sound with a maximum velocity of Mach 2.5. In a country the size of Canada with its massive air space, this is a vital consideration. It also carries a wide array of the most modern weapons and sensors giving our pilots the best chances of engaging any enemy and winning. The Lightning also includes stealth technology that limits radars ability to detect it, adding another layer of survivability for our fighter pilots. Canada has also contributed 150 million dollars to the design and testing of this fighter, so in a small way at least we are getting a return on our investment.
One of the variants of the lightning, the F 35B is able to land and take off vertically. When you consider that feature, and the construction of new support ships for the navy, in theory at least, the vessels could carry a Lightning with it, providing air cover where ever the fleet is tasked to go – an interesting possibility to put it mildly.
So at long last, Canada is poised to give our men at arms the best technology in the world to enable them to successfully carry out any task assigned them well into the next century. These are well thought out announcements that are long overdue. All we need to do now is to make sure the Liberal party of Canada doesn’t do again what it did to the EH 101 helicopter and shred the agreements now signed for the F 35 and cost us millions with nothing to show for it.