Stop Cutting Corners - The F-18 Needs Replacement
The Canadian Conservative government had originally planned to purchase 65 CF-35 stealth fighter jets as a way to replace the aging F-18, a replacement that seems even more necessary now after news of a crash hit the media Nov. 28.
The crash occurred near one of Canada's largest fighter bases at 4 Wing Cold Lake, and while a flight safety investigation is currently underway into the tragedy, there is already conjecture regarding what could have led to the crash.
Conservative Member of Parliament and former fighter pilot Laurie Hawn said that any guessing games that might occur about the safety - or lack thereof - of the F-18 is not appropriate, and that the F-18 is actually still a very safe aircraft, although it is quite old at this point.
The fleet of F-18s was acquired 34 years ago, and there have been 19 crashes of the jet since then.
"You should read absolutely nothing into this," Hawn said of the crash.
"The F-18 has a lot of … life left. Obviously we have no idea what happened yet, so any conjecture would be way off base."
Off base, likely - but still, not without foundation. The F-18 has a limited number of safe hours for flight, and the simple fact is there are parts within the jet that are aging; as a result, each flight that is done on an F-18 wears the jet out further. Lt-Gen. Michael Hood recently told the Liberal Senate defense committee that the Liberal government had recently changed the number of jet fighters he must have to adequately defend North America and to deploy to NATO missions.
Various Canadian governments have reportedly been planning to replace the CF-18 fleet for some time; the problem is there has never been anything put into place to actually get these new jets ordered. Could that be putting our pilots - and potentially our ground crew - at risk?
Again, such speculation is dangerous, but the Canadian government continues to foot drag in spite of paying lip service to the notion that they respect our military. It's hard to reconcile the lack of newer, safer aircraft for those military members defending the skies with the government demonstrating any sort of respect to our members.
It's simple, really. While the government is currently saying that the F-18 is safe and a good aircraft, it continues to age. There aren't any new aircraft coming anytime soon - acquisition could be months or years away. How long before pilots start wondering if they should even set foot inside the cockpit? How long until the spouses and families start lobbying the government for the equipment that their family members need to safely and properly do their jobs?
Should such a moment occur when members and families actually draw a line in the sand and say the government needs to stop putting their safety at risk as they try to defend their countries, the government can't simply look back and say they wanted to save money. What price is human life, really?
We live in more dangerous times than we have previously. We need a military that can adequately defend Canadian - if not North American - interests, and right now, if Lt-General Hood's current reports are accurate, there aren't enough resources to do so properly.
So where does that leave us?
Are CF-18s Still Safe?
Something Needs To Change
While the loss of one of Canada's fighter pilots is indeed awful, it's important to realize that Canada is still working on acquiring new fighters to replace the aging current fleet. The big problem is there does not appear to be any clear answers about when those new jets can be expected, and it will hopefully not take further tragedy before the Canadian government actually finishes the replacement process.
Meanwhile, there is a grieving family, left wondering why their brother, son, spouse was taken too soon. There are colleagues and co-workers wondering if there was something, somehow that they could have done to prevent the tragedy - and there are no clear answers, and there won't be for some time to come.
If anything, this incident sheds further light as to just how underfunded the military actually is. The question is, what, if anything, is the Canadian government going to do?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
CJ Kelly from the PNW on November 29, 2016:
Important topic. We still under funding in the UK and other parts of Europe, where it is getting to be a very grave situation (they just cut two tank regiments). I'm not sure these govts. are coming to grips with reality.
Good job. Sharing.