Washington think-tank criticizes Harper government’s planned purchase of F-35 fighters

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

Another voice of opposition has jumped into the debate about the controversial F-35 stealth fighter jets.

A Washington-based think-tank says the Harper government's planned purchase of 65 planes would be an "expensive mistake" for the Canadian military.

The study by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs states the F-35 is a remarkable aircraft for "interventionist" missions, but unsuitable for a country with a moderate defence budget whose two main military objectives are Arctic sovereignty and supporting NATO operations.

"The F-35 was built to penetrate and neutralize air defence on the first day of bombardment," says Ivan Ho, the study's author. "However, while these operations were very important for U.S. missions, Canada has no need for an initial strike capacity on enemy air defences."

Ho also delves into the issue of the ever-changing cost of the fighters, suggesting the parliamentary budget officer's estimate of $148 million per unit is more accurate than the Harper government's estimate of $75 million.

"Not only should Canadians scrutinize the costs, but they should also examine the reasons for purchasing the F-35," he wrote.

"Because the F-35 is inadequate in conducting (counterinsurgency) operations and patrolling the Arctic, one has to conclude the Conservatives are shifting to an interventionist foreign policy similar to the U.S."

Ho's opposition is the latest in a long public battle over the purchase of F-35s.

During the recent election campaign, the issue made headlines as the opposition parties grilled the Tories about appropriateness of the acquisition.

With Harper's majority, there's now little chance of opposition voices being heard.

(Reuters Photo)