In spring of last year, I was stressed. I was suffering from a bit of PTSD due to my "day job" as a paramedic. I needed a bit of release. Due to certain policies and ethical concerns, as well as the desperate need to "get away" from my work, I needed to concentrate on a different subject. I have also been longing for a way to get back to my previous passion for writing, as well as taking advantage of previous education in journalism and engineering.
At the time, I was also rather outraged at the continuing controversy involving the Canadian procurement of the F-35 Lightning II. When I was younger, I was obsessed with fighter jets. I come from a military family and I live in a military town (Greenwood, NS). Although I had no real problems with the F-35 per se at the time, I was disappointed in the single source selection, as well as the mounting costs. I turned to the good ol' internet to do some research to find out more about the F-35 and it's potential competitors in the market. This research revealed that the F-35 was possibly not as good of an aircraft as it was being made out to be by some. There was also plenty to admire about the updated versions to older "4.5 generation" aircraft designs like the Typhoon and Super Hornet. The Saab JAS-39 Gripen stood out in particular to me, especially in the proposed "NG" version. I knew very little about the Gripen before this, but I was continually impressed by the scrappy little fighter.
Eventually, I let my fingers hit the keyboard and I started up gripen4canada.blogspot.ca. I wasn't expecting much out of it. Merely as a way for me to vent my concerns and to voice my opinion. It was also a great means of therapy to "escape" from the pressures of my "day job". I was completely unprepared for the response. The page is now approaching 100,000 page views and enjoys a rather dedicated (and mostly positive) following. The related Facebook group quickly attracted more than 100 members shortly after being formed, and the discussions have been lively and informative. I have had the joy of forming relationships with people who are far more qualified at this sort of thing than myself, and I look forward to the day that I can personally meet each and every one of them.
Much has changed over the last year. The Canadian government hit the "reset" button on the fighter purchase, possibly opening the door to a true competition and selection of a fighter that unequivocally is the best for Canada right now. A few months after this, however, Saab has decided to withdraw its Gripen from consideration until a true competition is held. This makes its current prospects for Canada rather bleak, but still possible.
Over the last year, I have discovered more about each fighter vying for Canada's decision, and I have learned to respect each of them for their own merits (even the F-35!). With the Gripen now an unlikely choice, it seems to be a good time to take a closer look at the remaining 4 fighters and how they compare to each other. Which is best for Canada? The F-35 has plenty of controversy, but its supporters are adamant that its stealth and advanced features lift it far above the others. Is it as good as they say? An open, fair competition is the only way to find out. If it is as good as its supporters say, it should have no problem winning. A "fair and square" F-35 win for Canada would also go a long way to quieting its detractors.
The question is simple, but the answer is difficult: What is the "Best fighter for Canada".