Is Canada sending CF-18s overseas to support a F-35 purchase?

Past its prime, but still sent into action.

In a bewildering show of "why bother", Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a force of six RCAF CF-18s to bolster NATO forces near the Ukraine.  Sending six 30-year-old fighters against one of the most powerful air forces in the world is pretty much the equivalent of sending Barney Fife for back up.  Only the oldest Russian aircraft are near the same vintage as the CF-18, with the majority of their fighter fleet (Su-27s and MiG-29s) being far newer.

Both the Su-27 (Flanker) and MiG-29 (Fulcrum) are newer designs than the CF-18, and unlike similar aircraft used by Libya and Bosnia, Russian Flankers and Fulcrums have been thoroughly upgraded throughout the years and their pilots are well trained.  The Su-27 was always superior to the CF-18, it being the Russian equivalent to the F-15.  It's more powerful, longer ranged, and wields a powerful radar along with a dizzying array of air-to-air weaponry.

Sukhoi Su-27SMK

At best, Canada's modernized CF-18s will be equal to Russian MiGs and Sukhois, which would still have the advantage of numbers.  At worst, the CF-18s will be completely outclassed.  Considering that RCAF officials fretted over the Hornet's use in Libya, those same officials must be losing their minds over a possible engagement with Russia.  By contrast, Canada's ground forces are not only better equipped, but have the dubious benefit of being combat veterans, thanks to Canada's role in Afghanistan.

One has to wonder at the carelessness of this particular military action, and whether or not there is some other motive behind it.  Other than a displaying a rather weak form of "saber rattling", all this action seems to do is highlight just how badly Canada needs newer, more capable fighter aircraft.  Perhaps that's exactly what the government wishes to do.

Perhaps sending CF-18s to bolster forces near Ukraine is a move to garner support for the F-35.  With the decision now back in the government hands, the current situation could be used to bolster the idea of needing the most technologically advanced fighter we can get our hands on.

What better way of justifying expensive new fighters than sending your old ones into a potential combat zone?

Oddly enough, the news that Canada was sending CF-18s overseas came at roughly the same time as reports that the F-35 was still the most likely choice of replacement.
A senior government source added that the second option – a competition based on the current Statement of Requirements (SoR) – would “automatically lead to F-35.”
It seems likely that the current Statement of Requirements (SoR) was custom written around the F-35.  This has been RCAF practice in the past.  The fixed wing search and rescue (FWSAR) SoR is said to have been written specifically in favor of the C-27J Spartan.  Indeed, the RCAF's recent trend in writing requirements around a specific platform has made sole-source procurement the preferred means of acquisition, rather than the occasional, justifiable exception when there are no suitable alternatives.  If the F-35 was the only multi-role fighter available at the present, one could excuse the RCAF for custom writing its SoR around it.  This is not the case however.  The Super Hornet, Rafale, Typhoon, and Gripen all offer similar capabilities.  They may not have the advantage of stealth, but they do offer other advantages that the F-35 doesn't.  All have their own merits that can only be truly be appreciated after a full evaluation and competition.


  1. In past Blog it has been mentioned that a top U.S. general indicated that the F-35 must be used in conjunction with the F-22. I would guess other fighters would also work. Looking at the list of countries that are looking at the F-35, many of them have this air superiority to assist the F-35.
    United States - F-22 and F15
    UK - Eurofighter
    Italy - Eurofighter
    Republic of Korea - F-15
    Isreal - F-15
    Japan - F-15
    Australia - F-18 super hornet (pushing it)
    Counties that do not have this capacity should get a mixed force or look at something else and that is what is happening for many of these countries.

    I will state again that Canada should buy either the Rafale or the Eurofighter as its main fighter and buy a squadron of F-35 for special missions or to be used on a small carrier like the Mistral.

  2. Maybe a single mountie in red serge would do it better (and cheaper) if there's only flag waving to do?

  3. The six CF-18s are obviously tokenism. After all, when our PM indulges in all those belligerent comments he has to do something so as not to look totally impotent. And, if we did have F-35s how do you think they would stack up against the Migs and Sukhois? With all the advances in IRST and radar I still think that putting all our eggs into the stealth basket is going to come back to haunt us. But it seems when our brass in blue gets fixated on something there's little that can be done except hope the Auditor General can give them a healthy reality check up along side the head.
    PS Great site you have

  4. If the F-35 purchase goes through that means there is roughly 30 billion dollars less for transfer payments to provinces (healthcare, education), other forms of defence (navy could actually have decent patrol ships and the coast guard some ice breakers). It would be great to visually depict this like that cost-of-war website.
    Sad that most people will never see the bigger picture about how this will impact their lives.


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