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Bail out of F-35s while we can, argues UBC prof in Canadian Foreign Policy Journal

While contracts to procure 65 F-35 fighter jets have yet to be signed, Canada has more reason that ever to back out, argue Michael Byers and Stewart Webb in the peer-reviewed Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, and in a related article published on iPolitics today.

Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia. His co-author Webb is a research associate with the Salt Spring Forum.

Among the reasons Byers and Webb list to bail out of the F-35s are these:

Ballooning costs: Prime Minister Harper has said the planes would cost no more than $75 million a piece, but "Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page estimates the per-plane cost at more than US $128 million. The Pentagon has earmarked $151 million per plane and, in April 2011, the US Government Accounting Office's cost-estimate was $156 million."

Delays: Glitches and cost-overruns keep pushing back the delivery date, now already "years after" the date when the CF-18 jets the stealth fighters are meant to replace are set to be retired.

Better alternatives: Byers and Webb argue the F-35's stealth capacity makes it slower and heavier than what Canada is likely to need for future missions. The better alternative, they say, are Boeing's F/A-18E Super Hornets, which "already fly for the U.S. and Australia and cost only about $55 million each. As the latest version of the CF-18 series, they would also offer greatly reduced maintenance and training costs.

"The twin-engine Super Hornets are also more suitable for use in the Arctic than the single-engine F-35s.

"Although the F-35 offers stealth technology, the deployment history of the CF-18s calls into question whether Canada needs covert attack planes," argue Byers and Webb. "The CF-18s have only occasionally served overseas: a small number were based in Germany until 1990; 24 served in the 1991 Gulf War; 18 were involved in Kosovo in 1999; and seven served in action over Libya last year.

"In the three latter 'hot conflicts', Canadian aircraft were sent into action only after our allies had destroyed the enemy's air defences. In Libya, this initial phase was conducted using British and American cruise missiles as well as American B-2 bombers -- and not the five year-old F-22 stealth fighters that the U.S. possesses but did not deploy."

Read the entire iPolitics article here.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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