The Justin Trudeau Liberal government plans to spend $19 billion buying 88 fighter jets from a not-yet-chosen foreign war contractor to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fighter fleet. This works out to about $216 million per aircraft. The war contractors had until the end of July 2020 to submit their bids, a deadline first extended from May 2019 to March 2020, then to June 2020. So far Boeing (U.S.), Lockheed Martin (U.S.), and Saab (Sweden) have entered the competition. The Trudeau government is expected to announce the chosen contractor by 2022, with the first aircraft delivered by 2025. On July 24 vigorous protests against the purchase plan were held at 18 MPs’ offices across Canada.
Since entering the jet age, the Canadian air force has never flown a jet-powered fighter aircraft designed outside of the United States. The CF-86 Sabre, the CT-133 Silver Star, the CF-101 Voodoo, the CF-104, the CF-116 Freedom Fighter and the CF-188 (CF-18 Hornet) all came from the U.S. While many of these were license-built in Canada, the designs came from giant U.S. war contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. The intention to keep Canada’s own fighter design business alive with the amazingly innovative CF-105 Avro Arrow met a sad end in 1959 with the Diefenbaker government’s secretive cancellation of the project, likely due to U.S. pressure. Canada has been tightly tied to the U.S. for fighter aircraft ever since.
The proposed jet purchase, which is in essence another giant pay-the-rich scheme, has already been marked by hypocrisy. When the Harper government was in power the Liberal opposition railed against its plan to buy Lockheed Martin-made F-35 fighter jets without competitive bidding. Once elected, Liberal government officials proposed that Canada buy another U.S.-built plane without competitive bidding, the Boeing Super Hornet. Now the bidding process has been added to try to give the purchase plan a façade of legitimacy. Throughout this farce the phrase “joint continental defence with the U.S.” has been repeated, making it clear that the principles guiding Canada’s next fighter jet purchase have to do with the needs of the U.S. imperialists, NATO and NORAD, not the needs of the people of Canada.
Whatever contractor wins the bidding, the critical point is that it is the Canadian people who must exercise real control over our fighter jet supply and air defence. It is a matter of sovereignty. When it comes to Canada’s integration into the U.S. military apparatus, it is well known who gives the orders; the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD) has a U.S. commander and a Canadian deputy commander. Important decisions regarding the defence of Canada should be made by the Canadian people, not U.S. monopolies and imperialist institutions. The Liberals and their U.S. masters are using fearmongering about the need for joint defence against a non-existent threat from Russia or from “rogue states” to claim that not buying new fighter planes will somehow be a threat to Canadian sovereignty, when it is exactly the opposite that is the case.
The truth of the matter is that it has been shown in practice time and time again that the U.S.-NATO-NORAD conception of air defence is not defence at all but aggression – attacking any country which exerts its own independence and refuses to knuckle under to imperialist dictate. Since the Second World War Canadian fighter jets have not once “defended Canadian sovereignty.” Instead, they have participated in the U.S.-led aggression and bombing of the sovereign nations of Iraq, Serbia, Libya, and Syria. Asserting the “right” to conduct preemptive strikes and the actual bombardment of cities are key features of the doctrine of all three recent U.S. presidents; Bush, Obama and Trump.
The Liberal government is pushing for further integration into the U.S. war machine precisely at a time when Trump and the U.S. ruling elite are organizing to launch further aggression against the world’s people. The path is clear. Our real security lies not in buying the “right” U.S. jet fighter to further enrich the U.S. war monopolies and support U.S. aggression but in standing as one with the world’s peoples in defence of their right to oppose U.S. imperialist preparations for another world war. Canada should get out of NATO and NORAD and all aggressive military bodies. Canadians must continue to fight for an anti-war government that will say no to foreign control of Canada’s air defence, end interference in the affairs of sovereign countries, and become a staunch force for peace in the world.