A really good aircraft but do we really need them?

I am certainly not an expert on the joint strike fighter, so I can’t comment on the technical merits of the purchase. I would, however, like to comment on the purchase and the sales job that the government and DND are making on the plane. I went to a briefing a while ago by DND about the F-35s. It was a lovely briefing. According to the DND representatives, the F-35 is absolutely the best plane in its class for the job, at the best price, and the consortium/group purchase means that there will be savings for Canada and all members who got in on the ground floor.....

As I said, I don’t know anything about planes, and I’m sure the DND briefing was correct that the F-35 is the best of its class. But, in my opinion the best question that was asked in the Q&A session after the briefing was the question of why we need these capabilities in the first place, and they absolutely did not answer to my satisfaction or the satisfaction of the fellow who asked the question. Indeed, they seem to start from the assumption that we need these fighters, and not just fighters but stealth fighters. But when asked how often the F-18s had been used for operations they described as key operations that could be undertaken by the F-35, the only answer was the participation in air operations over Kosovo on 1999.

So, they may be the best things since sliced bread, but do we really need them? The briefing addressed the first part of the issue, but not the second part. Maybe we do need them, but I’m not convinced and no effort was made to convince me. The events in Libya these days help the argument that we do need them, but in a time of hard choices about military equipment, it’d be nice for someone at least to try to convince me that we need to spend this amount of money on this capability rather than something else.