By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch
A report which warned against buying an interim fighter jet for the Canadian military will remain secret, even though it had previously been on the Defence department’s website for more than a year.
The report was quietly pulled down from the site after the Liberal government announced its decision to purchase 18 Boeing Super Hornets as “interim” fighter jets until a permanent fleet for the existing CF-18 aircraft could be bought.
The Defence Research and Development Canada report recommended against the purchase of such “bridging” aircraft to deal with gaps in capability.
The Liberal government has said Canada is facing a capability gap because it doesn’t have enough fighter jets to fulfill its military missions. Because of that it needs to buy the Super Hornets.
But the 2014 report that had been on the Department of National Defence website questioned that type of strategy. “The costs involved with bridging options make them unsuitable for filling capability gaps in the short term,” according to the report. “Any short term investment results in disproportionately high costs during the bridging period.”
The report was carefully reviewed for security issues before being put on the DND website, defence sources say. The report cited data that was in the public domain and there was no use of secret information.
It was pulled from the website the day the Liberal government announced it was purchasing the Super Hornets.
At one point, the DND was looking at putting the report back on its site, with certain revisions, but that won’t be done.
“It is judged that given the current threat environment, the aggregate of the information contained in the report speaks to the capability of the Canadian Armed Forces and is sensitive in nature,” the Department of National Defence stated in an email to the Ottawa Citizen. “For this reason, the report cannot be easily excised and will no longer be made available to the public.”
The statement did not explain how the “threat environment” in 2014-2015, when the report was public, was different from the situation in 2016 when the report was pulled down.
The analysis also determined that whatever aircraft Canada selects in the future to replace the CF-18, it should go with a single fleet of the same type of planes. “The analysis found that a mixed fleet of 38 higher capability aircraft, chosen for their ability to fulfill the most challenging of the NATO missions, and 34 lower capability aircraft, capable of fulfilling Canada’s NORAD obligations, could not provide the same capability as the single fleet of 65 higher capability aircraft,” it added.
The Liberal government has acknowledged the decision to buy the 18 Super Hornets will cost more in the long run but it has blamed the previous Conservative government for bungling the CF-18 replacement.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada is facing a fighter capability gap when it comes to dealing with its commitments to NORAD and NATO.
But the head of the Royal Canadian Air Force has said the gap was created in 2016 when the Liberals changed defence policy, requiring the RCAF to meet both its NATO and North American air defence commitments at the same time.
Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood said he wasn’t privy to why the policy changed.
“That demands a certain number of aircraft that our present CF-18 fleet is unable to meet on its day-to-day serviceability rate,” Hood said before a senate defence committee in late November. “They’ve (the Liberals) changed the policy of the number of aircraft I have to have.”