* 16 Billion for new fighter jets? We need to think for a moment

  As a retired military Air Force colonel, I would suggest that this decision needs some sober and objective thought.  Political and air force vested interests aside, perhaps some thought should be given to the evolution of warfare occurring now and in the next 20 years.   The days of cavalry, horses and crossbows are gone and any casual student of military history or current events can conclude that the era of the fighter pilot as a factor in airpower is drawing to a close.  We are seeing the last generations of the fighter pilot, and probably already past the military utility of horrendously expensive manned fighter aircraft.  The mid east conflict has shown in spades the value of unmanned and remotely controlled aircraft in reconnaissance, interdiction  and close ground attack roles. There is no doubt that soon the air to air combat mission will be unmanned. The same for the maritime patrol roles or to meet any airspace sovereignty requirements.  No fighter pilot can begin to match an unmanned opponent that can pull over 30gs, piloted by a team in a trailer under no physical combat stress or personal danger, with a 360 degree view of the airspace, and a greater loiter time.   It is time to quit fighting the past war and think ahead.  For fractions of the cost, we can acquire 10 times the capability with unmanned aircraft.  The next generation of  fighter aircraft  is unmanned. This is inevitable.

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3 thoughts on “* 16 Billion for new fighter jets? We need to think for a moment

  1. Buying drones won’t save money. The ‘defence’ industry will simply find new ways to strike fear into us to keep their sales up. There are a multitude of new ways to kill people, and where there is fear there is a market for killing machines. If we want to save money on defence, we should be making a safer world, not buying drone fleets.

  2. Hello Jim

    I agree with much of what you say. My military career was during the peacekeeping years and I retired in 2001. Drones are much cheaper, but the real question is what we want national defence or a “department of peace” in Canada to be. I would forego offensive attack systems. Israel probably does not sell what we want and there are better ones around. Their drones do not need to cover the distances we have in Canada. I agree that the military industrial complex needs very careful watching and careful control. I suggest we reorient ourselves back to diplomacy and peacekeeping. In this context drones can be used in many roles such as maritime surveillance, monitoring of our airspace, reconnaissance, even aid to the civil power in disaster or forest fire relief, and in a peacekeeping protection capacity. If you can suggest other ways of doing this otherwise I would be interested. I think we could probably save over $10 billion with drones.

    I am all for a safer world, and not for a country that indulges in killing in wars. I believe that we can contribute better in peace building capacities. If we can build a world where people do not conspire to harm each other, where police and national defence forces are unnecessary, I very much look forward to that day. But this is a very dangerous world with much hate at the moment and I believe that some prudence is called for. It is easy for Canadians to dismiss violence and war and criticize when we live in a country that is pretty safe and free from war. Many others do not and we must change how Canadians define the best of human existence in a manner that includes them. As the adage says “I am who you are”. This means we Canadians need a global identity. We are one family on one planet. ”When you suffer, I suffer”, and we must not refuse to do what we can do to relieve suffering and reduce conflict.

    Paul

  3. Email 2 extract from Jim

    “Thanks for your reply. I agree with you completely about making our armed forces completely defensive. … and since we already drones I don’t believe the world is a particularly dangerous place. The problems we have are largely of our own making .. Had the US and their allies …. not financed and supported extremists for decades as proxies in their fight against the Soviets, the Taliban and Al Queda wouldn’t have happened. .. Drones increase the capability of implementing the ‘surveillance state”. I guess drones have their place as a platform for remote sensing, but I worry just how much remote sensing we need, and how they will be used by police and security agencies.”

    Response 2 from Paul Maillet

    You are right, we do use Israeli drones in our mid east operations, but basically in a very short range tactical surveillance/reconnaissance role in the mid east. Putting these drones into the Atlantic or the north may not work well. I notice that the UK is making a major purchase of the US Global Hawk system, a very long range 30 hour drone, and also used for drug interdiction work in the Caribbean.

    I 100% agree that we collectively share in the responsibility for the dangerous aspects of the world. Current insurgencies are directly fuelled by the arms trade or arms, mostly directly or indirectly provided by highly industrialized countries. The west is certainly party to this. This is the huge back issue that needs discussion as defence needs are explored. The arms industry is globalized. There are very few, maybe none, of the complex systems available that do not consist of technologies or components that are strictly home grown and manufactured. Parts, sensors and patent rights come from everywhere, even in Israeli, Chinese, Russian or American systems. This is a global problem and no one country is to blame or can solve this.

    You are also right about police state concerns and drones. We as a liberal democracy will have to always rebalance or reassert human rights and security concerns as technology creates the potential to make governments more intrusive and insurgents more dangerous. Look at the city camera debates that arise from time to time. What privacy are we willing to surrender for security?

    Lots of interesting and important questions for sure.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Paul

    Email 3 from Jim

    “Paul, perhaps we are not so far apart on this as I first thought. … Furthermore, (many) … is becoming very creative at using remote technology to ‘sanitize’ war and make killing more acceptable and less risky for the people with the technology. ….. I agree that most modern weapons are made up of parts from many countries. …. The US appears to be uncharacteristically reluctant to proliferate drones, perhaps to avoid spreading a low budget technology that could be used against themselves. ….I focus on Israel because I have an interest in Palestinian rights,….”

    Response 3 from Paul

    Hello Jim. Thank you. I think the Israeli-Palestine issue is very tragic and perhaps one for discussion at some point. I do attend some groups trying to do something in this area. I am trying not to mix the two issues at this point as this may serve to divert attention away from the fact that I do not think the military can justify these fighters for sovereignty purposes. For example, the F-35 is $113 million per jet today and climbing, the USA Predator seems about 3-5 million and the US Global Hawk is about 35 million (in 2005), plus all the massive life cycle support, personnel and operations costs. Give all other global poverty, suffering and health concerns, one certainly has to pause and think a moment. Is feeding the capacity for killing, the best that Canada can do to contribute to peace in the world?

    I agree that technology, no matter whose, is now capable of unmanned tanks, remote soldier size ground units, or anything else you can imagine. Armed conflict will no doubt change very very dramatically in our lifetime. We are in a historical period in the evolution of warfare and the historical trend in the evolution of weapons is never hopeful.

    However, there is a saying, “I may be one and only one, but will not refuse to do what one can do.” So we do what we can to relieve suffering and reduce conflict. Sometimes all we have is our voice.

    In the cause of peace, Paul

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