Bigger is better.
A giant, expensive, centralized system is better than a small, distributed, flexible system.
Cost of an F35: $618 million per plane over its operational life time*
The bravado, the opportunity for men (and pretty much only men) to strut like peacocks, or play the part of knights of the sky, is cool. But it's an awful lot of money to pay for an ego boost.
Canada is a massive country that offers unique and challenging requirements for air defense. We need an air defense system that can launch in remote locations, works in a huge range of temperatures and can loiter on station (in the air) for many hours.
Such a system does not need to have human beings in aircraft all the time. Instead of catering to the macho fighter plane culture by participating in the most expensive defense contract in history*, why not look at this from a distributed, 21st Century point of view, rather than a centralized, 20th Century way of thinking.
If you believe the $75 million per plane that the current Canadian Government is misleading (and it is significantly less than anyone else is buying them for)*, then the F35 does seem a reasonable option, but even at the fictionally lower price, there are still many, home-made options that we won't even consider because it doesn't let men act like boys with toys.
Instead of pumping billions of dollars into the American aerospace industry, virtually none of which will result in any Canadian manufacturing, why not consider an alternative? Take a fraction of that and begin a Canadian engineering challenge for post secondary and private aerospace companies across the country. All research and development is shared as part of the contest (like the X Prize). An open source, collaborative and competitive project to develop an integrated, Canadian made aerial system.
The resulting designs will be built in Canada using Canadian designs. This shouldn't be a single design goal either, but rather multiple platforms for many different functions. Off hand I'd like to see:
- a rocket assisted drone launch system that doesn't require a runway and can be launched from a mobile (truck based) platform. When spent the drone can parachute to a landing point and be recovered
- a ship based system that works in a similar way and offers a catching system - every Canadian naval vessel would become an air craft carrier.
- reconnaissance drones that operate as data collectors; including a low speed loitering system and a high speed intercept system that offers stealth capability
- fixed wing and rotary wing (and other less conventional systems) used in specific situations
- a Snowbirds variant that can work either via remote control or entirely automatically
- I'm dying to see what an Avro Arrow for the 21st Century looks like
Instead of buying into old, incredibly expensive thinking, we could be developing a home made, distributed UAV system that we could then export world wide, instead of just being a consumer of someone else's old thinking.