Thursday, November 11, 2010

F-35 vs. the Twin Otter

There has been a lot of discussion in Canada about the purchase of the F-35, a “fifth-generation” fighter. The debate has been mainly about procurement. The unspoken assumption is that Canada needs a jet fighter.

What would it do?

Obviously, there are people who like to fly airplanes really fast. Makes sense to me. But as for defence of the realm? The objections are obvious.

1. We don’t need to intercept anything. Flocks of Russian bombers are not going to appear over Canada anytime soon, and even if we thought such a threat existed there is easily available missile power to wipe them out.

2. Jet fighters are not needed to “intercept” airliners hijacked by madmen with the intent of taking out the CN Tower. Older aircraft would be perfectly capable of shooting down a civilian airliner over Peterborough, if that really seems like a defence priority in Canada.

3. NATO has no idea what it’s doing. Not only is it fighting the last war, it doesn’t know why it exists. It’s having a mid-life crisis at 60. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of money and career tied up in NATO, and it’s a difficult thing at 60 to say, well, yes, my career has been useless.

In fact, we’ve reached a stage in human evolution where the “military” and “defence” may be useless concepts. At one level, there’s no stopping the suicide bomber. At another, nuclear weapons are available, and the technology is well established, and if somebody wants to send a nuclear weapon from Karachi to Manhattan in an innocuous shipping container, sooner or later somebody is going to do it. Overwhelming force is only a solution to this problem if you think you can pre-emptively destroy the world.

Against this madness we have the Twin Otter, a classic aircraft. If you can put Hellfire Missiles on a Predator drone, you can surely put them on a Twin Otter, if in fact you can think of a use for Hellfire Missiles not outlawed by existing International Humanitarian Law. The ordering of multiple Twin Otters by the Canadian government would definitely create jobs in Canada, and there would be certain to be advances in “low and slow” technology, extending easily to remotely piloted Twin Otters. We could have such aircraft over Nunuvut 24/7, equipped with all sorts of sophisticated sensors to sense things. This “Otter in the Sky” could also be deployed along the Canadian/American border, with suitable weapons to take out American drones that strayed over the 49th Parallel.

Could we credibly fulfill our role as a NATO partner using the Twin Otter Deterrent? Absolutely not. The best way to fulfill our role as a credible NATO partner is to bang heads together in Brussels.