This argument gets picked up by a Conservative friendly and becomes the subject of an op-ed in the National Post. The op-ed tells we critics of the F-35 proposal we should be embarrassed by our questioning of the deal. Libya, you see, is the perfect sort of situation that would require Canada to possess stealth attack jets to patrol a no-fly zone. Well, here's the Sixth Estate blog rebutting the writer in a fun way:
Beardsley says I must feel “embarrassed” because it turns out we need the F-35s after all. Actually, Mr. Beardsley, I’m not embarrassed in the slightest. What the hell do you think Libya has to do with next-generation stealth fighters? Let’s be serious. If we do intervene in Libya, it will be an act of sheer and utter hypocrisy. Plus, by “we” I actually mean the Americans. With or without the F-35, or contribution would be a modest token effort. Beardsley believes that in order for Canada to be a “real” player on the world stage, we must have the capability to bomb Libya from the comfortable immunity of high-altitude stealth aircraft. I fail to see why Canada actually would need to do such a thing.Of course, these Conservatives argue that the aging Russian prop planes that don't even come close to our air space warrant the F-35s, so this really is a logical kind of next step in that stretched justification thing they have going on. This is how Libya enables the F-35 proposed purchase to get its boost, through Huebert's comments and then Beardsley's op-ed. Never let a good crisis go to waste, don't ya know.
But since Beardsley does seem serious, let’s look at the “threat” posed by the Libyan military. Its air force is a mix of decrepit Soviet fighters, mostly the MiG-23 Flogger (NATO name), substantially older than our CF-18. It’s kind of a weird debate to be having. If we really needed the F-35 to knock out Libyan SAM sites (as Beardsley claims), then it doesn’t help us much — it’s still years away. Meanwhile the lack of the F-35 doesn’t seem to be concerning, say, the American neocons, who are ready for another war. I find it implausible that the Americans would have serious trouble knocking out 30-year-old missile sites with long-range cruise missiles launched from, say, strategic bombers or ships at sea. I find it equally implausible that we would intervene without the Americans, even if we did have shiny new jets. So this is not a discussion worth having.