November 22, 2018 11:30 am

Roy Green: Australia’s old jets are not Canada’s first experience with military cast-offs

Controversy over Canada's move to buy used Australia jets.

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“Whip out our CF-18’s and show them how big they are,” said Justin Trudeau in 2014, before he became prime minister.

According to federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson, Canada will be severely limited as far as any whipping out of our ancient flying platforms is concerned.

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We’re short of pilots, short of technicians and woefully incapable of quite literally keeping up with allied air forces should a hot shooting war erupt and require Canadian participation.

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In the automobile vernacular, it would be like sending out a fleet of mid-1980s perhaps questionably maintained snow plows to tackle a fierce Canadian mid-winter storm. Add a worrisome deficit of qualified drivers and … well, let your mind’s eye roam.

Meanwhile, Australia is perhaps yet to be shown playing the air force version of the British navy, which sold Canada used submarines in 1998, by unloading 25 of its discarded F-18s on Canada for some $500 million. It’s a pointless expense according to Ferguson, who concludes the old Australian jets will offer little or no value to this nation.

READ MORE: Canada makes first moves toward Australian fighter jet purchase

Perhaps they may prove as airworthy as the submarines the Jean Chretien Liberals took off the hands of giggling Brits turned out to be seaworthy.

Former U.K. member of parliament Mike Hancock questioned that deal.

“Why were the Canadians daft enough to buy them? My God, it’s a sad tale isn’t it? ‘Buyer beware’ should have been painted on the sides of those submarines,” Hancock told the CBC.

The four Victoria-class Royal Navy diesel subs were decommissioned in 1993, then added to the inventory of the Royal Canadian Navy for $750 million some five years later.

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Their years of service to this country have been highlighted by leaks, rust, serious dents, lengthy and expensive stints in dry dock and in the case of one of the submarines, HMCS Chicoutimi, a tragic fire which broke out during its maiden RCN voyage. A 32-year-old Lieutenant died and nine members of Chicoutimi’s crew suffered smoke inhalation.

HMCS Corner Brook ran aground, while HMCS Windsor was dry-docked in Halifax where I saw it while on a harbour boat ride. Well, I saw tarpaulins covering something relatively large and was assured it was Windsor. Rust was later discovered during work on the boat. That’s not a good thing for a submersible.

As for intimidating potential enemies, that was also to prove problematic. Our torpedoes weren’t a match for our new submarines.  That, though, was a problem for only three of the four. Number four couldn’t fire torpedoes at all. It had developed flooding problems.  Again, not good when you’re spending time below the surface. Temporarily.

Ingenuity resolved that challenge. The torpedo tubes were welded shut.

READ: Canadian navy investigates after fires, power outages hit ships around the world

The current Liberal government plans to part with $3 billion-plus to keep however many of its CF-18 roster it can in the air over the next 10 years, during which time and without an upgrade in weapons systems, the planes’ effectiveness will continue to deteriorate.

There will be, we’re told, some new jets in the skies above Canada by perhaps the middle of the next decade, after another competition for replacements for the CF-18s is concluded; $19 billion should buy Canada 88 new fighters.

If that doesn’t pan out, there are still some former Royal Air Force Spitfires roaming the skies.

Sad, isn’t it?

Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.

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