Mark Collins – Canada: RCAF’s Future Fighter Strength vs Belgium and Netherlands

The previous government planned to acquire 65 new aircraft (scroll down here, more here); lord knows what number the new government will decide it can afford, what with the fallen loonie.  But the Belgians and Dutch, with their much tinier area than Canada, with a combined population of some 28 million–seven million less than Canada’s, and with a similar level of wealth, plan to purchase some 71 new fighters between them.  Go flipping figure:

Belgium has set itself a challenge. In recent years, the country has done little to modernize its armed forces and purchase new equipment. Now is its laying out a shopping list of what officials call “concrete investments,” including 34 new fighter aircraft to replace the aging fleet of 56 F-16 Fighting Falcons…

Defense officials are surveying current Western-made fighter options, following a request for information issued in 2014 for the Lockheed Martin F-35Boeing’s F/A-18Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoonand the Saab Gripen. A request for proposals is expected in the coming weeks.

This is expected to lead into a governmental approval process during mid-2016 and the beginning of the procurement phase, which should last into mid-2018 when the next government should approve the procurement. 

Belgium wants to start replacing its F-16s in 2023 and to achieve full operational capability in 2029.

The plans would give Belgium a smaller fighter fleet than its neighbor, the Netherlands, which currently plans to purchase 37 F-35As [down from the originally planned 85]. Dutch officials have recently said they hope Brussels will follow and also acquire the F-35 so that both can benefit from closer cooperation. 

A plan for joint air policing of the two nations’ airspace is likely to be enacted toward the end of 2016…

By the way the Belgians also have a NATO nuclear mission–at the article quoted above:


A thorn in Belgium’s fighter selection process will be the country’s status in NATO’s nuclear-weapon-sharing agreements. Under a dual-key arrangement, a number of U.S.-owned B61 nuclear bombs are housed at Kleine Brogel air base and would be flown underneath Belgian aircraft in the event of a conflict. 

However, nuclear capability will not be included in the fighter RFP, Belgian officials said at the International Fighter Conference in London last November. 

The Belgian government is reportedly eager to maintain the nuclear capability, a move which would generally point toward selection of a U.S.-built aircraft fitted with the necessary systems to operate the weapon, such as the F-35…

Related:

Facing the Bear: Nordics’ Fighter Force Greatly to Outnumber Canadian…

Though Norway may have difficulty affording the 52 F-35As it wants; but Denmark, not mentioned in the post linked to above, for its part may acquire some 30 new fighters.

We certainly would seem to be punching below our weight aerially.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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3 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Canada: RCAF’s Future Fighter Strength vs Belgium and Netherlands”

  1. The F-35 is the shortest range, least capable of the supposed fifth generation stealth fighters. L/M is reduced to billboarding it as a carrier of nuclear bombs. It can not provide close air support. The U.S. test pilots have named it “the turd.” Its opponents from Sukhol and MIC are better 5th Generation birds. Even the PRC’ newest is better. Rumor has it that the PRC stole the F-35 plans but could not find any use for them.

    In a test dogfight with a fully weighted F-18, a bare F-35 lost.

  2. We may appear to be punching below our weight aerially at this time, but RCAF should not necessarily be trying to emulate the course that our allies are taking.
    Looking at the actual missions RCAF has been performing to meet its obligations to its allies in the last 30 years, these could have been equally or even better done by planes like the Warthog or Super Tucano. That is the kind of platform that would not be an unreasonable proposition to design and build in Canada.
    From what I am reading about current air superiority/interdiction fighters-even the F22, [only available to USAF and no longer in production] they are getting more vulnerable to fast evolving detection technologies skillfully combined with the newest A2A and S2A weapons breakthroughs. Especially when flying supersonic when they are much easier to paint.
    Some pundits propose that large subsonic fighters with stealth and EW suites, that can loiter and be constantly upgraded as threats evolve is the future. And will be both more cost effective and harder to counter. Especially combined with UCAVs and UAVs. We can design and build these with the best anywhere in the world, keep the jobs and technologies at home, and even create an export industry.
    If we blow all are money on F35s, Dassaults or whatever there will be no money to invest in these possibilities.

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