I penned an Op Ed published in Skies Magazine linking the RCAF introduction of the F-35 to the CF-18 origins more than 40 years ago (https://lnkd.in/gH-ufnr3?; page 54).

There are so many comparisons that work in favor of the F-35 making sure that things are done right. What I omitted is the comparison of the strength of the fighter force back 4 decades ago versus the trul desperate state of today. 40 years ago, the fighter force planned to feed the new CF-18 fleet of experienced fighter pilots from a deep well. The new  CF-18 squadrons were going to draft their experienced pilots from many squadrons of very capable, professional and talented aviators. There were so many pilots to choose from that the new CF-18 squadrons were populated with the very best fighter pilots of the day.

The present-day CF-18 squadrons are barely manned, grossly overworked, and without hope of gaining new talent in numbers that will stem the flow of pilots leaving to fly for airlines or seek other opportunities. There are barely 50 combat ready RCAF fighter pilots to fly the CF-18s to the end of their days and clearly not 88 to fill each of the F-35 fighters when they are to be delivered to Canada. Priority will be to focus on the future which means that bodies will be sent to the F-35 at the expense of manning the decaying CF-18 units. Today’s RCAF fighter pilots are no less professional, capable and motivated than any time in the past, but the numbers don’t lie. There is no gene pool to draft from…there is no one left.

There have been hard times over my career and post-military life for Canada’s air force. But there has never been a time as desperate as the one we are witnessing now. 2024 is the RCAF Centennial year; the fighter force has never been in such a mess, ever, in the past 100 years. I continue to try to put a positive spin on this but it’s a lot like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There will be better times perhaps after the F-35 is in Canada and the fighter force can attract and retain more personnel. Perhaps; but that won’t be anytime soon. Until then let’s hope that there is not a major world conflict that Canada would need to contribute to…like Ukraine…or the Middle East…or China