Friday, July 23, 2004

This morning the Liberal government finally announced the selection of a replacement for the Canadian Forces' aging fleet of Sea King maritime patrol helicopters, the Sikorsky H92.  This is a decision that should have been made years ago.  Of course if the Chretien government way back in '93 hadn't cancelled a contract for the purchase of EH101 helicopters the Sea Kings would have long been put out to pasture.  But the controversy isn't done, since losing bidder EH Industries, which offered a version of their Cormorant helicopter, claims the bidding process was biased against them and that they may sue as a result.  Then there's the fact that the Canadian Forces purchased a version of the Cormorant for search and rescue,  leading to the obvious question of why the Forces should be using two different brands of helicopters for maritime roles, losing the benefits of having similar aircraft from a single supplier.   And we may see concerns about the H92 being a modified version of the civilian S92, versus it being an aircraft designed from the ground up for military use.  There have been criticisms in certain quarters about the CH146 Griffon helicopter being developed by a similar route, claims being made its commercial heritage has made it a poorer aircraft than a purpose designed military copter.

This whole mess once more makes me feel that a major, comprehensive review of Canadian defense policy is needed.  Canadians need to decide what we want our military to do in the 21 Century, and develop a comprehensive plan of how to impliment these goals.  This especially needed since various systems are coming to the end of their useful lives, and we need to decide what to replace them with, or even whether we will replace them at all.   But with our current minority government we aren't likely to see anything along these lines happen anytime soon.

Speaking of military matters an interesting fact came to light this week.  Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado has been coming off the field in American ballparks when they sing God Bless America during the 7th inning.  This is a protest both against the current war in Iraq and a continuation of his opposition to the use of Vieques Island in his native Puerto Rico as a US Navy gunnery range.  What I find fascinating about it is that he's been doing so without making a big deal about it.  He's just been doing it, not throwing himself at the media and shouting, "HEY, LOOK AT ME!  I'M PROTESTING!" like celebs tend to do.  Very classy.

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