In 2007 when the Russians resumed such patrols they flew near Canadian airspace four times, in 2008 it was five times, in 2009, three times. So far in 2010 they have made three flights near Canadian airspace. In all cases the Russian aircraft were shadowed by Canadian fighters.
In that same four-year period there were 33 such flights near U.S. airspace in the north which where intercepted by U.S. aircraft based in the Alaska Norad region.
The threat of Russian excursions into domestic airspace is a key theme in the Harper government’s public relations campaign to convince Canadians about the need to spend at least $16 billion on buying a fleet of new stealth fighter aircraft from the U.S.
Opposition MPs and critics of the deal have charged that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and other government officials have been deliberately hyping routine Russian patrols in an attempt to scare the public into believing there is a need to buy the plane known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
Steve Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute and a vocal critic of the fighter aircraft purchase, said the Norad statistics show the government is trying to manufacture a threat. …
After the Canadian government raised concerns about the Aug. 24 patrol, Norad issued a statement noting there wasn’t anything unusual about the flight. “At no time did the Russian military aircraft enter Canadian or United States sovereign airspace,” stated Norad spokesman Canadian Navy Lt. Desmond James. “Both Russia and Norad routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North. These exercises are important to both Norad and Russia and are not cause for alarm.”
About the only thing going for the “Russian bomber threat” ploy is that the Russians do have a long-range bomber force, even though there’s no need for F-35s to deal with it.
In apparent desperation to justify the planned purchase, Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, the chief of the air staff, recently showed a more imaginative approach to threat inflation: “Who knows 50 years from now? Who knows what the North Koreans will be up to? The Iranians?” (Campbell Clark, “Military sees F-35’s stealth as way to assert sovereignty,” Globe and Mail, 31 August 2010)