How much carbon pollution would a fleet of Canadian F-35 fighter jets produce?

Published by Brent Patterson on

It is widely expected that Canada will select the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet in March/April 2022 to replace its current fleet of CF-18 Hornets.

How much carbon pollution would these fighter-bombers produce?

Two years ago, the National Interest reported: “Norwegian environmentalists are complaining that the country’s new F-35s, which will replace Norway’s aging fleet of F-16 fighters, will generate too many greenhouse gases.”

The Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen noted: “Average fuel consumption for the new fighter jets is estimated to be as much as 60 percent higher than for today’s fighter jets. For each flight hour, there is 5,600 liters for the F-35, compared to 3,500 liters for the F-16.”

How does this compare with the CF-18 Hornets?

SOFREP has reported: “The Hornet burns approximately 1,100 gallons of jet fuel in an hour.” Converted into litres, that’s about 4,164 litres per hour. It has also been reported that the average fuel consumption for the CF-18 is 3,500 litres per hour. Either estimate is lower than the F-35 fuel consumption rate.

Basic calculations

Each F-35 is supposed to have a service lifetime of 8,000 hours. One could estimate that 88 fighter jets (the number Canada intends to buy) x 8,000 hours x 5,600 litres of fuel an hour amounts to 3,942,400,000 litres of fuel.

As for Canada’s current fleet, The Fiscal Analysis of the Interim F-18 Aircraft produced by the Parliamentary Budget Officer states: “Petroleum, oil and lubricant costs are calculated by combining historical burn rates per flying hour with costs per litre and projecting total costs over the assumed flight profile of 160 hours per aircraft per year.”

It then notes: “On a non-risk-adjusted basis, …petroleum, oil and lubricant costs are estimated at $102.5 million before accounting for price risk.”

These figures give us important estimates to consider about the amount of fuel and costs, but not greenhouse gas emissions.

Peter Chow has noted in Sault Online: “At the very least, each F-35 can be expected to annually emit 48.76 tons of Carbon Dioxide.”

He also notes each F-35 would annually emit: “1.63 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs); 1.62 tons of Carbon Monoxide; 1.30 tons of Nitrous Oxide; 13.26 tons of Sulphur Dioxide; 3.26 tons of large particulates; 3.16 tons of small particulates.”

Transparency is needed

Under the Paris Agreement reached at the COP21 climate summit in Paris in 2015, militaries lost their automatic exemption, but were not obligated to cut their emissions and reporting on those emissions was left to the discretion of individual states.

Author Jonathan Cook has also commented: “All too often the figures are disguised – lumped in with emissions from other sectors, such as transport.”

For instance, this article in The Conversation notes: “Canada reports its emissions under multiple IPCC categories, reporting military flights under general transport, and energy for bases under commercial/institutional emissions.”

Canadian government should disclose the numbers

Before the Canadian government signs a contract with Lockheed Martin next year, it would be advisable for the sake of transparency and public debate for an official calculation to be done on the carbon pollution that would be generated by these fighter jets.

Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International has stated: “The atmosphere certainly counts the carbon from the military. Therefore we must as well.”

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