Canadian Defence Department says it has conducted an environmental impact assessment on its purchase of F-35 warplanes
Global News reports that Jessica Lamirande, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, says that an assessment has been conducted on the “environmental impact” of F-35 fighter jets that includes the “planned capture of emissions”.
The article by Montreal-based reporter Gloria Henriquez notes: “The government says they have conducted an assessment of the jets’ environmental impact, concluding that it would be the same as those of the existing CF-18 aircraft.”
It then quotes Lamirande who says: “In fact, they may be lower as a result of reduced use of hazardous materials, and planned capture of emissions. The analysis supports the conclusion that replacing the current fighter fleet with the future fighter fleet will not have an adverse impact on the environment.”
This report does not appear to be public yet, but the claim is at odds with other commentary in the media about the F-35.
Pounds of fuel
The US Air Force says that the F-35 has an internal fuel capacity of 18,498 pounds with a range of “more than 1,350 miles with internal fuel”. In comparison, an F-18 has an internal fuel capacity of 14,400 pounds and a ferry range of 2,070 miles.
These numbers suggest the F-35 carries more fuel but has a shorter range.
Fuel consumption per hour
In November 2019, 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 Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets?
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 suggested that the average fuel consumption for the CF-18 is 3,500 litres per hour.
Either estimate of CF-18 fuel consumption (3,500 or 4,164 litres per hour) is lower than the F-35 fuel consumption rate (5,600 litres per hour).
Total amount of fuel to be used
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, though they don’t address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, give important insight into the billions of dollars in costs beyond the $19 billion purchase price the government has stated.
Carbon dioxide emissions in tons
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.”
$525 million for low carbon hangars?
The Global News article also notes: “As for the environmental aspect, Lamirande added the department is taking steps to reduce the potential impacts of the project, such as designing their new facilities as energy-efficient and net-zero carbon.”
Canada’s CF-18s are currently stationed at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake in Alberta and CFB Bagotville in Quebec.
And according to Defence Construction Canada: “The total value of the contract [to build the hangars] is approximately $525 million—$272 million for a 34,500 square metre facility in Cold Lake and $253 million for a 22,000 square metre facility in Bagotville.”
Canadian government should disclose the numbers
Media reports suggest that the Canadian government may have already signed a $7 billion contract with Lockheed Martin for 16 F-35s.
But the public does have a right to know the environmental impact of the F-35 (including the environmental impact of bombing).
Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International has stated: “The atmosphere certainly counts the carbon from the military. Therefore we must as well.”