Background information on war planes

Information: Some war planes often spotted at Canadian war shows

A-4 Skyhawk
This warplane is a subsonic and highly maneuverable.  Thousands were built and sold to Third World countries.  It is, like the F-5, a standard "counter-insurgency" plane all over the world (meaning one used to bomb opposition groups that arise when populations, such as the East Timorese, the Mayans and Kurds, can no longer tolerate torture, starvation or simply slaughter).  It was also used by the U.S. in the Vietnam and quickly became the standard dropper of napalm (much of it made in Canada).

A-10 Thunderbolt
Designed in the late 1970s, this aircraft was built around a single anti-tank weapon, the largest airborne gun in existence.  It fires extremely high velocity three cm. diameter Depleted Uranium (DU) tipped shells.  These shells turn to plasma (an iodized gas of protons and neutrons) which burns streaming holes through the hulls of armored vehicles.  This frightening weapon was used in the Gulf War and many tons of radioactive uranium dust now drift across southern Iraq.  The A-10s destroyed 1,400 Iraqi tanks and rid the U.S. and Britain of enormous quantities of unwanted radioactive waste, left-over from their nuclear weapons and reactors.  The half life of these highly toxic DU bullets is 4.5 billion years, so they will continue to irradiate the Middle East for countless generations.

B-1 Lancer
It carries nuclear bombs and cruise missiles in three internal rotary dispensers.  The B1A was first conceived in the late 60's as a replacement for the B52.  President Carter killed it due to technical problems and huge cost overruns. Reagan brought it back, spending many more millions trying to have it redesigned as a subsonic, low level, penetration bomber.  This created massive design problems because it was originally designed as a supersonic, high altitude, penetration bomber.  Despite costing over $100 million each, the B1B was virtually obsolete when its first run was completed.  Despite costing tremendous amounts of money, no one in the White House today is quite sure what to do with it.  It is very popular at air shows.

B-2 Spirit
At US$2.2 billion each (over Cdn$3 billion), the B-2 is the most expensive plane ever built.  It was, in fact, considered too valuable to risk using during Desert Storm.  It was developed during the Cold War to evade Soviet radar and carry out a nuclear attack.  It can travel 8,000 miles without refueling and can "deliver" up to 75,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear bombs.  In 1997, the U.S. unveiled a special, new nuclear bomb specifically designed for the B-2.  By continually improving its nuclear arsenal, the U.S. is encouraging potential nuclear powers to ignore international treaties and develop their own nuclear weapons.

B-52 Stratofortress
Not only were many thousands of tons of bombs dropped on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with this bomber, it was also used to drop thousands of landmines.  These fall to the ground, burying themselves a few inches under, until someone, often a peasant or a child, inadvertently step on it.  During the "Christmas raids" of 1972 in Vietnam, B-52s dropped roughly the TNT  equivalent of a Hiroshima nuclear bomb spread out over 729 missions.  It has also been the standard conventional and nuclear weapons carrier since the 1950s.  Presently, it carries cruise missiles (tested and perfected in Canada) in two rotary missile bays with room for more under the wings.  It also was used in Desert Storm.

(C)F-5 Freedom Fighter
The F-5 (the "C" designates Canadian-owned F-5s) is the most common fighter plane in the world.  Because of its cheap price (only $5 million each), thousands have been exported to Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe. Because it is reliable, cheap, maneuverable and deadly, it is a standard "Third World" counter-insurgency fighter.  It can take off from unpaved airstrips, carry huge bomb and gun loads and needs relatively little maintenance.  It can be flown by relatively unskilled pilots.  It's the perfect weapon for dictators trying to keep the rebels down.  The Canadian government has tried to sell this warplane to Turkey no doubt for bombing campaigns against Kurdish villages.  Canada recently sold some to Botswana.

(C)F-18 Hornet
At a cost of about $25 million dollars each, this all-weather fighter/bomber has supersonic capabilities.  It can carry, launch and fire just about any munitions that can be strapped, bolted or clipped to it. Hundreds of these planes were used by  Canada and the U.S. in the bombardment of Iraq.  It is a popular U.S. export item and has been sold all over the world.  There are many flying in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.  It is operational about 50% of the time.  This, apparently, is good for a plane as sophisticated as this one. 

F-4 Phantom
Extraordinarily fast, this plane was built in the 1960s.  It is still one of the fastest warplanes in existence.  It was used by the U.S. in Vietnam as both an interceptor and a bomber.  The U.S. has sold most of its F-4s to "Third World" countries, many in the Middle East where conflicts have always provided a good market for manufacturers and governments wishing to get rid of the old to play with the new.  Israel bought many of these throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, South Korea, Greece, Iran, England, Germany and others, have all purchased and used this weapons delivery system.  More than 5,000 were built by U.S. manufacturers between 1962 and 1979.  It was used by the U.S. in the war against Iraq.

F-14 Tomcat
An extremely fast interceptor, this plane has one of the most sophisticated airframes in existence.  The U.S. sold some to Iran, and it has been used by the U.S. in most, if not all, of American "interventions" and "invasions" since the mid-70s, including Cambodia (1975), Laos (1977), Iran (1980), Afghanistan (1981), El Salvador (1981), Libya (1981, 1986), Lebanon (1982), Grenada (1983), Nicaragua (1983), Honduras (1985), Panama (1989) and Iraq (1991).

F-117 Fighting Falcon
Because it is difficult to pick up on radar, the F-117 Fighting Falcon is called a "stealth" fighter, although it is actually a "bomber."  First used in the invasion of Panama, F-117s later spent almost 7,000 hours on bombing missions over Iraq.  These eerie planes dropped more than 4.4 million pounds of bombs on Iraq during the most intense aerial bombardment in the history of warfare.  Each F-117 can carry 5,000 pounds of munitions, including laser-guided conventional bombs or two Mark 61 nuclear weapons. The cost of the aircraft is about US$500 million each. Whether this includes any of the billions in design costs is unknown.

F-15 Eagle
This warplane uses the guidance platform that cruise missiles were built around and its airframe is among the world's most sophisticated.  The F-15 is considered one of the best "weapons platforms" in existence.  But, because they cost about US$50 million each, not too many countries can afford them.  Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel are among the countries which have purchased the F-15.  They are not affordable by middle powers such as Canada and Turkey.  That hurt U.S. exports, and the ending of the F-4 production in the mid-1970's left a huge vacuum in the middle priced, fighter bomber market.

The Snowbirds are the most popular military planes at Canadian air shows. They are flown by a demonstration squadron of the best pilots in the Canadian Armed Forces.  However, they're not used solely for pleasing the public.  These planes are also used for military training purposes. Military pilots learn to fly the CF-5 and CF-18 warplanes by first learning to fly these smaller "Snowbird" planes.  They share a place in many Canadian's psyche along with the maple leaf, beavers and Mounties.  They are very popular and hence very difficult to criticize.  Technically (by the narrowest of margins), they are not combat aircraft.  As such, the anti-war critique gets blunted and nationalistic admirers of these planes' stunts, and other warplanes generally, will climb all over any peace activist who dares to question these, euphemistically named, "Snowbirds."

Sources:  Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade in Press for Conversion!, Issue #36, March 1999. 

Adapted from:

 (1) A Darkness Visible: The Abbotsford International Air Show, Air Show Canada, and the Banality of Evil, by David Theissen.  Data was collected by Bruce Hiebert, Military Researcher for the Mennonite Central Committee of British Columbia, from the following: Newsweek, Feb. 18, 1991; David Broad, ed. The New World Order and the Third World; Canadian Defence Quarterly, Jan. 1993

Personal email communication by Bruce Hiebert with Richard Sanders, March 23, 1997 and (3) COAT's documentary video, Mothers' Day at the War Show.