Members of the Canadian military and employees of the Department of National Defence have been told in no uncertain terms to keep their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves about which aircraft should become the RCAF’s next frontline fighter. In a memo to all personnel, DND expressly forbids members and employees from attending “any event or activity directly paid for by one of the suppliers,” even if it’s unrelated to the fighter competition and to be on their best behaviour at air shows and other public events.
“The actions of individual DND employees and [RCAF] members contribute directly to the credibility of our institution as a whole,” said the directive, a copy of which was released to CBC News. “Conflicts of interest in any area of activity can have a negative impact on the perceived objectivity of DND and the CAF, regardless of whether that conflict exists in reality or is simply perceived.” There is also a blanket gag order on talking to the media about the fighter competition without the direct permission of the RCAF commander. Complicating matters is that the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 demonstration team is booked for several Canadian air shows. Also currently in the running are the Saab Gripen, Airbus Typhoon and Boeing F/A18 Super Hornet. Only the U.S. Navy Super Hornet demo team performs in air shows and it’s not clear if it will be doing any shows in Canada.