You may have heard that the F-35 is unpopular. To say the least. It’s also chronically over-budget, behind schedule, an astronomical long-term financial commitment, and some critics — including yours truly — question the wisdom of a “Swiss Army Knife” solution and the F-35’s general aptitude.

Well, a government-commissioned report from Canada muddies up the situation just a bit more. The report’s conclusions shows “little difference” between the four variants of the F-35 and its competitors when it comes to the missions it’ll be tasked to perform.

It does, however, acknowledge a “major exception” regarding war against other countries. But the report calls this event “highly unlikely” and that “the government is not obliged to undertake such a mission.”

... all of which makes me very nervous and suspect that highly intelligent people are hindering the free world’s tactical aviation fleet on the notion that a certain type of warfare — which involves competing nation states — is obsolete.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

And if it isn’t? Well, let’s just say the free world won’t remain free for long without a serious shift in defense strategy.

One of the central conceits of the F-35 program is its planned procurement and acquisition across the globe, with several countries contributing a total of $4.375 billion toward development costs for a reduced pricetag on the backend. The United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Israel, and Singapore are all committed in some capacity to the JSF program, with the UK the sole “Level 1 partner” (and an obligation to purchase 138 F-35Bs for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy).

But each nation has wavered in its support, often with change of governments. The UK grew frustrated over our refusal to grant access to proprietary technology, and as of now, their final acquisition number won’t be decided until the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015.

Meanwhile, Canada’s involvement in the F-35 program became a pivotal election issue, and the government’s obfuscation regarding final costs and reluctance to consider alternative options led to the defeat of Stephen Harper's Conservative government through a non-confidence vote on 25 March 2011.

And the controversies haven’t abated since.

The report re-examined the F-35, along with its competitors — the Eurofigher Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Boeing Super Hornet — against Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18s.

Canada is still unsure about which fighter should replace its aging fleet of CF-18s.

According to the Montreal Gazette, the report identified six future missions for Canada’s next fighter jet including defending Canadian airspace, participating in a Libya-style bombing mission, responding to a terrorist attack, and assisting in a humanitarian emergency.

It also says that at least one of the planes (not specifically identified) would “face significant risks in fighting another country in the 2020-2030 timeframe, and at least one would face high risks beyond 2030.”

However, it does say that “80 per cent of the missions flown by the fleet have related to the ability to protect Canadian air space from intrusion,” and “Canadian engagement in future state-on-state conflicts will be highly unlikely.”

But given the jets’ apparent equitability, this report will surely set off another round of debate in Canada’s House of Commons over the F-35 and cheaper alternatives.