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The Take Whiteman Defence Spending Analysis

If Canada Invested 2 percent of its GDP in defence what would the Canadian Armed Forces (the CAF) look like?

The following analysis is for the purpose of having a bit of fun and creating discussion. My novel, Take Whiteman is entirely fiction. What’s below is also speculative. It is a thought experiment.

It’s particularly timely in light of what has transpired in the Ukraine. Several journalists have been hand wringing over Canada’s paltry defence spending. Well, here’s something they could chew on.

In Take Whiteman, I indicate that Canada and its allies (CANZUK = Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom) agree that each will invest about $2.2% of its GDP into their respective defence budgets.

Fat chance in Canada and New Zealand I know, but nevertheless, let’s do the exercise (I first wrote this article in August 2021; with events in Ukraine, perhaps there is hope). 

So, the question of this thought piece is… if Canada’s defence budget was 2.0 to 2.2%, what other capabilities and platforms should/would it add with the additional $14 to $16 billion dollars that it would add to its current defence budget. 

Note: In what’s below I’ve only identified major fighting or strategic platforms or units that Canada now has and would add in the future.  Getting too far into the weeds would take away from the fun of what’s below.

Alright, let’s get to the math. As you review and do your own thinking, I’d love to hear your own ideas, suggestions, and thoughts regarding what platforms/systems/equipment, a robust middle power such as Canada would/should invest in?

Put your ideas in the comments section below.  

Note: all figures are that follow are in USDs.


Canada’s Overall Financial Situation

  • Canada’s GDP 2020 = 1.883 trillion USD
  • Canada’s Defence budget – 2021 = 22.8 billion USD; equals to 1.4% of GDP (though some data points suggest it’s closer to 1.2%) (
  • By way of comparison, Australia’s defence budget is $27.5B or 2.1% of GDP
  • By way of comparison, UK’s defence budget is $59.2B or 2.1% of GDP

Financial Analysis: Canada’s Defence if it were 2.1% of GDP?

  • Canada’s GDP 1.883 trillion (est. 2021) x 2.1% = $39.5 billion USD
  • Current spending (1.4% of GDP) vs my fictional 2.0% GDP spending is whooping difference of $14.8 billion.
  • Therefore, if we were spending on defence what Australia and the UK were spending, we’d be investing nearly an additional $15 billion per annum.  

Under Canada’s 2017 Strong, Secure, Engaged strategic review, Canada has committed to increasing its defence budget to 32.7 billion (USD) by FY 2026-27.

  • Canada’s estimated GDP in 2026 is 2.46 trillion ( .
  • 1.4% of 2.46 trillion is: $34 billion (USD).
  • Therefore, Canada’s defence spending will remain close to its current rate of spending five years from now. In fact, it will actually be just under 1.4% of GDP, so Canada will actually be spending less of its total overall GDP in 2026-27 than it is now (if I’m understanding the numbers correctly).

Still with me? Just one more numbers point to make.

By way of comparison, 2.0% of 2.46 trillion is $49.2 billion. So at the end of Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada’s defence spending will be $16.5 billion BELOW the 2014 NATO sanctioned/agreed to 2% threshold.

So the fictional 2.0% of GDP budget is just hair under $50 billion, while the actual projected defence budget is $33 billion.

Okay, so we have something like $15-17 billion more to spend on defence annually. Keep that number in your back pocket for a moment.

The next step of this thought experiment is to establish Canada’s current defence priorities vs the investments that are envisioned in my novel Take Whiteman.

Now that we’ve set up the scenario, let’s look at the investments – the actual vs the fictional.  

Overall Personnel in the CAF – Actual vs Fictional (per Take Whiteman):

Overall CAF Numbers:

Canadian Armed Forces personnel (as of 2022):

  • Regular Force: 67,000*
  • Reserve Force: 27,000*

* Several news articles suggest the actual numbers are lower by some measure.

Canadian Armed Forces personnel (as Take Whiteman):

  • Regular Force: 94,000
  • Reserve Force: 36,000

Royal Canadian Navy:

Current/Projected Major Platforms (as of 2029 or so):

Projected Major Platforms (As of Take Whiteman):

Royal Canadian Air Force:

Current/Projected Major Platforms (as of 2029 or so):

  • 6 multi-role transport/strategic in-flight refueling planes – Airbus CC-150 Polaris (based off the Airbus A310 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport)
  • 5 C-17 Globemasters
  • 12 C-130 Hercules (1970s airframes)
  • 17 C-130J Super Hercules
  • 14 long range maritime patrol planes – Lockheed CP-140 Aurora (1980s airframes)
  • 85 multi-role medium lift helicopters – Bell CH-146 Griffon
  • 15 heavy lift helicopter – CH-47 Chinook
  • 76 multi-role fighter planes – CF-18 Hornet

Projected Platforms (As of Take Whiteman)

  • Add 2 for a total of 8 multi-role transport/strategic in-flight refueling planes (replace or add Airbus A310 MRTT)
  • 5 C-17 Globemasters (replace airframes)
  • 32 C-130J Super Hercules in total (replacing 12 older Hercules with 15 new Super Hercules for a total of 32 platforms)
  • 18 multi-mission patrol craft – airframe to be determined (replacement of CP-140 Aurora)
  • 85 multi-role medium-lift helicopters – Bell 212 (replacement of the CH-146 Griffon)
  • 15 multi-role super medium-lift helicopters – Bell 525
  • 15 heavy-lift helicopter – CH-47 Chinook (replaced airframes)
  • 92 multi-role fighter planes – J39 Gripen (see my blog post on why I think the Gripen is the right choice for Canada)
  • 8 Super Heron – long-range intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, tactical drone (replacing current inventory)

Note about NORAD – under both estimates, the Air Force invests several billion dollars to update the NORAD infrastructure.  

Canadian Army:

Since there are so many platforms/units in the Canadian Army, I’m not going to list them all. Rather, in the as of Take Whiteman, I’ll list all of the major added/new platforms or units. For a current list of Canadian Army equipment, check out this link. For the structure of the Canadian Army, check out this link.

Interestingly, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command has its information separate from the Canadian Army. Here’s the link, though it provides little in the way of information about the various units’ capabilities, numbers or equipment.

Canadian Army as of Take Whiteman:


  • 100 Leopard 2A7+PLUS 10 bridge laying versions (refurbish current Leopard inventory and add platforms as necessary; 2022 inventory is around 60 tanks)
  • 700 LAV 6.0 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, various variants (replacing current LAV III, M113, Bison inventory)  
  • 16 RBS 70 NG Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) system (Radar) (this is a new capability)
  • 42 RBS 70 NG Man-Portable Air Defence System (MANPAD) – 22 vehicle-mounted, 20 man-portable (this is a new capability)
  • 26 Caesar 155mm Artillery System (this is a new capability in addition to the exisiting towed artillery)
  • 20 Alpha 800 VTOL Drone (or something like this) – short-range (new capability at the battalion/battlegroup level) – offers tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, communications/data relay.    

Units (in addition to all current units in the Canadian Army, including those in CANSOFCOM):

Paratroopers in the sky

Final Word:

So in my mind that’s what a robust well funded Canadian Armed Forces looks like. Could all of this be done for an an additional $15 billion or so per annum? It’s a good question. Much of it could. Will it ever happen? Before the Russians invaded Ukraine, I would have said no. Now I think it’s a maybe.

Regardless of the real world politics, I write stories and can use my imagination so this is my prediction for Take Whiteman.

Interested in Take Whiteman, Book 1 of the CANZUK at War series? Then check out my book here. Purchase it, read and then leave a comment on this post whether or not my vision of the CAF has some basis in reality.


Ryan Flannagan (of R.A. Flannagan Writing)

Published inCanadian Armed ForcesTake Whiteman

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