Wings Magazine

Cash needed if Harper wants to buy F-35 in 2018

April 11, 2014, Ottawa - The Harper government will need to start laying down cash next year, if it intends to stick with the current delivery schedule for the oft-maligned F-35 fighter jet.

April 11, 2014  By The Canadian Press

A senior executive with the aircraft's U.S. manufacturer confirms
Canada recently pushed off potential delivery of its first planes until
2018, holding its place in the line of nations that have already agreed
to buy the stealth jet.


The plan to acquire 65 of the radar-evading planes has been
on hold for over year following a scathing auditor general's report in
2012. It accused National Defence and Public Works of not doing enough
homework and low-balling the cost of program.



A public works secretariat
overseeing the replacement of the air force's current fleet of CF-18s
has conducted a market analysis of what other aircraft are out there.
Its report is expected to be key in deciding whether the federal
government will hold an open competition.


Steve O'Bryan, vice president of business
development at Lockheed Martin, says his company has provided a very
thorough package of information to public works and it's important for
Canada to go through a careful review.


No delivery contract has been signed, but the
partnership arrangement among nations requires them to put begin putting
money down three years before the first plane arrives.


Because it was such lightning
rod, there has been speculation the Harper government would postpone a
decision on whether to proceed with the F-35 until after the next
election in October 2015.


The Conservatives could always move the delivery
date, but the air force is working under a tight timeline because many
of the CF-18s will see their airframe life exhausted by 2020.


The F-35, which has seen a number of development
delays and cost overruns in the U.S., is being used in a testing and
training capacity at six different bases south of the border, O'Bryan
said Thursday.


Canadian companies are part of
Lockheed Martin's global supply chain and have won over $600 million in
contracts so far, he added.


O'Bryan also touted the fact that South Korea
recently decided to buy the jet — something that push the overall number
of orders to roughly 3,100 aircraft.


That is significant because the price countries pay per aircraft is tied to the number of orders in any given year.


The numbers became a huge bone on
contention in the acrimonious political debate that gripped Ottawa
between 2010 and 2012 with watchdogs, such as the parliamentary budget
officer and aviation experts claiming there was no way the government
would be able to land the plane for $75 million per copy.


Among the auditor general's criticisms was that
federal officials under-estimated the lifetime cost of maintaining and
operating the aircraft by billions of dollars.


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