Canada's National Post is reporting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is pulling the plug on that nation's embattled plan to buy 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
Sources tell the Post that the Harper government is making the move because of the imminent release of an independent audit by KPMG that will peg the total projected life-cycle cost of Canada's 65 F-35s above $30 billion. That price tag pushed the cabinet operations committee to decide on Tuesday to bail out of the gargantuan nine-nation (led, of course by the United States--we're actually paying for the overwhelming bulk of the program as one would expect) defense procurement, sources tell the Post.
The KPMG estimate aligns closely with figures reported earlier by Canada's parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, who predicted a cost of $30 billion over a 30-year life-cycle.
The F-35 procurement plan--by far Canada's biggest military program ever--has long been a political hot potato since a damning auditor general's report found that the government misled the Canadian public on how much the stealth fifth-generation fighter actually costs.
Canadian auditor general Michael Ferguson's report found that the $9 billion figure cited by the Harper government for 65 planes--$15-billion if life-cycle costs are included--was $10 billion below the Canadian Department of National Defence's internal projections. But even that $25.1 billion figure only took into account a 20-year life-cycle rather than the projected 36 year life-cycle of the F-35.
Canada's public works minister, Rona Ambrose, who is responsible for managing the Canadian F-35 buy has been signaling recently that she is unhappy with how the aircraft's requirements were drawn up.
Another newspaper, the Globe and Mail (roughly the Canadian equivalent
of the New York Times) is disputing the National Post Report. "The story is
inaccurate on a number of fronts," a senior official tells the Globe and Mail.
We should find out for sure some time tomorrow... there is another cabinet meeting that should clarify matters.
UPDATE: Per the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it looks like the F-35 is not quite dead (probably) in Canada--but it looks like other jets will be considered. These could include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab Gripen. I suppose the F-15SE Silent Eagle could be considered too, but I wouldn't hold your breath.