Canada’s National Post is reporting that Prime MinisterStephen Harper’s Conservative government is pulling the plug on that nation’sembattled plan to buy 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
Sources tell the Post that the Harper government is makingthe move because of the imminent release of an independent audit by KPMG thatwill 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 tobail out of the gargantuan nine-nation (led, of course by the UnitedStates–we’re actually paying for the overwhelming bulk of the program as onewould expect) defense procurement, sources tell the Post.
The KPMG estimate aligns closely with figures reported earlierby 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 militaryprogram ever–has long been a political hot potato since a damning auditor general’sreport found that the government misled the Canadian public on how much thestealth fifth-generation fighter actually costs.
Canadian auditor general Michael Ferguson’s report foundthat the $9 billion figure cited by the Harper government for 65 planes–$15-billionif life-cycle costs are included–was $10 billion below the Canadian Departmentof National Defence’s internal projections. But even that $25.1 billion figureonly took into account a 20-year life-cycle rather than the projected 36 yearlife-cycle of the F-35.
Canada’s public works minister, Rona Ambrose, who is responsiblefor managing the Canadian F-35 buy has been signaling recently that she isunhappy with how the aircraft’s requirements were drawn up.
Another newspaper, the Globe and Mail (roughly the Canadian equivalentof the New York Times) is disputing the National Post Report. “The story isinaccurate 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 lookslike the F-35 is not quite dead (probably) in Canada–but it looks like otherjets 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-15SESilent Eagle could be considered too, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.