Canada pays additional US $ 71 million for F-35 development


OTTAWA – Canada has quietly made another multi-million dollar payment for the development of the F-35 stealth fighter amid uncertainty over whether it will buy the plane and calls from some prominent Canadians not to buy new fighter planes

OTTAWA – Canada has quietly made another multi-million dollar payment for the development of the F-35 stealth fighter amid uncertainty over whether it will buy the plane and calls from some prominent Canadians not to buy new fighter jets.

Canada made the annual payment to the US military in the spring, spending US $ 71.7 million to remain a partner country in the F-35 project. Each partner is required to cover a portion of the multi-billion dollar development costs of the aircraft to stay at the table.

Staying in the program has its advantages, as partner countries get a discount when purchasing the jets and compete for billions of dollars in contracts associated with their construction and maintenance. The F-35 is built by US defense giant Lockheed Martin.

As the new payment brings Canada’s total investment in the F-35 to US $ 613 million since 1997, the government says Canadian companies have also secured more than US $ 2 billion in production and maintenance contracts. related to the stealth hunter.

“Canada’s participation in the (F-35) program allows companies in Canada to benefit from contracts,” Department of National Defense spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in an email.

“Our final payment… will continue to provide Canada with the ability to purchase the aircraft at a lower cost and with priority access to the production line, should the F-35 be successful in the competitive process for the future fighter fleet.”

News of Canada’s latest payment follows Switzerland becoming the latest to select the F-35 as its next fighter, despite not being a partner country. This decision was, however, criticized by the country’s left-wing parties.

There were also concerns in the United States after congressional listeners discovered that the F-35 could be too expensive for the U.S. military due to higher than expected O&M costs.

Ottawa is set to announce later this year which fighter jet will replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fleet. The government plans to purchase 88 new planes at an estimated cost of $ 19 billion.

The F-35, built by US defense giant Lockheed Martin, competes with Boeing’s Super Hornet and Swedish-made Saab Gripen.

The pending decision prompted dozens of Canadian singers, writers, politicians and activists, including Neil Young, David Suzuki and Michael Ondaatje, to sign a statement calling on the government to reverse plans to purchase new fighter jets.

“Expensive weapons are largely unnecessary in responding to natural disasters, providing international humanitarian assistance or in peacekeeping operations,” the statement said. “They also cannot protect us from a pandemic or the climate and other ecological crises.”

The signatories also argue that fighter jets are contributing to climate change and that the true lifespan cost of the planes will be nearly $ 77 billion – money that would be better spent on other priorities.

“Instead of buying 88 new fighter jets, let’s use these resources for health care, education, housing and clean water,” read the statement organized by the No Fighter Jets campaign.

“At a time of health, social and climate crises, the Canadian government must prioritize a just recovery, green infrastructure and invest in Indigenous communities. “

The government has championed the need for fighter jets to protect Canada and North America and to conduct military operations abroad. Experts said that not having fighter jets would leave the defense of Canadian airspace to the United States.

Stephen Harper’s Tories announced their intention in 2010 to purchase a fleet of F-35 fighter jets under a non-tender contract, but abandoned that plan in 2012 after the full price became known.

Stephen Harper’s Tories first announced plans to buy 65 F-35s without a competition in 2010, but canceled that plan over cost questions and concerns about the Defense Department’s tactics to get the government approval for the deal.

During the 2015 federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promised that they would immediately launch an open and fair competition to replace the CF-18s, but that they would not buy the F-35 before allowing the fighter stealthy to compete.

Defense Department purchasing chief Troy Crosby told The Canadian Press in an interview earlier this month that the government remains on track to complete the evaluation of the three bids later this year, with a contract signed next year.

The first new aircraft is expected to arrive in 2025 and the last in 2032, when the CF-18s are about 50 years old.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 21, 2021.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Neil Diamond signed a statement calling on the government not to buy fighter jets. In fact, Neil Young signed the declaration.

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