November 24, 2014
F-35 leaks cloud Canadian fighter plans
Canadian defence sector stakeholders are scratching their heads yet again, following the leak earlier this month that suggest the Harper Government has not been upfront regarding its jet fighter procurement plans.
Officially, the Tory government had committed to reviewing Canada’s commitment to buy 65 F-35 Lightning IIs from Lockheed Martin, after it was revealed that it had misled the public as to the program’s overall cost and botched key steps in the procurement process.
However a 14-page briefing document by US Air Force LT. Gen. Chris Bogdan, obtained by reporters, suggests that Canada is currently negotiating through back channels to take possession of four jets as early as next year. Furthermore these jets are already being produced the document suggests; Canada would simply acquire aircraft already slated for the US military and pay them back later.
The briefing documents cast new light on the Department of National Defence’s September announcement that funds would be made available to extend use of the country’s existing 77 CF-18s by five years to 2025. Under that scenario certain F-18 flight controls, avionics and structural elements would be replaced or upgraded. Canada would also contribute an additional CDN25 million to CDN30 million to maintain its participation in the Joint Strike Fighter programme. Canadian and US defence and Lockheed Martin officials are generally declining comment on the issue.
The leaked documents provide further indications that despite its public pronouncements the Harper Government continues to lean towards the JSF program on which it has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars and staked its credibility. However Conservative party officials, who have prevailed over opposition forces in three straight elections, also appear to want to postpone announcement of any decision until after the next campaign currently scheduled for next year, in the hopes that that its stumbling on the program will not emerge as a major issue.
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