Canadian officials acknowledge lifecycle cost for 88 F-35 warplanes will be around $70 billion

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Activists gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday January 7 to reject Canada spending billions of dollars on new warplanes.

On Sunday January 8, the Government of Canada announced that Defence Minister Anita Anand would be holding a media conference on Monday January 9 “to update Canadians on the Future Fighter Capability Project”.

The Canadian Press now reports: “Anand says Canada is officially buying the F-35 fighter jet to replace its aging CF-18s, ending the years-long search where it first began. The government says Canada will ultimately buy 88 F-35s at an estimated cost of $19 billion, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2026.”

The decision stands in contrast to the Liberal Party’s 2015 platform (on page 70).

In 2010, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government had announced it would buy 65 F-35 fighter jets for $9 billion.

Global News adds: “While the project budget is $19 billion, officials said in a technical briefing Monday morning that the cost estimate for the lifecycle of these fighter jets is expected to land around $70 billion.”

Le Journal de Montreal also notes: “National Defence estimates that the life-cycle cost of these aircraft over a 30-year period and all associated costs will be $70 billion. This includes maintenance costs and all equipment necessary for the proper functioning of the F-35.”

The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) will be beginning their cost estimate study today with a target publication date in the Spring.

Two years ago, the No Fighter Jet coalition estimated the cost would be $76.8 billion.

Video: Defence Minister Anita Anand speaks at virtual media conference.

Among the concerns still to be addressed:

– The government says new fighter jets are needed to protect “our northern skies”. The report One Dead Pilot: Single-Engine F-35 a Bad Choice for Canada’s Arctic says the F-35 is “problematic for use in Canada’s Arctic and extensive maritime zones.”

– The Department of National Defence (DND) has stated as its justification for the purchase: “As Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine demonstrates, our world is growing darker and more complex.” NATO currently has a fleet of 3,527 fighter jets.

– DND also now argues “replacing the current fighter fleet with the future fighter fleet will not have an adverse impact on the environment.” The F-35 burns about 5,600 litres of jet fuel per hour and has a lifespan of 8,000 hours.

– Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets have flown an estimated 1,598 bombing missions over the last 30 years. DND claims that it has no information about any civilian casualties from these bombings. Prior to becoming prime minister, Justin Trudeau criticized the Harper government for its “lack of openness and transparency” on Canadian military engagements.

Further reading: Canada finalizes agreement to purchase new fighter jets for Royal Canadian Air Force (Public Service and Procurement Canada, January 9, 2023).

See also this article by David Pugliese.

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