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Plan to buy additional combat aircraft brings Canada a bigger share of F-35 costs

Lee Berthiaume, Canadian Press

Posted on Wednesday 30 January 2019 13:02 EST

Latest update Wednesday 30 January 2019 14:48 EST

OTTAWA – Canada is forced to spend most of the F-35 fighter development costs even though it has not decided whether to buy it.

Canada is one of the nine partner countries in the F-35 project, each of which is required to cover part of the cost of developing millions of dollars of fighters to stay at the table.

Each country pays on the number of F-35s it expects to buy. Canada has spent more than half a billion dollars over the past 20 years, of which $ 54 million last year.

But this figure was based on Stephen Harper's plan to buy 65 new fighters to replace the aging Canadian CF-18, which Trudeau has since officially raised to 88 years.

Although Canada has not let these 88 jet planes be the F-35, the National Defense Department says change means it will have to pay more to remain a partner – including about $ 72 million this year.

"Canada's spending under the F-35 Partnership Agreement is based on the size of the ship," Defense Ministry spokesman Ashley Lemire said in an e-mail.

"Canada has changed the size of the F-35 fleet (agreement) from 65 to 88 aircraft to align with government decisions on the size of the intended permanent fighter fleet to be obtained through competition and the payment has increased accordingly."

Given that each partner contribution is set annually, based on the total cost of the F-35 development program for that year, Lemire said it can not provide details on how much Canada will have to pay.

The cost of developing the F-35 is a constant source of criticism of the fighter's fugitive life that Canada first entered under the Chretien government in 1997. The whole program estimates it is worth more than $ 1 trillion.

The Trudeau government says it plans to keep Canada in the F-35 development effort until CF-18 replacement is selected – development partners can buy lower-priced aircraft and compete for work related to their production and long-term maintenance.

Canadian companies have so far reached more than $ 1.2 billion in F-35 contracts, according to the government.

The F-35 is one of four aircraft that took part in a $ 19 billion competition that the government plans to launch in the spring. Others are Boeing's Super Hornet, Typhoon Eurofighter and Saab's Gripen.

The competition is not scheduled to pick the winner by 2021 or by 2022, which means that Canada will have several more payments on the hook. The first new aircraft is expected in 2025 and the latest in 2031, when the CF-18 will be phased out.

The F-35 Lockheed Martin production team says more than 350 fighters were shipped to different countries, while Israel became the first country to use a plane in combat last year when two jets hit targets in neighboring Syria.

While US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, however criticized the program on Monday, said he had "room for much greater performance."

"I'm impressed with the performance," he quoted as he asked if Boeing would betray them. "I'm interested in giving my taxpayers their money, and the F-35, I can tell, I have a lot of opportunities to do more."

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