Canada Cancels F-35 Purchase

This tidbit of defense procurement news comes via Noah at DangerRoom:

OTTAWA — The F-35 jet fighter purchase, the most persistent thorn in the  federal government’s side and the subject of a devastating auditor-general’s  report last spring, is dead.

Faced with the imminent release of an audit by accountants KPMG that will  push the total projected life-cycle costs of the aircraft above $30 billion, the  operations committee of the federal Cabinet decided to scrap the controversial  sole-source program and go back to the drawing board, a source familiar with the  decision said.

This occurred after Chief of the Defence Staff Thomas Lawson, while en route  overseas, was called back urgently to appear before the committee, the source  said.

The decision is sure to have ripple effects around the world, as any  reduction in the number of aircraft on order causes the price to go up for all  the other buyers. Canada is one of nine F-35 consortium members, including the  United States.

I’d guess there is a reasonable chance that if the unit cost rises then the UK, which is facing the strong prospect of a triple-dip recession, will no longer be able to afford to buy either. Then again, the UK has invested much bipartisan political capital in its next-generation aircraft carriers and there are few alternatives to the F-35 for those. Typhoon ‘s navalized version uses a ski-jump to launch and according to the defense chiefs is already not advanced enough to be a solution. Neither is the Rafale, which in any case would be a domestic political disaster even if the French would chortle like mad. Still the UK government will now doubtless push for Canada to adopt the Typhoon as its alternative instead of the Rafale or the Super Hornet – which might give it a little influx of money, but nowhere near enough to meet the extra costs of its own F-35 purchases.

Meanwhile, there’s next to zero chance the US will cancel the F-35 program itself, or its own planned purchases of what will be the most expensive fighter aircraft in history. That means that US taxpayers are the ones who will bear the brunt of the rise in price of the Pentagon’s “flying piano”, which as it is will gobble up 38% of Pentagon procurement and alone will cost more than China’s entire defense budget for a decade.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • Harper and the Cons are denying that they’ve cancelled the purchase. I’m not saying it won’t happen, as the pressure to find an alternative continues to grow thanks to the timeline of the F-35 being more and more delayed along with the mounting evidence of the Conservatives trying to hide the true cost of the program and their lies about what was actually required to replace the CF-18s. Still, the Conservatives are heavily committed to this program, and cancelling it in the face of opposition pressure would be like an admission they were wrong, which Harper particularly is loathe to ever do.

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