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Canada cancels F-35 procurement


Canada will cancel its intended purchase of 65 F-35s, according to a report in the Ottawa Citizen. (Our Reuters story is here too.)

The newspaper reports that the imminent release of an audit report by accounting firm KPMG showing the total projected lifecycle costs of the aircraft would be above $30 billion, incited the federal Cabinet to scrap the program.

The KPMG audit is due out next week.

Immediate interpretations of the Citizen report differ on whether the JSF will be cancelled outright or whether Ottawa will begin considering alternatives first.

But another nail in the F-35's coffin was put in by chief of the Defense Staff Thomas Lawson who told the House of Commons defense committee on Nov. 29 that the aircraft was not the only modern fighter aircraft that could be qualified as stealthy. The F-35's stealthiness had been one of the primary arguments for buying the aircraft.

Stewart Webb, a visiting research fellow at Ottawa's Rideau Institute, has long been an advocate against Canada's purchase of the F-35. In a paper co-written with Michael Byers, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, in this volume of the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal published last February, he concluded that the F-35 was “ill-suited for Canada's needs” and recommended “a more cautious approach that mixes existing CF-18s with a smaller number of new non-stealth jet fighter aircraft as well as, increasingly, unmanned aerial vehicles.”

The two also wrote an interesting article in the National Post, which you can read here on October 30, in which they argue that, according to a Lockheed Martin information package posted on the internet by the Norwegian government, the F-35 will only finish its development at the end of Block 7 in mid-2021. Canada was proposing to acquire its 65 F-35s between 2016 and 2022 and so although these follow-on developments are voted upon by all countries purchasing F-35s because the weight of the vote is proportional to the number of aircraft purchased so the United States, which plans to purchase some 2,450 of the planned 3,100 aircraft, will have majority control on every upgrade decision leaving Canada – and others - “virtually powerless” when it comes to voting … and yet it would have had to pay its share of the costs.

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