Will Canada get the F-35 in time?

(Ottawa) Will Canada be able to replace its aging fleet of CF-18s before they are canceled starting in 2032 by relying on Lockheed Martin’s F-35, as the Trudeau government has planned?

Posted yesterday at 5:00 am

Joel Dennis Belavance

Joel Dennis Belavance
Journalism

Doubts are being raised about this even as negotiations are underway between senior Canadian General Services and Procurement officials and representatives of Lockheed Martin for a formal agreement to purchase 88 F-35 stealth aircraft at an expected cost of $19 billion.

In March, the incumbent of this department, Philomena Tassi, specified that Canada would start receiving the first devices from 2025 if talks led to an agreement with Lockheed Martin. The last aircraft must be delivered no later than the end of 2031. Ottawa gave itself until December to conclude a formal agreement.

Photo by Justin Tang, Canadian Press Archives

Canadian Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Philomena Tassi

However, ministry documents suggest a broader timeline. Canada requires delivery of the first nine aircraft “no later than 1Verse December 2025 and up 1Verse December 2027″.

Another suspicious element: the F-35 (Block 4) model that Canada would like to have requires building a new machine that is not yet ready. It is estimated that it will take up to four years before it can be developed.

“When we say it will take four years, it really means at least six years. There are always delays in production,” said a source in the military industry who has worked in the industry for more than 20 years.

In April, the US government’s Government Expenditure Oversight Office (GAO) argued that delays were expected in functional tests that must be completed before full production is achieved.

According to GAO, there are still hundreds of issues that need to be fixed on devices before they meet the requirements. “The more aircraft that are produced and delivered before problems are resolved, the more likely the program will have to upgrade aircraft at government expense,” the Government Accountability Office said in its report.

However, the need to meet the federal government’s procurement schedule was part of an evaluation of bids from Lockheed Martin and its competitor, Swedish Saab’s Gripen.

Lockheed Martin this week declined to comment on possible delays in aircraft deliveries. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with Canadian industry to produce and support the F-35,” the US company said.

Guaranteed lead times and lower costs for Gripen

Asked about this, Gripen’s deputy director in Canada, Anders Hakansson, said the Swedish company would have no difficulty meeting the delivery schedule set by Ottawa.

“Saab’s bid meets both the delivery and operational requirements set forth by the Government of Canada. A challenging bid provides guarantees of delivery of aircraft, training and technology transfer within the time frames that Canada mentioned as mandatory requirements for the winning bidder.” Journalism.

The exorbitant operating and maintenance costs of Lockheed Martin’s combat aircraft raise eyebrows, even at the Pentagon. These costs are currently about $30,000 per flight hour, nearly three times the cost of the Gripen ($13,000).

Saab provided a fixed bid price to the Government of Canada, providing the Canadian taxpayer with predictability in the bid. No surprises in the budget. […] “Saab was the only bidder eligible to offer a fixed-price commitment,” said Patrick Palmer, Executive Vice President, Saab Canada.

Last spring, three combat aircraft were still in operation to replace aging CF-18s. But in December, the government quietly decided to scrap the Boeing Super Hornet, leaving two options: Saab’s Gripen and Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

Photo by Henrik Montgomery, AFP archive

Saab Gribben

The Trudeau government finally set its sights on the F-35 in the spring, although the Liberals campaigned against its purchase in 2015.

To date, about 780 F-35s have been delivered to the armed forces of the United States and allied countries participating in the aircraft development program. Canada has participated in this program since its inception and has invested about 600 million US dollars so far.



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