A fortune wasted on F-35 fighter jets

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Back in 2010 Stephen Harper announced that he was buying 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets for $ 9 billion. They would replace the aging F-18 Lockheed jets.

Harper said it was a real bargain – “best plane at the best price.”

So what was the price?  Only $ 9 billion for all 65 planes that would last 40 years – ‘fifth generation’ equipment and all that. Wow! Great news!

Critics asked who decided how many planes we need.  Why did we need them? How firm is the price?  Harper said nothing except that all our allies were also buying the Lockheed  jets – Australia, Norway, Turkey, and Japan, plus the Americans buying 2,437 F-35s. How could we miss?

But then as our military kept asking for more bells and whistles and more fancy equipment to match what the Russians and Chinese were putting into their new fighting machines, the price started going up.  Surprise, surprise!

Then Defence minister Peter McKay said the 65 jets would cost $14.7 billion. Then it rose to $19 billion, then $21 billion (what Canada spends on its entire military in a single year) then $ 24 billion, and then $36 billion.

There seemed no end to it, like a video game or something.

There was no end to the bells and whistles the military wanted in the new F-35s. The same price rise was happening to F-35 orders in allied countries.

Politicians there were cutting back on fancy trim or reducing the number of planes they would buy. But not in Canada. Harper had promised 65 jets at election time and 65 it would be. He held firm.

No question of buying a cheaper jet. Harper had said the contract had been signed.  But then Liberal Bob Rae discovered there was no contract.

Had Harper not said in Mississauga on April 8, 2011 during the 2011 election campaign that a “contract” had been signed so as to “shelter us from any price increase?”

Actually, Harper admitted, he had only really meant to say that “a memorandum of understanding” had been signed with Lockheed Martin.

Oh, really!  Did Canadians care about having been lied to, or are they at the point where they don’t care because they believe all politicians lie repeatedly.

Some Canadians really didn’t care. It will cost what it costs, they figure. What else is new?

And then two weeks ago the whole thing exploded in Harper’s face. Two highly respected think-tanks – the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Rideau Institute came out with separate studies that showed the final cost over 40 years including replacement parts and training and a variety of factors and risks (like planes falling out of the sky) could cost somewhere between $12 billion and $81 billion more than the Harper government has been saying.

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