Monday, April 18, 2011

Engines included in F-35 deal, officials insist

Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau chief
OTTAWA—Defence officials say the $9 billion price tag for a fleet of
F-35s includes the cost of the engines to power the new jets.
Documents obtained from the defence department saying the F-35 engines
"are provided as gov't-furnished equipment" prompted questions whether
the cost of the engines was included in the $9 billion price tag to buy
65 of the stealth fighters.
But the Conservatives and defence officials moved quickly to quell the
questions Sunday, insisting that the purchase price made public all
along includes everything needed to operate the aircraft — even the engines.
"The $9 billion overall acquisition cost includes 65 aircraft with
engines installed," the defence department said in a statement.
That price also includes initial logistical support, including
simulators and spares, weapons, infrastructure, project management and
contingency costs, the statement said.
Beset by delays and cost overruns in the United States, the F-35 has
flared as an election issue as the Liberals paint the fighters as a
costly waste of money that will imperil other government priorities,
notably healthcare.
Defence officials said Sunday that Canada's F-35s, to be acquired
between 2016 and 2022, will cost around $75 million apiece because
production will be at "peak efficiency.
Yet Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has estimated that the
project will cost up to twice as much as the $9 billion cited by the
And in Washington, a budget watchdog is also sounding the alarm, warning
that late-stage design changes will send the cost soaring.
"After more than nine years in development and four in production, the
program has not fully demonstrated that the aircraft design is stable,
manufacturing processes are mature, and the system is reliable," the
Government Accountability Office said in a recent assessment.
Speaking in Vancouver Sunday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the
proposed purchase of F-35s is full of questions and accused Conservative
Leader Stephen Harper of rushing into a costly purchase.
"This guy has gone down to the first car lot and bought the first car he
saw. And now we don't even know whether it has an engine, we're not
perfectly sure it's got a steering wheel and the wheels might not be in
the deal either," he said.
Ignatieff has said he would scrap the plan to buy the jets and retender
the project, a process he claims would save taxpayers billions of dollars.
"The deal here that every Canadian needs to understand about the F-35 is
that it is an airplane in development . . . and the costs keeping going
up," he told reporters.
He noted U.S. defence department officials are "tearing their hair out
at the cost overruns."
"Mr. Harper is going around trying to tell Canadians, 'I know what this
plane is going to cost.' (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama doesn't know
what this plane is going to cost," he said.
Ignatieff said there is little doubt Canada's aging fleet of CF-18s are
going to have to be replaced "but we have to get the right plane at the
right price at the right time and that has to be mean a competitive bid."


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