Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Canada’s F-35 purchase and ‘global economic realities’

  • © 2012 iPolitics Inc

The U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz said Tuesday that the Joint Strike Fighter program’s international partners are committed to buying the jets “as soon as their economic circumstances permit,” according to a report from Reuters.

That comment came ahead of a meeting Canada will host Friday with the international partner nations of the JSF in Washington, D.C..

The comment is a strange one, given the Conservative government’s continued claims that it remains committed to buying the jets. In the House of Commons ministers Fantino and MacKay have, however, dropped specific numbers from their answers, no longer stating how many planes Canada intends to purchase, nor enumerating the budget within which they claim they will continue to work.

The Canadian Forces website continues to state that Canada the $9 billion dollar budget “will cover the purchase of 65” conventional take-off and landing variant F-35s, along with the carry-on logistical support, associated weapons, infrastructure, project management and contingency costs.A Department of National Defence representative Tuesday those numbers are still current.

However, that answer, which eventually came after I’d asked how many planes Canada is currently planning on buying and for how much, came on the heels of a prepared statement from DND which made similar allusions to global economic forces that Schwartz mentioned to Reuters.

National defence’s initial reply to my query as to how many planes Canada would buy and for how much was the following:

As an answer to your query, be advised that the Department of National Defence is continually assessing the implications of decisions resulting from uncertain global economic realities on the Canadian Forces future readiness. The Government of Canada is ensuring that Canada’s Air Force is properly equipped for the job asked of them. ‬

To a request to be more specific I was sent the following in response:

“The Department of National Defence is always monitoring decisions made by our allies and partners as a result of today’s difficult global economic environment and incorporating their implications into preparations for the Canadian Forces future readiness.”

Tuesday afternoon, another question:

“What, specifically, is the relationship between the global economic environment and the number of F-35s that Canada will purchase? What aspects of the global economy will have an affect on our purchase?”

A bit later, Tuesday, I got a call from a representative at DND, who said he would find more details, but in the meantime pointed me to a departmental website – a press release, as it turned out – saying it would put the “global economic realities” into “perspective.”

The release, dated January 26 of this year, is one prepared for the media on Fantino’s response to the news that the U.S. plans to slow procurement of its F-35s over the next 5 years, delaying the purchase of hundreds of jets.

The only mention of global economic realities, or the economy at all, is in a quote from Fantino. Here it is:

“We are pleased that less than eight percent of the United States’ order will be re-profiled to a later production date, and that all partners continue to exercise responsible management of their priorities amid challenging global economic realities.”

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