The Corner

Economy & Business

Will Canada Now Scrap Its Plan to Buy F-35 Fighter Jets from the U.S.?

One of the campaign promises of the Liberal party in Canada was that if elected it would scrap the troubled F-35 program, which is projected to cost $44 billion over the jet’s four-decade life cycle. The F-35 has had and continues to suffer from cost overruns and many technical problems — it can’t even fly safely in the rain. Back in September, Leader Justin Trudeau announced its plan:

“Our Canadian Forces are in a state of stagnation,” Trudeau said to a crowd of supporters at Pier 21 in Halifax, home to the Canadian Museum of Immigration.

In its place, the Liberals said they would launch an “open and transparent competition” to buy more affordable planes to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 jets. Trudeau said the money saved by scrapping the F-35 procurement would go primarily to increasing spending on the Royal Canadian Navy.

Canada had plans to buy 65 F-35s, but after a series of controversies and scandals over the procurement process, its cost coupled with the plane’s defects forced the government to pause their procurement in 2013. 

The Liberal party is now in power. It will be interesting to see what it does about its promise to cancel the program and what consequences, if any, it has on the debate about the F-35 in the United States. One can only hope that it does have an impact in the U.S. since as Mike Fredenburg argued in National Review back in July, “The F-35 program could cripple U.S. defense for decades to come.” A tidbit:

Indeed, it could be argued that the biggest threat the U.S. military faces over the next few decades is not the carrier-killing Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, or the proliferation of inexpensive quiet diesel-electric attack subs, or even Chinese and Russian anti-satellite programs. The biggest threat comes from the F-35 — a plane that is being projected to suck up 1.5 trillion precious defense dollars. For this trillion-dollar-plus investment we get a plane far slower than a 1970s F-14 Tomcat, a plane with less than half the range of a 40-year-old A-6 Intruder, a plane whose sustained-turn performance is that of a 1960s F-4 Phantom, and a plane that had its head handed to it by an F-16 during a recent dogfight competition. The problem is not just hundreds of billions of dollars being wasted on the F-35; it is also about not having that money to spend on programs that would give us a far bigger bang for the buck.

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