[credit provider=”Wikimedia Commons” url=”http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II_mock-up_04.JPG”]
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been the jet of choice for Canada since 2001, but a milestone was reached in 2010 when defence minister Peter MacKay announced his intention to buy 65 of them from the U.S.It was then MacKay said the aircraft would cost taxpayers $9 billion, while declining to offer operating costs, but within a year that number had jumped to $16 billion. The Canadian government finally admitted last week that the cost had swelled to a shocking $40 billion.
That was enough for leaders to say other options were back on the table and the F-35’s future in Canada was far from certain. On top of that blow, a new independent report nudges that lifetime cost up to nearly $46 billion over the 42 year lifespan of the jet. Another $6 billion, on top of an already additional $31 billion will prove very tough to justify.
The news skewered a Canadian political party once respected for its fiscal credibility and left just two Tory officials to defend the F-35 decision in an hour long news conference yesterday.
It wasn’t pretty, and there were no answers on why the government failed to seriously consider other jets, to announce the actual costs of the F-35, or why it it attacked anyone who questioned the plane at all.
None of this means that Canada won’t end up with a string of F-35s, though that seems unlikely, but it does mean the world is catching on to the fact that U.S. military hardware is absurdly expensive.
And pretending the technology is new and will come down in cost doesn’t explain why something as established as the nation’s main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, which was designed in the 1970s costs $8.58 million apiece. More importantly, it doesn’t explain why Russia’s T-90, considered by some to be a better weapon, runs a breezy $2.77 million.
That’s nearly a three to one difference that threatens to spill over into allied militaries throughout the world. Accepting less for more isn’t going to work and as countries like India choose Russian jets to renew their fleets, it’s only the first sign of things to come.
Not that anything in the U.S. will change: Even as the Pentagon struggles to pay for the F-35, it’s already looking at a sixth generation fighter to replace it by 2030, and putting out battleships for $7 billion apiece.