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    Stealth fighter fever grips Ottawa as Tories see new F-35 figures

    OTTAWA - Ottawa was awash in speculation Thursday that the pricetag for the life-time cost of the oft-maligned F-35 fighter was about to take a huge jump.

    A government sponsored report — written by the accounting firm KPMG — is widely expected to show that the pricetag of owning 65 stealth fighters could stretch to $40 billion.

    The figure is higher than $25 billion estimates last spring by the auditor general, who in a scathing report blasted the Harper government for low-balling the purchase.

    Over the previous two years, the Conservatives insisted the all-in price for the multi-role, radar-evading jet was going to be up to $16 billion.

    Defence sources said next week's KPMG report is expected to present a range of figures for cost ownership, depending on the number of years the Royal Canadian Air Force intends to fly the plane.

    The longer it's in-service, the higher the cost.

    The report has been in the hands of the government for a week.

    One media report speculated that a cabinet committee had decided to scrap the F-35 purchase altogether and look at other alternatives — something several senior government officials flatly denied.

    One defence source, speaking on the condition of not being named, said the figure the government is watching closely is not the full life-cycle cost, but the pricetag per plane.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay are both on-the-record saying the government is willing to spend no more than $9 billion on purchasing aircraft.

    The defence official says that is the "red line" and that maintenance and operating costs can be adjusted over the years, depending upon how much each aircraft is flown.

    A series of delays and cost overruns have seen the estimated pricetag per jet climb from US $75 million to in the range US $133 million.

    The F-35 program has long been a hot button issue in Ottawa with arguments over the cost contributing to a Liberal motion that defeated Harper's minority government in 2011.

    The advanced fighter is still largely in development mode and likely won't be fully operational until 2019.

    Because a number of countries are involved in the development and purchase, the actual pricetag fluctuates depending on the number of orders Lockheed Martin receives in any given year.

    The KPMG report will analyze those numbers and throw in some of the variables unique to Canada's planned purchase, including minor modifications such as the addition of a drogue chute for stopping on icy runways.

    The analysis, which the Conservatives ordered in the aftermath of the auditor general's report last spring, will also lay out projected maintenance and operational costs for the lifetime of the aircraft — should Canada choose to proceed with it.

    Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose has said that air force's original statement of requirements has been set aside and the secretariat overseeing the CF-18 replacement will conduct a full options analysis.

    That review is expected to examine in detail whether a stealth capability is necessary for the country's needs.

    It also means that the government will seek input from Lockheed Martin's competitors about whether their aircraft might meet the country's needs.

    That analysis is expected to take several months.

    The CF-18s — already heading into their fourth decade of service — are due to retired in 2020.

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    102 comments

    • FreedomFromReligion  •  23 hours ago
      Seeing as how we (the taxpayers) bought these things can we use them on the crooks on Parliament hill?
    • GNH  •  1 day 1 hour ago
      This is insanity. The price is approaching a BILLION dollars a plane, to be paid for by a country smaller than the state of California. If we must have these aircraft, and many experts say that we do not, then we must proportionately reduce spending elsewhere.....say old age pensions, health care education....will the planes still be a priority?
    • torch in the dark  •  23 hours ago
      at a time when the conservatives have cut 20,000 jobs and are going to cut more, there is something seriously wrong here!
    • JOHN ZWICKER  •  1 day 0 hours ago
      An Australian think tank study seems to indicate that their technical level has been surpassed by the Chinese. Prudent time for another look at it.
    • Thumpinlog  •  1 day 0 hours ago
      They're already out dated, over priced and absolute before we even take possession. Scrap them now take the loss and say thank you Mr harper for nothing. We couldn't afford them in the first place, and we bought them because ??????????????? Oh I forgot, were going to declare war on Bermuda !
    • the roaringlion  •  23 hours ago
      it was the diefenbaker government that did kill the avro arrow fastest more reliable interceptor,jet ever created right here in canada.what was this government called?and mulrooney well we all know about that fiasco too.and now this government spending spending spending giving our hard earned money too foolishness like this f-35 crap jets over priced cheap and only a one engine garbage jet that will bankrupt canada.get out now harper and consss and stay out of my pies you stupid idiotic fools that you are.DO YOU HEAR ME NOW BOZOS!!!
    • GregT  •  23 hours ago
      Whose hand is up the #$%$ of the plaster manikin that calls itself "Harper"? (BTW, you put too much make up on it. It doesn't really look human.)
    • JC  •  1 day 1 hour ago
      Eurofighter Typhoon, or restart domestic aviation research like the Avro Arrow, F-18 Super Hornets or look towards the Russian market. Nuff said.
    • Moi  •  22 hours ago
      All we need is one really fast plane to get the PM out of the country and another hercules to get the rest of those clowns out of Ottawa.
    • Tom  •  12 hours ago
      Harper and his cons are going nuts over this F35 jet
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