According to recent sources, Canada is poised to spend a stunning $450 million for each F-35 stealth fighter, despite the fact that the actual cost of US aircraft is less than $100 million.
Debates have erupted in Canada on whether the country is getting a good deal for the F-35 after reports of massive startup costs associated with buying and deploying a new fighter jet.
The Canadian government is yet to make a formal announcement, but The Canadian Press reported on December 20, citing two anonymous defense sources, that the Department of National Defense has received authorization to spend $7 billion on an initial set of 16 F−35s and associated gear.
That would amount to around $450 million for each F-35, which is equivalent to five times the publicly reported cost of the aircraft, which is $98.22 million per plane, including ancillary expenses like depot maintenance, ground support equipment, and spare parts, according to the US Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Estimates, published last year.
To be clear, the Liberals have always opposed purchasing the F-35 military jet. The route to replacing fighter jets of Canada has been a 25-year saga plagued with political shenanigans.
Jean Chrétien joined the Joint Strike Fighter programme for the first time in 1997. In 2010, then-Defense Minister, Peter MacKay, announced that Canada would enter into an unbidden arrangement to buy 65 F-35 jets, with delivery scheduled for 2016 and a cost of $9 billion.
A no-confidence vote triggered in part by refusals to release costs associated with the F-35 program led to the minority Harper government’s collapse 11 years ago this week, sending Canadians to polls and returning the Conservatives to power with a majority government.
In 2015, opposition leader Justin Trudeau made the issue into a prominent plank in the Liberals’ election platform.
“We will not buy the F-35 fighter jet,” he said, adding that if elected there would be a cheaper alternative. It seems PM Trudeau’s arithmetic skills are too below standard to fathom the reality that paying a significantly inflated cost of the fighter jet currently in no way accounts to a “cheaper alternative”.
But the Prime Minister had no choice. The Royal Canadian Aviation Force has been left in such a dangerous state under his leadership that it requires immediate infrastructure upgrades and efforts to improve the security of its air operations.
All in all, Trudeau’s lack of strategic thinking and administrative naiveté would eventually burn a large hole in Canadian taxpayers’ purses. There was little doubt that the RCAF needed upgrades, and the F35 would have improved Ottawa’s national security capabilities.
However, Trudeau’s self-centered perspective has always driven him to prioritise his own hedonistic desires over national objectives. This is precisely why he turned a bipartisan topic like the F-35 discussion into an electoral issue, leaving no stone unturned in portraying it as anti-Canadian national interests when, in truth, it was all a talking point for him to attack the Conservatives. Eight years later, karmic irony has come back to haunt Trudeau, and he must be cursing himself.