Newspaper article The Canadian Press

F-35 Fighter Jet Suppliers Cautiously Optimistic by Ottawa's Throne Speech

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

F-35 Fighter Jet Suppliers Cautiously Optimistic by Ottawa's Throne Speech

Article excerpt

Throne Speech gives F-35 backers some hope

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Canadian suppliers to the F-35 fighter jet program say they are "cautiously optimistic" by the government's commitment in the Throne Speech to replace the country's aging aircraft fleet, but warn that millions of dollars in jobs and opportunities are at risk if a decision drags on past this spring.

The federal government devoted just one line in Wednesday's speech to the controversial defence procurement, vowing to "complete our plan" to replace the planes.

Public Works Minister Diane Finley later told an aerospace conference in Ottawa that it will proceed as soon as possible.

"While this review is thorough, we want to make sure that it does not drag on and create uncertainty that makes it difficult for many of you to make important long-term business decisions," she said, according to a copy of the speech.

Gabe Batstone, whose 3D technology provider NGRAIN is one of 72 Canadian suppliers to the controversial program, said he's still anxious to see a specific timeline put in place.

"It's clearly on the radar and they're committed to their process and understand that we in industry need that process to be expeditious, so that's all encouraging," he said.

"It's already costing us access to the opportunities and that's going to mean that we're going to start losing money in the next few months because those opportunities would have been things that we would have bid on and won," Batstone added.

Ottawa is evaluating potential alternatives to its original plan to purchase 65 F-35 aircraft. A KPMG report late last year warned that the total bill, including service and support, could be as much as $45.8 billion over 42 years to replace the current stable of CF-18s, which are due to be retired in 2020.

The government stepped back from the planned purchase after the auditor general accused National Defence of hiding $10 billion in continuing costs for the fighter jets and Public Works of not doing enough homework to justify the purchase. …

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