Newspaper article The Canadian Press

F-35 Maintenance Costs Could Double over the Lifetime of Program: Expert

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

F-35 Maintenance Costs Could Double over the Lifetime of Program: Expert

Article excerpt

F-35 costs could climb dramatically: expert

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OTTAWA - A new report by two think-tanks says the operating costs of Canada's proposed new stealth fighter could be considerably higher than what Harper government is acknowledging -- and perhaps even expecting.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Rideau Institute estimate the current numbers for the F-35 could be off by between $12 billion and $81 billion, depending on a variety of factors and risks over 40 years.

An independent analysis of the program, conducted by the Public Works secretariat overseeing the plan to replace Canada's CF-18s, pegged the total lifetime cost of owning 65 stealth fighters at just over $44 billion over four decades.

Michael Byers, the author of the report, said his estimate would be on top of that.

"The numbers I have generated are produced by DND," Byers said. "I am extrapolating and filling in some of the gaps in their work."

Byers, a University of British Columbia professor and defence expert, said he questions the math in the secretariat's report because, among other things, it bases its long-term maintenance on data numbers from the existing fighters.

But Alyson Queen, a spokeswoman for Public Works Minister Diane Finley, immediately dismissed the assessment and claims.

"Real independent third party experts, with access to the real facts, are working to ensure that the reports being prepared by DND are rigorous and impartial," Queen said in an email.

The government's assessment was validated by senior officials and experts such as former auditor general Denis Desautels and economist Ken Norrie, she added.

"An independent panel consisting of people who have the technical know-how, strong financial backgrounds and detailed knowledge of Canada's military and procurement systems are overseeing the evaluation of options."

A senior executive with the F-35's U.S. manufacturer was even more blunt, describing the report as "inaccurate and false."

Steven O'Bryan, Lockheed Martin's vice president for F-35 business development and customer engagement, said some of data quoted in the study is from 2011 congressional reports, information that is out of date and has been surpassed by recent developments in the program. …

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