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March 13, 2012

Canadian government hedges a bit on its staunch support of buying F-35

 In Canada, where the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has long been a very contentious issue politically, there's a new hubbub in the press today (Tuesday) over remarks by a top government official that can be read as a softening of that nation's commitment to the JSF.

In an appearance in Parliament, Associate Defense Minister Julian Fantino said the government remains supportive of the F-35, but the government had not made "the determinate decision" on whether it will purchase the F-35, and that it had not "discounted backing out."

Fantino's words seem more a change in tone than signifying any real consideration of a change of position on the F-35, a reflection of the steady stream of news in the last six months about problems with the F-35, U.S. order cutbacks and rising costs.

A spokesman for the defense ministry, Chris McCluskey, sent the following statement to the Star-Telegram:

"Our position has not changed. We remain committed to the Joint Strike Fighter Program. A budget has been allocated. A contract has not been signed. We will make sure that the Air Force has aircraft necessary to do the job we ask of them."

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made the country's support for and eventual plan to purchase the F-35 a centerpiece of its defense plans. The F-35, unlike in the U.S., was a major partisan issue in the 2011 election that saw Harper's party gain a parliamentary majority.

 The Ottawa Citizen reports on the day's events:

Fantino and Defence Minister Peter MacKay were appearing before the committee less than two weeks after Fantino hosted a closed-door meeting for representatives from other nations involved in the F-35 program at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. 

The ministers said all partner countries harbour the same concerns about the price overruns and delays, and that the government would not be exceeding its $9 billion budget for replacing Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighters.

 The ministers said the government remains supportive of the F-35 program and that none of the partner nations are planning to jump ship any time soon.

 "There is only one stealth aircraft available for Canada," MacKay said.

 However, without giving any specifics, Fantino acknowledged the government is weighing alternative options.

 "Certainly we're looking at all kinds of contingencies," he said.

 A small team has been set up within the Defence Department, it was revealed, that is charged with considering alternatives.

 "We continue to monitor the options available to us all around the world," said Dan Ross, the Defence Department's head of military procurement.

The political wavering, if that is indeed what it is, comes as senior representatives of all the partner nations meet in Sydney, Australia for the next two days for progress reports and briefings from the U.S. and Lockheed Martin. 

- Bob Cox

 

 

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Comments

Steve Nimbs

Bob Cox is a piece of work. When was the last time he actually left a positive F-35 story positive without digging around for some obscure negitive item to blow out of proportion.

I hope he gets his wish and the F-35 gets canceled so that Ft. Worth goes into a depression and the Star-Telegram will go out of business all because of this terrible "journalist." If you can even call him a journalist, sounds like someone with an axe to grind to me.

Get over yourself and try to write one even neutral story about the F-35 without searching out some obscure negative to blow out of proportion.

Thank you,
A soon to not-renew Star-Telegram subscriber.

Steve Nimbs

Oh so Bob Cox has to approve the comments, that's why you never see any negative comments on his terrible journalism.

Henry Merbler

Some are so deep in the woods they do not see the trees.........the F-35 is a looser from all points of view........COST...PERFORMANCE...SCHEDULE.......STRUCTURE ??........a true R & D program......solve challenges for future aircraft

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