December 26, 2012

Turkey & the F-35...a Christmas Delight

Christmas dinner at my house always entails a heated debate. Well, every dinner hosts a heated debate with my family actually, and Christmas was no different. Usually we discuss things going on with the healthcare system or the pros/cons of education in Canada and the UK. But, this year, the debate turned to the F-35 program. We’re an exciting family, aren’t we?!

Having been part of many discussions and presentations about the program with Industry Canada and select contractors involved in the development and sustainment of the aircraft, and coming from the point of view of a PR person, I was amazed to hear my family – normally more savvy to marketing spiel – spout off the program’s opposition so heavily covered by the media. Should I applaud such marketing efforts? They seem to have the two ministers who once supported the program with vigilance stopping in their tracks and turning the other way as if it was their decision the entire time to explore other options.

If the rising costs of the program are the ONLY reason to rescind our support of the program, then statements such as these from respected officials to the National Post must be false, “We point out that the costs of operating the CF-18s over their lifespan has also turned out to be roughly $1-billion a year, just what the F-35s will cost going forward. The F-35s cost a lot of money, yes, but not much more money than any other jet would require. And we’d get a lot of plane for the money — including advanced sensors and computers that are absolutely essential to patrolling our half of the continent. The F-35’s project cost can only be fairly measured against what any other comparable plane would cost….The cost of the F-35 fleet would constitute barely 5% of the total defence budget and 0.4 % of the total federal budget. We can afford that.”

Is it then also fair to assume that other expert opinions given during the development of the JSF program are also false? Is the Eurofighter without the F-35 reconnaissance and stealth capabilities now something we’d consider? Should we grab Boeing Super Hornets and pretend the price tag might be different? Never mind, let’s ignore the money already spent on this program to enter into a competition – which let’s face it was the Achilles of the F-35 from the beginning.  

I can’t pretend to know the answer here. I don’t fly jets and I’m not in the military. And should Lockheed answer why costs are rising and timelines are being delayed? Yes. But I don’t understand why the position has changed so drastically and why there has been no conclusive evidence to show that any other plane would cost us less, give us more capabilities to suit both domestic and foreign efforts, nor be delivered in a timeframe that would keep Canada’s Air Force strong.  

I'd be interested to know how this is going to impact the hundreds of Canadian companies that have already invested in the program.... let me know!


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