The F-35 math gets fuzzier

The projected training budget may not be sufficient for the F-35.

About $1.3 billion was set aside for training, simulators and other infrastructure under the Harper government’s proposed $9-billion capital purchase of the radar-evading jets. But documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show air force planners have been concerned about the dollar projection.

That’s because it was calculated for the standard Defence Department estimate of 20 years’ of flying, rather than the lifetime of the aircraft, which is estimated at 36 years … The documents suggest taxpayers might have to shell out more training dollars after the 20-year window ends, and they indicate the investment plan comes up “approximately $2 billion short” of the requirement.

The auditor general projected that over the 36-year lifecycle, an additional 14 F-35s would be required to deal with normal attrition.

National Defence did inform the government of the need to consider the requirement for attrition aircraft at a later date. The cost of replacement aircraft is not included in the life-cycle estimate for this project and will be treated as a separate project in the future.

But in a comment to the Hill Times, Julian Fantino’s office sticks to the $9 billion budget for acquisition.

“There is no plan to purchase additional aircraft after an initial order,” said Chris McCluskey, Mr. Fantino’s communications director. “The government will not spend more than $9-billion on aircraft to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s.”

For the record, here was the government line on Monday, as delivered to the House by John Baird.

With respect to the F-35, let me be very clear. Canada has not signed a contract and we have not spent any money acquiring the F-35. We will not proceed with the purchase until the seven steps that we outlined are completed and developmental work is sufficiently advanced. The government has clearly communicated the budget that we have to replace Canada’s ageing CF-18s and we will stay within that budget.

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