The plane that ate the Canadian military


A new report by UBC professor Michael Byers shows that the total project cost of the Harper government’s proposed F-35 purchase is likely to be at least $56.7 billion, far higher than the $45.7 billion claimed by the government. Published by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, The Plane That Ate the Canadian Military also examines how the cost of the program could skyrocket if optimistic assumptions about the operating and sustainment costs of the aircraft turn out to be wrong:

The cost of F-35 program first became an issue in July 2010 when the Harper government announced it would purchase 65 of the aircraft for $9 billion, with an additional $7 billion in maintenance costs bringing the total cost to $16 billion. After highly critical reports from the Parliamentary Budget Office in 2011 and the Auditor General in 2012, the Harper government now anticipates a total project cost of $45.69 billion.

In his new report, Professor Byers explains that even that $45.69 billion figure is low, because it is based on the operating cost of CF-18s rather than the actual operating cost of F-35s.

Nor does the $45.69 billion include a number of other actual costs associated with F-35s, such as modifying Canada’s mid-air refuelling fleet.

Once the actual operating cost of F-35s and these other actual costs are taken into account, the total project cost rises to $56.7 billion – which is $11 billion higher than the cost presently acknowledged by the Harper government.

In the second part of his report, Professor Byers explains that the Harper government has also ignored the considerable “cost risks and uncertainty” associated with a fleet of F-35s, risks that are amplified by the developmental character and the unusually high operating and sustainment costs of these aircraft.

The “worst-case” scenario, once all the actual costs and “cost risks and uncertainty” are taken into account, is that the fleet of F-35s could cost as much as $126 billion – $81 billion higher than the cost presently acknowledged by the Harper government.

As Professor Byers says: “An additional $81 billion in unplanned cost could destroy the Canadian military, which would be forced to carry most of that cost through reduced expenditures on other equipment, maintenance, infrastructure, salaries and training.”

Even small changes to the exchange rate, interest rate, or price of aviation fuel could result in tens of billions of dollars in unplanned costs.

“A careful analysis of life-cycle cost raises serious questions about the wisdom and financial feasibility of an F-35 procurement, as well as the Harper government’s lack of attention to substantial financial risks.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

Photo credit: DND

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6 Responses to “The plane that ate the Canadian military”

  1. RobbinApril 30, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    During the Cold War spending on weapon systems was justified on the notion of keeping up with the enemy, now the justification comes from keeping up with our allied partners. Either way its still means enormous spending on the Military Industrial Complex. Funny how that works…we really need major change within our Federal government.

  2. Cheryl ErlandApril 30, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    It is imperative that we, as Canadians, change our mindset and remember that this is OUR money being spent. OURS! The government works for us – do people think about that truth anymore? Why do we have to go, hat in hand, and plead with the them to not do what we don’t want them to do? That is a ridiculous amount of money to be spent in such an abysmal way. We are peacekeepers, for God’s sake; well, we used to be Herr Harper! While I have been aware of the back door dealing and corruption that seems to be a normal part of our political system, I have not felt as disgusted by the magnitude of it as I do now.

    • danMay 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

      We’re not peacekeepers were peacemakers were an army our job is to make peace 1st and then to keep it after.
      As any soldier a real soldier will tell you they hate the peacekeepers term people give us

  3. dimitriApril 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    The business of war is big business. Our southern neighbour knows this very well. And since this attitude creates a plethora of enemies that are hidden and overt, then we will need these war toys to fight the evil ones that hate us so much. Then of course, we’ll have to introduce new homeland insecurity measures to fight this covert enemy on all fronts.

    Just ask Uncles Sam and Bibi. They know the routine. And little cousin Stephen wants desperately to be on their winning team. He can’t get enough of the Americans and Israelis.

    This is insanity. We really must get out there and vote these SOB’s out of office, pronto.

  4. Christian HeApril 30, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Isn’t that the Minister of Immature Walks, McKay, at the podium? Any government with such infantile members as this clown, can hardly be taken seriously. Still, they have our money….dangerous times, indeed!

    It should be noted that this incredibly expensive project is a perfect expression of the ideology of the US trained vassal Harper and his gang, and since the Canadian military is under US command, we are buying the planes for the US Air Force…so they don’t have to spend the money, the poor buggers. What war should we start with these things, anyway? How do we as a nation benefit from having these aggression devices? We’d have to follow orders from Washington, to get to use them at all. And then it’d be for the wrong purpose for sure!- Wasn’t child poverty still an issue in Canada, last I heard? And health care constantly works on insufficient funds, no? My fellow Canadians, please awaken, and kick the fools out, or soon we won’t have a country left, I beg you.

  5. JocelynApril 30, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Let Harper pay for this stupid and completely unnecessary plane out of his fat bank account and LEAVE MY VERY HARD EARNED TAX PAYERS $$$ ALONE – OR AT LEAST AS PERMISSION TO USE IT BEFORE JUST ABSCONDING WITH IT~!