Price tag for fighter jets could reach $30 billion: PBO

New figure nearly 70 per cent greater than Tory estimate


A report out of the Parliamentary Budget Office on the Harper government’s purchase of new fighter jets is likely to stir some controversy: it estimates the “total ownership cost” of the stealth jets, including maintenance, could hit $29.3-billion (U.S.). This figure is close to 70 per cent above the price tag estimated by the Tories. The report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page was an effort to understand the full price of the 65 F-35 Lightning fighter jets, which the Conservatives have agreed to purchase from Lockheed Martin. The Tories have been saying they have found the right plane for Canada, and are sole-sourcing the deal rather than holding an open competition that considers different bids. Page’s report, by contrast, argues that a competitive process would have reduced the costs of the fighters.

The Globe and Mail

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Price tag for fighter jets could reach $30 billion: PBO

  1. LOL – just buy the damn things – they are super freakin cool!!

  2. $30 billion dollars over the lifespan of the jet isn't that much. A worthy investment for modernizing an outdated RCAF and puts them in a very good position in the next 5-10 years. Money well spent, I think so.

    • Chief of the Defence Staff stated on Sunday's Ques. Period (CTV) the avionics upgrade are in airframes that are approaching 30 years of age.

      A valid argument can be made for costing other aircraft and why it wasn't done. The previous administration (the Martin and Chretien governments) new damned well what the CF 18 story was.

      The bottom line is Canada needs new aircraft and not solely for defence purposes, we are a member of NATO. It stands to reason with advances in jet aircraft design comes extra costs.

      Past politicos had a mindset of defence on the cheap. That being the case, THEY should be responsible for placing their sorry butts in harms way in bargain basement equipment. If it were the case there would be a multitude of conversions on the road to The Hill.

      • I am not sure anyone is suggesting we do not need to upgrade. What they are questioning is whether we need THESE planes. Since it is our money the government is spending I think it is reasonable to ask these questions.

        • Yes, and if there is only one possible solution to your requirements, you don't go to tender – as it is simply a huge waste of time and money.

          • Err no, these planes don't do much of what we need an interceptor to do. It is interesting to note that many of our NATO partners are reducing and withdrawing from the programme, because these planes are expensive and don't fill their needs.

            It's also interesting just how much sweeter a deal the Israelis are getting. Could it be that they are being subsidised by other countries who are being charged the full price?

        • Or even, these planes at this price. Didn't I read somewhere that Australia is buying the same planes far cheaper?

          • No. They are buying hte same planes – and the price will be the same.

    • For thirty billion dollars, I'd hope we'd be in a "very good position" for a lot more than the next 5-10 years. If we pay for them over the next 30 years, as stated by the budget officer, hopefully they last that long. Do they?

  3. What do we need these planes for ?

    • we need the planes to defend our selves. for many decades we have completely relied on the USA, and previos to that the UK for protection. As china's influence grows it will change the status quo of the world, making our country a nice target for agressive countries. it could be to defend our arctic resourses from the russians, or our oil from the americans, or our metals from the chinese. the world is changing fast we should be prepared for anything.

      • We would have no chance against China unless the US steps in to protect us – and these planes are not going to change that.

        • So we shouldn't have an air force – or army, or navy?

          • Who said that? You can justify having a military force, but do not do so on the basis that is the only way we can protect ourselves. There is no way Canada can defend itself against an attack from China or Russia without the assistance of the US. We simply do not have the manpower to build a military to do so.

      • Then don't you think an aircraft with capabilities better suited to the arctic would be more of a requirement for us, than "stealth" technolocy–which by the way only works if you don't carry missiles.

        • "Stealth" technology – which all new aircraft incorporate (as in the recently unveiled Chinese, Russian and Japanese proposals) is simply good aircraft design, backed up in the F-35 by advanced electronic detection and communications equipment. Yes, all those elements are useful in an interceptor – and since the F-35 is designed to carry its missiles internally, yes it works even then.

      • Rkhoja, you have been watching to many hollywood movies. With 65 F35s we could not even defend Vancouver Island against an all out attack which, by the way, would be insane and would come in the form of an ICBM attack – no role for the F35 here!

    • Well, if you want to represent a defensive front to, umm, terrorists (Qhadafi in the 70's comes to mind), or crazy North Korean dictators, or whatever, using snowshoes across our huge landmass, be my guest.

    • Nobody really knows what we need these planes for, particularly the current government. They have yet to articulate a logical case that explains what Canada's military needs are over the next two or three decades and how these particular aircraft fit into that requirement. When asked for this information, the Parliament is told that it is confidential and for cabinet eyes only. I'm willing to bet the information doesn't exist but the Harper gang figures its enough that Peter MacKay looks cool in the cockpit. In a similar way they have yet to provide a reasonable cost estimate or a logical rationale for proceeding with a purchase without a competitive bid.

  4. Yawn…. the surplus thing again? Obviously a partisan shill. Any surplus in government means they have taken more taxes from Canadians than they need for even the most outlandish of government excess–nothing more. I would rather it in my pocket than theirs. As long as they keep inanely repeating this drivel, I guess there are some of us there to set the record straight.

    • Rather short sighted of you. A surplus is a cushion for when the economy tanks, which happens from time to time as you may have noticed.

      A surplus is a good thing. To run the country your way means that when the economy does tank our deficit would be even higher. Kind of like it is now.

    • This is good news! Since you can yawn at the surplus, perhaps we can all yawn about adscam? Can the conservative posters here now let that go too?

  5. $30 B for 65 jets and mainenane programs … thats a deal!

    • Check anybody selling jets these days, like the French or British.
      China? Those are first generation planes. Do you want to commit to them for the next 20 years?

  6. Global warming is opening up the arctic and making the job of managing our sovereignty in this area more and more difficult with our current military resources. Sure these fighters are expensive, but they turn every small island in the high arctic into an unsinkable aircraft carrier without having to build expensive runways etc. We will have an almost instant high impact presence in the high arctic at a fraction of the cost. Additionally the ecological footprint of building bases that would service traditional aircraft would be crazy. In the end it is a low cost to pay for the control and protection of our arctic resources.

    • The version of the F-35 that is being discussed does not have a short takeoff and landing capabilty. There are also questions about the range of this aircraft and single-engine survivability. Not questions you like to hear about with an aircraft that will be tasked with air defence of a country this size.

    • Now this is a more interesting topic. Do we know that these planes can operate out of the arctic, land and take off from "every small island" there? Roger suggests that they can't. Isn't this the kind of detailed question and answer that we really need to judge whether this is a good deal or not? In other words, what exactly do the military want them to do, and what percentage of what they want, can these planes perform? A really good detailed analysis and break down with upfront costs, pros and cons, would probably satisfy the critics maybe even without going out to tender.

      Good heavens! Do I mean openness and transparency?

  7. So why does Iggy think there is a better plane out there that would be cheaper than the F-35? Washington already had the contest 10 years ago-should we buy a cheaper plane that can't preform?Should we buy one that is made in China so it is cheaper-Iggy, please go back to your USA and do what you do best-TEACH-those who can DO-Those who CAN'T TEACH!!!

    • Sicky: I'm not sure that Ignatieff does think there is another plane. Maybe, like me (see comment above) he just wants to know some basic stuff like, what will they cost exactly (truthfully with paperwork), what missions do the military see them performing, and can the plane perform them.

      Not rocket science really. No, wait, rockets are simpler.

  8. If it was the right multi-role aircraft then it would be worth the money, but there has been no demonstration that this aircraft can fulfill its stated flight parameters. Infact no will know how good the F35 flies or how stealthy it really is for another 4yrs, when it completes it flight testing.
    Canada has never been to war in the modern erea without the US & Britain, which would presumeable guarantee us air superiority. So why do we need a single engine half-stealth bomb truck for almost as much money as the far superior F-22.
    Canada needs a NATO qualified, multi-role, dual engine aircraft, which there a numbers of qualified contenders that could be had for a lot less money, to be flown away almost immediately.
    Forget the industrial offsets for the F-35, they will be miniscule in comparison to the cost for Canadian taxpayers and potentially our airforce if they get sadled with what many inthe world think may be a lemon.

    • Sorry Blue Max-the F-22 Raptor is more expensive than the F-35, that is why the USAF has cut back on the number they ordered.Dual engine planes are a thing of the past,cheaper and more robust single engines are now available-unlike the crap the F-18 has in them. The F-35 is only having troubles meeting the Navy's version which we will not be buying,the aircraft we are buying are already flying and outpreforming anything else in the sky but the F-22. If we want to protect our north-these are the only planes to have-playing in the big leagues is expensive-the alternative is to become a second rate airforce run by second rate politicos who already have killed airmen by cancelling the choppers so many years ago(Libs by the way)

      • Was the Aero a single or dual engine design?

        • What's an "Aero"?

    • The F22 is under an export ban anyway. The US will not sell them to any other country. This (F35) fighter has been developed with a lot of allies and will the best bang for a buck we'll acquire for years to come.

  9. Steven Chase at the G&M has distorted this information!!!

    Page based his figures on 30 years of maintenance costs, not the usual 20 years. Thus the "This figure is close to 70 per cent above the price tag estimated by the Tories." is an out-right lie!!!

    • This discussion is utterly pointless. I've read some interesting comments, including yours. However, don't you think the government could bring this whole thing to an end if they simply came clean on the information we need to make a sound judgement and be comfortable with the purchase? How hard is it to tell the Canadian public exactly how the planes are costed, what their lifespan is, how the financing works out over however long, what the military requirements are and what portion of those requirements the plane can handle. Otherwise we're all blowing smoke.

  10. A group of long winded academics who would never place their sorry butts in harms way but endlessly debate the intangible.

    • That Harper tried very hard to join.

    • Do we have any politicians who put themselves in harms way, academic or not?

  11. Those jets are perfect replacements for our old crap f-18's .. our f18's are the oldest crapiest ones around. we need new jets.

    ok so who else would we buy from… Russia, China. England. … EU.. I'll take my chances with good old USA jets.

    russia is gonna be spending 600 billion on military over the next 10 years , china spends 70 billion a year, we complain about 30 billion over 30 years….

    f-35's are solid jets that all the allies will own keeping the overall cost down.

    • Really. They are solid jets? You know this from their long production history? A production F35 flew last month from the first time. How about you stop taking positions because it's a blue team position and think for yourself? Do you really think this is the only plane in the world?

      If you insist on buying American there are several other options Lockheed's own F22. Boeing's F18 E/F Super Eagle. If you cast your net a little wider, you'll find even more of our allies fly the Typhoon Eurofighter. The only area where the F-35 might be superior to these is in its stealth capability, so you have the ability to launch an attack on a well-electronically defended target. Is Canada really planning to attacking sophisticated electronically defended sites such as China's or Russia's without the assistance of other Nato allies such as Britain and the USA? No, we aren't. So why pay over the barrel for an unproven aircraft with a theoretical advantage we don't need anyway.

      • The F-35 is the best of all those you mentioned for us (a defensive force). It is a hobby of mine to check out jets and I am a liberal voter . The F-22 has a maximum distance problem and has been defeated easily in simulations, by taking out their refueling tankers. The f-22 is actually better than the f-35 apart from its range problem. the f-35 is like a lite version of the f-22 in my opinion. The euro fighter is the only equivalent you have listed, as the f-18 SE is not 5th gen. The euro fighter is a good jet but the f-35 stats and current performance record beats it, the euro fighter is not really a fourth gen jet, but damn close. it is not stealth (altho i have read about modifications that can make it stealth). Still euro jets or American, i choose American. Lots of the EU will be purchasing F-35's and we would be smart to.

        • It has never flown, how can it be the best?

    • you seem to think that the f-35 will be better than the f-18. on what do you base this opinion? not one f=35 has been build, not to speak of having flown. you are also confusing the total military budget of acountry with the cost of a set of airplanes.
      since you seem to have no concern about money, i assume that you are superrich or on welfare, i suspectthe latter,since the rich are rather carefull with their money.
      in the USA no new-design military aircraft is purchased without endless comparative flight testing and subsequent desing modifications. we are buying a 30 billion cat in the bag, typycal for the backwoods hick-country Canada is rapidly becoming.

  12. No, but under the Liberals they would be looking a the 30 year cost of rubber bands for their "state of the art" defence.

  13. That Kevin Page.

    You just can't keep a good man down.

    • That Red Kevin Page. You can't keep a good Liberal agent down, even when they are consistently wrong.

      • Liberal agent?
        Even when Stephen Harper appointed him?
        That either makes Mr Harper a fool, or you grossly mistaken.
        Which is it? Both?

  14. @ Fred: When you claim "it isn't that much" by any chance did you mistake the 'b' in billion for an 'm' ? With a population of only 34 million, this approaches $1000 for every man, woman, and child in Canada. However, the employment rate as a percentage of total population now stands at approximately 50% ( http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid… ) so unless you want this to be funded by even more deficit spending plan to pay at least another $2000 in taxes over the course of time. Oh, and if you're a high income earner plan to pay much more!

  15. Id Just like to point out that thats 461 million per jet, a bit steep id say.

    • It's steep, but spread over 30 years it's worth it. Good defence doesn't come cheap. We have to think about the arctic more over the next couple of decades.

  16. Personally I believe that investing this money (30 Billion ) in the military is a solid investment. However, using the money to purchase F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters is a huge waste, there are much more effective and cheaper methods of protecting our nation, and if you really need a presence in the sky catch a clue and get unmanned drones, no one gets killed and you can buy and operate a huge fleet of them for that price tag.

    • You could buy a lot of Sopwith Camels for that price too – but, as with drones,they couldn't do the job. Until there is a drone that can do any of the jobs an F-35 may be called on to do the choice is simpley buy this plane, or something not as good, for pretty much the same price over time.

      • You're assuming this is the best plane for our needs. We would have found that out in a competitive bid, but unfortunately we sole-sourced. You only do that when you want to skip over a better option and pick something worse for illegitimate reasons.

        • The air force has, over the last ten years, as we participated in the design of the F-35, had every opportunity to compare it's capabilities with every other aircraft that is even remotely comparable. There is not an infinite list of those. It is not like shopping for the family mini-van. There simply isn't a comparable aircraft that is in the same league as the F-35 and available in the time frame required. It's not as if the government simply picked this out of a sales brochure. Canada has been a partner in the development of this airplane for ten years.

          • If true, then surely a competitive bid would have resulted in its selection. No excuse to have sole-sourced it, which may have lead to us overpaying. We could have bought more jets for the same money if we had gotten a better price.

            I find it hard to believe that short-range single-engine jets are our best option for defending our sovereignty. It's simply not credible.

          • It is no more short-range than the CF-18. And again, if there are no comparable aircraft then there is no point in a competition – making people go through an expensive tendering process is of no value if the end result is pre-ordained because there is only one logical outcome .

          • It is, however, single engine.

            I haven't heard a compelling reason why this is the only possible jet for our needs, and why it is essential we don't have a competitive bid. I'd rather take the chance that a few million out of tens of billions is spent on ensuring we're making the right decision.

            It's ridiculous to say that there are no other aircraft that could serve us well. There may be nothing identical, but we should have evaluated a few other competitive options and confirmed they were indeed deficient. What compelling reason do you have for less transparency in how our government spends $30 billion?

          • So is the F-16, and I'm not aware it's loss rate due to engine failure is any higher than its contemporaries. Engine technology has progressed to the point that the one versus two engine debate is obsolete. The air force (who are, after all, flying these things) don't require two engines.

            if you insist on two engines, the only alternatives are the Typhoon, Rafale, Superhornet or F-15. The F-15 is a forty-year-old design and no matter how capable the current model, it makes little sense to re-equip the air force for the next thirty years with a design that old, and with electronics of a generation ago. The Superhornet is similarly at the end of its production and the odds of it being capable of being updated and kept current for the next thirty years is low. When we are looking to re-build and renew them (as we have with the CF-18) it is likely the Superhornet will be on its way out entirely in US servide – leaving rebuilding and modernization at that time an expensive proposition.

          • No one but the French have bought the Rafale. It seems unwise for us to break that pattern.
            The Typhon is capable, but still lacks the stealth characteristics of the F-35, is not as advanced in electronics (no other plane is) and has had its own share of enormous cost overruns. It might be an alternative, but it would be distinclty second-best to the F-35 and its choice would make our industries ineligible for production participation in the F-35, and offer us limited offsets as a poor consolation prize.

    • You are kidding about "no-one gets killed" right?
      The number of innocent people that are killed by remotely operated weapon delivery vehicles is horrendous. It's the whole distance dehumanises targets thing.

  17. Yadda-yadda. Put a sock in it if you can't find anything coherent to say.

  18. f35 wants to take stevie for a ride,let the boys play,its all make believe,they live in stevies world,,they will wake up someday,i hope its when they get defeated,,,,sick sick,

  19. "The budget watchdog's report comes one day after the Commons speaker ruled the Tories may be in contempt of Parliament for withholding fiscal information from MPs including the costs of the F-35 fighters. "
    The real story is they lied again.
    How much more lieing is required before their supporters will realise how corrupt Stevie and the sycophants really are. Confirmation bias is rapidly becoming overtaken by cognitive dissonance.

  20. Oh, I don't know – perhaps because he hasn't been elected to anything? In any case, his predictions of budget outcomes, so far, appear to be less accurate than those of the finance department,

    • Michael Fortier comes to mind : unelected party operative was made Minister of Public Works.

      • Plus, he's been kind of annoying. So, no, I wouldn't hold my breath hoping he'll get that job.

  21. The future is in robotic, drone, cruise, and semi-autonomous air cover and assault, over the next 5-6 years. Don't believe the aerospace defense BS. Nobody would be buying these obsolete beads and trinkets if they didn't pump it up in the defense press.

    Yanks are selling us 20th-century war-surplus junk they will phase out anyway, and not at bargain-basement prices, either. Bows and arrows and muskets: another fiscally-challenged purchase by our brain-damaged economist leader.

  22. What a bunch of BS. 16 Bill over 20 years vs 30 bill over 30 years is no where near 70% over run. At 8 Bill per 10 year period it represents a whole lot less than that. Plus, as the jets get older maintaining them will go up exponentially, not at a static average rate. This is smoke and mirrors. Read the link below and weep Libbies. I think Kinsella is right. Nice new Polls today! So much for pseudo scandals hey! Ho, and Dump your leader will ya!

    • 20th century, obsolete, war-surplus junk. The Yanks are peddling us muskets and spears. These biplanes will be worthless not in 20 years, but worthless in 5 years. Get it?!

      21st century air defense is cruise/drones/semi-autonomous robotics etc.


  23. 20th century, obsolete, war-surplus junk. The Yanks are peddling us muskets and spears. These biplanes will be worthless not in 20 years, but worthless in 5 years. Get it?!

    21st century air defense is cruise/drones/semi-autonomous robotics etc.

  24. The Liberals are right for the wrong reasons. They don't know the half of this stupid deal.

  25. Page is a Liberal shill and nothing more. Red Kev, hasn't been right about anything. Page lied again with his 30 year projection rather then 20 years.

  26. Why would anyone listen to what Red Kev has to say, the guys a Liberal shill. has Page ever been right about any of his projections? i would trust Red Kev as much as I would trust MacLeans or the Mop@Plop or the Red Star for accuracy and unbias opinion.

  27. The F35 is a first strike aircraft and ill suited to the defence and policing of our north. If we have to catch an unsuspecting third world country by surprise this is just what the Dr ordered. What does Harper have in mind for our future ? Shifting from defence to outright first strike capability is so Bush. So which country does Harper want to try his new toys on to effect a pre emptive first strike? Other than being the worst choice for us , its price tag will mortgage the future of our grand children and their children. The F35 acquisition defies logic. Does Harper want to impress the right south of the border ? Does Harper take his marching orders from outside of Canada. If all of this is by design Harper is deceitful if not he is incompetent .

    • Well, since many people are calling for a no-fly zone to be established in Libya, don't you think a plane with the F-35's capacity would be useful? As for the cost, as I've said elsewhere, even at Mr. Page's estimate, it would amount to 1/250th of the federal budget per year.

  28. Do I have to mention the SIGNED security agreement? Again. Either you get the defence built up to standard or the United States will, and you will pay for it.

  29. A politician must have stocks in the company building the planes. Or family that owns the company. And wants to screw the taxpayers out of more of there hard earn money………….. So that company can steal more money it can't make on it's own.

  30. This purchase is a complete waste of money. Yours, and mine.

  31. Canada is second largest country and will be "protected" by an aircraft that can only fly about 1000 km then require refuelling.

    Smart plan????

  32. If you have to ask the cost of fuel, you can't afford it.

  33. The procurement of F35s should be cancelled for two reasons. Firstly, we have no military need for it. Secondly, we should not be burdening our children and grandchildren with this colossal waste of money which they will have to pay back.

    There is no credible threat that could be countered by our few F35s. The interception of the odd Russian aircraft just outside our territorial borders has been going on since the 60s. The intercepts were done with CF101s and now with CF18s. The Russian aircraft presented no threat then and are no threat now. An all out attack would be insane and involve ICBMs. No role for the F35 here!

    The threat we face is an economic threat.

    The threat is that stupid actions by our government will bankrupt our country. We will then be obliged to sell control of our resources to the highest bidder thus losing "sovereignty". We need to counter the economic threat to our Arctic, protect our coastal fisheries, deal with internal unrest, root out terrorist cells, keep our country financially viable, etc. A tactical force with suitable air transport is what is needed. No role for the F35.

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