In his interview with CTV, Peter MacKay also noted the “discrepancy” between the 36-year timeline of
the Parliamentary Budget Officer and* the Auditor General and the 20-year plan put forward by the Department of National Defence. In his report, the Auditor General stressed that a 36-year timeline was more accurate.
We have a number of observations regarding the life-cycle costing for the F-35. First, costs have not been fully presented in relation to the life of the aircraft. The estimated life expectancy of the F-35 is about 8,000 flying hours, or about 36 years based on predicted usage. National Defence plans to operate the fleet for at least that long. It is able to estimate costs over 36 years. We recognize that long-term estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about future costs as well as to currency exchange rates. However, in presenting costs to government decision makers and to Parliament, National Defence estimated life-cycle costs over 20 years. This practice understates operating, personnel, and sustainment costs, as well as some capital costs, because the time period is shorter than the aircraft’s estimated life expectancy. The JSF Program Office provided National Defence with projected sustainment costs over 36 years.
*An astute reader points out that the Parliamentary Budget Officer used a 30-year timeline.