Ottawa 'hits reset' on new jet fighters; report warns of soaring costs

KPMG says jets may be too expensive for Defence department

OTTAWA – Canada’s public works minister says the federal government has “hit the reset button” on its controversial efforts to replace Canada’s aging fighter-jet fleet.

Rona Ambrose says the entire process is being reviewed in the face of a long-awaited KPMG report that warns of the soaring cost of the planned purchase of high-tech F-35 stealth fighters.

The report says the lifetime cost of owning the Lockheed Martin-built F-35s is estimated at $45.8 billion over 42 years.

The report says National Defence did not build a big enough financial cushion into the plan and that the $9 billion the department set aside may not be enough to pay for the planned 65 jets.

Ambrose and Defence Minister Peter MacKay are both insisting no decision will be made until the review is complete.

The KPMG report says uncertainties in the oft-delayed program could force the air force to cut the number of planes to 55 — or force the Conservatives to up the purchase amount by between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion.

The Conservatives have said the $9 billion figure is carved in stone.

But the various cost figures cited in a series of reports released today are based on a number of variables, including the notion that other allied nations will buy as many jets as they’ve promised.

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