November 29, 2011. By David Pugliese Defence Watch
The latest questions in the House of Commons on DND’s F35 purchase are focusing on the differences of costs between Norway’s purchase and Canada’s acquisition of the Joint Strike Fighter.
Norway has put the total cost at around $40 billion for 52 aircraft (although the lowest figure sometimes used is around $27 billion. Norwegian officials acknowledge that while they are highly supportive of the purchase they do not know the actual final cost).
So the question has arisen in the Commons about why is Canada spending $14.7 billion (DND’s estimate for total F35 procurement and 20 years of maintenance) and Norway is spending much more.
“Norway has acknowledged that the true cost of their 52 F-35s will be $40 billion or more,” NDP procurement critic Matthew Kellway said Monday.
He repeated the party’s call to put the next generation fighter project out for open bidding.
The Conservative government won’t be doing that of course. Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino did not answer the question about the discrepancy in the cost that Norway is paying versus what Canada will pay.
He instead repeated some of his familiar comments. “Our government’s preference is to put our trust in our pilots and materiel experts who know the importance of the F-35 program that is producing Twenty First Century fighter jets our military needs while at the same time sustaining quality aerospace jobs across Canada,” Fantino responded.
But the question remains – why the cost difference?
Norway’s F-35s will be using similar communications software for use over Arctic areas. It is also one of the countries, besides Canada, that is looking at the installation of a drag chute. Both nations are buying the same model of the plane.
Part of the cost difference is on the operating and maintenance life-cycle cost. DND is estimating am operating and maintenance total cost of $7 billion over 20 years for its 65 F35s.
Norway’s Defense Minister Grete Faremo, however, stated in June that the operating and maintenance life-cycle cost, spanning 25 to 30 years of projected service for Norway’s 52 F-35s is estimated at $26.8 billion. The Norwegians believe it makes more sense to project the cost on the actual life of the aircraft – 25 to 30 years.
Even still, the differences appear quite substantial between the Norwegian and Canadian figures.
Any thoughts out there from Defence Watch readers on the cost issue?