Procurement: Canada Buys F-35s


July 19, 2010: Canada has agreed to purchase 65 American F-35 fighter-bombers, for about $139 million each ( including spare parts and training). Canada has already invested $168 million in the F-35 program. This assured it early delivery (by 2016) if it actually made a purchase, and led to $350 million in contracts to Canadian firms for F-35 related work. Leftist opposition parties oppose this purchase, seeking to allow other nations to compete for the sale.

The 27 ton F-35 is armed with an internal 25mm cannon and four internal air-to-air missiles (or two missiles and two smart bombs). Plus four external smart bombs and two missiles. All sensors are carried internally, and max weapon load is 6.8 tons. The aircraft is very stealthy when just carrying internal weapons.

Development costs for the new U.S. F-35 fighter-bomber has grown by a third, to $60 billion, over the last few years. That means the average development cost of the estimated 5,000 F-35s to be built, will be about $12 million each. This overhead share will increase as the number of F-35s bought declines. The air force wants to buy 1,763, to mainly replace aging F-16s and F-15s. But now air force generals are talking about just buying "more than 1,500" F-35As. That number is likely to shrink some more.

The additional development costs are accompanied by additional delays before the aircraft enters service. Production costs will average at least $84 million. With a share of development costs, that makes the per aircraft cost $96 million. This cost estimate continues to rise, and is expected to eventually exceed $130 million per aircraft, or more (probably more).

Like the F-22 fighter, the F-35 is stealthy, and is stuffed with lots of new technology. Most (about 60 percent) of the F-35s built will be used by foreign nations. The rising cost of the F-35 brings with it reluctance to buy as many aircraft currently planned. The success of smart bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan has also made it clear that fewer aircraft will be needed in the future. In any event, it's likely that F-35s will end up costing about $150 million each.



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