The F-35 is the largest weapons program in history. This multi-role aircraft is built by Lockheed Martin with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems as major partners.

It should equip the armies of Australia, Canada, Denmark, the United States, Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey for the next 40 years and replace the F-16, F-18 and F-22.

However, its production started while essential aeronautical software has not yet been invented. The defense industries of buyer states were left out in favor of the USA, without knowing whether this system will be delivered or not.

Since the launch of the project, its cost has varied ceaselessly, leading to the cancellation of various orders. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a reassuring study, however based on figures already two years old. Simultaneously, the Department of Defense assured it would be cheaper to buy but more expensive to maintain.

According to an independent Canadian study by Professor Michael Byers for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Rideau Institute, the truth is much darker: in truth, no one can know the exact cost of an aircraft that has not been precisely designed. However, the 65 aircraft ordered by Canada would likely cost a staggering $ 1.5 billion USD per aircraft over 40 years (in 2007, the United States assured that the aircraft would not cost more than the F-18 and estimated its cost at about 377 million dollars each).

The following bar graph illustrates the increase in the cost estimates for Canada’s fleet of 65 over the past years.

 Defense Acquisitions. Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, Government Accountability Office, March 2014.
 Selected Acquisition report (SAR) Summary Tables, Department of Defense, March 2014.
 The Plane That Ate the Canadian Military. Life-Cycle Cost of F-35 Fleet Could Reach $126 Billion, par Michel Byers, Centre canadien de politiques alternatives, March 2014.

Roger Lagassé