Sky-high costs for F-35 alternatives

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services speaks with Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence during a press conference at Parliament Hill in Ottawa Dec 12, 2012 regarding the Seven-Point Plan on replacing Canada’s fighter jets.



OTTAWA - As the feds shop around for alternatives to the F-35 through their options analysis, they may find other fighter jets available aren't much cheaper.

"It's clear that any aircraft the government chooses will come with a significant price tag," Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose admitted Wednesday.

A KPMG audit of re-worked government estimates of what the F-35 stealth fighters would cost works out to almost $88 million each, not including future upgrades and infrastructure needs.

That's higher than any amount Canadian defence officials have ever stated publicly.

Still, if the figure is accurate, it still leaves the jet within the Conservatives' $9 billion dollar cap on buying a CF-18 replacement.

The feds haven't named specific alternatives they'll look at, but the options are fairly well known.

The U.S. Navy expects to pay about $88 million per plane for the F-18 Super Hornet, which is an updated version of what the Royal Canadian Air Force flies now.

European competitors including the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale could all cost more than $100 million each.

It's unclear if any jet would have an advantage over the F-35 in terms of operating and maintenance costs over its lifespan.

Ambrose said the government will take its time making a decision.

"That's why we're doing a full options analysis so that we can compare cost and capability of all of the aircraft that are out there available ... before we make a decision," she said.

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