Ottawa has made a multimillion-dollar payment as part of a renegotiated deal that is expected to see Canada foot more of the bill for developing the F-35 than in previous years.
The US$99-million payment and renegotiated deal come despite the fact the Liberal government has said Canada may not actually buy the stealth fighter, and as officials in the United States raise new concerns about the F-35’s cost and development.
The government announced in late March that it was entering negotiations with the United States and Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 88 F-35s after a years-long competition saw the stealth fighter emerge as the top contender.
But while the government has said it hopes to have a contract finalized by the end of the year, it has left the door open to buying the Swedish-made Gripen fighter instead if talks with the U.S. and Lockheed Martin stall.
Canada is one of eight countries involved in developing the F-35, and its latest contribution means it has so far thrown US$712 million into the pot since 1997 to remain at the table with the U.S., Britain, Australia, Italy, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Department of National Defence spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said the updated deal extends the agreement that Canada and other partners signed in 2006 committing them to sharing the cost of the F-35’s development between them.
The new deal reflects Canada’s desire to buy 88 new fighters rather than its original plan of 65, she added, as well as Turkey’s withdrawal from the F-35 program.
News of the payment and renegotiated agreement comes as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the equivalent of Canada’s auditor general, released a new report last week flagging problems with the F-35’s development.
The report specifically raises concerns about delays in delivery of a simulator to properly test the F-35’s full abilities and shortcomings as well as ongoing problems delivering the right software to the stealth fighter, known as Block 4.
Block 4 development “is continuing to experience cost growth and schedule delays,” the report says. “Block 4 costs continued to rise during 2021 due to higher costs associated with upgrading crucial hardware and testing upgrades, among other things.”