We told you about the exploding cost estimates for the Joint Strike Fighter – the projected lifetime cost of which has increased by $450 billion in the last year alone. It appears the Canadians have been paying attention, and have been closely examining the case for, and against, the JSF. In a recent article on CBC, Canada’s associate minister of national defence Julian Fantino was quoted as saying:
the decision, the determinate decision, has not as yet been made as to whether or not we are going to actually purchase, buy, acquire, the F-35.
A statement like this is worth noting – Canada signed on to the program 15 years ago, the Canadian government has invested more than $168 million in the program, and 70 Canadian companies have secured more than $435 million in contracts for JSF production and initial development to date – if high ranking officials are signaling Canada may be prepared to back off previous commitments to purchase the system, concerns about cost and performance must be serious. But Canada is not alone – Japan, Italy and Australia have all talked about cutting back or delaying purchases of the JSF – in large part due to skyrocketing unit costs.
The only problem is if you’re in the market for a 5th generation fighter capability, there are few other options. While the U.S. no longer enjoys a monopoly on stealth technology like it once did, no one else is nearly as far along; and even if the Russians and Chinese had a comparable system, there is no guarantee they would be eager sellers – or the Canadians eager buyers. While stretching out and reducing overall purchases of the JSF may become the status quo as costs continue to rise, it would be difficult for the allies to walk away entirely. For better or for worse, the JSF will remain the allies’ only option for a 5th generation air superiority weapons system.