U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is urging the Canadian government to move ahead with its planned purchase of 65 American F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (Campbell Clark, “U.S. calls on Canada to stick with F-35,” Globe and Mail, 28 January 2011).
Secretary Gates is hoping to convince Canada and other potential customers for the U.S. aircraft to remain on board the troubled program:
Obviously, having all of our partners continue to be with us in this program is very important…. And I’m pleased [at] the number of our allies who are going forward with the F-35. It is a true fifth-generation fighter. It will give us significant capability that will continue the interoperability that has been at the forefront of our NORAD relationship for decades now. So without getting into domestic affairs in Canada, I would just say that my hope is that for all of our sakes that all of our partners continue to move forward with us on this program.
Funny thing about that NORAD “interoperability” that the F-35 is supposed to continue: the U.S. and Canada currently operate completely different aircraft in the NORAD role, F-15s and F-16s in the U.S. and CF-18s in Canada.
Meanwhile, F-35 critic Winslow T. Wheeler is warning that the aircraft’s costs are likely to rise even further in the future:
Purchase cuts by other countries could lead the U.S. Congress to scale back the U.S. buy, and it’s likely the production run will be far fewer than the 2,800 planes officially planned – making costs rise.