WINNIPEG'S Bristol Aerospace has completed the first horizontal tail assembly for the controversial Joint Strike Fighter F-35A Lightning II.
The division of Toronto-based Magellan Aerospace Ltd. is under contract with BAE Systems to produce horizontal tail assemblies for the F-35 and is expected to produce more than 1,000 sets of the components for the program over a 20-year period.
Magellan has already achieved sales approaching $100 million on the F-35 program to date -- about half of that out of its Winnipeg Bristol division.
But the timing of the company announcement comes a day after the Canadian government officially backed off its commitment to buy 65 of the fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of CF-18 Hornets.
After more than two years of fighting critics who said the Lockheed Martin-designed jet -- which was sole-sourced and not selected after an open bid -- was too expensive, government officials now say it will shop around to make sure the best option is selected.
Don Boitson, Bristol's general manager, said the company is forging ahead with the work it is under contract to do and if all goes well it could mean $1 billion in revenue for the Winnipeg aerospace firm.
Officials from the Harper government said Wednesday the lifetime cost to buy and operate the fighter jets will be about $45 billion in total, five times more than the $9-billion price tag the government had been insisting for some time would be the cost.
Bristol had invested heavily to beef up its infrastructure and technology to be able to produce a number of parts for the F-35 program. It built a new $20-million building for the project and negotiated multimillion-dollar loans with the federal and provincial governments to help the company tool up.