Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/5/2012 (3306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin is warning Canadian companies will lose out if the Conservative government decides not to purchase the stealth fighter.
"Right now we will honour all existing contracts that we have," Lockheed Martin vice-president Steve O'Bryan told Postmedia News on Thursday. "After that, all F-35 work will be directed into countries that are buying the airplane."
But O'Bryan also said his company has not received any indication Canada won't buy the aircraft.
"What we have is the official statement out of the government and we're working with the government," he said. "They're committed to the F-35, they've selected it, and we haven't had any change in that official position."
That will likely come as a surprise to many Canadians as the Conservative government has since last month said it has not committed to purchasing the F-35 and all options are still on the table when it comes to replacing Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighters.
O'Bryan said Lockheed Martin is working on the understanding it will begin producing Canada's first F-35s in 2014, with delivery by 2017. To do that, the company is looking to increase production capabilities now so it is ready to start work in time.
While O'Bryan acknowledged Canada's 65 F-35s will represent a fraction of the total number of stealth fighters produced in the coming years, he indicated Canada-specific investments are being made.
A total of $435 million in contracts have been awarded to 66 Canadian companies since 1997, and Defence Department officials have estimated Canada's defence and aerospace industry could reap upwards of $12 billion through the program.
In Manitoba, Bristol Aerospace has contracts to build horizontal tail components, vane boxes that house the engine as well as some small fuselage panels for the F-35. It has committed about $100 million in capital spending to equip its Winnipeg plant.
Over the lifetime of the project, Bristol expects to ship about $1 billion in parts for the aircraft.
Some business representatives, however, have expressed concern the government's softening commitment to the F-35 could cost them, and O'Bryan's assertion only countries buying the stealth fighter will win contracts will likely lead to more pressure from industry to move ahead on the purchase.
The F-35 has been in the political spotlight since auditor general Michael Ferguson released a scathing report on April 3 that was highly critical of the way the F-35 file had been handled.
-- Postmedia News