Back in 1996 the JSF Joint Strike Fighter program was begun. The program aims to replace aging existing planes with new advanced planes both in the U.S. and some allies. The program was supposed to make affordable planes by using 80 per cent of the parts of the three different models in common. But critics complain that not only is the plane not turning out to be cheap but is not even very functional. For example Winslow Wheeler an analyst for the Center for Defense Information in the U.S. says: "The history of multi-role fighters, even for single services, is terrible. They do nothing well. ... The F-35 never will be able to fulfil its mission, because it is too heavy to fight other aircraft in the air, but too fast, thin-skinned and lightly armed to support troops on the ground."
Nevertheless nine countries signed on to the program. Canada is one of the participants. Others include the UK, Australia, Israel, and even Singapore. The U.S. will pay the bulk of development costs but Canada has invested 168 million. In all the nine partners are slated to buy about 3,100 planes over a total of 25 years.
Canada is to buy 65 F 35A planes. The first delivery is not until 2016. However the program has been beset by problems especially concerning costs for the planes and servicing. The cost estimates continually rise. In June 2010 the estimates were for 156 million per plane. This is already double the original estimates and likely to rise even further. In may of this year the U.S. General Accounting Office said: "After more than 9 years in development and 4 in production, the JSF program has not fully demonstrated that the aircraft design is stable, manufacturing processes are mature, and the system is reliable,"
In Canada also cost estimates vary widely. The Canadian Dept. of National Defence estimated the total cost of its 65 planes at 17.6 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer however estimated the cost at 29.3 billion. The Budget Office reckons the cost of each plane at 148 million almost twice the cost estimate of the DND of 75 million.
Many critics wonder whether Canada really needs these fighters costing billions of dollars when the government is strapped for cash and anxious to reduce the deficit. However the care and feeding of the global military industrial complex takes priority over such needs as repairing the social safety net and other social spending needs. For more see this article.