MacKay refuses to confirm size of F-35 order 0
Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks during a news conference at the National Defence headquarters in Ottawa February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Defence Minister Peter MacKay has put some wind beneath the wings of speculation that Canada may cut its planned purchase of 65 stealth fighter jets.
Asked point blank whether he could guarantee the number of the jets Canada would order is firm, MacKay didn't directly answer.
"We're committed to buying aircraft that are going to give the Canadian Forces the chance that they need to perform mission success," said MacKay.
MacKay's refusal to confirm Canada will purchase 65 of the radar-evading fighters is a change from September 2011 when he was firm on that number of planes.
Last November, Gen. Walter Natyncyzk, chief of defence staff, told the Commons defence committee 65 fighter jets is the minimum number the military needs.
Reports that the price of the F-35 built by Lockheed-Martin is climbing has led to questions about how many of the hi-tech fighter jets Canada can afford.
The Pentagon has already announced it will delay production of 179 F-35s over the next five years to save the U.S. more than $15 billion.
Lockheed-Martin has admitted that will affect purchase costs for the U.S. and international customers.
"It will raise the overall average cost of the total procurement of all the airplanes bought," said Tom Burbage, head of Lockheed Martin's F-35 program.
Burbage didn't offer exact numbers.
Canada, Norway, Israel, Japan and others are slated to buy a total of 285 of the jets.
- with files from Reuters