Amid the outrage over the cost of F-35 fighter jets, here’s a list of four of Canada’s largest military purchases :
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
The federal government has wanted to replace the 1980s vintage CF-18 jets since the late 90s.
Canada signed the first phase of the Joint Strike Fighter Program in 1997 and doled out $171 million in 2001 to start the second phase.
The Conservative government has maintained until recently that the total purchase and maintenance costs will be between $14 billion and $16 billion. This would make the F-35 the largest defence purchase in Canadian history.
Even so, the budget officer and critics have challenged the government’s figures, delivering estimates of up to $29.5 billion.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson reported to parliament last week that the government had misled parliament with the cost of the jets, and the project has since been taken away from Department of National Defence (DND) and given to a new secretariat in the Department of Public Works.
CH 148 Cyclone Helicopter
Liberal Defence Minister Bill Graham signed a $3.2 billion deal in 2004 for the purchase of 28 CH-148 Cyclone helicopters from Sikorsky International in Connecticut, to replace the aging CH-124 Sea King helicopters.
The first helicopter was to be delivered in November 2008, but there have been numerous delays and cost overruns. Former Auditor General Sheila Fraser said the cost of the program had grown to about $5.7 billion, up from an initial estimates of $5.1 billion.
In 2003, Paul Martin pegged the program at $2.8 billion, including long-term maintenance. But maintaining the old Sea Kings in order to keep them flying longer than originally planned has cost the Canadian government $500 million, bringing the total of the project to $6.2 billion.
Victoria Class Submarines
In 1998 the Canadian government purchased four submarines from the Royal Navy for $750 million. The UK decommissioned the subs in October 1994 and they sat mothballed in salt water for four years before Canada bought them. The submarines have had a number of problems, including a fire on HMCS Chicoutimi’s maiden voyage, which killed one sailor and injured others. It has not returned to service since.
There have been serious electrical problems on all three submarines, as well as rust and general deterioration.
Only one of the submarines purchased is currently fully operational, HMCS Victoria, which successfully fired torpedoes last month. The Windsor started a series of sea trials on April 11, with plans to put it into service within a year.
The bill for retrofits and repairs to the old subs has reached more than $1 billion.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay has said it will likely be another couple of years before all four submarines are fully operational.
Leopard 2A6 Tanks
Citing safety concerns as the war in Afghanistan intensified, Canada purchased 100 slightly used Leopard 2A6 battle tanks in March 2007 to replace its aging fleet of Leopard 1 tanks, built in the 1970s.
Combined with a contract for support and maintenance, the bill came to $1.3 billion, which was double the Conservative government’s estimate.
While waiting for the new Leopard 2A6 tanks to arrive from the Netherlands, the Canadian government borrowed 20 of the same tanks from Germany.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser reported in 2009 that the military failed to order adequate spare parts for the borrowed vehicles, which forced the Canadian military to take parts from some tanks in order to keep others running.
The Leopard 2A6 was also unable to accommodate mine-clearing equipment and bulldozer blades needed for some missions in Afghanistan, forcing the military to keep some Leopard 1s in service.
Fraser said at the time that the military broke its own purchasing rules, but added that it was acceptable given the urgent nature of the military’s requirements.