U.S. sen­a­tors de­cry soar­ing F-35 cost

Jets planned for RCAF now $1-tril­lion weapon: Mc­cain

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA - LEE BERTHI­AUME

HALIFAX • U.S. Sen. John Mc­Cain and two other mem­bers of the pow­er­ful Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee ex­pressed con­cerns about the F-35 fighter plane on Satur­day, a day af­ter the U.S. de­fence sec­re­tary said his coun­try was com­mit­ted to the project.

“We’ve been very dis­turbed over the cost over­runs that have char­ac­ter­ized this weapon sys­tem. It is now the first $1-tril­lion (weapon) in his­tory,” Mc­Cain told re­porters, flanked by Demo­cratic sen­a­tors Mark Udall and Jeanne Sha­heen.

“It’s not that we’re op­posed to the F-35. We are op­posed to out-of-con­trol cost over­runs.”

The Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment had been hop­ing U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon Panetta’s com­mit­ment to the pro­gram on Fri­day would close the is­sue of whether Washington would see the F-35 through to full pro­duc­tion, de­spite ma­jor on­go­ing prob­lems.

Mc­cain’s com­ments on the mar­gins of a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional de­fence con­fer­ence, how­ever, high­light the ten­u­ous state of the pro­gram, par­tic­u­larly since it will be Congress that must ap­prove the bil­lions that will be needed to get the plane off the draw­ing board and into the hands of the U.S. mil­i­tary and al­lies like Canada.

“I con­tinue to hope that Lock­heed Martin and the mil­i­tary will get their act to­gether and get back on track,” Mc­Cain said. “We want the F-35 to suc­ceed. We’re not op­posed to the F-35. But we have obli­ga­tions to our tax­pay­ers.”

De­spite on­go­ing ques­tions about the pro­gram, the Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment has com­mit­ted to buy­ing 65 of the stealth fight­ers, ar­gu­ing cost over­runs and de­lays in the U.S. will not in­crease the price for Canada. It has said the cost will be $9 bil­lion. Other es­ti­mates peg the to­tal price at $30 bil­lion.

Ear­lier in the day, Mc­cain and Udall were add odds about the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­cent de­ci­sion to de­lay the Key­stone XL pipe­line to Texas.

“It strikes me that if we’re pro­duc­ing oil on our con­ti­nent, we should put it to use here,” Udall said, but added: “There were some le­git­i­mate con­cerns in cer­tain parts of the Midwest about water sup­plies. The only other liq­uid that’s more valu­able is H2O it­self.”

Mc­cain, how­ever, was clear in his po­si­tion.

JONATHAN ERNST, REUTERS

‘We’re not op­posed to the F-35,’ says U.S. Se­na­tor John Mc­cain. ‘But we have obli­ga­tions to our tax­pay­ers.’

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