Thursday, November 17, 2011

Canada Dismisses 'Apocryphal' Talk of F-35

OTTAWA - Canada's defense minister said it was premature to signal the end of the F-35 fighter jet that is to become the backbone of its air force, after his U.S. counterpart said the program may have to be axed.
"This sort of apocryphal language that the Joint Strike Fighter program is coming to an end and that countries are pulling back is not correct. It's premature to make those kinds of judgments," Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Nov. 16.
"A lot of this, clearly, is brought about by budgetary pressures, and Canada, like every country, is concerned about delays in delivery and discussions around the cost."
MacKay said Canada is in discussions with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin as well as other countries that committed to buying the next-generation fighters.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he told reporters.
Pentagon chief Leon Panetta this week warned it would have to look at draconian measures, including possibly ending the F-35 fighter jet program if Congress fails this month to reach a deal to reduce the country's deficit and prevent deep defense budget cuts.
Canada has made plans to spend billions on its own F-35 fleet.
Earlier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed in parliament that Canada is proceeding with the purchase while a junior minister said the F-35 "is critical to maintaining Canada's sovereignty."
"There is no indication that anybody is walking away from the F-35 program," Associate Minister of National Defense Julian Fantino added.
"The aircraft are coming off the production line. Pilots are flying them," Fantino said. "They are being delivered to countries. Our program is on track, on time and we are staying with it."

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