Apr 152013



Officials with Lockheed Martin stopped in Winnipeg Friday to promote their F-35 stealth fighter jet, part of a national campaign to promote the jet in Canada.

The U.S. defence contractor is in the midst of a cross-Canada publicity blitz to convince the federal government to purchase the jets.

The contractor wants the jets to replace Canada’s fleet of 80 aging CF-18s, but just one of the jets has a whopping $75-$85 million price tag.

This simulator was available at Lockheed Martin’s presentation in Winnipeg Friday. (Catherine Dulude/CBC)

Canadian combat veteran Billie Flynn was brought on the promotional presentation to help pitch the jets.

“If you’re not stealthy, you are not going into bad-guy land,” said Flynn.

Flynn is currently a test-pilot for the F-35 jet.

“You have to buy on the cutting edge because you’re going to buy it for 40 years.”

Costs in question

In 2010, Ottawa planned to purchase 65 F-35s, but last December, backlash around the rising costs prompted the federal government to widen its search for other options.

“They’ve sent a questionnaire to us and looked at the capabilities of the airplain, and we’re in the process of responding to that,” said Steve O’Bryan, the vice-president of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin.

“One of the biggest myths is the cost of the F-35 is rapidly growing. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said O’Bryan.

He said eight countries have signed contracts for F-35s, and if more sign up, prices will go down.

“The cost of the F-35 is rapidly decreasing,” said O’Bryan.

The defence company has been given until mid-May to provide Ottawa with a status report on the jets, but in February a U.S. Pentagon report was critical of the jets.

The report showed test pilots reported blurry vision and fears it could be easily shot down.

Parts manufactured in Winnipeg

The jet does have local ties — some of the components for the F-35 are produced in Winnipeg by Magellan Aerospace.

It’s one of 70 Canadian companies that make parts for the jet.

“For us, it’s up to $2 billion worth of revenue over 25 to 35 years of production,” said Don Boitson, the general manager of Magellan Aerospace.

Lockheed’s promotional tour will continue in Vancouver next week.

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