Canada is expected to announce today that it will "commit" to buying 65 Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. Just to save the fans time and effort, here's how it will be presented: another world-class military has decided that the JSF is the world's best fighter, proving the critics wrong.
First, some facts: The commitment will not be a contract. Even under the most recent version of the production, sustainment and follow-on development (PFSD) memorandum of understanding, which pre-dates the slippage of the JSF development program announced in March, Canada is not expected to sign a contract for its first JSFs until 2014.
By that time, today's duel of JSF price projections will be long settled by reality. However, it's interesting to note that the New York Times - a newspaper whose overweening pride in its own journalism seems to get in its eyes like smoke - swallows LockMart's price estimates whole in its report of the Canada deal, basing its "$4 billion" estimate on the lowest Fort Worth projection of the unit recurring flyaway cost.
Canada's Liberal-led opposition - not in a strong political position today - is criticizing the expected announcement on the grounds that there has been no competition. The response from the office of defense minister Peter McKay is illuminating:
"Contrary to Liberal myths, this was a competitive process. Canada participated in an extensive and rigorous competitive process where two bidders developed and competed prototype aircraft."
It might be worth asking the minister to explain how much of a vote Canada had in the outcome of the JSF competition a decade ago.
This is mainly a setback for Boeing, which of all competitors probably considered that it had the best chance in Canada. Unless Boeing can sell more Super Hornets to the US Navy or elsewhere, production will be running down by the time Canada revisits this decision.