The U.S. deputy secretary of defence says he'd like the Canadian government to make up its mind, one way or the other, whether it will replace its aging CF-18 fleet with Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets.
"Because Canada has been a partner in the F-35 program, if they withdraw — I think it's 65 airplanes — the price for all the other members in the coalition goes up slightly," said Robert Work, in an interview with Rosemary Barton, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
The Conservative government had planned to acquire 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the procurement process was put on hold after the auditor general accused the government of fudging the project's costs and not doing sufficient research.
One of the new Liberal government's main campaign pledges was to buy a less-expensive aircraft and plow the savings into the navy.
However, since taking office, Canada's Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote has said Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets may still be in the mix to replace Canada's CF-18s.
Most costly weapons program in U.S. history
"It's important for Canada to make the decision on the aircraft that they need for their national interest, and then the United States and Canada can work it out," said Work.
Work said he doesn't think the Canadian government is dragging its feet, but the U.S. is watching closely.
"I work in the Pentagon, so I measure time different ways than other people, so I don't believe it's been long. These are very important political decisions and defence decisions for Canada to make, and we're not trying to pressure them in any way," said Work in an interview at the Pentagon.
"We'd like to know, we're anxious to know, where exactly will you go so we can start to plan together. But these types of decisions are made in due course and we're looking forward to the final decision."
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: “The chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co., who are vying to replace Canada’s aging fleet of fighter jets, both made the guest list for the White House’s State Dinner on Thursday in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” Bloomberg News reported from Washington March 10.
“Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson are among several business leaders that will share toasts with Trudeau, whose party pledged during last year’s election to abandon plans to buy Lockheed’s troubled F-35 stealth fighters.”)