Canadian Manufacturing

Heroux-Devtek hopeful Canada’s F-35 order isn’t dead

The landing gear maker's CEO said Canada's aerospace has received more work than has been invested so far by Canada

MONTREAL—A supplier on the F-35 stealth jet fighter isn’t yet willing to accept the death of a Canadian order for the costly airplane despite the election promises of the federal Liberals.

Heroux-Devtek CEO Gilles Labbe said Nov. 9 he’s still hoping for a favourable decision given the age of the existing CF-18 fighters.

“We’ll see what the government wants to do exactly,” he said during a conference call about the landing gear maker’s second-quarter results. “They have to buy jet fighters. It’s clear our CF-18s are not in good shape and they cannot last forever.”

During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau’s party said it would not purchase the fighter and instead launch “an open and transparent competition” to replace the existing aircraft with lower-price options the Liberals said better match Canada’s defence needs.

Labbe said Canada’s aerospace industry has profited from its association with the F-35, receiving more work than has been invested so far by Canada.

A 2013 report projected that businesses in this country could land as much as $9.9 billion in contracts to construct and sustain parts for the Lockheed Martin-built stealth fighter.

“I believe that for the Canadian industry, it’s a very important program,” Labbe told analysts, adding he still expects more than 3,000 planes will be sold around the world over the next 20 years.

The former Conservative government announced plans in 2010 to buy 65 radar-evading jets for $16 billion over 20 years. After the auditor general and parliamentary budget officer said the figure did not include operations and sustainable costs, it ordered independent evaluations. At least one estimated the full 42-year cost of ownership would be $44.6 billion.

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