Canada Hosts Meeting Of F-35 Partners

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Canada is hosting a meeting of fellow partners in the development of the F-35 in Washington next week to discuss the mounting problems with the jet. Senior government officials from Britain, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Turkey and Australia will meet at the Canadian Embassy in Washington for two days of talks about the aircraft program. The F-35 is an international effort and while the U.S. is the lead partner, the other allied countries have chipped in and their aerospace industries got some work as part of the international deal. Attendance by U.S. representatives at the meeting is not mentioned in Canadian media reports. The meeting precedes a gathering with Lockheed Martin officials set for late March. Most of the partner countries are in political hot water at home over the specter of rising costs and development problems with the aircraft. Meanwhile, analysts keep working the numbers on the program and some of the results are truly staggering.

The current thinking is the Lightning II will cost about $30,000 an hour to operate, with a big chunk of that going for fuel. That puts the lifetime cost of the program for 2,884 airplanes somewhere north of $1 trillion. But defense officials say the operation costs will likely drop as the program matures if the history of other major airframe introductions is any guide. And Lockheed Martin says the stuff that makes the airplane so expensive in the first place, like composite construction and extensive computer monitoring and operation, will reduce maintenance costs and increase reliability.