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F-35 Timeline

Although Canada still hasn't purchased the F-35 Lightning II jet fighter, it has been involved in developing the airplane since the 1990s.

Late 1993: The Pentagon launches a program to replace the US Navy's A-6 attack planes and the US Air Force's F-16s.

1995: In response to a decision by the US Congress, military leaders incorporate an advanced short take-off and vertical landing aircraft into the new fighter jet program, making it the first to attempt to develop a common fighter for the US Army, Navy and Air Force. The program is named the Joint Strike Fighter.

December 20, 1995: The US and the UK agree to collaborate to define the requirements and design the new "joint strike fighter." The UK contributes US$200 million to the first phase of development and US$2 billion US to the second phase.

November 16, 1996: The US Defense Department announces it has chosen US aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin to compete to come up with the best design for the Joint Strike Fighter.

June 11, 1997: Liberal Art Eggleton is named Canada's Defence Minister

January 2, 1998: Canada signs on to the first phase of the JSF program - "concept demonstration" -- and agrees to contribute US$10.6 million as an observer of the program's management innovations.

Canadian officials state that there is no commitment to buy the aircraft and that Canada does not expect the JSF to replace its fighter jet, the CF-18.

2000: A report from the US Government Accountability Office notes that the JSF program has already been scaled back because of cost overruns and development delays at both Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The Department of National Defence and Industry Canada launch an aggressive marketing campaign to convince Canadian aerospace manufacturers that signing on to the JSF program is a strategic opportunity that should not be missed.

Early 2001: Canada sets up an interdepartmental JSF team to promote opportunities for Canadian industry.

October 26, 2001: The US Department of Defense selects Lockheed Martin over Boeing as the winner of its design competition for the Joint Strike Fighter.

2002: Alan Williams is named Assistant Deputy Defence Minister (Materiel), the Canadian defence bureaucrat responsible for overseeing military procurement.

February 7, 2002: Canada signs a second agreement with the US, formally entering the JSF second development phase and agreeing to spend another US$150 million, part of which is to be used as loans available to Canadian companies to conduct research and development for the program. The agreement guarantees Canadian industry the chance to bid for contracts in the JSF program but provides no guarantee Canadian industry will win.

June 26, 2002: Liberal John McCallum is named Defence Minister.

2003: A technical, costing and manufacturing review in the US leads to the first of what will become a series of adjustments to the JSF Program adjustment.

December 12, 2003: Liberal David Pratt is named Defence Minister

March 2004: The US Defense Department extends the time table and increases projected costs for the JSF Program because of development problems. The Navy and Marine Corps cuts its order of F-35s by 400, reducing the total US purchase to 2,457.

July 20, 2004: Liberal Bill Graham named Defence Minister.

March 2005: A report from the US Government Accountability Office finds that the JSF program is plagued by delays and cost overruns. Program acquisition unit costs have increased by 23 percent since 2001, and uncertainties about the program make it difficult to estimate how much it will eventually cost. The GAO concludes that the original JSF business case is "unexecutable."

The Canadian Air Force begins a preliminary analysis of potential aircraft to replace the CF-18s. It assesses five candidate aircraft, based on information from site visits to various aircraft manufacturers. Boeing's Super Hornet, Saab's Gripen, the Typhoon Eurofighter and the French-built Rafale are existing aircraft. The fifth is the F-35, which has not yet taken its first flight.

April 2005: Alan Williams retires as assistant deputy minister of materiel.

May 2005: Lieutenant General Steve Lucas becomes Chief of the Air Staff. Retired Canadian land forces commander Dan Ross takes over from Alan Williams as assistant deputy minister of materiel.

2006: The JSF program enters its third phase: production, sustainment and follow-on development.

February 6, 2006: Stephen Harper is sworn in as Prime Minister, heading a Conservative minority government.

Gordon O'Connor, a retired Brigadier General, a businessman and a lobbyist, is named Defence Minister.

June 22, 2006: DND summarizes its options for a new jet fighter, based on the Air Force analysis of potential replacements. It recommends that Canada remain a partner in the JSF program with "the intention but not a commitment, to potentially purchase the aircraft at a later date." It adds that "arguably, if the JSF delivers everything that has been promised by Lockheed Martin...JSF will prove to be the best available replacement aircraft to meet future Canadian aerospace warfare requirements."

July 2006: Eight partner nations - Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom -- sign a draft version of an agreement for the third phase of the JSF program.

DND estimates that Canadian companies have so far received 150 contracts from its involvement in the JSF Program, valued at approximately CDN$157 million.

September 19, 2006: In a briefing note for Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel) Dan Ross writes that "the JSF family of aircraft provides the best available operational capabilities to meet Canadian operational requirements, while providing the longest service life and the lowest per aircraft cost of all options considered."

November 2006: Industry Canada signs industrial agreements with the JSF Program's prime contractors: Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney and GE Rolls-Royce. Canada estimates it will need 80 aircraft, based on the number of existing modernized CF-18s.

December 11, 2006: In a signing ceremony at the Pentagon, Deputy Minister of Defence Ward Elcock, signs the third-phase JSF agreement, along with the seven other partner nations. Canada commits up to US$551 million over 40 years to the program to be used for, among other things, manufacturing, testing and tooling equipment. The agreement states that Canada expects to order 80 F-35s, at a rate of 10 per year, from 2014 to 2021, with deliveries starting in 2016. As part of the agreement, Canada accepts the procurement regime for the F-35. Unlike previous agreements, this one does not guarantee a minimum amount of work for Canada. Instead, it says that Canadian companies are eligible to compete for business with companies from countries that are partners in the JSF program.

The agreement also states that each country has the right to act "in accordance with their national laws and regulations" in order to buy F-35 jets and that countries can withdraw from the agreement without paying a penalty.

December 15, 2006: The F-35 Lightning-II makes its first flight.

December 16, 2006: In an article in the online defence and aerospace magazine, Inside Defense, Canada's JSF program manager Michael Slack says Canada is looking at potential alternatives to the JSF, and wants to make a final decision on how to replace the CF18s in 2012. In the same article, Colonel Dave Burt, the Canadian Air Force director for air requirements, says possible alternatives include the JAS 39 Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and upgraded versions of the Boeing Super Hornet. He is quoted as saying that up to then, Canada has done only a "relatively modest operational analysis" of the F-35 program.

2007: Lockheed Martin begins producing the conventional take-off and landing version of the F-35, known as the F-35A.

The JSF Program is adjusted a second time.

August 2007: Ottawa creates a new office to plan how to replace Canada's F-18s.

August 14, 2007: Conservative Peter MacKay is named Defence Minister.

2008: The short takeoff and vertical landing version of the F-35, known as the F-35B, makes its first flight.

May 12, 2008: The Department of National Defence identifies 14 draft "high-level mandatory capabilities" needed in an aircraft to replace Canada's F-18s.

It also does an options analysis of three contender aircraft against those capabilities - the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing Super Hornet and the F-35. It concludes that all three would meet the capabilities but that the F-35 offers the "best value" because it 'provides "exceptional capability at the lowest cost and unparalleled benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry." There is no documentation supporting the analysis and conclusions.

June 19, 2008 - DND releases its Canada First Defence Strategy. The document states for the first time that the government wants to buy "next generation" fighter aircraft to replace the aging F-18s. It also states for the first time that it will need 65 aircraft and establishes a budget of $9 billion to buy the aircraft.

The F-35 is the only "next generation" fighter available to the Canadian forces. The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a so-called fifth generation fighter but is not sold internationally. China and Russia are developing fifth generation fighters but Canada does not see them as viable options.

A budget of CDN$16 billion is established to operate and sustain the F-35 for 20 years. The budget is based on DND estimates, but there is no documented analysis to show how the estimates were developed.

July 8, 2008: In a cable released by Wikileaks, US embassy staff in Oslo write to the State Department in Washington, D.C. suggesting the US postpone a decision to release key radar technology to Sweden until after the Norwegian government decides whether to buy the F-35 or the Swedish-made Saab Gripen. The AESA radar technology allows aircraft to emit radar signals while remaining stealthy and would have helped the non-stealthy Gripen compete with the AESA-equipped F-35.

September 22, 2008: US embassy officials in Oslo send a cable to US Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and others asking for "Deputy Secretary of Defense direct engagement" to convince the Norwegian government to buy the F-35 and not Saab's Gripen. The cable says that despite extensive efforts by the Embassy and Lockheed Martin, public opinion has swung away from the F-35, for political reasons and because of "inaccuracies" in the media about the F-35. It asks for a visit from the Deputy Secretary of Defense, to stress the F-35s advanced capabilities, demonstrate that the US government is committed to Norway's ability to defend itself and NATO's northern flank, and to help the Norwegian government "recognize the seriousness of their decision and resist the temptation of making a short-term expedient choice, but damaging long-term interests."

October 14, 2008: Stephen Harper's Conservatives win a second minority term.

November 20, 2008: Norway's defence ministry announces it plans to purchase up to 48 F-35s, although the Norwegian parliament still needs to approve a deal.

December 16, 2008: Officials at the US embassy in Oslo send a diplomatic cable to the US Secretary of State, US Secretary of Defense, and US embassies in JSF partner countries which outlines the "extensive, coordinated" US government effort to convince Norway to buy the F-35 instead of SAAB's Grifen. The cable encourages other embassies to use the same strategy.

Late 2008 to mid-2009: DND leads a process to convince the government to buy the F-35, partly because of pressure from industry to commit to the purchase in order to keep and increase industrial benefits. Senior decision makers and ministers are told that delaying the decision would lead to possible losses of billions of dollars for Canadian companies. Based on this and on the conclusions of the 2008 options analysis, DND recommends that Canada commit to buying the F-35 without a competition. The decision is eventually put on hold, but not because of problems related to having a competition.

2009: In presentations to various departments and agencies, DND identifies the risk of potential cost increases in the JSF program but says that costs have stabilized and all major outstanding issues have been resolved.

October 2009: Lieutenant General André Deschamps becomes Canada's Chief of the Air Staff.

December 2009: Procurement officials within Canada's Public Works and Government Services are given a copy of the 2006 JSF agreement. Normally, they would have been consulted before Canada signed the agreement.

January 7, 2010: The DND "senior review board" - a committee of high level DND officials assigned to manage the purchase of a new fighter jet - meets for the first time. It formally approves the Next Generation Fighter Capability Project. The Project Options Analysis Phase, during which DND officials analyze which of the available aircraft can meet Canada's needs, begins. During the meeting, the project is initially rated as having a "low" risk. However the rating is raised to "medium" after objections from one bureaucrat.

January 12, 2010: Britain's Guardian newspaper reports that the UK's Royal Air Force is preparing to cut `its purchase of F-35s by half, from 140 to 70 jets, as part of its upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review. There is a consensus that the UK cannot afford such an expensive fighter jet.

Early 2010: DND restarts the process to convince the government to buy the F-35. By this time, the Next Generation Fighter Capability Project has officially started and the Project Options Analysis Phase is under way.

The Public Works ministry becomes actively involved in the decision-making process.

February 2010: The Directorate of Air Requirements produces the Next Generation Fighter Capability Project Charter. It states that "Canada's participation in the JSF program provides National Defence with influence over program decisions and access to information and technology related to next generation fighter aircraft," but does not commit the Government to purchase the aircraft."

The JSF Program is adjusted a third time. US officials send a formal communication to DND that states that developing the F-35 will cost more and take longer to finish than planned and that the US Department of Defense is reassessing its cost projections.

March 2010: A report from the Government Accountability Office states that the average cost to buy a single F-35 has risen to US$133 million, 92.7 per cent higher than the $69 million cost in 2001.

May 21, 2010: The Dutch parliament votes by a narrow majority to cancel the F-35 program, saying it does not believe that price estimates provided by Lockheed Martin in 2008 are reliable.

May 27, 2010: Defence Minister Peter MacKay tells parliament that DND is looking at "two main contenders" to replace Canada's F-35s and there may be others but that the JSF is one of them. He says there will be an "open, competitive, transparent process" to buy a new fighter.

Late May 2010: According to a report by Auditor General Michael Ferguson DND intends to recommend the Public Works department that the F-35 should be purchased without holding a competition, even though Canadian law requires one for major defence procurements. DND asks for an exemption to the law, stating that holding a competition would not be in the public interest. When some senior bureaucrats reject the request, DND argues it should be exempted from a competition because "only one person is capable of performing the contract." Public Works asks several times for a full justification and supporting documents such as a statement of operational requirements, but neither is provided.

While decision-making documents are being finalized, Public Works officials question DND's assertion that no other aircraft meets its mandatory requirements.

June 2010: DND completes its "Statement of Operational Requirements: Next Generation Fighter Capability," which outlines the mandatory requirements for a new fighter jet.

The head of the air force approves the document but only after other decision-making documents for Cabinet have been signed and submitted to Ministers.

US authorities begin another comprehensive independent technical review of the JSF program.

June 1, 2010: Public Works tells DND it will endorse a sole-source procurement if DND writes a letter confirming it needs a fifth generation fighter and affirming that the F-35 is the only such aircraft available. DND provides such a letter on the same day, with no other supporting documents. By this time, decision-making documents have already been signed in both DND and Public Works.

June 2010: Two years before its 2012 deadline, Cabinet decides to buy 65 F-35s in order to "lock up the price."

DND tells Cabinet that the costs of operating and sustaining the F-35 will be covered by existing funds. It puts the 20-year cost of purchasing, sustaining and operating 65 F-35s at $25 billion. It assesses the overall risk rating of making the purchase as "medium," which is lower than ratings in 2008.

July 16, 2010: Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Industry Minister Tony Clement and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose announce Canada plans to buy 65 F35 Lightening II aircraft at a cost of $9 billion.

August 2010: DND gives the Public Works department a copy of its Statement of Operational Requirements. DND was required to give this statement to Public Works before the government announced its decision in order to justify not holding a competition to buy a new jet fighter. A formal options analysis is completed. It concludes that the F-35 is the only available aircraft that will Canada's requirements.

September 2010: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak make a final decision to purchase 20 new F-35 fighter jets, despite opposition from a number of senior defence officials over the high cost of the deal.

October 19, 2010: As part of its Strategic Defence and Security Review, the UK announces it will reduce the number of F-35s it buys and purchase the "more capable" carrier version instead of the short takeoff and landing variant.

November 2010: DND launches a national speaking tour to address questions about the F-35.

March 3, 2011: DND tells the Parliamentary Budget Office in a memo that it has not yet undertaken a "detailed analysis of the entire (F-35) project."

March 10, 2011: Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page releases estimates that put total purchase and sustainment costs for buying and sustaining 65 F-35s at US$29.3 billion over 30 years.

March 25, 2011: Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government is defeated after being found in contempt of Parliament, partly for refusing to release figures for the F-35 program to lawmakers, forcing an election.

April 2011: The US Government Accountability Office estimates it will cost a total of US$56.4 billion to develop the F-35, a 64 per cent increase since the development and demonstration phase started. It says that after nine years in development and four in production, the JSF program has still not fully demonstrated the aircraft design is stable. Only about four per cent of JSF capabilities have been completely verified by flight tests, lab results, or both.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada signed a contract that protects the government from increased costs.

June 2011: The US Senate Arms Services Committee comes within one vote of recommending the JSF Program be cancelled.

June 17, 2011: The Norwegian parliament approves an initial purchase of four F-35s, after opposition parties cave in. The Socialist Left party demands an inquiry into the decision-making process.

October 27, 2011: Australian government officials arrive in Texas to begin an audit of the JSF program because of concerns the first batch of aircraft will not be delivered on time. Australia says it is considering buying a fleet of Boeing Super Hornets so it is not left short while waiting for the F-35s to be delivered.

October 31, 2011: The Pentagon reduces its F-35 purchase in order to pay for cost overruns.

November 2011: Defence Minister Peter MacKay travels to meet with Lockheed Martin officials to "demonstrate the government's commitment to the F-35 program."

November 2, 2011: The US Air Force says it will upgrade some F-16s to make up for a two-year delay in delivering the F-35s.

December 2011: Japan announces it will buy 42 F-35s.

The Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission says the Marine Corps vertical-lift F-35, which has serious development issues, should be eliminated. It also says 600 planes for the Air Force and Navy should be cancelled, and that it should buy new F-18s or F-16s instead. It says the Pentagon does not need an entire fleet with stealth capabilities.

February 13, 2012: The Pentagon confirms plans to delay orders for 179 F-35s over the next 5 years, to save $15.1 billion and allow more time for testing.

February 14, 2012: Lockheed Martin and US officials say delays in US and international orders will increase the total cost of the F-35.

Italy cuts its order by more than 30% as part of the country's austerity measures. Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola says Italy will buy 90 aircraft instead of 131.

March 5, 2012: Associate Defence Minister responsible for procurement, Julian Fantino, hosts a two-day closed-door meeting, for Lockheed Martin officials and representatives of other countries involved in the F-35 at the Canadian embassy in Washington.

March 13, 2012: Fantino tells the House of Commons Defence Committee that the government has not "discounted backing out" of buying the F-35. He admits the government does not know how much the fighter will cost. Fantino and Defence Minister Peter MacKay tell the committee that all partner countries have the same concerns but that the Washington D.C. meeting ended with everyone's "absolute renewed commitment" to continue with the program. MacKay says Canada will not exceed its $9 billion budget for replacing the F-35.

March 16, 2012: Fantino, says Canada may delay its purchase of the F-35 to get a better price. He says Canada will not decide on its purchase until it knows how much it will cost. He raises the prospect of extending the life of the F-18s to 2023. A report says that DND has set up an internal team to look at other possible replacement fighters.

March 2012: Frank Kendall III, acting US Undersecretary of Defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, tell Senate Armed Services Committee that cost overruns for the JSF have run to about US$150 billion with just 20 percent of testing complete. He estimates overall operating and support costs of the program US$1.1 trillion, up from US$1 trillion a year before.

April 2, 2012: Auditor General Michael Ferguson's spring report to Parliament finds that DND underestimated the full life-cycle costs of buying the F-35, and did not inform senior decision makers and ministers of the problems and risks associated with relying on the F-35 or provide complete cost information to parliamentarians. It also finds that DND carried out key steps in buying the aircraft out of order and that Public Works endorsed the decision to buy the plane without having the documents or analyses it needed.

April 2012: The government announces it is freezing the "funding envelope" for the F-35 project as part of a seven-point plan and transferring the project's management and oversight from National Defence to a new F-35 Secretariat within Public Works to provide oversight. The secretariat is supposed to give parliament annual costing updates within 60 days of receiving the information.

A joint statement from Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino and Industry Minister Christian Paradis says that DND was briefed annually on cost increases.

June 15, 2012: Norway finalizes its first firm order for two training aircraft. It expects to purchase another 50.

July 6, 2012: The Dutch parliament passes a majority resolution to scrap the F-35 program.

July 19, 2012: The UK receives its first F-35. It is still not clear how many planes the UK will buy. The current government has committed to purchasing just 48, instead of the 138 promised by the previous government.

August 9, 2012: The F-35 drops its first bomb ever in a new phase of testing.