Canada worried by reports of F-35 fighter delays

Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:15pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is worried by reports that delivery of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jets could be delayed and is talking to the manufacturer, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said on Wednesday.

Canada says it plans to buy 65 of the jets, which in theory will start arriving in 2016. It has not yet signed a binding contract.

Last week Canadian media quoted a senior U.S. defense official as saying the program could be delayed by two years.

"Canada, like every country, is concerned about delays in delivery and discussions around the cost. We are in direct discussions, of course, with Lockheed Martin," MacKay told reporters.

The F-35 is the largest U.S. weapons program and has already seen costs rise sharply over the past 10 years.

Canadian opposition politicians complain the Conservative government chose the fighter without having an open competition.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week the F-35 program could be terminated unless Congress moved to avoid major cuts in U.S. defense spending over the next decade.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)