F-35 purchase decision expected next week in report

Senior sources inside the Canadian defence and aerospace industry are girding themselves for a government decision next week that they believe is almost sure to favour the controversial F-35.

CBC News has learned the Conservative government is expected to make a final decision as soon as next Tuesday, followed soon after by an announcement that will put an end to the debate about whether to hold a competition to buy new fighter planes or to renew the $45-billion plan to sole-source the purchase of F-35s.

After a storm of controversy before the 2011 election, the Conservative government took steps to distance itself from the decision and set up a secretariat of senior bureaucrats to manage a review of the purchase and help determine a way forward.

The government also hired a panel of experts to conduct a review of the available fighter jet options, including the F-35, and file a public report on the choices.

That report is now complete and has been handed to government, but Public Works Minister Diane Finley has so far refused to make it public as promised.

A source familiar with the review suggested Lockheed Martin's F-35 could very well be the winner, and another source says the independent review did not take sides and therefore could allow the government to conclude the F-35 was still the way to go.

A Reuters report on Thursday written by a reporter based in Washington, D.C., said the review recommends the government skip a competition and proceed directly to a buy of the F-35.

But in response to that article, a source familiar with the file told CBC News the decision has not yet been taken and that the review has not been finalized.

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