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A F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is seen in the hangar waiting for an announcement by Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway Peter MacKay in Ottawa, Friday July 16, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
A F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is seen in the hangar waiting for an announcement by Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway Peter MacKay in Ottawa, Friday July 16, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Military Procurement

MacKay calls stealth fighters the right stuff for Canada's military Add to ...

Peter MacKay warned Wednesday morning that Canada will face "real danger" if the $16-billion purchase of 65 new stealth fighters did not go through.

The Defence Minister was defending the multi-billion purchase before the Commons Defence committee.

"... We will be unable to defend our airspace, unable to exercise our sovereignty or unable to share our responsibility through NORAD and NATO," he told MPs at the committee.

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"I think we can all agree that such a position would be untenable for Canada," he said.

Canada's fleet of CF-18 aircraft will be retired between 2017 and 2020. These fighter jets will replace them.

"An operation gap, I stress, is not an option," said Mr. MacKay. "We still need fighters. We still use them everyday. They allow us to protect our sovereign territory, our airspace. They enable us to do our part with other American allies as we fly along side them as part of NORAD."

The government is vigorously defending the sole-source purchase. In addition to Mr. MacKay, Industry Minister Tony Clement and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose are before the committee. It is expected they will receive a grilling from the opposition, especially the Liberals who are concerned that there was no tendering process for the contract.

Five other senior Harper cabinet ministers are fanning out across the country to explain and defend the purchase.

Mr. MacKay referred to the new fighter jets as the "ideal aircraft."

"This is the right plane, this is the right number, this is the right aircraft for our Canadian forces and Canada," he said.

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