09/24/2015 06:26 EDT | Updated 09/24/2016 05:12 EDT

Canadian Joint Industry Group: Abandoning F-35 Program Would Hurt Canada

OTTAWA — A group that represents Canadian companies involved in the F-35 program say abandoning plans to buy the oft-maligned stealth fighter would endanger contracts and jobs.

Justin Trudeau has said a Liberal government would exit the multibillion-dollar program and opt for a less expensive jetfighter to replace the country's aging fleet of CF-18s.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says that would "crater" the aerospace industry — even though the Pentagon's head of acquisitions says Canadian companies already participating in the program would likely retain their contracts.

In a statement released today, the Canadian Joint Industry Group says existing "opportunities and future technological advancements will be in jeopardy" if the plan to buy 65 F-35 fighters is scrubbed.

The federal government estimated earlier this year that 33 Canadian companies were working on the program, bringing in an estimated $637 million per year in revenue, but the industry group says the figure is now $750 million.

The group also says state-of-the-art manufacturing expertise would be lost to wider Canadian industry because the stealth fighter is full of advanced technology that could eventually have civilian applications.

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