National Defence lowballing cost of used Aussie fighters: budget officer

The parliamentary budget officer is poking holes in the Defence Department's cost estimates for buying and operating second-hand fighter jets from Australia, saying its own figures put the cost 22 per cent higher than reported.

Budget watchdog Yves Giroux says the federal government will pay nearly $1.1 billion to buy, upgrade and fly the 18 aircraft alongside Canada's existing CF-18s over the next decade.

Giroux says that's $200 million more than the Defence Department's own estimate because he believes it will cost more to extend the lives of the 30-year-old Australian planes than officials have said.

Giroux's study comes less than two weeks after the Royal Canadian Air Force officially received the first of two Australian planes at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in Alberta.

The Trudeau government is buying the 18 Australian planes and up to seven spares to bolster Canada's aging CF-18s until the entire fleet can be replaced with brand-new jets in the coming decade.

The purchase is going ahead despite the federal auditor general last fall saying the air force did not have enough pilots and mechanics to operate the 76 CF-18s it has now.