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Navy supply ships set to join F-35 as political lightning rod in 2013

Associated Press

OTTAWA - The navy's long-delayed, much-studied joint support ship program is expected to come under the political microscope within weeks in what is likely another defence equipment embarrassment for the Harper government.

The parliamentary budget officer has been examining the program and is poised to release his findings soon after MPs return from their Christmas break later this month.

Kevin Page's incendiary analysis of the F-35 fighter jet program sparked a raging political fire that continues to burn.

Now, documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information offer a glimpse of a troubled ship program set to deliver less capable ships than originally envisioned.

The $2.9 billion program to replace the navy's nearly 45-year-old supply ships with three new vessels was originally announced in 2004.

The program was later scaled back and relaunched with a $2.6 billion budget, but factoring in inflation, by the time the ships are delivered in 2018 they'll end up costing more than the original program.

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