Canada confirms acquisition of 88 Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters

Aircraft will be delivered from 2026 and will replace the Boeing F/A-18C/D currently in service

The Canadian government announced on Monday that it has finalized an agreement to purchase 88 F-35A fighters from Lockheed Martin.

The sale of the 5th gen aircraft was endorsed by the Biden government and will also include associated equipment, maintenance services in addition to the structuring of two air bases in Bagotville and Cold Lake.

The administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had pointed the F-35 as a favorite in the competition to replace the Boeing F/A-18C/D fighters in March of 2022, however, it still depended on an agreement with the manufacturer. For that reason, Saab, another competitor, still had hopes of selling the Gripen E/F.

Canada closed an agreement to acquire 88 F-35A (Lockheed Martin)

The first Canadian F-35As will be delivered starting in 2026, but full operational capability will only be reached between 2032 and 2035, the government said.

“We are honored the Government of Canada has selected the F-35, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian defense industry to deliver and sustain the aircraft,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “The selection of F-35 strengthens allied airpower in Canada, North America and around the world.”

“Canada requires a fighter fleet to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world. We are thrilled to announce today that Canada has selected the F-35 as the fighter aircraft that will fill this important role,” said Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence.

Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighters (RCAF)

$19 billion package

Competition to choose a new fighter for the Royal Canadian Air Force began in 2017 and two years later a formal request for proposals was issued.

Proposals were sent by Boeing (F/A-18E/F), Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon) and Saab (Gripen E/F). However, as has been the case in other competitions, the latest technology in the Lightning II has made a difference. In all, the deal is budgeted at around $19 billion.

The selection of the F-35, however, was nothing new as Canada is one of eight original partners in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. In 2010, the conservative government even announced the purchase of 65 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, but without holding a tender.

While a competition was being prepared, the government tried to acquire a batch of 18 Super Hornet fighters, but gave up on the idea at the time after Boeing filed a lawsuit in the USA against  Bombardier due to an agreement closed with Delta Air Lines for the C Series jetliner (today A220).

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