After more than a decade, Canada has re-selected the Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jet to replace its aging CF-18 Hornet.
In a statement, Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi confirmed that the US fighter is the “preferred” in a deal that is expected to exceed $19 billion for the delivery of 88 aircraft.
The Trudeau administration hopes to reach an understanding with Lockheed Martin by the end of the year, so the other competitor, Saab Gripen E/F, remains a “Plan B” of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“This announcement marks another important milestone in Canada’s competitive process to purchase modern fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force,” Tassi said on Monday.
The F-35 had already been selected by Canada in 2010, then ruled by the Conservative Party, which intended to receive 65 fighter jets without bidding, but the deal was dropped soon after.
At the time, Lockheed’s stealth jet was considered expensive and troublesome. Five years later, the Liberal government discarded the F-35, promising to launch a competition to decide the best proposal.
While the bid was being formulated, the Canadian government proposed to acquire a new batch of 18 Super Hornet fighter jets, but withdrew the option after Boeing filed a US lawsuit against Bombardier over the C Series jet (currently the A220).
The current competition was launched in 2019 with the participation only of Boeing (F/A-18E/F), Lockheed (F-35A) and Saab (Gripen E/F). European manufacturers Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon) and Dassault (Rafale) dropped out early on after considering the requirements favorable to US companies.
As a member of NATO and a partner in NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is responsible for joint defense between the US and Canada), the Royal Canadian Air Force naturally benefits from utilizing similar aircraft to the US Air Force.
In addition, Canada is one of the countries that supply components of the F-35 program, which is also reflected in the nation’s economy.
The government’s expectation is that the first F-35As will be delivered in 2025, with program completion taking place in 2032.