January 9, 2023 12:17pm
The Royal Canadian Air Force will soon be able to retire its aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets.
Defence Minister Anita Anand announced on Monday that the federal government has finalized an agreement with the United States government and Lockheed Martin with Pratt & Whitney to buy 88 F-35 fighter jets.
The estimated cost of the acquisition is $19 billion. That price tag includes the cost of associated equipment, sustainment set-up and services, and the construction of fighter squadron facilities in Bagotville, Quebec and Cold Lake, Alberta.
“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is flexible, agile and capable of responding to a variety of unforeseen situations,” said Anand. “We are committed to ensuring that our current and future aviators have the most advanced equipment possible to do just that. 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.”
The F-35s will be purchased in a phased approach, with the first four of the new fighter jets to be delivered to the air force in 2026.
Anand, who was joined by Minister of Public Services and Procurement Helena Jaczek and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne for Monday’s announcement, anticipates the full fleet of 88 aircraft will be acquired by 2034.
The federal government maintains this is the largest investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 30 years.
Canada is one of eight countries that have been a part of the joint strike fighter program since 1997. As part of the program, Canada, along with the U.S., the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and Australia have been paying for the development of the F-35. This has allowed businesses in Canada’s aerospace and defence sector to obtain $2.8 billion in contracts as part of the production and parts supply chain. According to the federal government, the agreement and the initial sustainment of the F-35 project could potentially contribute over $425 million annually to Canada’s gross domestic product and close to 3,300 jobs annually for Canadian industry over a 25-year period. Those figures take into account direct and indirect investment and spin-off jobs related to the project.
“Our world-class Canadian industry is well positioned to continue to participate in new fighter capabilities, providing key components and services right here in Canada. This will help grow Canada’s aerospace and defence industries in cutting-edge technology for decades to come, with opportunities in both production and sustainment of the Canadian and global fleets,” said Champagne.
Canada has been considering replacing its fleet of CF-18s since 2010. Seven years after that, the feds launched an “open and transparent” competitive process to acquire new fighter jets. It put forward a formal request for proposals to eligible suppliers in July 2019. They were given one year to submit their bids.